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Press Release


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

New York, New York! Guests Of Pacific Symphony's 2018 Gala, "On The Town," Revel In 1940s New York As They Celebrate The Orchestra's Upcoming Debut At Carnegie Hall

Orange County, CA — March 13, 2018

Bright lights, big city! More than 400 guests found themselves transported to 1940s New York last Saturday, as they made their way down the red carpet for Pacific Symphony’s 2018 Gala, “On the Town,” in celebration of the Symphony’s prestigious Carnegie Hall debut, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, on April 21. Guests of the gala came dressed up in glamorous 1940s New York-inspired evening wear to take a generous bite out of the Big Apple, raising more than $1.55 million for the Symphony’s vast array of music and education programs. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of a bygone era for one of the most exciting nights imaginable, guests were literally “on the town,” as a festive sendoff to their final destination—Carnegie Hall in all its magnificent glory!

It definitely became an “empire state of mind” when gala chairs—the dynamic duo of Ruth Ann Evans and husband, Symphony Board Member John Evans—along with the gala committee, transformed the Hotel Irvine on March 3 into the classic splendor and romance of 1940s New York. Through historic imagery of some of New York’s most iconic places, the team created unforgettable scenes, enhanced by stunning décor, to conjure the city of dreams for one glorious night. Sponsored by Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin Newport Beach, Luxury Automotive Partner and Regency Air, Private Charter Partner, this year’s gala really proved that New York, New York—it’s a wonderful town!

Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte saluted the efforts of the co-chairs, saying “John and Ruth Ann are soulful people with a deep love of our mission. John has been board chair and served for over 30 years and Ruth Ann has chaired many events successfully. I cannot thank them both enough for taking on the role with their usual flair, grace and modesty.”

“It’s been a special privilege and joy for John and me to host this gala,” commented gala co-chair Ruth Ann Evans. “We really believe this was one of the most spectacular galas in the Symphony’s history.” Fellow gala co-chair John Evans agreed and added, “Not only that, but it was one of the most fun galas ever, and certainly one of the most successful!”

The reception got underway at 5 p.m., as guests climbed aboard an imaginative set  design that included an iconic 1940s Tramway to visit many of New York’s most famous and historic places. Beginning with a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park, replete with trees and park benches, guests continued on to enjoy the view from the top of the Chrysler Building, with the famous Empire State Building rising in the background. They also paid a visit to the historic gateway to America, Ellis Island with a (living!) Statue of Liberty nearby, welcoming and proud. The best was yet to come—as all would later discover in Carnegie Hall.

As guests mingled with fellow time-travelers, enjoying the famous sights, they sampled an array of delectable hors d’oeuvres—from gourmet hot dogs to other high-end versions of traditional New York City street food—served from carts. Among the tempting delicacies were salmon latkes, mini-Reuben sandwiches, New York-style Neapolitan pizza and more. As they nibbled, they also sipped bubbling champagne and signature cocktails, while newsboys shouted headline news: “Pacific Symphony to make grand debut at Carnegie Hall!” To preserve the cherished memories, photographers and caricature and silhouette street artists captured portraits against the New York City skyline.

To complete the experience, a performance from the classic Broadway hit, “On the Town,” which opened in 1949, had sailors singing and dancing to the rousing music of Leonard Bernstein’s musical on the occasion of the composer’s centennial anniversary. And that was just a taste of the many vintage moments straight out of the city that never sleeps!

As the reception drew to a close, guests were ushered into the grand ballroom, transformed into majestic Carnegie Hall, decked out in opulent décor shimmering in red velvet, ivory, gold filigree and proscenium and overflowing with red ranunculus, amaryllis, tulips, and black magic and hearts roses. Dinner, inspired by cuisine from famous New York restaurants, began with a Waldorf or Caesar salad that prepared the way for a sizzling New York strip steak “au poivre” in peppercorn-brandy sauce, or a mouth-watering filet mignon “Diane” with cremini mushrooms, wilted spinach and tomato brulée. Those at VIP tables were observed feasting on roasted lobster tail dripping in a luscious tarragon butter.

The evening’s honorees, Mary Lyons, longtime Symphony education committee member, and her husband, 20-year Symphony board member, Phil Lyons, were named “Philanthropists of the Year.” Recognizing their generous support, Symphony President John Forsyte recognized them from the stage for the depth of their generous support. “Mary and Phil, your singular commitment to advancing the arts in Orange County is truly breathtaking. Today, you are the largest endowment donors to both Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale, ensuring future orchestral-choral collaborations for generations to come. You are the guiding light and undoubtedly, we would not be going to Carnegie Hall had you not laid the groundwork for our partnership with the Pacific Chorale.”

