Boar’s Head Festival in Springfield marks 35th year

Jan 8 2018

The Boar’s Head Festival is an Epiphany celebration that dates to 12th century England.

The bells will be ringing at Trinity United Methodist Church as the Boar’s Head Festival marks its 35th year.

At the beginning of the festival, “I Saw Three Ships” by Mack Wilberg will be sung; it has a long instrumental interlude just before the verse “and all the bells on earth shall ring.” During this interlude all kinds of bells — school bells, ships’ bells, vintage bells, cast iron bells, etc. — will be ringing, many of them suspended from the platforms.

“Every year we try to change the festival in some way so that it will remain fresh for the audience as well as the participants,” explained Becky Rosendahl Isaacson, director of Music Ministry for Trinity United Methodist Church and the musicaldirector for the Boar’s Head Festival.

The Boar’s Head Festival is an Epiphany celebration that dates to 12th century England. “The serving of the boar’s head is symbolic of the triumph of Christ over the evil in the world,” she said.

Some parts of the festival remain relatively the same each year; for example, the Maypole dance during the singing of “The Holly and the Ivy” is a given.

Then, of course, there are the live animals.

This year’s cast of animals and birds include three camels, a horse, a donkey, goats, sheep, llamas, geese, roosters, doves and a bird of prey (with a falconer). “We have had many funny and interesting moments that have involved the animals,” Isaacson  said, recalling the time a camel exited the truck and ran down Sumner Avenue with the shepherds chasing after him. “Another time the roosters escaped from their cages during a show and were racing around the chancel area with feathers flying while the singers and instrumentalists kept performing. And, of course, there is no way to hush a goose or sheep, and they can become quite vocal.”

Stephen E. Hays, artistic director, said here is lots of new music this year “and a particularly energized cast.”

Persons who attend for the first time are impressed by the quality of the performance and how something so complex can be so emotionally powerful, he said, adding that “now more than ever, our community needs opportunities to reconnect with the Christmas story in a meaningful way.”

Hundreds of people are involved in the festival’s cast and behind the scenes. These include 80 singers of all ages, 13 instrumentalists, 20 dancers and an additional cast of 75.

Many people work long before the festival is presented, sending out the mailing, putting up decorations, filling ticket orders, repairing props, setting up the lighting and platforms and altering costumes.

During the festival there will be people doing jobs such as ushering, make up, working the receptions for the audience, taking care of the animals that are in the festival, helping with parking and preparing and serving dinners for the cast and crew (two meals for 250 people each night between shows on Saturday and Sunday.)

“Then, of course, after the festival everything needs to be taken down and put away – quite an undertaking!” Isaacson said.

David R. Snyder is a duke in the Prepfest (the pre-show), a member of Lord Asbury’s court and sings with the town carolers. During the procession, the main part of the festival, he is a monk; the monks provide the bulk of the music for the festival.

A longtime participant in the festival, he marvels at the merging of so many talents at so many tasks that makes this enterprise happen. “Hundreds of volunteers perform, build staging, sell tickets, provide childcare, feed the cast and crew, host our guests, make and maintain costumes and carry out dozens of other needed activities to support the festival,” he said. “It is humbling for me to be involved, and yet it is most gratifying as well, especially when we hear from many in attendance how much they have appreciated their presence at it and how we have extended their Christmas celebration through it.”

Isaacson hopes people will leave the festival knowing that Christ is the Light of the World and brings hope, love, peace and joy to everyone.

Proceeds from the Boar’s Head Festival benefits the Trinity’s Mission Committee to be used in a local mission.

Performances will take place on Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 13 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.; and Jan. 14 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $$15 for children 11 and under. The Festival is not recommended for children under age 5.

Tickets are available by calling the Boar’s Head Festival Box Office at 733-4759.

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Oct 2018