by Frances Edstrom
Nostalgia was the theme of my weekend. On Friday night, we were guests at Winona State University's Madrigal Banquet, performed in the Lourdes Hall dining hall. I spent many hours eating my way through college in that room, and it brought back bittersweet memories.
It is a wonderful room for a choral presentation, and its style and formality lends itself well to the Madrigal, in which the players are costumed in 16th century garb, and the guests are drawn into the fun.
We arrived in the vast foyer of Lourdes Hall to be serenaded by the choirs and the excellent musical group accompanying them, and were led to the dining hall, where each table was waited on by several costumed members of the choir.
The annual event is the brainchild of WSU choir director Harry Mechell, provided with decoration and (yummy) menu by Lauren Mechell. Student Maggie Bambenek wrote the clever script, very ably performed by the students. Of special note should be the boffo performance of Alan Struthers as Jester. If things don't work out at WSU, he could do a stand-up act in Vegas. Megan Thill was a great Princess Ariel in the tradition of the melodrama.
There was much wonderful singing, acting and diversions such as choreographed sword and staff fights with audience participation. Totally incongruous, but equally as delightful were "Entertainments from ‘FAR OFF LANDS.'" WSU student Tala Alkhalidi performed a Middle Eastern belly dance, and a group of students including Korma Aguh, Adeola Fadumiye, Dorcas Olateru, Ademola Owolabi, Muzaila Tshisola, Kennedy Ihezie and Mercy Wariari performed a "Nigerian Love Dance." What a hoot! The dance was explained to us as a story of "two men, each with a different talent "” one can dance and the other is rich "” each finally gets what he wants." The dancer ends up with one wife, the rich man with four. We're not sure who made out better. But getting to the conclusion is the fun part. If the group performs again, it is a can't-miss occasion. When you see it, try not to think about what you might dislocate dancing like that!
What began as a night of melancholy for me, harking back to a part of my life gone forever, became a night of gladness that the physical plant of the former College of Saint Teresa is being used so well, and will go on making memories for generations of college students.
On Saturday night, we took another trip down memory lane at SMU's Candlelight Dinner. Sarah Marek, whom I have known since she was BORN, gave her last Candlelight performance, as she graduates in the Spring.
The theme of the evening was everywhere evident "” By the Sea.
The five-course dinner was, as usual, excellent. We can only hope that Brother Louis' successor will be half the epicure he has been!
We thought that the evening's performance was one of the best we have seen over the years. The level of professionalism "” singers and musicians alike (love that piano player!) "” was amazing, given the ages of the performers, and the fact that they have to actually go to school and study as well as perform.
They sang every sea, river, lake, pond, and puddle-related song ever written, we think, and even let the audience let off some steam in a rousing round of "Row, row, row your boat." (Our section was best.)
The producer of the event, Larry Gorrell, director Gary Diomandes and music director Judy Meyers should be proud of a great production.
I'll give you a tip if you go next time. Don't wear shoes that tend to come off when you dance. I had the pleasure of dancing with one of the committee members, Bill Laehn, who dances, shall we say"wildly. I felt fortunate not to have become the centerpiece on one of the tables adjacent to the dance floor. Even Mr. Edstrom danced with me when the band did its Beatles set.
Thanks to our two universities for sharing their talented faculties and students, beautiful facilities and joie de vivre with us townies.