In the Days of Good Queen Bess

Brilliant Elizabethan Entertainment Given at the Norton Home Last Night

Merry King of Misrule

Old Jest and ancient Songs were interspersed with Masques and Dances of olden Times

Buffalo Express
December 28, 1906

One of the most beautiful entertainments ever given in Buffalo took place last evening in the stately home of Mr. and Mrs. Porter Norton of Gates Circle, when hundreds of friends accepted their invitation to an Elizabethan ball. The atmosphere of the entire lower floor was of the Elizabethan reign, the decorations beign designed by Mrs. Norton and Miss Josephine Barnard.

In the dining room, finished in dark wood, streamers of red lettered in gold bore old English Christmas sentitments, forming a border about the large apartment. Over the fireplace was a shield and crest, the wassail arms, bearing devices of hops, grapes, corks and steins.

At one end of the central hall were tiers of seats, covered with red. These proves insufficient for the guests, many of whom were in the adjoining rooms which open most effectively one into the other. On the walls in the large hall were the arms of Queen Elizabeth and those of some of her predecessors, also some small shields of the barons and the signers of the Magna Carta. Around the top of the wall were festoons of laurel. In this apartment most of the pageant took place.

In the library the bay window, with its red stained glass, was illuminated through, throwing a flood of brilliant color upon the gay and unusual scene. Over the fireplace was the Norton coat-of-arms.

In the small round hall Mr. and Mrs. Norton and Miss Norton, with Miss Coakley and Peter H. Norton, greeted the guests, who came in costume and were announced as historical personages by the herald, John Olmsted, the court jester, Albert B. Wright, and the pages, George and Chandler Bleistein.

Mrs. Norton wore a white brocaded satin, heavily embroidered with pearls and gold sequins. The full sleeves were lined with ermine, a redingote, half covering the skirt, had the front breadth embroidered with pearls and sequins. A crown of stage jewels, pearls and rubies, completed the costume. Miss Norton was in pink and Miss Coakley in yellow, both wearing costumes of the Elizabethan period, as did the men in the receiving line.

The small reception room was lined with fir trees and the lights were so arranged that they gave the effect of moonlight flickering through the firs. Here the pageants with the little red wagons and hobby horses formed. Later in the evening this cosy little room made a delightful retreat for those who preferred to sit out a dance with a pleasant companion.

At 10 o'clock the revels began. The late arrivals were detained upstairs until the opening pageant was over. Last among the costumed to arrive were the Canterbury Pilgrims, singing to the Gregorian chant extracts from the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. The chorus was trained by Mrs. George Fiske and included the following:

Mistress Barker, Mrs. George Bleistien; wife of Bath, Mrs. John G. Eppendorf; Chaucer, Charles P. Norton; the knight, Knowlton Mixer; doctor of physics, Mrs. Newcomb; the miller, Harold Olmsted; the good parson, Lewis Stockton; the friar, George Fiske; the monk, Charles M. Clarke; the ship man, Seymour Barnard; the squire, George Chisholm; the Roman, John G. Eppendorf; the summoner, W. McK. Morris of Plainfield, N.J.; the pardoner, Frederic Almy; the merchant, Pierre Letchworth; the prioress, Mrs. Knowlton Mixer; the nuns, Miss Almy, Mrs. Newcomb, Miss Elizabeth Sherman, Mrs. Lewis Stockton, Mrs. Pierre Letchworth, MIss Helen Chamberlain and Mrs. W. McK. Morris. Mrs. Knowlton Mixer and Mrs. John G. Eppendorf arrange this production.

Then the herald sounded the trumpet and announced the arrival of the King of Misrule, George A. Lewis. He was attended by twelve months and by Lent and Aurora... They circled the room and made way for the king. Mrs. Norton piped some lines, as did the King of Misrule. The verses were written by Frederic Almy after the manner of Robert Herrick.

Then came the Yule log procession. As the lights were turned down, in came torch bearers, minstrels, villagers and shepherds, drawing the holly-decked log on a snow-covered sled. All were singing Hail, Father Christmas, Hail to Thee. Then the King of Misrule called on the host to light the Yule log with a brand left over from the last year and, in turn, the villagers and others were invited to pile on driftwood and sweet-smelling grasses.

After the lights went up and the King of Misrule, in trumpet tones, shouted three times, "Wassail! In comes the Abbot of Unreason!" Louis B. Hart and two attendants, bearing a great wassail bowl trimmed with grapes and streamers and filled with hot spices ale and apples, answered the summons and set the bowl on the table. The king called upon the hostess and her daughter to dispense the wassail to the thirsty guests.

Then the king commanded the revels to begin. The music was sent from New York and was of the time of good Queen Bess. An orchestra supplemented the New York musicians and played later for dancing.

First came the Arthurian dance...Then cam a play, Cupid's Messenger, written in the period of Elizabeth. It was directed by Douglas Cornell... A Greek dance.. preceded a cymbal dance...

Ben Jonson's Masque Christmas was directed by Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Bartow...

And an intermission came the dance of the shepherds and shepherdesses, with flutes and crooks...Next was a Spanish dance.

A masque, written by Carlton Sprague, was performed...

The supper procession was led by attendants, carrying a great boar's head and a blazing plum pudding, all singing the old Boar's Head song. At a long table the King of Misrule presided with the Abbot of Unreason. Surrounded by their henchmen, they sang during the supper.

Dancing followed the merry period of Christmas revelry and it was well into the morning before the last guest had reluctantly take his departure and the lights of the revel were out.

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