CHS Celebrates 50th Madrigal Christmas Dinner

The 50th anniversary of a beloved tradition


Audrey White, Opinions Section Editor

Chesterton High School’s Show Choir celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Madrigal Christmas Dinner. The CHS Madrigal Christmas Dinner is performed every year in December, and is an event where the show choir is able to perform a series of traditional Christmas songs for the community of Chesterton in the cafeteria. 


The cafeteria is transformed into the Great Hall, a replica of what a traditional medieval English dining hall would be like. Families were seated at the tables along with other parties where they ate their meals by candlelight. Walking into the cafeteria-turned-Great Hall is an enthralling experience. Wall-like structures are erected and made to look like cobblestone. As parties made their way into the Great Hall, they passed into an enclosed hallway that also had cobblestone-like walls, as well as stained glass “windows”. Once parties made their way into the Great Hall’s entrance, their presence was announced and they were able to be seated. At the entrance to the Great Hall was a long, deep red runner leading to the head table. The entire hall was filled with candles for light, further adding to the atmosphere. By each table were candelabras also filled with candles neatly wedged inside. Various banners and artworks with medieval lions and patterns were displayed within the Great Hall, thus producing an ancient feel to the room. 


The songs performed throughout the dinner include: “Adeste Fideles”, “Wassail, Boars Head”, “Flaming Pudding Carol”, “Lo’ how a Rose E’er Blooming”, “Carol of the the Birds”, “The Falcon”, “In the Bleak Midwinter”, “Good King Wenceslas”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Psallite”, “Jubilate Domino”, “Joy to the World”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Silent Night”, “O Holy Night” – Solo, “Night Divine” – All, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.


“When she [Mrs. Morris, Choir Director] announced it, I don’t even remember it, it was surreal because it’s something I’ve wished for since my freshman year…She’s like [Mrs. Morris] ‘Our Lady of the House is going to be Natalie Arney’…and my face dropped…I was like ‘this isn’t real’.  …Honestly, I’m so honored that I got to be it, especially for the 50th,” senior Natalie Arney, Lady of the House, said.


Those in attendance made their way from the hallway in front of the auditorium into the cafeteria-turned-medieval feasting hall. Servants led different parties to their tables after being formally announced at the opening to the Great Hall. 


Families were given a choice of water, milk, or a hot mulled cider called wassail, which is a traditional English drink for Christmastime. For the meal, the servants brought a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy, in addition to the bread rolls with butter and charcuterie board of fruits and vegetables on the tables. As for dessert, attendees were served pieces of dense carrot cake with sweet cream cheese frosting with a choice of coffee on the side.


In between courses, the Lord of the House, senior Christopher Woods spoke to the audience, and was then succeeded by the members of the head table singing various traditional Christmas songs accompanied by the CHS Music Department. The Show Choir did a phenomenal job with the vocal performance. During the final song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, the servers took the candles from each table and stood alongside those who were at the head table and stood on rises placed in the back side of the Great Hall. Every participant stood with candles and at the end of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” shouted “Merry Christmas!” and blew out the candles, leaving the entire Great Hall in complete darkness before switching on the lights.


The entire ambience of the Madrigal Dinner is an utterly magical experience. Those sitting at the head table wear traditional 16th century clothing, while people transcend through time through the senses of sight, sound, and taste.


“I got to walk in with those candles at the beginning. They were real candles, they were lit. It was real fire. The first time I got to try them was without the candles and I could barely hold it…on one of the rehearsals, she [Mrs. Morris] was like, ‘you’ve got to try it with them lit’. So I did get to try it once before I did a show,” senior Jorana Banseviciute, Saint Lucy, said.


The legacy of the CHS Madrigal Dinner is one that is cherished by Chesterton’s community. It is a legacy of maintaining a dazzling experience through celebrating Christmas together and fostering a communal appreciation of the arts. To remember this special experience commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Madrigal Dinner, attendees were given a complimentary mug with an emblem of a crown with a laurel wreath.