Although opening night of the 2007 Savannah Music Festival is still three months away, organizers are kicking off the year’s events this weekend with several key fundraisers.
Friday evening, parties will take place in private homes located downtown, at The Landings, and at the Ford Plantation. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be paired with fine wines, and the vintners themselves will be on hand to meet and mingle with the guests.
It’s Saturday night’s activity, though, that has veteran society types and newbies alike buzzing. For the first time ever, the festival’s single largest annual fundraiser is letting its hair down a bit and cuttin’ a rug.
Billed as the No-Tie Gala, it combines a live concert of tunes by Johnny Mercer and Duke Ellington, a plated tapas dinner, cocktails, dancing and a live auction.
What’s so casual about all of that? First off, it takes place outside under a tent in Trustees Garden, a historic property now owned by Charles Morris (who also owns the very newspaper you hold in your hands).
And formal dress isn’t just optional — it’s discouraged!
Gala Chair Jackie Rabinowitz realizes that many folks may look forward to this function as another excuse to get dolled up in their finest threads, but she notes that there’s no shortage of local soirees where revelers dress to impress. She feels that by relaxing the sartorial requirements, this fundraiser can stand apart.
Rabinowitz dropped by our offices last week to gamely field a handful of (mostly) serious questions and pose with a prop of our choice -- a tie, of course. And the lady ties a perfect Windsor knot.
Jackie, why Trustees Garden?
Jackie Rabinowitz: Well, both Charles Morris and his wife Rosalyn are on my committee, and graciously suggested we use their property. We’d outgrown our previous location, so we gladly took them up on their offer!
Won’t it be cold?
Jackie Rabinowitz: Not necessarily. This is Savannah, after all. We’ll have heaters in there, too. Folks can dress comfortably, and if the evenings are as mild as they’ve been lately, we can leave the sides of the tent up.
What’s on the menu?
Jackie Rabinowitz: I’m really excited about this -- Chef Nick Mueller has several courses planned, including a stuffed veal chop with risotto and root vegetables, a salad of field greens with a cheese wedge and citrus compote, and a dessert of lemon tart garnished with a chocolate truffle. I promise no one will go home hungry!
At the risk of sounding heretical, aren’t folks around here getting a little sick and tired of Johnny Mercer?
Jackie Rabinowitz: No, no, no. We happened to choose Johnny Mercer and Duke Ellington because they’re American masters. But, the Savannah Music Festival does feature wonderful musicians of all types and almost every kind of music imaginable. How many events around here have a twenty-piece orchestra for dancing?
Whose idea was it to ditch the formal wear?
Jackie Rabinowitz: We were looking for a fundraising niche in this city. We don’t want to just copy what other groups are doing. We thought, why not make it a great big party? In Savannah, people love to get dressed up for functions, but sometimes, it’s good to take off that tie. We want people to come, relax, be fed and have fun.
If someone shows up dressed to the nines, will they be denied entry until they remove their tie?
Jackie Rabinowitz: (laughs) Perhaps I should do that! No, I will invite them in and tell them they look stunning. You know, some places will actually cut off your tie, but I promise we won’t be doing that!
Just how far do you think this whole casual dress thing could go in the future? Could we see a summertime beach side event at Tybee with everyone in swimwear, billed as a “No-Pants Gala?”
Jackie Rabinowitz: I don’t think so. This is Savannah, after all! (laughs) Plus, once one achieves a certain level of maturity, they’re just not interested in taking their pants off in public. I think we’ll probably always be wearing clothes at Savannah Music Festival fundraisers (laughs).
Saturday’s No-Tie Gala at Trustees Garden begins at 6 pm, and features jazz vocalist Mary Stallings with The Eric Reed Trio and Wycliffe Gordon, plus dancing with The Equinox Jazz Orchestra. For tickets to this ($300), or to Friday’s intimate, private home wine parties ($125) call Jennifer at 234-3378.