The old, red brick Rosalie Sugarmill is just a shell now, a ghost standing quietly south of Alexandria among the pecan trees and oaks of Rosalie Plantation. Built in the 19th century, it is structurally stable, but in need of restoration. What is that extraordinary something which can bring it back to life? Music! Extraordinary chamber music will fill the Sugarmill in May with the inaugural Sugarmill Music Festival. Top classical musicians from across Louisiana and beyond will perform seven concerts in three days, from Friday, May 13th through Sunday, May 15th.
The Festival is modeled on top classical music festivals across the country–such as the famous Aspen Music Festival–but there is nothing like this anywhere in the region. And, there is no place more interesting for such an event than the Rosalie Sugarmill. Lovers of great music will come from all around to be in this special place for this amazing event.
Rosalie Plantation has a history of hosting classical music. It was a retreat for Maestro William Kushner decades ago as he established regional symphony orchestras in Lake Charles and Alexandria. Owners Hope and Tom Norman always welcomed their friend, who often brought great players with him for scheduled, or sometimes impromptu, performances. The music they produced is legendary.
Kermit Poling, Lin He and Paul Christopher are among the modern-day greats who will perform at the Festival along with Elizabeth O’Bannon, John De Chiaro and an 11-year-old gold medal pianist named Antonio Ajero, who is traveling in from Texas for the occasion. Douglas Bakenhus, Masahito Kuroda, Mark Thompson, Elena Bogaczova, Dennette McDermott and so many more will perform, including Alexandria’s own Young Artists Chamber Orchestra, a seven-member ensemble of local high school students who have played to national acclaim.
Like all great classical musical festivals, the Sugarmill Music Festival will have a scholarly component, too, including a master class for string players, two panel discussions, and an architectural tour of the Sugarmill. Complete program notes for every performance are being produced by local music scholar Jackson Harmeyer.
The Festival is a production of local private nonprofit CreativeSurge Louisiana, formed in 2015 for just this purpose. Sponsors and patrons have underwritten the initial expenses, while tickets, merchandise sales, and concessions will ensure the Festival’s continuance and vitality. The vision is to bring extraordinary chamber music to Central Louisiana annually as well as new life and visibility to the remarkable Rosalie Sugarmill.
Churches, civic groups and others are encouraged to come together and erect a social tent onsite as their Festival home. Information is available at www.sugarmillmusicfestival.org and the Sugarmill Music Festival Facebook page.