The Boar's Head Feast is a tradition that has been going on since McLean High School opened its doors. In fact, it has been going on longer than that. The feast started at Edison High School, before its students and faculty moved to the newly built McLean High School in 1965.
"It's older than the school is," said Zach Roberts, a senior and tenor in the McLean High School Madrigals.
The 55th annual Boar's Head Feast is scheduled to take place on March 3 and 4 of this year at McLean Baptist Church. Every year, the Boar's Head Feast — which was traditionally held to celebrate the coming of spring — is put on by students and faculty to raise funds for the McLean High School choral department. Members of the school's elite singing group, the Madrigals, don their traditional 13th century Renaissance costumes and put on a show for their guests.
"It's a Renaissance style feast because Madrigals is a Renaissance style of singing," said Maurene Comey, a senior and soprano one singer in the group. "It's basically dinner theatre with the Madrigals performing the whole time."
In fact, the Boar's Head Feast is all about putting on a show. Each year, the feast has a different theme. Last year's theme was "The Masquerade," and this year's theme will be "The Hunt." Senior Jesse Rogers, who is a tenor in the Madrigals, will play King of the Wood.
"Even when we aren't singing we are performing," said Rogers. "We are in character the whole time."
The Madrigals are not the only performers at the feast. Volunteers and other members of the choral department dress up as slaves and serve the food, while others take on the role of beggars – occasionally stealing items from the tables. In addition, there is usually a "fortune teller" at the event.
"Everyone gets involved," said Rogers. "The parents really help out a lot."
Parent and event coordinator Sandi Rogers estimates that there are about 50-75 parent volunteers. Rogers says the event is "a big undertaking" and that lanning for the feast usually starts just as the school year begins.
"But we have great choral parents, so they all step forward to help and that makes it a lot easier," she said.
THERE ARE 16 MADRIGALS, and approximately 30 people in total participating in the event. The McLean Fellowship Hall at McLean Baptist Church will be transformed into a Renaissance-era banquet hall. Guests will be served a 5-course meal prepared by chef Doug Cook, formerly of Red Sage restaurant in Washington D.C. The choral department tries to keep the Renaissance theme as authentic as possible.
"We actually have a boar's head," said Comey. "Not a real one, but we do have one that we use every year."
Becoming a member of the Madrigals is no easy task. Students must audition and must be able to sight read. In addition they have to earn their grade by participating in rigorous rehearsals and various recitals and concerts. The singing group meets every other morning at 6:20 a.m., and every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. The students must also make time every week to hold sectional practices outside of school.
"We do about 20 Christmas concerts, and at every one we wear our costumes because the Madrigals are a Renaissance singing group," said Comey.
Most of the Madrigals are students who plan to pursue music in some professional form after graduating. Zach Roberts plans to attend music school in London and aspires to be an opera singer. Maurene Comey would like to be a voice major in college, and Jesse Rogers plans to pursue a career in the music business.
The McLean Madrigals are ranked 11th among all schools in the United States by the Society of Historical Performance.
THE 55TH ANNUAL BOAR'S HEAD FEAST will take place on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4, starting at 7:30 p.m. at McLean Baptist Church, 1367 Chain Bridge Rd. in McLean. Tickets are available for the 5-course gourmet dinner and musical entertainment. The cost is $40 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under. To purchase tickets and reserve a spot, call Patrice Comey at 703-533-0809, or e-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.