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You will ‘love’ festival this year

As Artistic Director of the Natchez Festival of Music I say, “All you need is LOVE during this 24th May Festival Season — May 3-24 — when top performers from around the globe hit the stage in Natchez.”

Read about the festival’s season at natchezfestivalofmusic.com. Click on the “Contact Us” tab to follow us. You will not want to miss a single performance.

The pre-season kick-off will be from 5:30 until 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Cypress Mill Italian Steakhouse and 180 Lounge at Magnolia Bluffs Casino, 7 Roth Hill Road when the Festival unveils its second commissioned watercolor by Marina and Chris Cavette. The theme of the commissioned piece is “The Beatles Coming to America.” Chris Cavette and Mike Thomas will entertain all with their renditions of music from The Beatles, Bruce Stringsteen, Josh Turner, the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash. The event is free and open to the public.

Saturday is Opening Night when the Festival features A Night at the Oscars I — The Greatest Songs of Hollywood!  First Presbyterian Church Natchez will transform into a terrific concert hall while the Natchez Festival Orchestra and vocalists are sure to captivate the audience, leaving everyone spellbound with their renditions of pieces from the very best productions, including favorites from the 1970s to present.

The Red Carpet Reception at the Historic Natchez Foundation across the parking lot from the performance venue will begin at 5:30 p.m. with cash bar refreshments one hour before curtain time. Hollywood’s Gary Grubbs will emcee the event. You are in for a real treat with this performance directed by Joseph Britain (remember Rhapsody in Blue at Opening Night last year) with vocalists Emily Herrnig, Peter Lake and Maryann Kyle.

Then, at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 4, it’s Sanctuary — the influence of the church on music of the western world — a “must-experience” performance by virtuoso pianist Jonathan Levin, who returns to Natchez with a performance which will tickle your senses as his fingers fly up and down the keyboard. You will see first-hand how his body and the musical instrument become one. This will be heavenly against the backdrop of Trinity Episcopal Church’s exquisite, historic, stained glass windows. Patrons will not want to miss this!

Later that evening, it is Rossini, Puccini & Martinis in the grand lobby of the historic downtown Natchez Eola Hotel for a lot of fun with the Festival performers for an evening of live entertainment. This is a very relaxed event you will not want to miss! The performance is free. Cash bar martinis will be available.

The second weekend of performances brings four exciting events. The weekend starts on the evening of Friday, May 9 at Twin Oaks antebellum home with “Ol’ Man River, the Music of Jerome Kern.”

Natchez loves Kern for his musical productions, but particularly for “Show Boat,” which was filmed in Natchez. Ol’ Man River will grab your very soul and take you down the Mighty Mississippi River with warm thoughts of its generations of history. Enjoy Kern’s great musical scores while feasting on the cuisine of Mississippi’s own culinary star, Chef Regina Charboneau, who will be available to autograph her new book “Mississippi Current.” This will be a special evening for all.

Then, on Saturday, May 10, the Festival’s Signature Event will be in the Natchez City Auditorium. It will be packed with excitement and 50 years ago will be just like “Yesterday” when The Classical Mystery Tour storms the stage with a Tribute to The Beatles Coming to America. The tribute performers are about the best for the look and sound of the real Beatles — John, Paul, George and Ringo. If you have not purchased a ticket yet, get one quickly

Then, celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 11 at 3 p.m. by attending a tribute to international superstar soprano and Mississippi’s own Leontyne Price. Known for her vibrant and soaring voice, Mississippi soprano, Leontyne Price rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and was one of the first African Americans to become a star at the Metropolitan Opera, the company that would become her artistic home. The standing ovation that she received on her opening night lasted more than forty-two minutes, the longest ovation ever given at the Met. Relish her celebrity and lifetime of achievement with a breathtaking, inspirational tribute performance recital in the historic and spectacularly beautiful Temple B’Nai Israel in Natchez. Later that evening, it’s back to the Eola for Rossini, Puccini & Martinis — an evening similar to the one scheduled for May 4.

And there is more the final two weeks…In the Mood — A Big Band Ball at the Eola Ballroom, Gilbert & Sullivan-H.M.S. Pinafore, The World of Maria Callas, and Puccini’s Tosca.

Tickets are available at most performance venues and by calling 601-446-6631 for season and individual tickets. Ask about special discounts for students, parents with students K-12, and active military. Details and tickets are available at natchezfestivalofmusic.com or natchezpilgrimage.com. For more information about the Festival and restaurant, hotel and B&B specials with tickets and to follow the Festival, visit the Festival’s “Contacts and Social Media” tab on the Festival’s website.

Dean says, “Come! You will LOVE the music.”


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