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You will know music at Natchez Festival of Music

Get ready! You will know the music during this 23rd May Festival Season —May 4-25 — when top performers from around the globe perform with the Natchez Festival of Music. Read about them in the Festival’s “Meet the Line Up” newsletter at natchezfestivalofmusic.com. There are also two “kick-off” events this week — one on Tuesday evening at Fat Mama’s for Young Patrons and the other this Friday evening before Saturday’s Opening Night. Visit the “News” tab on the Festival’s website for details.

Join Mary Lessley, the festival’s president, from 7-9 p.m. Friday at Magnolia Bluffs Casino, 7 Roth Hill Road in the Cypress Mill Italian Steakhouse and 180 Lounge overlooking the Mississippi River for adult beverages and fare when Rusty Jenkins auctions the Festival’s commissioned watercolor and the first 10 signed and numbered prints of “Natchez is Puttin’ on the Ritz” by artists Marina and Christopher Cavette. Additional posters will be available for purchase. Chris Cavette and Mike Thomas will entertain the crowd with their renditions of music from The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Josh Turner, Rolling Stones — and as always, Johnny Cash and their usual modern folk rock with a country flair — quite a collection of feel-good songs. This event is free and open to the public. Also, the Magnolia Bluffs Players Club is offering free $10 FreePlay limited to one per attendee and valid only on the evening of the event.

Saturday’s opening night features America’s Music Man, George Gershwin, known for “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Swanee,” “An American in Paris,” “Porgy & Bess,” “I Got Rhythm”— just to name a few. His is the most popular and accessible classical work ever written by an American; he has remained so popular through the years that even Brian Wilson of The Beachboys has paid tribute to him. Join us at the 5:30 p.m. pre-party, Historic Natchez Foundation. The performance will begin at 7 p.m., First Presbyterian Church. You are in for a real treat with this performance by vocalist Kathleen Farrar Buccleugh. Joseph Britain is the pianist and arranger for this event.

Then, next Sunday afternoon, Jonathan Levin performs at 4 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church. This virtuoso pianist with his American Frontiers performance will delight you with music from important periods of America’s history and several special works rarely performed. Don’t miss this!

The second weekend of performances brings four exciting events. Friday evening opens at the Van Court Town House with a fun-filled night of familiar pieces from Russian-born American Composer Irving Berlin’s 60-year career. Berlin entertained America with songs such as “God Bless America,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Play a Simple Melody,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “White Christmas” — and “Blue Skies,” a piece recorded by none other than Willie Nelson! The Season’s signature event and highlight on Saturday, May 11 is A Bel Canto Gala when three internationally known Metropolitan performers along with two regional treasures will perform. On stage at Trinity Episcopal Church will be Paul Groves, Lucas Meachem, Emily Pulley, Maryann Kyle and Robert Grayson. The program includes music from Broadway musicals “West Side Story,” “Carousel,” “Les Misérables” and beautiful opera — a performance usually available only in cities such as New York, London or Milan. The pre-party for ticketholders is at The Merrill House and the gala will be at Gloucester. That following Sunday brings two outstanding events—an afternoon tribute to Adelina Patti at Waverly followed by an evening of Rossini, Puccini & Martinis with Peruvian pianist Pablo Sotomayor in the Eola Lobby.

And there is more the final two weeks…the “Black Swan,” “Kiss Me Kate,” A Musical Wine Tasting, more Sotomayor, Alejandro Drago’s Tango and Verdi’s Rigoletto with Finale Gala at beautiful Linden.

Again, the performers are from around the globe this year. There is more about them in the Festival’s “Meet the Line Up” newsletter at natchezfestivalofmusic.com.

Tickets are available through the Festival Box Office at 601-445-2210, natchezfestivalofmusic.com, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and Darby’s on Main Street. For more information about the Festival and restaurant, hotel and B&B specials with tickets, visit natchezfestivalofmusic.com. To follow the festival, visit the festival’s “Contacts and Social Media” tab on the website.

Come! You will know the music.


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