From the front doors of the Grand Manse to the seats in the tea room, guests Sunday were greeted at every turn by maids and butlers of the early 20th century.
Sunday's fundraiser, "A Downton Abbey Affair," aimed to bring alive the music, fashion and food of the early 1900s featured in the popular television series.
“In the next hour, we hope to appease your ears, eyes and appetites,” said Kurt Brown, the master of ceremonies, to the 140 guests who showed up to support the Lincoln Choral Artists.
Guests gathered around 14 round tables to drink tea, eat sandwiches and desserts and watch the show -- seven musical numbers performed by choir members interchanging with a style show of 12 ensembles influenced by the early 1900s.
“It would have been tough to be a mother in the 1920s, but it would have been fun to be a young lady,” said Sue McLain, commentator of the fashion show and owner of the Beatrice-based vintage clothing store Yesterday’s Lady. The store’s clothes were modeled by choir members.
The textile archives at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln also provided authentic articles of clothing for display.
The largely female audience murmured to each other during the hour, saying “My mother would have loved something like this,” and “Would you please take our picture? We don’t have tea every day.”
“My friend saw the event in the paper and called me up and said, ‘We ought to do this,” guest Ginny Rohrbaugh said.
“It’s such a nice thing to do, anytime, anywhere,” Rohrbaugh said of tea parties. “So lady-like.”
Ticket sales went to support the Lincoln Choral Artists, who perform three major concerts per year.
“The music is very expensive and the directors -- it all adds up,” said Margaret Beach, the group's president.
The 60 male and female singers not only performed Sunday, but also played the roles of servants, taking guests’ coats and refilling tea cups, glasses and plates.
“The idea came from brainstorming what we could do for concerts this year,” Beach said. “We wanted to do something different.”
The vision was to transform the old federal courtroom on the third floor of the 1904 Grand Manse building and teleport guests and Downton Abbey fans into another time, all while entertaining them.
The group started planning and collecting 140 unique tea cups for the event in August.
Each tea cup went home with a guest.
Marcia Claesson, an alto singer in the group, said choir members donated individual tea cups and saucers picked up from their homes, at estate sales or second-hand stores.
Claesson assumed most of the guests were fans of "Downton Abbey," a British drama series about an aristocratic family, their estate and servants.
“I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid right away, but now I’m hooked (on the series),” Claesson said.