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Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Communications
(714) 876-2380

Guests of Pacific Symphony’s Gala Fox Trot Their Way Back to the Roaring ’20s For a Party Worthy of the Great Gatsby Himself, And Raise More Than $1.5 Million for Symphony Programs!

Orange County, Calif. — May 11, 2017

Glitz, glamour and decadence—it was the cat’s pajamas and the bee’s knees all rolled into one! More than 430 guests roared their way back to The Jazz Age for a night of flappers and speakeasies to celebrate Pacific Symphony’s 2017 Gala! Tassels flew and knees knocked as the Charleston became the rage again and Gala attendees learned first hand why the 1920s were called “roaring”! The exuberant, freewheeling popular culture of the decade came alive with a thematic evening that included a stylish reception, a ritzy gourmet dinner and sensational entertainment by a daring aerialist, Symphony musicians and the Jazz Age sounds of JT & Friends. Tunes such as “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Blue Skies” and “Bill Bailey” set the tone, as the evening proved to be a rip-roaring success—netting more than $1.5 million for the Symphony’s artistic and education programs!

Sponsored by Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin Newport Beach, Luxury Automotive Partner and Regency Air, Private Charter Partner, and chaired by last year’s gala co-chair, Symphony Board Member Ginny Davies, this swanky event took place Saturday, May 6, at the Hotel Irvine. Along with the gala committee, Davies created a lavish evening that sparkled with festive, good-natured fun—bringing to mind a time at the end of World War I when a new sense of prosperity and freedom emerged and life picked up momentum. 

“Everyone from the staff, the board and the volunteer committee worked hard to make sure that this evening was a happy, joyful event!” says Davies. “We are thrilled that the evening was a success, bringing in much needed funds to support Pacific Symphony’s activities in the community. The roaring ’20s were the inspiration for the ambience and all the energy. Guests enjoyed having time to relax and just be.”

The evening’s guests arrived at 5 p.m.—gussied up and looking like they’d stepped out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel—passing by a row of stunning vintage cars before finding themselves in the midst of a hotsy totsy speakeasy (an illicit establishment that sold “hooch” during the 1920s when Prohibition was in full swing). They were a mere Lindy hop away from a night they would never forget!

Inside, the speakeasy dazzled with bouquets of red roses and gold leaf, and six stunning models in gold floor-length art-deco gowns added to the ambience. Guests enjoyed a little “giggle water”—either from the gold, towering eight-level champagne fountain that bubbled and fizzed (adorned at the top with a beautiful live flapper), perfect for picture taking; or from the 1920s-era selection of cocktails, such as the Side Car and Mary Pickford. Don’t forget the “swizzle stick”! Delectable hors d’ oeuvres included spinach-and-parmesan stuffed mushrooms, crab and lobster cakes with creole remoulade, roasted lamb loin with mustard aioli and olive tapenade. Guests also kicked back in the lounge area, where they were entertained by a spiffy band, with a singer and dancers, while others tried their luck in the casino, where gaming tables were hopping with roulette, blackjack and craps. A giant paper moon provided another key photo op!

As the reception drew to a close, guests were ushered into the grand ballroom, decked out in opulent art-deco décor glistening in shades of white and gold. Guests half expected Jay Gatsby to greet them! Dinner, created by the hotel’s Executive Chef, Michael Beck, featured cuisine reminiscent of the 1920s—with velvety cauliflower soup, cabernet poached-pear salad, sumptuous filet mignon (and lobster tail for VIPs!), plus basil-whipped potatoes with asparagus, tomatoes and peppercorn brandy sauce, among the mouth-watering delights.

Following a greeting from Symphony President John Forsyte and Music Director Carl St.Clair, four Symphony musicians—Joseph Morris (clarinet), Paul Manaster (violin), Meredith Crawford (viola) and Timothy Landauer (cello)—performed Haydn’s Clarinet Quartet arranged by Gambaro. Then, Symphony cellist Laszlo Mezo and four Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles members (all cellists) delighted the rapt audiences with Mancini’s “Pink Panther” and a little Schubert (“Erlkönig”)!

Soon the enticing live auction, led by Jim Nye, took off! Attendees enthusiastically participated in this yearly favorite, brimming with extravagant items, travel packages and one-of-a-kind experiences! Among this year’s lucky winners were Catherine and Cameron Emmi, who bought a spectacular weeklong SeaDream Yacht Club Mediterranean cruise for two with a winning bid of $16,000. For $24,000, a lavish, private dinner for 12 at the Disneyland Resorts beautiful new 21 Royal/park admission/overnight stay package went to Pat and Bill Podlich, who also took home a dreamy, exotic Tahiti Adventure package for $14,000! “Lunch with David Foster” caused more than 30 couples to join forces, raising a whopping $91,500!

Tam Tran generously bid $25,000, and can now look forward to a spectacular luxury trip to New York City for the Symphony’s Carnegie Hall debut! Heidi and Barry Aronoff’s winning bid of $20,000 bought a week’s stay in a private residence at the luxurious Montage Resort in Maui, while a thrilling sports package, “Kings, Ducks and Angels Oh My!” went to Yasuko and Seth Siegel for $12,000. A bid by Roberta and Howard Ahmanson of $13,000 ensured the unique opportunity to conduct Pacific Symphony during an upcoming Pops concert! The big winners were each greeted with a bottle of champagne and sparkler from a flapper girl! And don’t forget the opening bid for a plume feather that went to Michele and Brian Maryott for $6,000, kicking off the superb generosity in the room.

Altogether, the auction brought in more than $221,000, while fund-a-dream, which included a heart-warming video presentation featuring the Symphony’s community programs, including “Class Act” and “Heartstrings,” added more than $628,000 to the final tally thanks to an inspiring challenge match of $250,000 provided by John Tu.

As if that wasn’t enough, anyone wearing socks had them knocked off when the band played “St. Louis Blues,” as a sultry, jaw-dropping aerial act took place high overhead, before guests were treated to more jazzy tunes by JT & Friends, courtesy of Symphony supporter and good friend, John Tu of Kingston Technology. Cannon bursts of confetti kept the festivities lively, even as the spectacular evening wrapped up. Before departing, guests made sure to visit the 20s-era candy bar and were sent home with Hershey Bars that read: “Save the Date for Gala March 3, 2018”!!

“Everything and everyone contributed to the success, all part of the whole,” says Davies. “In some ways, seeing the Heartstrings presentation was the most memorable for me. In the chain of life, this event was an outstanding link, bonding us together in the common good, sharing in friendship and the beauty of life, all with the common thread of music.”

If that doesn’t sound like “berries” to you—there’s only one possible response: “Applesauce”! There were no “wet blankets” at this Symphony event!