High notes in low times
On a Saturday night that felt cold, dreary, and heavy in every way, supporters of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra came together to lift spirits, lift a toast, and lift paddles at a Gala that was warm, understated, and celebratory.
The evening had been scaled down from mega-galas of years past — gone were the crowded pre-dinner cocktail reception and the crowded post-dinner dance floor — no doubt for lingering COVID considerations. (Those in attendance had provided proof of vaccine or negative test.)
But the more abbreviated, intimate evening of "less party" also felt unexpectedly appropriate for the sad and shocking global unrest that had begun just two days prior, February 24. FWSO president and CEO Keith Cerny addressed the crisis in Ukraine in his opening remarks, emphasizing the organization's unequivocal support for Ukraine and all those who oppose the Russian invasion.
The dinner in the Worthington Renaissance Hotel Ballroom was preceded by a concert at Bass Performance Hall, as per Gala tradition. The orchestra, under guest conductor Patrick Summers (Houston Grand Opera music director) performed Brahms' European folk-spirited Hungarian Dances and Ravel's Bolero, a favorite among audiences and figure skaters the world over. Renowned violinist Sarah Chang joined FWSO for Dvorak's sensuous Violin Concerto. She wore a strapless, sequin-clad, fuchsia and purple gown that stood out next to Summers' all-black tuxedo and matching black face mask (because if we mention what the female guest wears, let's mention what the male guest wears too, right?).
Patrons attending both the concert and dinner could shuttle between venues via luxury motorcoach — a logistical blessing on a frigid, rainy night.
The hotel ballroom had been transformed into a floral fantasy, complete with abundant arrangements of roses on each table, twinkling candles, and a flower wall as a photo backdrop. Once dinner patrons settled into their seats with full wine glasses, gala co-chair Ashli Blumenfeld delivered opening remarks, recognizing the generosity and commitment of gala chairman Mercedes T. Bass, along with co-chairs Anne Marie Bratton, Mary Hart Lipscomb, Kim Johnson, and Frasher Pergande.
While a string ensemble played softly onstage, guests dined on a multicourse meal of salad with jumbo shrimp and smoked salmon; filet mignon with mushroom demi-glace; and a decadent chocolate "bomb" with meringue cookies and berries.
Auctioneer Lydia Fenet from Christie's auction house, who'd flown in from New York that morning, then conducted a competitive live auction for several fabulous trips and luxury items. Paddles flew fiercely for a trip to New York, which went for $17,000; a premium Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo package, for $13,000; and rose gold and diamond jewelry, for $15,000. A final "paddle raise" allowed guests to contribute in amounts that suited their budget. As of press time, total funds raised were still being tallied.
Spotted in the crowd, supporting the symphony, were notable attendees Ken Blasingame, Susy Weaver, Alann Sampson, Claire Barry, Tina Taylor, Chad Stephens, Jay Herd, John Pergande, Marshall Boyd, Kim Boyd, Julie Herd, Mimi Stephens, Nicole Ndolo, Aliza Didarali, Sophia Richmond, Sophia Myers, Wade Myers, Lisa Fortson, Corrie Howard, Aaron Howard, Jennifer Cerny, Daniel Vance, Liz Vance, Jennifer Sweeny, Andrew Sweeny, Kendall Kostohryz, John Kostohryz, Melissa Crowley, Keller Crowley, Greg Nicholas, Catherine Nicholas, Ryan Munsch, Madelyn Rosenthal Munsch, Chris Harrison, Lissa Harrison, Todd Blumenfeld, Madolin Rosenthal, Ben Rosenthal, Blake Lipscomb, Mary Alice Conner, Kelley Roberts, Gordon Roberts, and hundreds of other patrons, staff, and musicians.