Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
Inside CMC, December/January 2003
Feast Your Eyes on Tradition
Madrigal Unveils Several Courses of Sumptuous Entertainment
Greek mythology had the sirens, capable of luring men to their deaths with their enchanting songs. Claremont McKenna College has the music of madrigals, caroling so intoxicating that, when accompanied by a five-course feast, rings in certain death to holiday dieting.
Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary on campus, Madrigal Feast remains one of CMC's most anticipated annual events, taking place over a period of five days at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum and feeding and entertaining more than 1,600 students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
The programs begin each evening as arriving guests are escorted to linen-draped tables topped with lighted candles, poinsettias, cheese, bread, and wine. Student 'wenches' serving food and drinks to each table then take orders for wassail or eggnog, both poured in souvenir Madrigal mugs for taking home. For the serving of the wassail, and with each of the five courses that follow, students in The Claremont Colleges Chamber Choir, directed by Ana DeMichele, serenade guests with a series of madrigals: centuries-old pastoral songs sung a cappella.
The feast itself is as consistent as the solid entertainment. Silver bowls of vegetable chowder are first delivered to the tables, followed by a menu that includes salmon, tossed greens, chicken, and, for dessert, whiskey pudding. By the third course, the damage being done to waistlines is evident. "Please," several guests at any given table are likely to say, "Just a sliver of fish for me. I have no idea where I'm going to put all this food!"
The evening is truly a feast for all of the senses. Said one departing guest, "The food was great, but I was also thinking about how nice it would be to listen to that kind of music every night, before bed."(Famous last words if you believe in sirens.)