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Flashback: How the gracious tradition of Spoleto Festival’s post-performance parties began

Flashback: How the gracious tradition of Spoleto Festival’s post-performance parties began
May 2022


For the Spoleto set every spring, second only to tickets to the productions are invitations to the after parties, a tradition born of Charleston hospitality, as locals opened their doors to the nascent arts festival and its bevy of performers and audiences. Here, Patti McGee entertains Chamber Music Series founder Charles Wadsworth, Spoleto founder Gian Carlo Menotti, Jim Kearney, Ted Stearn, and Chamber Music artistic director Scott Nickrenz in her sun-room in 1979. McGee, who lived next door to the Dock Street Theatre with her husband, Peter, and two daughters, was the Chamber Music Series’ first hostess. For nearly two decades, musicians and audience members would spill into their courtyard, enjoying a warm welcome and an afternoon of feasting. Over the years, the McGees entertained rising musical talents such as Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell; visiting luminaries like Tennessee Williams; and even the Today show’s Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw, when the news program transformed the family courtyard into their green room in 1978. Spoleto Festival USA presented its highest honor, the Mary Ramsay Civic Award, to Peter and Patti McGee in April 2017.