Who knew Itzhak Perlman could be so charming? That was the question people were asking on the shuttles en route to the Renaissance Worthington Hotel from Bass Hall, where the legendary violinist had just played a more whimsical concert than expected with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
The occasion was the symphony's 2018 Gala, a black-tie affair that started with the sold-out concert and continued with a cocktail reception, dinner, and dancing at the downtown hotel.
Before the orchestra was tuned, symphony VIPs, including FWSO chairman of the board Mercedes Bass, former president and CEO Amy Adkins, and gala co-chairs Ashli Blumenfeld, Joan Friedman, and Mary Lipscomb gathered in the Bass Hall Green Room to mingle and sip prosecco. Once all had scooped up their ballgown skirts and settled into their boxes and seats, they enjoyed an hour-long concert by Perlman and the orchestra, under the direction of music conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
Unlike past galas, which have seen the likes of Joshua Bell and Lang Lang join the symphony on a single master work, this was a performance of Hollywood movie music. Think "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca, the main title from Out of Africa, and — arguably the evening's artistic highpoint — the theme from Schindler's List.
"I've never played this one," Perlman quipped about the latter. Which, of course, was a big fib that brought roars of laughter, as Perlman, in fact, provided the solos on the official recording of John Williams' award-winning Schindler's List score.
That was one of many light-hearted moments Perlman offered from stage that allowed the audience to feel like they were getting a private concert with a friendly guy who happens to be the world's greatest violinist. When he and Harth-Bedoya announced that the love theme from Cinema Paradiso is Harth-Bedoya's wife's favorite, Perlman joked, "Then we have to play it well." (No problems there.)
After the last notes and multiple curtain calls, FWSO board members, supporters, and musicians — including Asad Dean, Alann Bedford Sampson, Robert McDuffie, Obinna and Sarah Osuorji, Kevin and Karen Hall, Kyle Sherman, Tess Alexander-Bono, and Michael Shih and Jamie Shih — headed to the hotel to celebrate. They were greeted with cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres while a pianist serenaded in the ballroom foyer.
The Grand Ballroom had been set for dinner with brilliant centerpieces of red and pink roses surrounded by twinkling white candles. Guests dined on a three-course meal of house-made gravlax, herbed beef tenderloin, and a decadent bourbon chocolate bomb for dessert.
While the evening did not include a traditional auction, a "raise the paddle" initiative led by Harth-Bedoya allowed patrons to contribute from $250 to $10,000 for the symphony's educational concerts and programs for students.
"You can't touch music, but music can touch you," Harth-Bedoya said in successfully persuading many in the room to raise their bid cards. The maestro also announced that the Fort Worth Symphony, in an effort to help mold the next generation of musicians, has partnered with TCU to launch the first ever Workshop on the Fundamentals of Orchestra Conducting.
The celebratory evening continued with dancing to the Time Machine Band before patrons grabbed the traditional FWSO Gala swag, a commemorative mug with the guest artist's likeness, and got in line for valet.
When all the numbers were tallied, the Fort Worth Symphony Gala raised about $1 million toward its many musical initiatives in the community.