Traditional Renaissance Feaste returns to Hillcrest community
Mar 27, 2019 02:24PM
By Julie Slama
Court jester Jeremiah Goates entertains the royalty (vocal ensemble) and invited guests at Hillcrest High’s Renaissance Feaste. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
After a one-year break while Hillcrest High choirs sang at Carnegie Hall, the students returned to entertain guests at the “Lover’s Feaste,” a Renaissance dinner filled with music and entertainment.
The two-night event, which serves as a fundraiser for the choir program, experienced its second break ever since 1986, when then choir director Brian Bentley created it after attending a Shakespearean festival. The only other break was in 2009, between the transition of Bentley and current choir director RaNae Dalgleish.
“He created it with the idea and a couple costumes, but as an authentic experience,” Dalgleish said. “I have file drawers of notes, diagrams, castle books, medieval times costume sketches. He was so meticulous and left them all.”
Since then, Dalgleish has adapted a few new things, added costumes, but the night remains “quite the same” with about 150 guests being entertained by string quartets, vocal ensembles, and even a mini performance of “Hamlet,” which was directed by student Heidi Abbot.
This year also marked the return of King Henry, which had taken a leave – with the exception of one year — since Bentley retired. Previously, Hillcrest theater teacher Mark Daniels played the king. This year, band director Austin Hilla stepped in to fill the role, allowing Dalgleish, who usually played head role as Queen Elizabeth, to play Mother Superior and assist students if needed.
However, as in past years, parent volunteers assisted concert choir and a few mixed-choir students, who all obtained their food handler permits, in preparing the five-course feast, serving it after the guests were announced as they arrived at the auditorium stage that was transformed into an intimate castle.
“The effort and hard work the students put into this is really inspiring,” said parent Patty Smith, who was volunteering to help with the meal preparations.
Vocal ensemble students, dressed as royalty, sat at the head table with the king, or strolled throughout the guests, performing in quartets.
“I allowed them the liberty to pick if they sang a song from the Renaissance in German, Italian, French, English. Learning pieces from the Renaissance is part of our curriculum, but it’s also an authentic experience as many of them have never heard this music before,” Dalgleish said, adding that most of the pieces they began practicing after the holiday break.
There is a history that goes along with each royalty’s costume and traditions that are secrets amongst the choir members. For example, Dalgleish has students leave “notes from the heart” from previous cast members to this year’s choir members with their costumes.
“They say ‘this is hard, but don’t give up – it’s worth it’ to ‘I felt like royalty singing in the castle; it was a once in a lifetime experience,’” she said.
Hillcrest choir alumnus Jacob Lloyd also remembered sitting at the head table in the back row.
“I was practically falling off,” he said. “There’s no leg room. Many of the guests don’t realize the royalty at the head table also just drink water during the Feaste so they are able to sing; they wait until afterward to eat. Being part of it was the best experience. I loved to develop my own character, learn another style of music and have fun.”
Vocal ensembles are usually assigned to costumes depending on height and body shape, so it ensures students are able to work with anyone in the group, he added.
Lloyd said there was a lot of preparation behind the scenes from making shields to spending hours setting up the castle. Often music council members, which includes band members, help with staging on the nightly performances.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but everyone has a hand in it to make it successful,” he said. “It’s fun reminding guests of the time period from the Maypole dance to questioning them about cell phones since there wasn’t that technology then.”
Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey attended the dinner.
“It’s a unique way to involve many students, create an experience they can learn and have fun with and I can support the arts in the school,” she said.
A favorite part of the night for many guests is being entertained by the court jester, who acts as the host of the feaste. The role of the court jester has been a tradition for many of the Goates children.
“My brother Cory played the part from 2011 to 2013 and my sister Samantha played the part in 2014 and this is my second year doing it,” senior Jeremiah Goates said, adding another brother, Josh, played the role of Merlin instead.
In 2012, after auditioning for the role, his brother Cory said he appreciated being the court jester: “This is more fun than the serious acting we do with theater. It’s fun that I’m given more freedom and less blocking, so it becomes interactive with the guests and the performers.”
Jeremiah said that he, too, had fun with the role.
“I like to be goofy and act out, disobeying all the rules of a Feaste,” said the student who said by playing Wilbur Turnblad in “Hairspray,” gave him more confidence in being the court jester. “There are certain lines that are set, but the rest I can make them up to have people laugh. I like seeing people happy and having fun.”
He added, “The one year it wasn’t one of us, it was our really good friend, so that was almost family.”
That year it was played Mckay Jessop, who’s family was in attendance to watch Mckay’s brother this year.
“It’s really fun as it’s not like other choir performances,” their mother, Tiffany Jessop, said. “The choir kids are getting a crash course in theater performance and in understanding the Renaissance period by being immersed in it.”
Jeremiah said one of his favorite memories is his last line in the Renaissance Feaste.
“My favorite line begins with ‘God speed, good friends.’ It’s when I tell them it’s been a night of fun, but now is the time to go out and do good,” he said.
This year, the choir will use the money toward their March 27-April 2 trip to Los Angeles, where they will perform at Disneyland’s California Adventure. Vocal ensemble was scheduled to compete at region as of press deadline and if they qualify, perform at state after their California tour, on April 27. Concert choir’s regional competition is slated for April 24. State is on May 10-11.