Cello hero Yo-Yo Ma brings string fever to jubilant Fort Worth Symphony Gala
A cello-bratory evening
With apologies to the acts playing at Dickies Arena and AT&T Stadium on Saturday, February 25, the real rockstar in town was onstage at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall: Yo-Yo Ma joined the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as featured guest artist for its 2023 Gala Concert.
The global superstar cellist - whose resume includes 19 Grammy-winning albums, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, performing for nine American presidents, and jam sessions on Sesame Street - got a hero’s welcome the moment he emerged onstage before a sold-out audience of all ages, ecstatic to see the once-in-a-generation music icon perform live.
A consummate performer, Ma was just as generous to the audience, playfully teasing late-comers to their seats and then smiling at the front rows during his performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the orchestra. No one was having a better time than Ma was, it appeared.
Afterwards - during several callbacks and a long ovation - he extended the warmth to the orchestra musicians and music director Robert Spano, whom he embraced in a bear hug before performing a solo encore and then exiting the stage.
The electricity of the concert surged over to the black-tie Gala dinner and concert at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel.
Attendees walked the red carpet for photo ops and mingled at a cocktail reception before sitting down to a sumptuous surf-and-turf dinner in a ballroom decked out in a chic black-and-white motif.
The 2023 Gala was chaired by legacy FWSO patrons Ashli Blumenfeld, Anne Marie Bratton, Kimberly Johnson, Mary Hart Lipscomb, and Misty Locke.
The night was to honor and celebrate Gala Chairman Mercedes T. Bass for her 30 years of support and dedication to the FWSO (most of them as chairman of the board). Unfortunately, Bass was unable to attend due to illness. Nevertheless, the tributes went on.
In onstage remarks, longtime friend and FWSO patron Alann Sampson said, "Mercedes' leadership has lifted the symphony to a new stage of prominence and productivity. Through her generous support and encouragement, she has taken the most difficult challenges and turned them into triumphs.”
FWSO president and CEO Keith Cerny and maestro Spano echoed the appreciation and gave personal gratitude to Bass.
Spano also recognized his predecessor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who was in attendance. "I am immensely grateful to him to have shepherded this orchestra for two decades to be the magnificent orchestra that it is," he said, "and I just want to thank him for passing the baton to me."
A live auction for trips and jewelry raised crucial funds for the FWSO’s education programs, and a “raise the paddle” initiative allowed guests to contribute at various levels from their tables.
Once the speeches and fundraising had concluded, the party revved up. For the first time since the pandemic's onset, a party band (Time Machine) took the stage and filled the dance floor.
While Yo-Yo Ma was not spotted getting down with his bad self on the dance floor, plenty of others made a late-night of it.
Among those enjoying the Gala Concert & Dinner throughout the evening were Aaron Howard, Corrie Hood-Howard, Andrew Lombardi, Adrienne Lombardi, Blake Lipscomb, Rebecca Rucker, Clark Rucker, Lauren Bredthauer, Clark Bredthauer, Bridget Stonesifer, Clare Stonesifer, Ronnie Hernandez, David Rader, Madolin Rosenthal, Sarah Raderm, Ben Rosenthal, Steven Blumenfeld, Todd Blumenfeld, and Sharon Blumenfeld, Matthew Johnson, Kendall Kostohryz, Jennie Doumany, Mary Smith, Dwayne Smith, Nancy Hallman, Lee Hallman, Tara Warren, Sharma Dean, Asad Dean, Terence McCarthy, Robert Warren, Kim McCarthy, Michelle Marlow, Teresa King, Mollie Lasater, Wesley Gentle, Amber Gentle, and hundreds more faithful FWSO supporters and guests.