Natchez Festival of Music events under way

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 2010

NATCHEZ — Circle any date in May and it is likely there is a Natchez Festival of Music event will occur.

The more than one month long festival brings opera, jazz and Broadway music to Natchez in large-cast productions and smaller, intimate settings.

Rena Jean Schmieg, president of the Natchez Festival of Music guild said the festival schedule is purposely busy to create as many opportunities for the public to enjoy the festival. She said the guild works year round to create a top-notch festival.

“We need the public to come out and give it a try,” she said. “People who have never been to an event, need to come to just one, and they will love it.”

The highlights of this year’s festival are the productions of “Man of La Mancha” and “La Bohéme, which are May 15 and May 29, respectively.

But the events in between are “just as lovely,” Schmieg said.

The annual two-part competition for young festival performers, is one highlight said Analisa Mir-Therrien, a production organzier with the festival.

The first part of the competition is the 7 p.m. May 14 Death by Aria event at First Presbyterian Church in which the vocalist will perform opera pieces and will be judged by the audience. The second part of the competition is Stars of Tomorrow performance at 7 p.m., May 21 at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center.

Mir-Therrien said those two events are special performances because of all the effort the artists put into their solo performances.

“The performers bring their best in all of their roles, but this is a chance for them to showcase themselves,” she said. “It is really special for them to perform and for those who are enjoying the performance.”

Schmieg said efforts have been made to keep ticket costs low and to offer free events as a way of encouraging people to be involved in the festival.

One such free event is Monday’s Brown Bag Concert on the River at the Vidalia amphitheater, scheduled for noon.

“We want the festival to be accessible to everyone,” she said. “We believe that once you go to one event you will be hooked.

Weekly features like Together on Tuesday at First Presbyterian and Plantation Performances on Sundays bridge the musical gap between large productions, Schmieg said. And even when performers aren’t at festival events, their schedule is packed with rehearsals and voice workshops.

Schmieg said performers love to come to Natchez because of the individual attention they receive while in town.

“When they are here they are always working,” she said. “It is an opportunity for them to get attention that isn’t available at other festivals. They work with other artists and voice professionals to help them improve their sound not only for their performances here but for others they will do later.”

Plantation Performances will be at 4 p.m. today at Dunleith, May 16 at The Burn and May 23 at Auburn and at 7 p.m., Friday, May 28 at Elms Court.

A second free lunchtime concert will be at noon, Friday, May 28 in Memorial Park featuring the festivals artistic director George Hogan.

“We are so fortunate as a community to have the opportunity to have musicians of this caliber in our town,” Schmieg said. “They are world-class and have long resumes.

“Towns much larger than us say they don’t know how we are able to pull something like this together in a town our size. It is a lot of hard work, but we do it to enrich the cultural opportunities for our area.”

Tickets for ticketed events can be purchased at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, by calling 601-446-6631 or online at www.natchezpilgrimage.com. For a complete listing of events visit www.natchezfestivalofmusic.com.