Sheila and Jim Peterson, CEO and chairman of Microsemi, strong supporters of Pacific Symphony’s Class Act and Santa Ana Strings programs, were given the “Corporate and Community Leadership” award. John Forsyte commented, “For Pacific Symphony, they and Microsemi have been extraordinary investors, with their lifetime commitment of over $1 million to music education programs. But it is their wonderful exuberance and optimism that inspire our finest work. They believe in the power of the arts to transform and inspire the best. Jim and Sheila, through your personal and corporate philanthropy, you have made a difference in the lives of thousands of children. You are also wonderful role models as parents, grandparents and friends.”

As dinner continued, a stellar array of entertainment featured knock-out performances reminiscent of other famous Carnegie debuts. Long-time Symphony board member, philanthropist and talented pianist, Michelle Horowitz made her “Carnegie Hall” debut with an impressive performance of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Up next during the dinner program was actress and singing sensation, Katharine McPhee (of American Idol fame), singing favorites from the Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall album. Rounding out the program was a flute duet—Doppler’s Rigoletto Fantasie based on Verdi’s opera—performed by Pacific Symphony’s principal flutist Ben Smolen along with his student Alison Huh. Michelle Horowitz returned to the Steinway to provide the accompaniment.

Guests concluded their meal on a sweet note with a decadent dessert or apple tart, as the exciting live auction got underway, offering a tantalizing selection of extravagant items, travel packages and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Led by Jim Nye, the auction drew enthusiastic bidding by guests. Lucky winners include Sally and Tom Rogers, who will be heading to Tahiti for a stay at the secluded luxury resort, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui—thanks to their bid of $14,000; and Susan and Sam Anderson along with Susan Anderson and Tom Rogers bid $12,000, earning themselves a luxurious stay at the Mahalo Montage Kapalua Bay resort in Maui, Hawaii. Lisa and Bob Cohen along with Ray Chen, who respectively bid $14,000 and $12,000 for the SeaDream Yacht Club Mediterranean Cruise which will have them enjoying the glories of the Mediterranean for a dazzling seven-day voyage. Additionally, Joann Leatherby and Greg Bates bid $18,000 to enjoy the experience of a lifetime when they head off for Disney’s 21 Royal Experience, an extraordinary dinner party in the heart of Disneyland Park, at a private residence envisioned by Walt and Lillian Disney as a secluded family retreat and luxury oasis to host celebrities and dignitaries.

Then, the cherry on the top of the delicious night proved to be Fund-a-Dream, which began with a heart-tugging video on the Symphony’s numerous education programs and the many children they benefit. Paddle boards were back in action and the evening’s numbers soared! Altogether, the live auction raised $205,770, with Fund-a-Dream adding $552,000 to bring the auction totals to a whopping $757,770—all benefitting the Symphony’s outstanding programs! At the close of the auction, the spectacular night wound down (or rather, up!). To everyone’s delight, the Symphony’s principal clarinetist Joe Morris played the classic “It Had to Be You” in a special Benny Goodman arrangement, and dear friend of the Symphony, John Tu, came with his band, JT & Friends, to deliver big band sounds of the 1940s as well as tributes to Rod Stewart, Tina Turner and the Blues Brothers. Guests headed to the dance floor for a final hurrah.

Finally drawing to a close, guests danced away with not only memories, but also New York’s finest cheesecake (overnighted from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in lower Manhattan)—and for some, plans to travel to New York with the home-team contingent of fans who will be cheering on Pacific Symphony as it makes its milestone Carnegie Hall debut next month In all, over 500 orchestra and choral members, patrons and staff will be traveling to New York to cheer on the home team.

This successful gala marks yet another highlight in a landmark season. With the applause of the Carnegie Hall audience still ringing in their ears, the Symphony will be winging its way to the other side of the world in May when Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony embark on the orchestra’s five-city, debut tour of China (May 9–15), joined by violinist Pinchas Zukerman for performances in Shanghai, Hefei, Wuxi, Chongqing, and concluding in the capital city of Beijing at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, colloquially known as “The Giant Egg” due to its distinctive dome-shaped, titanium and glass architecture.

The following month, Pacific Symphony will achieve another first with the orchestra’s performance of Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island, which was filmed last season for broadcast on PBS’s award-winning Great Performances series. This will mark the first-ever national television broadcast from Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. PBS SoCal will be broadcasting Pacific Symphony’s performance, Ellis Island: The Dream of America on June 29. A suitable finale, bringing a landmark season to a close and cuing up expectations for a spectacular 40th anniversary.