The musical drone of cornets and shawms could be heard as one descended down the stairs to the College’s cafeteria last Friday evening. But someone might be wondering: what is a cornet, pray? What is a shawm? Why, Renaissance instruments. Why Renaissance instruments? Why, to celebrate the birthday of Thomas More College’s patron saint.
Of course, Renaissance melodies—the pavanes and galliardes of a bygone era—were only part of the evening’s festivities. The mood of the College’s annual Winter-term banquet commemorating that great martyred lawyer and paradoxical man of letters, Saint Thomas More, was a fittingly merry one. This was all the more the case because of the manner in which this banquet is traditionally held.
No forks. No spoons.
Yes, the Thomas More Birthday banquet—a glorious spread—is eaten Renaissance-fashion. At long trestle tables arrayed along the cafeteria, students and faculty sit down to feast in a manner befitting the occasion. Memory—long, long historical memory—is alive and well in the minds and hearts of the banqueters.
As is the College’s custom, the evening’s revelers came clad in fitting attire. Peasants and friars rubbed shoulders with damsels and courtiers, with several freshmen sporting comical jester’s caps. After delivering a speech in praise of Saint Thomas More’s resolute cheerfulness, Mr. Fraser led everyone in a formal toast. Laughter, the buzz of conversation, and general high spirits prevailed.
The College’s Madrigal Society, led by senior Jonathan Wanner, provided the company with an entertaining selection of musical pieces from the Renaissance including Thomas Moreley’s “April is in My Mistress’s Face“ and “Sing We Now Enchaunted.” As the evening drew on, the tables were cleared back; space was opened down the length of the hall, and a round of traditional English dances concluded the festivities.
Banquets, often commemorating a particular saint or famous personage, play an important part of campus life at Thomas More College. These are formal occasions, certainly. They bring the College together as a community. They offer a chance to be at leisure, to relax from the rigor of writing essays and reading long stretches of Caesar, Conrad, Augustine and Austen. But they also offer a chance for those present to reflect on human excellence as it presents itself in models like Saint Thomas More. In only a short while, the College will gather once again to celebrate its annual Robert Burns Dinner, scheduled for Sunday, February 16.