With a white-tie coterie of Houston who's who, a scrumptious musical performance and a tally of $2.6 million, the Houston Symphony's Centennial Ball, held Saturday night, was indeed one for the record books. Glee star Matthew Morrison's song and dance presentation with the orchestra was icing on the cake of the 100th anniversary celebration of the city's most venerable arts organization.
For this very special evening, Jones Hall seats were covered with temporary flooring to accommodate a supper club style setting that had most of the 600 guests seated at their dinner tables for the hour-long performance. Toes were tapping and shoulders swaying as Morrison sprinted through a collection of Broadway standards with the orchestra, which was under the spirited direction of guest conductor Steven Reineke.
"The transformation of Jones Hall in one hour from concert hall to a ballroom is mind-boggling."
Major donors and honorees were seated in several rows directly in front of the stage. This is where gala chairs Cora Sue and Harry Mach and Joella and Steve Mach and Houston Symphony executive director and CEO Mark Hanson and wife Christina viewed the concert.
Of the occasion, Hanson said, "We couldn't be happier to be celebrating the culmination of our year-long centennial season with this first-ever symphony ball in our home, Jones Hall. The Mach family has done a tremendous job and we are so proud . . . it is a very proud exciting night for the 100 year-old Houston Symphony."
The evening honored Marie Taylor Bosarge and Phoebe and Bobby Tudor with the Ima Hogg Philanthropy Award and Margaret Alkek Williams with the Raphael Fliegel Award for Visionary Leadership (a standing ovation for the generous philanthropist). In the business arena, Baker Botts and ExxonMobil were presented the Maurice Hirsch Corporate Citizenship Award.
Five foundations received the Mike Stude Award for Enduring Artistic Vision. That honor went to the Brown Foundation, the Cullen Foundation, the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, the Houston Endowment and the Wortham Foundation.
Following the performance, guests adjourned to the theater mezzanine and lobby for cocktails, auction bidding and schmoozing while the stage was set with dinner tables for the VIP contingent.
"The transformation of Jones Hall in one hour from concert hall to a ballroom is mind-boggling," noted Conductor Laureate Hans Graf. "And it anticipates for me the transformation of Jones Hall for the future. There needs to be a new concert hall . . . a transformation into a great concert hall."
Indeed, it was a near miracle worked by Richard Flowers and his team at The Events Co. for transforming the stage from orchestra area into dinner party setting in less than 90 minutes. Applause, applause!
Finding their way to the primo tables were guests including Sen. Ted Cruz with Sherry and Jim Smith and Sue and Lester Smith.
Finding their way to the primo tables were guests including Sen. Ted Cruz with Sherry and Jim Smith and Sue and Lester Smith, Beth Madison, Barbara and Pat McCelvey, Sybil Roos, Mike Stude and Nancy and Bob Peiser.
Among key participants were former symphony CEO Matthew VanBesien and wife Rosie Jowitt; past board presidents Rodney Margolis, Bobby Tudor, Jesse Tutor and current president Bob Peiser; and chairman emeritus Mike Stude. In the hands-on department, Sidney Faust served as ball advisor and Betty Tutor as auction advisor,the latter over the moon when the auction climbed toward $280,000.
Helping more than double the proceeds from any previous symphony fundraiser were guests including Isabel and Ransom Lummis, Carmen and Butch Mach, Vicki West, Mary Lynn and Steve Marks, Tara and David Wuthrich, Aliyya and Hermann Stude, Helen and Jim Shaffer, Donna and Max Chapman, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, Bobbie and John Nau, Susan and Dick Hansen, Omana and Sam Abraham and Darlene and Cappy Bisso.
In a setting resplendent with vast bouquets of coral-hued peonies and crystal candelabra, guests dined on a spectacular dinner by Jackson and Co., which closed with a dessert of little chocolate grand pianos filled with chocolate mousse. As dessert was served, the Richard Brown Orchestra let loose with the tunes that had the dance floor instantly packed. It was so packed that staff had to quickly move the Harry Mach table several feet west to provide room for the enthusiastic dancers.
Once the band stopped, the after party began. But that is another story entirely. Stay tuned.
Watch a video with highlights of the night: