A medieval celebration will join forces with modern-day solutions when one of Kenosha’s beloved holiday traditions makes its online premier this weekend.
The Kenosha Unified Fine Arts Department presents the 46th annual Ye Olde English Christmasse Feaste this weekend despite formidable challenges and safety-conscious changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our first thought was that we wanted to give the students a chance to do it if we could,” said Tremper choir director Polly Amborn, one of the event’s directors.
The Christmasse Feaste video will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday on youtube.com/kenoshaschools. After the conclusion of the live performance, a video will be available through the same link and KUSD’s social media outlets. There is no charge to watch the premiere or video links.
Combining the talents of the Bradford, Indian Trail and Tremper madrigal singers requires logistical and technical gymnastics worthy of a Feaste jester.
“So many things we never had to think about are now at the forefront,” Amborn said. “But it was definitely a different kind of effort. There were not as many people, no performance space or decor, but we had a lot of new and different work to do.”
Rehearsal had to be squeezed into a much smaller window, 90 minutes per week compared to the typical six hours per week required in previous years. Participants wore masks and observed social distance expectations during practices as well as the eventual video shoot for the performance.
A string quartet, under the direction of Tremper orchestra director Helen Breitenbach, also recorded their performance. This year’s cast of jesters, which includes students from LakeView Tech, was able to do their video shoot on location at Petrifying Springs Park.
Those components, and a few other surprises, are packaged into the 30-minute Christmasse Feaste presentation. When the virtual curtain goes up, it will reveal a moment that was made possible by the performers’ continued enthusiasm in the face of 2020’s challenges.
Staff took the first step in mid-summer, communicating with former participants to gauge interest in a modified Christmasse Feaste. Despite the obvious changes that lie ahead, almost all previous participants jumped at the chance, and their families were supportive as well, Amborn said.
“The kids were all really excited to get back in,” Amborn said. “We had just a few spots left and had no trouble filling them.”
Likewise, when Indian Trail choir director John Choi put out the call for alumni participants to reprise their Feaste roles, an amazing 50 former KUSD Fine Arts students sent in videos that will be incorporated into the show.
“For so many students this is a part of their high school experience, and for so many families this is a tradition they attend together year after year,” Amborn said.
While there is no admission fee, donations to support future Christmasse Feastes are accepted at www.kusd.edu/finearts.
Christmasse Feaste video premiere: Saturday, December 19 at 7:00 p.m. at youtube.com/kenoshaschools