by Emme Nelson Baxter

Emme is a seventh-generation Nashvillian and an owner of Boulevard Communications, LLC

La Bella Notte
Corrick Jones and Carol Hoomes

Corrick Jones and Carol Hoomes

Mama Mia! January can be tough in Nashville.

Thankfully, two bright social events helped stave off the seasonal doldrums that give our faces the cold and weary looks of unmade beds. Nashville Opera’s La Bella Notte and the 2015 Antiques & Garden Show brought back the joy, buzz, and lilt to voices of those who attended.

Martin McNamara, Anne Marie McNamara, Betsy Wills, Ridley Wills. Photograph by Reed Hummell

Martin McNamara, Anne Marie McNamara, Betsy Wills, Ridley Wills. Photograph by Reed Hummell

Betsy and Ridley Wills hosted La Bella Notte patrons at their exquisite home on January 10. It was a family affair as Betsy’s parents, Anne Marie and Martin McNamara, were La Bella Notte’s honorary chairmen. The night featured vittles, vocal performances, and saucy Latin dancing—a nod to the event’s Carnaval theme.

The main party—which benefits Nashville Opera’s education programs—took place the following Saturday at the Downtown Hilton and included a silent auction and four-course dinner with appropriate South American wine pairings. Between courses, guests enjoyed songs by artists Zulimar López-Hernández, Kirstin Chavez, Javier Abreu, and Michael Corvino—accompanied by Amy Tate Williams. One highlight: Delibes’ “Sous le Dome” aka “Flower Duet,” which you’ll surely recognize from a British Airways commercial.

Cameron and Dave Simmons

Cameron and Dave Simmons

People gush over this event. Many have attended for years. And everyone knows that—like Bluebird Café—if you chat during a performance, you’ll be summarily shushed.

Opera chief John Hoomes emceed. Appropriately, Helen Brown received the Francis Robinson Award.

Event Chairman Kathleen Evers’ whimsical Carnaval theme brought a color explosion. Her hard-working volunteer decorations team fashioned towering paper flower centerpieces for each of the thirty-two tables. A fab look for a zesty party.

Sherry Hooten with La Bella Notte Chairman Kathleen Evers
Francis Robinson Award Winner Helen Brown
Honorary Chairmen Anne Marie and Martin McNamara
Vocalists Andrew Gangestad, bass; Elizabeth Caballero, soprano; and Keith Miller, bass–baritone. Photograph by Reed Hummell
Honorary Chairmen Anne Marie and Martin McNamara
Scott and Lee Ann Merrick
A & G 2015

A&G 2015 brought Diane Keaton to Nashville for the first time. And she wanted to take home Union Station as a souvenir. “I want to buy your train station!” she averred numerous times to an adoring 1,892 fans attending her Friday keynote speech at the Music City Center.

A & G Chairmen Kae Gallagher and Julie Fleming

A & G Chairmen Kae Gallagher and Julie Fleming

The actress and architecture buff also raved about the treasures offered by vendors at the 25th annual Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville. She had toured the show prior to its opening on Thursday afternoon and had wanted to purchase an enormous black clock, but alas, her designer scooped it up for himself. Those Californians!

In her characteristic hat and tweed suit, DK charmed the group, sharing insight on the thirty homes she has rented or owned in her lifetime. Post lecture, she signed books for more than two hours.

Veranda Interiors Editor Carolyn Englefield signs books

Veranda Interiors Editor Carolyn Englefield signs books

Later that evening, a hundred folks gathered at Peter Nappi for a private reception and photo op with DK. Dana and Phillip Nappi were charming hosts.  Mixing it up with avid A&G benefactors and executors—Connie and Tom Cigarran, Debbie and Buddy Best, Dana Miller, Kate and Steven Ezell, Libby and Ben Page, Tori Wimberly, Nancy Deaton, Stephen Wells, Janette and Andy Smith—were a few celebs, including Jessie Baylin and Nathan Followill, Connie Britton, designer Alexa Hampton, and magazine maven Margot Shaw.

The evening prior, some 1,200 guests congregated at benefactors and patrons preview parties at the MCC where they got dibs on the goods from the 200 or so vendors.

Kip McKesson, Elizabeth Foss and Farrar Looney
Helli Luck and Jackie Hicks
Brad Wensel and Jane Sloan
Allen DeCuyper and Steve Sirls
Elizabeth Brodnax, Bob Deal, Theresa Menefee and Jason Bradshaw
Nick Maynard and Phillipe Chadwick
Kelley Estes with Martin and Cathy Brown
Cathy Shell, Kate Ezell, Betty Hadley and Connie Cigarran
Ashley Sullivan, Elaine Sullivan and Flower magazine Editor Margot Shaw

Chairmen Julie Fleming and Kae Gallagher were all smiles all weekend, savoring the results of their fourteen-month-long volunteer engagement where they planned, executed, and managed a committee of more than 200 diehard volunteers.

The result: record-setting attendance of almost 16,000 for the show, its parties, and lectures. The show benefits Cheekwood and ECON Club charities.

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