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Come to the concert, come to the cabaret

Natchez will experience two sensational music events — one traditional, the other new — during December.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, the Alcorn University Concert Choir’s annual Christmas concert will take place at St. Mary Basilica beginning at 7 p.m. This year the choir, under the direction of Donna Schaffer, will perform English composer Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols.” The concert, sponsored by the Natchez Festival of Music, is free and will be followed by a reception honoring the musicians.

The Alcorn concert has become a beloved holiday tradition in Natchez and is not to be missed by anyone who delights in hearing live music performed by talented singers in a beautiful venue. And because the concert is free, it is a wonderful opportunity for families to celebrate the season together and for children to experience a type of Christmas music they may not have previously heard.

That’s the tradition. Here’s what’s new.

The Festival of Music is very excited to partner with Christmas in Natchez to present “A Christmas Cabaret” on Friday, Dec. 14. As the name implies, “A Christmas Cabaret” will feature tables on the floor of the Natchez City Auditorium where guests may eat and drink and enjoy holiday music in a casual, congenial atmosphere. Stadium seating will also be available at reduced prices, including low-cost youth tickets.

WLBT and Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Walt Grayson will emcee the cabaret, which will feature vocalists Paul Houghtaling, Maryann Kyle and Jennifer Hart accompanied by the Natchez Cabaret Jazz Trio. According to The Boston Globe, “Paul Houghtaling has personality and a splendid voice.”

This bass-baritone and stage director is on the University of Alabama faculty as assistant professor of voice and director of opera theatre. He is known for his versatility and distinctive style, having performed in Europe and across the United States.

Kyle is in demand as one of the finest vocal coaches of belt, legit and classical vocal technique and has dedicated her professional life to guiding singers in their pursuit not only of exceptional singing, but also captivating performance in opera, recitals, concerts and Broadway shows. Kyle is associate professor of voice at The University of Southern Mississippi where she is director of the Southern Opera and Music Theatre Company’s Outreach and Workshop program. She has served as director of the Apprentice Artist program with Mississippi Opera, and vocal coach with Festival South.

Kyle also serves on the faculty of the Operafestival di Roma, Italy and the Faculty-Festival Musica nas Montanhas, Brazil. Hart is a doctoral candidate at the University of Mississippi studying conducting and serving as the marketing and educational outreach assistant for the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.

This is a must-attend event! The festivities begin at 7 p.m.

This communitywide event will combine live Christmas music with the casual atmosphere of a cabaret not typically found in Natchez. It is chaired by Regina Charboneau and Bridget Green.

Patrons purchasing tables are encouraged to decorate them, and a prize will be given for the best decorated table. For those who desire it, decorations may be purchased through the Festival Guild. Table hosts may bring their own hors d’oeuvres or purchase a pre-ordered basket through the Festival Guild. Wine and champagne will be available pre-ordered by the bottle or by the glass at the cash bar, which will also have water and soft drinks.

A 10-person table is $250; individual table seats are $30. Stadium seating is $20 per person, and youth tickets (stadium seating only) are $10.

Visit the Natchez Festival of Music’s website at www.NatchezFestivalofMusic.com for more information and to purchase tickets online using Pay Pal or call 601-445-2210.

Tickets to “A Christmas Cabaret” would make excellent gifts, and the show is a unique opportunity to entertain clients or to get together with friends and family to enjoy the season. It will be a fantastic evening of live music in a party atmosphere.

As the Kander and Ebb song says, “…Come hear the music…Come taste the wine, Come hear the band, start celebrating … Come to the Cabaret.”


Jay Dean is the artistic director of the Natchez Festival of Music.