Surrounded by hundreds of hanging costumes, Dorcas Lynch is busy snipping, sewing and organizing. The jester’s hat is just about finished. A velvet jacket needs to be taken in just a bit. The king’s crown cannot get misplaced.
In an adjacent room, a group of moms are deep in discussion. With their well-organized binders spread out before them, they talk ticket sales, meal plans and set design.
And, over in the cafeteria, the stars of the show are harmonizing as their leader, Jill Davis, watches on.
It’s just another Tuesday night in the Palmyra-Macedon High School. For several hours on this night each week, preparations for the Select Choir’s Madrigal Dinner are under way.
The holiday-time dinner featuring a gourmet four-course meal is among the choir’s most popular community traditions. And this year its organizers and participants are celebrating a major milestone: its 20th anniversary.
This year’s Madrigal Dinner will be held at the Hyde Parkway high school on Dec. 8 and 9. Choir members and their boosters usually sell all of the 416 dinner tickets a week or so before the show, but this year the last two tickets were taken the first week of November.
Davis, the high school vocal instructor, believes it’s because so many past choir members and their supporters want to mark the milestone year. Many of them, in fact, have continued to support the event long after graduation.
The meal is cooked by two chefs, one of whom comes all the way from Maine. Both are parents of former choir members. Others help in with everything from murals, place cards and desserts to the donation of table linens.
“Once you are in the organization, a lot of people don’t really leave,“ said Davis. “It becomes a tradition.”
The school corridors and cafeteria are transformed with a Middle Ages set for the dinner. Each course is heralded with a traditional song performed by the choir, dressed in period garb. Among them are characters like the jester, Louise “Weez” Holdridge, and king and queen Jeremy Unterborn and Savannah Cole.
“I basically go around making people laugh,” explained Holdridge, noting that she once climbed into a hallway display case to entertain guests at a prior performance.
Rehearsals have been under way since August. Choir members and boosters have logged in untold hours for the two shows.
“Last year one mom decided something should be covered up so she went home and painted a mural,” said Lynch, the costume designer. “It’s amazing, the dedication.”
Kathy Hill, president of the Select Choir boosters, said, “it’s not just one person — it’s a very large team of parents that work very well together.”
Page 2 of 2 - The Madrigal Dinner was started under longtime vocal instructor Ann Beaucage, who retired about eight years ago. It was first held in the nearby Pal-Mac Middle School.
“All of the set pieces and everything had to be carted back and forth to the middle school,” said Davis.
John Contino remembers it well. He graduated in 1995 and was part of the first madrigal dinner. “ We all worked hard together, spent many late nights building scenery, practiced and practiced,” he said. “It was so much fun to be a part of that entertaining evening as the performers and guests.”
Contino said Beaucage “was the eye at the center of the storm, always calm, poised, and ready with instructions as the whole thing blended together.”
Kathee Tyo was also part of the first dinner. “I remember our parents making sets and cooking,” she said. “It was such a fun time to work together and the results were magical. The cafeteria was transformed into a castle hall for an evening, and those attending got to escape from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.”
The dinner was moved to the high school in 2004.
“As a result, they had to create all new set pieces that were cut to fit in the cafeteria in the high school,” said Davis. “It was a pretty big move. It made sense.”
This year’s show will feature the skit “Handel & Gretsky” by Paul Brandvik, which is humorously based on the classic fairy tale “Hansel & Gretel.”
Ornaments and other crafts will be for sale, and this year will see the addition of a “bake shoppe.” Proceeds from the items and the $25 dinner tickets help choir members offset the cost of an upcoming trip to England, Scotland and Wales.
Rehearsals have been in the works since this past August. “We’re making great music and getting the kids involved in the arts,” said Davis. But, she added, “They take away things from doing a production like this that aren’t musical.”
The choir members are learning life lessons in time management, responsibility and team-building, she said.
Tyo can attest to that. Now a mom and professional, she said choir was transformative.
“My experience in choir developed my work ethic and drive to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life,” she said.