As if the rounds of standing ovations in Jones Hall were not enough to convince Andrés Orozco-Estrada that the welcome mat was out for the Houston Symphony's new music director, the young Colombian and his wife, Julia, received yet another standing ovation as they descended the grand staircase into The Corinthian for the post-concert dinner, their first official black-tie evening in the city.
"This is a very special evening," Orozco-Estrada noted as he charmed the tony gathering. "This is a brilliant and unique moment. I think I will not forget this moment . . . I am very happy, very very proud, very full of emotion."
"This is a brilliant and unique moment. I think I will not forget this moment . . . I am very happy, very very proud, very full of emotion."
In brief remarks, symphony executive director and CEO Mark Hanson reminded guests that Orozco-Estrada was easily selected from 50 candidates. "We knew from the moment that he stood at the podium," Hanson said, "that there was an amazing chemistry between our musicians and Andrés."
That chemistry overflowed from the Jones Hall stage all the way to The Corinthian where praise for the opening night concert was bountiful. "This is exactly what the symphony needed," said Steve Mach, incoming Houston Symphony Society president. "This is our ticket to growing a younger audience," remarked David Wuthrich.
The gala dinner, presented by the symphony society and symphony league, was chaired by Barbara and Pat McCelvey. Joining society president Bob Peiser on stage before the concert were Sharon Adams, representing the evening's honoree Houston First, and Ralph Burch, representing ConocoPhillips, concert sponsor and lead corporate underwriter for the gala.
In a nod to the music director's native Colombia, the Jackson & Co. menu and the centerpieces (roses, orchids and lighted geodes) reflected a South American esthetic. After dinner, the Richard Brown Orchestra cranked up the dance tunes for the enthusiastic crowd. Overhead, a sculpture of soaring birds, inspired by one of the gold pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Pre-Colombian exhibit, signaled to a high-flying future for the symphony. The evening earned more than $585,000 for symphony education and community programming.
Among the red carpet crowd of 500 were Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Betty and Jess Tutor, Janiece Longoria and Steve Lasher, Beth Madison, Isabel and Danny David, Darlene and Cappy Bisso, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Elwyn Lee, Marie Taylor Bosarge, Viviana and David Denechaud, Dr. Kelli Cohen-Fein and Martin Fein.