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Chorale masters mirth and merriment

Fundraiser: Annual Midwinter Madrigal Feast is a hit

Posted: April 10, 2010 5:02 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Kelly Boardman and Elizabeth Abrahamson were high school interns with the Master Chorale and credit their experience with inspiring careers in music.

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Beautiful songs and inspired silliness hit all the right notes at the Midwinter Madrigal Feast.

It was a merry night to toast the end of winter and herald in the spring at the fifth annual Midwinter Madrigal Feast at the Hyatt Valencia.

The annual fundraiser benefits the Santa Clarita Master Chorale. Event organizers said the event is designed to be “a delightful trifle with plenty of wine, Shakespeare and song to shake off the winter blues.”

As guests arrived, they sampled tasty hors d’oeuvres and sipped wine while perusing tables laden with lovely gift baskets photographs, paintings and gift packages donated for the silent auction.

Business was also brisk for the raffle featuring a fabulous Hawaii vacation package and a complete DirecTV system.

To open the show, the emcee TimBen Boydston, executive director of the Canyon Theatre Guild, welcomed the crowd in the ballroom and made a case for the importance of supporting the arts, especially during these lean times.

“Civilizations rise and fall and the only thing that keeps them together are the arts,” he said. “Think of art’s impact on history and with your support and donations tonight, each of you are patrons of the arts — you can’t put a price on what you hear.”

He made the point that nowhere in the Santa Clarita Valley can you get a delicious dinner, live music and a very silly play for a mere $100.

Event chairwoman Leslie Garman reminded everyone that 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.

“We are not like other charities,” she said. “We use every penny and it goes for a great cause.”

Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean said she was pleased to attend the Madrigal Feast and used the occasion to tout the city’s new Arts Commission.

“Having an arts commission gives you a better opportunity to go after grants funding at a higher level to support the arts,” she said.

Newly minted Arts Commissioners Paul Strickland and Eric Schmidt also joined McLean at the Madrigal Feast.

“I am always amazed at the level of talent we have here in the SCV, we are so lucky,” McLean said. “With the Master Chorale, we can see the magic of what the community can do.”

In order to get everyone tuned up for the evening, the Master Chorale’s Artistic Director Allan Robert Petker picked up the baton and led the King’s Singers in a piece by 16th-century composer Thomas Morley, “April Is in My Mistresses Face.”

Then it was time for the “play” in which the normally staid members of the Chorale loosen up and lose some of their dignity in the process.

But the results are such inspired silliness that no one can resist. As they said, “Think of it as Shakespeare meets ‘Saturday Night Live,’ both on a mild dose of steroids.”

This year’s production, titled “The Very Incomplete Works of Wm. Shakespeare (Abridged and Further Abridged),” was directed and co-written by Catherine Simpson.

The ode to the Bard began with a tribute to “Othello” featuring the hilarious Larry Wood as a white rapper while Mike Andrews, Chuck Spadaro, Brad Thurlow and John Fortman as the “Too-White Crew” performed really bad hip-hop.

Adding to the fun was a three-minute “Macbeth” that managed to horrify everyone — for all the wrong reasons. Then, the group whipped through Shakespeare’s comedies in less than five minutes, complete with numerous costume changes.

Just to change the mood a bit, the company performed an interpretive dance version of “Titus Andronicus,” the bloodiest play Shakespeare ever wrote.

In a particularly amusing bit of folly called “Football, the Sport of Kings,” the actors portrayed all the famous kings of Shakespeare’s plays battling each other on the gridiron instead of commanding victory on the fields of Agincourt.  

To end the play on a high note, the goofy Michael Simpson stormed the stage as Hamlet in crown and tennis shoes and within two minutes everyone had stabbed each other to death — hopefully to ensure they will never do that again.

Still, they kept everyone laughing, including the many members of the United Methodist Church, who are loyal supporters of the chorale. The Master Chorale rehearses at the Valencia United Methodist Church on McBean Parkway. In addition to the many mature members of the Chorale audience there were many younger faces in the crowd.

Elizabeth Abrahamson graduated from Valencia High School and was the chorale’s high school intern from 2003-2004. She graduated with a degree in music education from California State University, Northridge and works as a substitute teacher in the Newhall School District where everyday she sees the importance of music in the schools.

“Kids in high school are inspired to do well in all their classes as a result of their involvement in the arts,” she said. “It gives kids a creative outlet and something to strive for.”

Abrahamson also knows the importance of weekly music lessons for the children she teaches.

“The third-graders get half-hour recorder lessons once a week, where they learn music phrasing,” she said. “On the days they get music, they just lighten up, sometimes their only exposure to music is in the classroom and they get so excited — it’s their chance to really shine.”

Kelly Boardman is a high school intern with the chorale and credits her experience with the group as an invaluable training ground for her Broadway ambitions. The Canyon High School graduate also performed roles at College of the Canyons and at the Canyon Theatre Guild.

“I would have been a high school dropout without the arts,” Boardman admitted. “They keep lots of kids in school. It was in high school where I discovered music and theater — they create emotions you just can’t describe, emotions that are only yours.”

To end the evening on a hopeful note, The King’s Singers took to the stage again and performed Morley’s “Now Is the Month of May.”

The Santa Clarita Master Chorale will host its final concert of its 10th season on June 6 with “Water Music: Songs for a Thirsty Soul,” featuring two short classics by Mozart and Monteverdi. The concert will be held at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

For information visit www.scmasterchorale.org, e-mail:info@scmasterchorale.org or call (661) 254-8886.

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