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Midwinter revelry with Master Chorale

Annual evening of music, food and fun hits high note

Posted: March 12, 2009 12:50 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The King's Singers of the Santa Clarita Master Chorale raise a toast at the Midwinter Madrigal Feast which attracted nearly 200 guests.

 
It was an evening of royalty and revelry as nearly 200 knights, ladies and courtiers joined the Santa Clarita Master Chorale in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Valencia for the Fourth Annual Midwinter Madrigal Feast.

In addition to the regular concert performances throughout the year, the Madrigal Feast - an annual fundraiser - combines music, theater and a hearty repast. The benefit also included a silent auction and drawings for vacations to Hawaii and Costa del Sol.

"You receive so much for your donation," said Sherry Klahs, Master Chorale board chairwoman of the $100 per plate dinner. "You can choose to direct your dollars toward a cause you can believe in and not just an entertainment tab."

As guests poured into the ballroom, Leslie Garman, event chairwoman and Master Chorale member, was thrilled with the community response.

"With the current economy, we have had great support and our turnout was better than expected," she said.

Guests and courtiers
Sporting a traditional Scottish kilt, Mike Millar of the Santa Clarita Symphony and the Arts Advisory Committee, was a first time attendee with his wife, Dava. Millar said interest in the Madrigal Feast is high among Santa Clarita Valley arts organizations.

"There are lots of folks here from the Arts Advisory Committee," he said. "We have always loved the Master Chorale, it is one of the greatest institutions in the Santa Clarita Valley."

Resplendent in a snappy tux was TimBen Boydston of the Canyon Theatre Guild and his wife, Ingrid, who was as pretty as a princess in a purple ball gown and pink cape.

"This is a wonderful evening," TimBen Boydston said, who was emcee at last year's supper. "It is unique because it combines music, art, theater, food and lots of laughter. The arts supply laughter to nourish the soul, which is very much needed at this time."

This year, Phil Lantis, the arts and events administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, had the honor of playing the emcee.

"It's the best event in the SCV," he said. "It's a very important part of any arts organization to remind people of the great art they are doing."

McLean said she was thrilled that Santa Clarita continues to support the Master Chorale during the economic downturn.

"The city is O.K.," she said. "We have less money to spend, but we never spend more than we have. Even though sales and property taxes are down, we are in better shape than most cities."

Feasting and fun
Once inside the ballroom, the guests tucked into a fabulous feast of a fresh wedge salad with blue cheese, New York strip steak with a Cabernet reduction sauce and a flourless chocolate cake. The Loose Goose donated the many bottles of wine that flowed throughout the evening.

To begin the entertainment, Garman took to the stage and urged the guests to continue their ongoing support.

"The arts are such a vital part of human existence," she said. "Dig deep and bring a friend to the concerts."

Following Garman, Lantis encouraged the audience to consider how important the Chorale and all arts are to the community at large.

"They do such wonderful work, sometimes there is nothing more powerful than Chorale music sung very, very well," he said. "We need to support the Master Chorale. So spread the word and help the arts through these tough times, that is what this city is all about and known all over the world a great arts community."

Fools and kings
As the centerpiece of the evening the guests were entertained by a fantastical farce, "These Foolish Kings Remind Me of..." written by Ahna Brandvik and Paul Logan and directed by Chorale member Catherine Simpson.

The irreverent tale revealed that the Royal Kingdom is in disorder for it appears the Chorale's poor, luckless hero, Merton, Lord of Misrule (tenor Larry Wood) has been fired by the King and is looking for some way to make things right again. But he also plots to become King.

Meanwhile, a powerful sorceress named Morgan Wherechild (Catherine Simpson) magically appears and agrees to help him.

Complicating matters, the King's foolish Jester (a charmingly lisping Michael Simpson) also plots to become the King.

But of course, nothing ever goes according to plan and the ensuing misadventures created three acts of intrigue, mistaken identity and mayhem. There was even a point where the king was transformed into a giant chicken. As if things weren't bad enough, a dastardly plot in the third act involved the audience as well, as they pulled up poor Jim Hackett (husband of Chorale member Jill Hackett) to assist in a dastardly plan to kidnap the real King. Or was it?

As the Jester finally declares before all is revealed, "The Fool is King and the King is a Fool!" Naturally, neither the members of the Royal Court nor the Courtiers noticed the difference.

Chorale member Mike Andrews made his royal debut as the blustering King and Susie Woo, who was not above some serious "wooing" from the naughty Jester, played the Queen.

Others in the cast were Kelly Boardman as the Town Crier; Brad Thurlow played the Boar's Head Courtier; Adam Bouziane was Chuck Fowl; Chuck Spadaro and Debbie Wright were the bumbling Royal Guards, Chester and Hank; Jennifer Potter and Harry McNeil played Barley and Stout. The Royal Courtiers were Alex Nassief, Cara Kowalczyk, Elizabeth Jameson, Ronda Herrington, Randy Phillips and Steven Rivas. Making his Madrigal debut was Trevor Simpson as the Page.

Mary Rosebrock and Jennifer Potter created the colorful medieval-inspired costumes and Tom Brown of Angstrom Lighting designed the stage lighting.

Between acts, the Master Chorale's Artistic Director Allan Petker took the stage, "for the King's pleasure" and conducted the King's Singers in a series of charming carols and madrigals from the 14th to 16th centuries. The King's singers were Brad Thurlow, Cara Kowalczyk, Elizabeth Jameson, Jeanne Jordan Robinson, Legend Ackley, Jennifer Potter, John Fairbanks, Rebecca Hasquet, Steven Rivas and Susie Woo.

Gifts and gratuities
As guests entered the lobby, they were greeted by an amazing display of hors ‘d oeuvres amid dozens of silent auction baskets donated by SCV companies and individuals. Donors included Brent's Carpets, David Ewart, Dennis and Leslie Dreith, Egg Plantation, Fresh, Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, Spa Prive, Manee House and Harvest Café.

As an additional "thank you" from the Chorale, the festivities included two vacation drawings to Hawaii and Spain. When the tickets were pulled, Mimi Hiller won the one-week in Hawaii in an ocean view condo in Kona, donated by Steve and Robin Erenberg of SCV Pools.

Long-time Chorale supporters Doug and Jean Strickland were thrilled to win the one-week trip to Costa del Sol in Spain donated by Larry Wood, CPA. They agreed that increased support of all arts organizations is vital to the community.

"Art is the basis of our culture," Jean Stockdale said. "Without the arts, children don't learn as well. Arts as a whole influence the core values of our civilization."

Santa Clarita Master Chorale
In order to fill the need for a first-class independent community chorus in the Santa Clarita Valley, founding directors Jill Hackett and Deb Baur established the Santa Clarita Master Chorale in 1998. The all-volunteer Chorale is an auditioned chorus whose members rehearse once time each week from September through May/June and perform three concerts per year in December, March and May/June. Allan Robert Petker became the Artistic Director in January 2004. Klahs said while some arts organizations rely solely on government grants and higher ticket prices, the Master Chorale's support comes in largest measure directly from individuals, primarily Santa Clarita Valley residents who want to share great choral music performed with expertise and elegance.

"It is that personal support that will be most crucial in these difficult times," Petker said.
Santa Clarita Master Chorale, PO Box 800459, Santa Clarita, CA 91380, (310) 254-8886.

For more concert information, www.scmasterchorale.org, call (661) 284-1866 or e-mail info@scmasterchorale.org.

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