Reflections on three days in tights

Ben Wolford

Once upon a time, I sang in the Kent State University Chorale. I was a bass, and I was a freshman.

I was also surprised to find that the annual Olde English Yuletide Feaste was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, given that I could not wear pants.

The Feaste, if you don’t know, is a holiday performance put on by Kent State’s top choir. The three-night show includes intricate madrigals, Christmas carols, dinner and entertainment (in the past there’s been a comic juggler, but maybe he’s moved on).

The idea is that the singers of the chorale on stage are nobles of Elizabethan England, so the décor and costumes reflect that period.

My costume was unique. While most of my colleagues looked like Holbein’s ambassadors, I looked like a court jester.

Except my hat wasn’t three pointed. It was dopey and had a little yellow feather.

And I didn’t wear pants. They were black tights, and my wiry legs were vaguely concealed by a bulky shirt made of bright-red felt that hung to midthigh.

I looked more like a boy soprano than a bass.

But I wore it proudly because I was part of something good.

We sang Thomas Tallis (at first poorly, then beautifully), Morten Lauridsen and, of course, the boisterous “Wassail Song” and “Boar’s Head Carol.”

In those days the KSU Chorale was under the direction of C.M. Shearer, who was in his final year. And so he treated every performance like it would be his last.

We must have put in 30 or 40 hours in the days leading up to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Feaste. Sometimes the hours passed with tension as we stumbled through the songs. (Try singing Tallis with 12 feet between you and the other people in your section.)

And as I recall, the Thursday show was a disaster. If you’re reading this and you were a member of the audience that Thursday in 2007, we all apologize for that. I hope the food was good.

But by Friday, we nailed it. Shearer had a big grin afterward, and we all felt a great sense of accomplishment.

And, if I’m not alone in thinking this, we all felt a great deal of camaraderie with the 44 members of that ensemble. We also felt a deep community with the people who ate and enjoyed our performance from the ballroom floor.

The Feaste was good for that: bringing people into a common state of mind for at least one night and setting the mood for the whole holiday season.

This year’s Feaste, now under the direction of Scott MacPherson, will run Thursday through Saturday in the Student Center Ballroom.

Ben Wolford is a senior newspaper journalism major and the editor of the Daily Kent Stater. E-mail him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @BenWolford.