"Black-tie energy" can often seem an oxymoron. But Saturday night's Houston Symphony season opener and black-tie dinner obliterated any notion of sleepy formal evenings. The party popped from the moment that Andrés Orozco-Estrada took the podium in Jones Hall and continued with an out-of-the-gate fervor throughout the late-night dinner at The Corinthian.
Surely, the stirring musical program contributed as did the soaring talents of guest artist violinist Joshua Bell. The swell mix of guests, well beyond the coterie of the symphony's most ardent supporters, ignited a further spark. And then there was the honoree — the much-beloved philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams, her 80th birthday celebration continuing and inspiring a record evening.
The Corinthian overflowed with the largest attendance ever for the opening night dinner — more than 660 guests. They helped raise another record — more than $800,000, that super figure due in part to generous gifts from Kristina and Paul Somerville and Joella and Steve Mach, Houston Symphony Society president.
The symphony had its own gift for the birthday girl — the full orchestra performing "Happy Birthday" while the Jones Hall entourage joined the chorus. It was her hour again at The Corinthian, where she was honored with a champagne toast, the entire room raising their glasses in salute.
Applause, applause for chair Janet F. Clark, recently retired CFO of Marathon Oil and chair of the symphony board's strategic planning, for honorary chair Vicki West and for David Wuthrich, gala underwriting chair.
Icing on the cake of the glorious evening was provided by Bergner and Johnson which decorated the striking hall in shades of purple, green and fuschia; the multi-course dinner which concluded with a divine Sacher torte (in Margaret's honor and worth every calorie) from Jackson and Co.; and dance tunes from the Richard Brown Orchestra.
There were so many notables in the crowd that it's difficult to name a few but here we go: Linda and Gene Dewhurst, Betty and Jesse Tutor, Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Sydney and Don Faust, Linda Chin and Dr. Ron DePinho, Ralph Burch, Nancy and Bob Peiser, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Amy and Jim Lee, Beth Madison and Catherine and Andrew Kaldis.
Special guests on this evening were Magarita and Hans Graf, the symphony's longest tenured music director, back in Houston for a week of what he described as "fun and friends."