Brian Lesnick reads the Rules of Courtesy during rehearsal for the Chesterton (Ind.) High School Music Department's 40th annual Madrigal Dinners on Nov. 28, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:20AM
With elaborate period costumes and music, about 100 Chesterton High School students recently took visitors back to the 16th century for the Music Department’s 40th annual Madrigal Dinners.
Almost 800 people attended the dinners in the high school cafeteria, which was decorated for the occasion with mock stained-glass windows, tapestries, fresh greenery and the glow of candles.
Guests were announced with fanfare as they entered the cafeteria and took their places for a meal accompanied by Christmas music, historical background and other merriment.
Tom Schnabel, director of music education for the Duneland School Corp., said former music director Al Castronovo came up with the idea for the program.
Along with school staff and parent volunteers, he created the costumes and the script.
“The script and all the basics have pretty much stayed the same,” Schnabel said of the dinner, which is traditionally scheduled the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The meal was modern-day, and included a relish tray, salad, chicken breast, mashed potatoes and carrot cake, but the entertainment was definitely medieval, and included juggling jesters.
The effort involves the entire CHS Music Department, including the choirs, band and orchestra, plus members of the color guard.
“Everything is represented,” Schnabel said.
The tradition, given its longevity, also has become a multigenerational affair. Senior Alyssa Randazzo, 18, a member of the show choir, took part in the dinner for the fourth year.
“It’s really cool because both of my parents were in the Madrigal; it’s really a huge deal for the town of Chesterton,” she said, adding she enjoys the carols and Christmas environment. “It’s so fun.”
Fellow senior Jeffory DeHenes, 18, also a member of the show choir, was doing the dinner for a second year. His parents were involved in sports in high school, so he’s not carrying on a family tradition, but that did not in any way lessen how much everyone enjoyed the program and its holiday spirit.
“They really love that I do this because it’s different for them and different for me,” DeHenes said.