Director of Marketing & Communications
Pacific Symphony's 35th Anniversary Season Opening Celebration, "Rachmaninoff From Russia With Love" raises the roof and $165,000 for artistic and education programs
October 01, 2013
The energy and excitement was palpable as more than 270 guests decked out in black-tie regalia gathered at theCenter Club in Costa Mesa on Thursday, Sept. 26, to celebrate Pacific Symphony’s 35th anniversary season opening night. The evening of Russian splendor, “Rachmaninoff—From Russia with Love,” rolled out a variety of treats, revealed one after another like Russian nesting dolls. Hosted by the Symphony’s board of directors and co-chaired byRuth Ann and John Evans and Karlyne and Nick Greenko, the grand event included a pre- and post-concert reception,dinner, entertainment—and the first concert of the 2013-14 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series: “Conrad Tao Plays Rach 3,” led by Music Director Carl St.Clair. The dinner and party—presented by SouthCoast Plaza with support from retail partner Omega at Tourbillon Boutique—raised $165,000 in support of the Symphony’s artistic and education programs.
“We were thrilled the evening was such a success and exceeded its fund-raising goal,” says co-chair Nick Greenko.“It was an elegant, intimate affair with wonderful overtones of Old Russia and full of people delighted to be there. The atmosphere was excited and convivial. Dancers from the UCI corps de ballet and a soprano from the Pacific Chorale singing the Rachmaninoff ‘Vocalise’ added an even deeper dimension to the event and we are so pleasedat the collaboration we have between the symphony, the Chorale and UCI.”
The night of Russian merriment began at 5 p.m. as attendees entering the club were ushered out onto the patio fora swanky cocktail reception, where high-top tables were draped in gold, black and teal and accented with flowers.Guests mingled while sipping wine and “Tolstoy Tangs” (lemon and vodka cocktails) and munching on an array of hors d’oeuvres that included potato blinis, caviar, crème fraiche, compressed watermelon, aged balsamic feta, smoked chicken and fig-jam pecan crostini, mini truffle cheese brioche and tomato coulis. The musical trio Third Wheel (clarinet, bassoon and flute) played live music and five members of the UC Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Department of Dance delighted onlookers by performing Russian folk dances.
At 6 p.m., guests were ushered into the Grand Ballroom, adorned in Russian elegance with teal tablecloths and gold and crystal candelabra centerpieces decked out with candles, purple roses, white hydrangeas, gilded gardeniafoliage and pieries. The Symphony’s board Chairman Michael Kerr welcomed guests and thanked fellow board members and event sponsors, as the feast began with a roasted beet and goat cheese tower, Kenter farm mixed greens with toasted pine nuts, orange segments and a champagne vinaigrette. The first course was followed by a duo of petit filet mignon and local sea bass with stacked potatoes and red wine reduction and citrus beurre blanc. Dessert was an appetizing Russian Bird’s Milk Cake. As they dined, guests were treated to a performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” by soprano Kellee King accompanied by pianist David Clemensen.
“The evening actually exceeded my expectations,” says co-chair Ruth Ann Evans, “in that the rooms were more spectacular than I’d imagined, enhanced by the beautiful candelabras with floral arrangements. The food was fabulous and even the entertainment was more than I’d envisioned. The ballet dancers, performing works from ‘Swan Lake’ and the ‘Nutcracker,’ and the beautiful singing by the soprano were especially exciting. Plus, everyone was enthusiastic for a new season to begin. And of course the concert was thrilling with an incredible genius at the piano, Maestro St.Clair at the podium and our marvelous Pacific Symphony.”
At the conclusion of the meal and at the center of the grand evening was, of course—the concert—taking place across the arts plaza in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, beginning at 8 p.m. Led by St.Clair, the program was full of drama and thundering piano, as internationally celebrated pianist Conrad Tao, just 19 years old,provided a dazzling display of virtuosity, tearing into Rachmaninoff’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 3 (featured in the 1996 hit movie “Shine”). Already an audience favorite, Tao was returning for his third appearance with the Symphony. Hailed as both an “exciting prodigy” and “breathtaking,” Tao gave a jaw-dropping performance of the highly demanding and much-loved work—drawing multiple standing ovations and resulting in an encore that delighted the audience.
The program, which opened with the short and jubilant “Festivities” by California-based composer Peter Boyer (who was in attendance), concluded with Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 4, a piece that was sweeping with melodic writing and dual emotions of joy and sorrow. The Opening Night celebration continued with a private intermission reception in the Box Circle lobby of the concert hall. And at the conclusion of the performance, guests were welcomed back to the Center Club’s Encore Lounge for a post-concert party to enjoy champagne, a variety of Russian chocolates, other candy and desserts, plus music by The Joey Sellers Quartet. An appearance by the star of the evening, Conrad Tao, was the cherry on the cake.
“John and I have been supporting Pacific Symphony for 26 years because we love this orchestra!” says Ruth Ann Evans. “We have seen it evolve into one of the finest orchestras in this country. Our Symphony is a pleasure for us and the many thousands who will be enjoying classical and pops music for generations to come, bringing to us music that lifts the spirits, entertains and introduces us to the most important music ever written.
“I wanted to chair this event because I love Pacific Symphony and enjoy helping to make it successful by raising money with the generous donors, who are the real stars of the fund- raising,” she continues. “Seeing the results after it all came together was so spectacularly gratifying!”
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