Sounds of excitement are all around

Published 12:05am Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Natchez Festival of Music reminds everyone that Christmas will be incomplete without that special gift of music stuffed in those stockings this year!

A CD can be played and enjoyed for years, and tickets to a concert or show always fill the recipient with excited anticipation and fond memories.

The festival has some of the very best and affordable gift ideas for those living in and visiting the Miss-Lou, but we also encourage giving musical instruments to those who aspire to play, sheet music to those who can play and want to expand their repertoire and piano lessons to adults who wished they had learned to play but never did — or haven’t yet.

Imagine a child who has seen one of the traditional Christmas performances of the Nutcracker or a video of Peter and the Wolf having his or her own recording of Mr. Tchaikovsky’s music to listen to over and over again. There is also the jazzy musical sound track to A Charlie Brown Christmas by composer Vince Guaraldi — music which has stolen our hearts and is now as familiar as the story itself. A recording would be fun to have. Music may be the very gift that inspires a child to pursue any one or more of the arts as a participant or patron.

The festival has an exciting lineup of spring performances during its 24th Festival “All You Need is Love” May Musical Season, and tickets would make terrific gifts.

One possibility is giving tickets to someone who would enjoy re-living “Yesterday” at the Festival’s May 10 signature event, A 50th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles Coming to America, starring Classical Mystery Tour. Artistic Director Jay Dean says, “The crowd will not be disappointed in the Classical Mystery Tour group because the performers are about the best I’ve seen for the look and sound of John, Paul, George and Ringo.” Visit classicalmysterytour.com or YouTube for more. This will be a huge weekend in Natchez during the monthly Second Saturday weekend.

For those interested in Camelot and the years following, no story about Jackie-O is complete without a chapter about world-renown soprano and diva Maria Callas, who took the world by storm with her elegance and talent.

Two particularly relevant back-to-back nights — a tribute to Callas followed by Tosca — will place you center-stage in that time, leaving you with a deeper appreciation of the dynamics of those times. Just for the fun of it, you may consider making a gift of Gilbert and Sullivan-H.M.S. Pinafore — always a special fun favorite for those who love musical theater.

And no one, young or old, would fail to enjoy A Night at the Oscars I — The Greatest Songs of Hollywood! — an event which will include favorites from the 1970s to present.

The month will also be filled with concerts featuring music by Puccini and Rossini and a musical tribute to international superstar soprano and Mississippi’s own Leontyne Price.

Virtuoso pianist Jonathan Levin returns with Sanctuary — Influence of the Church on Music of the Western World, and of course, for those who are “in the mood,” they will not want to miss A Big Band Ball in the historic Natchez Eola Hotel Ballroom for a lot of fun with jazz and swing. There will be musical wine tasting at Magnolia Bluffs Casino overlooking the mighty Mississippi River and a special tribute performance of Ol’ Man River — the Music of Jerome Kern of “Show Boat” fame paired with fare by Mississippi Chef Regina Charboneau at her antebellum Twin Oaks, where she will autograph her new Mississippi Current.

The performances are in the most beautiful, historical venues in the area, and they are always outstanding. Many of the events sell out quickly due to limited seating, so make your plans now. In April, the Children’s Opera Program will present “The Bremen Town Musicians” to approximately 10,000 children in the Mississippi-Louisiana region in the schools.

Of course, don’t forget about A Christmas Cabaret at 7 p.m. Friday at the Natchez Convention Center and the annual Alcorn Concert at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s on Dec. 8. Tickets for the Cabaret and other Festival events are available through Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at 601-446-6631.

For details, visit natchezfestivalofmusic.com or natchezpilgrimage.com. The Alcorn Concert is a free community event, and no ticket is needed.

These are just a few of the gift-giving opportunities available through the Natchez Festival of Music.

Stephanie Butts is a Natchez Festival of Music board member.