Juleps open up Longwood

Published 12:04 am Sunday, October 9, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Patricia Quintero, of the Havana String Quartet, performs during the Mozart and Mint Juleps event at Longwood Saturday night.

NATCHEZ — Dozens of tourists got a chance Saturday night to experience Longwood sans velvet ropes and a pointing tour guide.

And as an added plus, attendees of the Festival of Music fundraiser “Mozart and Mint Juleps” heard the classical stylings of a string quartet beneath the bare wooden studded tower as they sipped on southern cocktails.

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Evelyn and Kevin Fields listen to the music of the Havana String Quartet during the Mozart and Mint Juleps event at Longwood Saturday night.

Dana Davis of Houston, who attended the event with his wife, Rachel, during their visit for Fall Pilgrimage, said the experience was much more intimate than tours he has taken in the past.

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“To be able to walk around this old house freely, it feels like you’re doing something wrong,” he said.

Rachel said she and Dana have visited Natchez many times before, and the event offered something new.

“It’s fantastic,” she said.

Rena Jean Schmieg, the president of the Festival of Music Guild, said she was pleased to see a mix of familiar faces and tourists.

Schmieg said the fundraiser was part of an effort to host more events throughout the year to raise money for the May Festival of Music, which she said costs up to $200,000 to produce.

Schmieg said the apparent success of Mozart and Mint Juleps spoke to Natchez’s ability to generate interest in cultural events.

“It’s amazing to have in a little town like this events of this caliber,” Schmieg said.

Doris Ann Benoist, who took tickets at the door, said the event was the first time the festival of music has hosted a party at Longwood.

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Executive Director Marsha Colson said the freedom to linger and browse while enjoying refreshments allowed attendees to get a better feel of what living in the house would be like.

“I think Natchez always likes a reason to dress up and be entertained,” Benoist said. “But it’s not just a cocktail party.”

The Havana String Quartet, which includes four graduate students studying music performance at the University of Southern Mississippi who are originally from Cuba, performed on the second floor of Longwood beneath the exposed wooden tower.

Benoist said the group was asked to play at the event after they impressed the guild at a previous performance in Natchez.

The group performed a piece by Joseph Haydn in addition, of course, to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Schmieg said guild members worked together to cater and organize everything themselves.

Russ and Kathy Van Cleve attended the event from Newport Beach, Calif. Kathy said her husband told her Saturday afternoon how he thought the event would be fun.

“This is very Southern,” Kathy said. “It’s so magical.”