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Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Marketing & Communications
(714) 876-2380

Guests of Pacific Symphony’s 2016 Gala find themselves basking in the French Polynesian paradise of the South Pacific for “Je t’aime Tahiti, some enchanted evening” on May 7!

Orange County, Calif. — April 18, 2016

Gala 2016Symphony and friends celebrate Principal Pops Conductor’s 25th Anniversary

Deplane an imaginary jet into a spellbinding world of tropical delights for Pacific Symphony’s 2016 gala, “Je t’aime Tahiti, Some Enchanted Evening.” Guests discover they’ve been magically whisked off to the lush paradise of Tahiti, where they are treated to a lavish evening of South Pacific delicacies, jaw-dropping auction items and thrilling entertainment. Think green landscapes and colorful flowers under a vivid blue sky, surrounded by tropical jungles, waterfalls and an azure sea for miles. Guests are in for the time of their lives as they find themselves in the midst of a luxurious Tahitian resort, where they are pampered from beginning to end. Starting with the delightful reception, to the grand dinner and post-party, the fun never ends! This year’s gala pays tribute to Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, celebrating his 25th season with the orchestra. The annual event is the Symphony’s largest fund-raiser and all proceeds benefit the Symphony’s myriad music and education programs.

The heart and soul of the South Pacific, and the largest in a chain of islands that make up French Polynesia, Tahiti provides enormous inspiration for a grand gala. Co-chaired by Ginny Davies and Joann Leatherby, this delightful and imaginative “Queen of the Pacific” fête promises to dazzle, inspire and enthrall. The event takes place at the Hotel Irvine (17900 Jamboree Road in Irvine) on Saturday, May 7, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Attire is black tie or formal South Pacific fashion, and valet is hosted. To RSVP (tables are $15,000-$100,000; individual seats are $1,000), please contact the special events department at (714) 876-2364 or

“Our goal is to entertain and inspire our guests, while raising very needed money for Pacific Symphony,” says gala co-chair Leatherby, who is a dedicated Symphony board member with a lengthy history of philanthropy in Orange County. “I want them to have a totally new experience that they will remember. It’s a challenge to create an event where the guests have a fabulous time and are inspired to build a stronger relationship with Pacific Symphony—and I can’t resist a challenge!”

“The Symphony’s galas are always about being with friends, new and old, and celebrating life in a lovely setting,” says Leatherby’s co-chair, Davies, an ardent Symphony supporter.

The Gala committee has truly designed an evening of enchantment—one that begins the moment guests arrive to discover an authentic Tahitian experience awaiting them! Miss Tahiti herself warmly greets guests and makes sure all are properly adorned with homemade, sweet-smelling flower leis—made by real Tahitian women right on the premises. Invited to meander the resort, guests proceed with umbrella drinks in hand, enjoying the variety of delicious hors d’oeuvres, while taking in the tropical sensations of Tahiti. Along the way, the Tahitian sights are plentiful, including models stationed on pedestals dripping in Tahitian pearls, as all enjoy entertainment by 15 members of the dance troupe, O Tahiti E, straight from the French Polynesian island.

“The beauty of Tahiti and the mystery and romance of the stories of the South Pacific provide us with the perfect framework for creating a beautiful, romantic evening for our guests,” says Leatherby, adding that among the gala’s highlights are “lots of Tahitian pearls—because they are beautiful and women love them! And traditional Tahitian dancers directly from the island will bring us beauty and help us tell the story of Tahiti.”

As the reception concludes, attendees are ushered into the grand ballroom, decked out in dazzling décor featuring the striking blue color of Tahitian water, for a feast fit for the South Pacific. Attendees enjoy a menu created specially for this event by the hotel’s brand-new executive chef, Michael Beck, with cuisine featuring soy ginger braised beef short ribs and coconut curry seared diver scallops, mashed sweet potatoes, plantains, Chinese broccoli, bok choy and braising jus—to give just a hint of the mouth-watering delights. For this evening that pays tribute to Maestro Kaufman, guests are entertained by Pacific Symphony musicians and a short production of hits from the musical “South Pacific.”

“As part of the tasting committee, we met with the new chef at the Hotel Irvine,” says Davies. “He had some enticing ideas that will be part of the dinner, ones that I think people will enjoy. It will be a taste of Tahiti in a delectable way. There will be some fabulous auction items as well.”

“Guests can also look forward to hearing the wonderful, romantic music of Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific,’” says Leatherby. “And for their entertainment and dancing, John Tu’s wonderful band.”

After dinner, the enticing live auction begins! A yearly favorite, the Gala’s auction is brimming with extravagant items, extraordinary travel packages and one-of-a-kind experiences. Among the vast array of offerings, this year’s lucky guests have the opportunity to bid on a luxury trip to Tahiti (the real one!) for a stay at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort provided by Other items available to the highest bidder include a private jet to New York, N.Y. to enjoy performances from the New York Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera and Broadway with Symphony President John Forsyte; an exclusive dinner with opera star Renée Fleming; a trip to Chicago for an expert-led tour of the city’s illustrious art and architecture; and the ever-popular chance to conduct Pacific Symphony!

Following the auction and heart-tugging fund-a-dream, the evening wraps up with the Symphony’s favorite band, J.T. & Friends, courtesy of Symphony supporter, John Tu of Kingston Technology. J.T. & Friends heats up the dance floor with a full string section, brass, woodwinds, keyboard, percussion and singers for a grand ending to the always memorable event.

“The gala is our big fund-raiser of the year—both to fund music programs in our community and to enjoy the contributions and interpretations of talented guest artists and our Pacific Symphony musicians,” says Davies. “A nice side benefit to the gala is getting to know people who support the arts that so enrich our lives.”