The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's 2020 Gala was a glorious celebration of artistic achievement — then and now.
Themed "Immortal Beloved at 250: A Very Special Gala Concert with Midori & Beethoven 5," the February 8 event was meant to honor the legacy of hero-composer Ludwig van Beethoven, 250 years after his birth.
In just as many ways, it honored the legacy of the orchestra's own hero, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who is stepping down as FWSO music director after 20 years. This was his final gala concert to conduct.
Per usual, the black-tie ball was composed of multiple parts, starting with a blockbuster concert. VIPs gathered in the Green Room at Bass Hall before finding their seats inside the packed concert hall.
The evening's notable attendees included FWSO chairman and gala dinner chair Mercedes T. Bass, along with co-chairs Ashli Blumenfeld, Mary Lipscomb, Frasher Pergande, and Jonathan T. Suder.
In his pre-performance remarks to the audience, Harth-Bedoya underscored Beethoven's impact on orchestras and their repertoire.
"What we call a symphony orchestra was defined by Beethoven. Before him, there were attempts to create works for large ensembles, but Beethoven is the person who decided this is it," he said. "And also, he was the first composer who insisted that he compose art. He didn't write music. And those things combined are the legacy that we have today."
Grammy Award-winning violinist Midori joined the orchestra for a performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto that earned several curtain calls. Without intermission, Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra launched into the iconic "short-short-short-long" opening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
After the concert's triumphant conclusion, patrons scooped up their gowns and boarded luxury buses for a quick shuttle to the Worthington Renaissance Hotel, where a reception and dinner-dance awaited. About 300 guests sipped champagne and wine, along with the signature cocktail — a blood orange-tequila drink called Beethoven's Favorite (who knew he fancied tequila?) — before the ballroom doors opened for dinner.
Mingling in the crowd were noted Fort Worth arts supporters, business leaders, and philanthropists, including Cliburn CEO Jacques Marquis and wife Sandra Doan, Texas Ballet Theater executive director Vanessa Logan, Capera Ryan, Lisa Fortson, Dr. Asad Dean, Dotty Hall, Justin Anderson, Anne Marie and Doug Bratton, and hundreds more. Orchestra musicians who joined in the fun included Kyle Sherman and wife Tess, Shields-Collins Bray, Deborah Brooks, Cara Owens, William Clay, and Pam Holland Adams.
Guests dined on a unique menu that nodded to Harth-Bedoya's Peruvian heritage: purple Peruvian potato slices with asparagus spears and smoked salmon; chili-rubbed roasted chicken breast with lentils, salsa criolla garnish, aji amarillo, verde sauce, and cauliflower with Epoisses cheese; and for dessert, quinoa pudding with pineapple chutney and chocolate.
FWSO President and CEO Keith Cerny acknowledged Harth Bedoya's legacy and gave guests a quick update on the search for a new music director. FWSO continues to bring in guest conductors, he said, assuring patrons that "the future is bright."
With the help of auctioneer John Pergande, Harth-Bedoya led a raise-the-paddle fundraising initiative for the nationally recognized Adventures in Music program that reaches 65,000 young people each year. "We are raising funds so all children continue to receive the gift of beautiful music," the maestro said.
Patrons raised their paddles to contribute amounts as high as at $5,000, but before they finished, Harth-Bedoya pulled a surprise. He asked everyone to contribute just $40 more than they'd planned — or the cost of a few Starbucks drinks — to help FWSO sprint across the finish line.
It worked. The initiative raised $125,465 — far outpacing their goal of $100,000.
Mercedes Bass offered celebratory remarks and officially opened the dance floor, where patrons moved and grooved and sang along with the band Time Machine.
The next FWSO Gala will take place February 20, 2021, and will feature legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma.