MELANIE MINTY: Lyric Singers celebrate Boar’s Head dinner

SURREY — The weather is colder now as November has nudged into December and Christmas lights, decorations and seasonal shopping is building. I don’t know if you believe in Christmas. In this multicultural society, we are all allowed our differences. But all of us can celebrate a spirit of Christmas with an act of kindness each day toward another fellow human. World peace is, apparently, an impossible achievement, but we can try to make our community circle a bit kinder and more caring.

I have found many great friends through involvement with community theatre. These are people I admire for their commitment to a project and donation of their time and talent. It is a gift to all of us.

One person I now call a friend is Ryan Mooney. At the turn of the century, Ryan made some serious mistakes. He had to reinvent the person he was and still keep working in the industry he loves: live theatre. He founded Fighting Chance Productions. The name says it all. Now working in White Rock, Mooney has made major positive contributions to community theatre. He shared a story on Facebook, and I wanted to share it with you. Ryan’s “song”:

"I was in the grocery store yesterday when someone who worked on a previous show stopped me and said how much fun she had working on the show, that it was what community theatre should be and that the positive environment I fostered was a welcome change from others she had worked with and encountered.

"It made me realize I’m at a point where I refuse to work with toxic or egotistical individuals. The maniacal way that some people wield their small amounts of power is an embarrassment to me, and I refuse to let the people working with me be subjected to their disappointing and immature behaviour. We’ve all been part of those special shows — the ones where everyone is treated with mutual respect, dignity and kindness. Let’s keep working for that goal, friends. We deserve it."

Thanks for the message Ryan. Yes, we do deserve it.

Christmas has so many trappings and traditions associated with this winter celebration. Songs, pageantry, lights, food and the retelling of the birth of Jesus are integral to the Christian heritage.

A Christmas tradition presented by the Lyric Singers of Surrey is the Boar’s Head Medieval Dinner. This medieval madrigal feast of food and song has an almost 700-year history. Peter Rahn, who co-ordinates this event for the Lyric Singers, says "you get it all: dinner, pageantry, music theatre."

Yes, there is a Boar’s head — but it is not eaten, just served. It is a bit more difficult to find wild boar these days. So, there is some improvisation allowed. The choir adds some male voices and instruments, and the children’s choir also presents some songs on their own.

Aside from getting a good meal (six to eight courses), the attendees also get excellent entertainment in the form of a Boar’s Head Medieval pageant and Christmas music supplied by Lyric Singers. All the performers dress in medieval costume, and dressing up in this style for the audience is highly encouraged, but not required. This event is also used to raise money for Surrey Food Bank, usually about $1,000. Now that is the Christmas spirit.

Boar’s Head Medieval Dinner does sell out, and tickets are now about half sold. There’s still time to get your ticket, though. This year, the dinner is on Nov. 29, starting at 7 p.m. at Bethany Newton United Church, 14852 60th Ave., Surrey. Tickets are $40, credit cards are accepted. Phone the church at 604-599-6803. Be prepared to be entertained as you eat your way through a traditional medieval feast.

Why Boar’s Head? This medieval pageant is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest. A mean, nasty beast and menace to humans, it was hunted as a public enemy. Like our Thanksgiving turkey, roasted boar was a staple of medieval banquets. As Christian beliefs overtook pagan customs in Europe, the presentation of a boar’s head at Christmas came to symbolize the triumph of the Christ child over sin.

The festival we know today originated at Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1340. As the legend goes, an Oxford scholar was on his way to mass when confronted by an angry wild boar. His only weapon was a metal-bound philosophy book, which he rammed down the throat of the boar, choking it to death. That night, the boar’s head, dressed and garnished, was borne in procession to the dining room accompanied by carolers. By 1607, an expansive ceremony was still in use at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

By that time, the festival had grown, as popular festivals, especially those that feature food, had grown to include lords, ladies, knights, cooks, hunters, pages and eventually shepherds and wise men, who told the story of the nativity. Embellished with additional carols, customs and accoutrements, mince pie and plum pudding, good King Wenceslas, a Yule Log, the symbolic procession became complex and rich in history. The tradition was brought to colonial America by persecuted French huguenots. In 1939, the Rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati gave this traditional school festival a church setting.

It’s just an interesting bit of history and Christmas tradition, revived and kept alive by the Lyric Singers. It’s become part of our tradition now. Deck the halls, light the Christmas tree and give a gift to Surrey Food Bank.



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