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Buzz begins for Downton Abbey return

Sharon Snowdy and guest in character for Downton Abbey sneak peek

Sharon Snowdy and guest in character for Downton Abbey sneak peek

“I don’t think Violet ever had to deal with these problems,” sighed Sharon Snowdy, events manager of WYES New Orleans, as her microphone malfunctioned at Wednesday night’s sneak preview of Downton Abbey, Season 4. Sponsored by WYES New Orleans, and hosted by The Little Gem Saloon, the free event welcomed Downton enthusiasts with elegant cocktails and raffle prizes including gift bags adorned with smiling faces of the beloved characters John and Anna Bates, and tickets to WYES events like the station's sweet “Chocolate Sundays.”

The event showed the first episode of the fourth season of the immensely popular British series, which will premiere January 5, 2014. The previous three seasons have chronicled the lives of the Grantham family in their estate, Downton, during the years surrounding World War I.

The lives of Lord and Lady Grantham and their family intertwine with those of their beloved servants, with stories of the most human themes of love and loss, as well as how the world around them is changing politically and technologically. The historic and dramatic nature of the show apparently appeals to a wide variety of viewers in New Orleans, as almost every one of the 150 seats was filled.

The night began with greetings and cocktails, and guests attired in tiaras, tailcoats, bowties and pearls. The warm lights and wine-red walls of the Little Gem Saloon mirrored the ambiance of the 1920s-themed evening, and not coincidentally.

“We try to preserve as much as possible the grit and authenticity of the jazz era,” said Nick Bazan, who co-owns the Little Gem Saloon with his sister, Maria Bazan. Donating the space for an evening dedicated to the turn of the 20th century, Bazan welcomed the audience with a brief history of the building.

“Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton were some of the first jazz pioneers to use this space, playing for themselves, really. This was their hangout … this was where jazz was created,” said Bazan.

By the 1920s, jazz was already a word, thanks to New Orleans, and it’s at that point in history that Downton Abbey picks back up after season 3. Without dropping plot spoilers, fans will see in season 4 how changing technology, social norms, and style begin to affect the lives of these evolving characters. For the first time, young, single women will venture out to restaurants, and even the most traditional characters will be faced with the complexities of the industrial era, even if it's just in terms of learning how to use a blender. It will always be interesting to keep in mind where New Orleans, and the United States, was during this pivotal turning point in history and how we were beginning to effect the old world.

The preview Wednesdayt night was only the beginning of seasonal celebration for Downton Abbey in New Orleans. Coming up on January 24 will be a “Downton Abbey Gala,” where guests will enjoy live entertainment and dancing at the Montgomery-Grace House on St. Charles Avenue, and of course, will be invited to attend in their most authentic period attire. Most excitingly, raffle prizes at this event will send winners off to England to visit the actual Highclere Castle, where the show was shot.

So as the British say, “Tally ho!” Let season 4, and the celebrations surrounding it, begin!

Elisabeth Morgan writes about New Orleans for NolaVie. Contact her at elisabethsmorgan@gmail.com.