Despite the downpour that threatened the Houston Symphony opening night performance and gala on Saturday, there was an early-evening rainbow shining across the Houston skyline, a portent of the dazzling evening that was ahead.
The rain broke just as guests climbed into luxury motor coaches for transport from the cocktail hour at the Corinthian to the concert at Jones Hall. Only a few satin evening pumps and dainty hemlines were any worse for the wear.
The evening was a celebration of ConocoPhillips' 30th consecutive year of supporting the opening night concert and gala, with a nod given to the energy firm's 45 years supporting the orchestra. ConocoPhillips deputy general counsel Ralph Burch chaired the evening, joining CEO Ryan Lance and Houston Symphony Society board president Steve Mach on stage to thank supporters. Lisa and Ryan Lance served as honorary chairs while Robin Angly and Miles Smith served as underwriting chairs.
Those supporters, many in black-tie for the post-concert dinner back at the Corinthian, ponied up more than $730,000 for the symphony's education and community programming. Despite the oil industry downturn, this evening ranked as the second most successful Opening Night Concert and Gala in the history of the event.
Adding to the spectacular sound of the symphony under direction of Andrés Orozco-Estrada was Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, who enchanted the Jones Hall crowd with his narration of Prokofiev's whimsical Peter and the Wolf.
The concert finale, Richard Strauss' stirring suite from Der Rosenkavalier, sent the crowd out into the night in remarkably high spirits despite the hellish heat and humidity.
For the after-party dinner, Kingsley joined the head ConocoPhillips table after spending a few moments in an intimate VIP gathering for major table buyers. Then it was show time for Houston Symphony CEO Mark Hanson who welcomed the merry late-night throng.
Far from an ordinary opening night dinner, Jackson and Company provided an elegant three course feast — poached salmon, herb-crusted medallion of beef, and a trio of desserts garnished with a chocolate oil derrick in honor of ConocoPhillips. And then there were the wines — Taft Street Chardonnay and the spectacular Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon.
Those who know their wines were amazed at the selection. Those who know Ralph Burch were not surprised that the wine connoisseur insisted that guests paying as much as $50,000 and $25,000, and everyone else among the 600 guests, were rewarded for their support. No Oak Leaf Chardonnay, thank you.
Among the stunning gents in tuxes and ladies in smashing gowns were Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Betty and Jess Tutor, Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Beth Madison, Jan Barrow, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Francis Marzio, Kelli Cohen-Fein and Martin Fein, Carmen and Butch Mach, Joella Mach, Sue and Chris Conway, Daniela and Manolo Sanchez, and Marian and Gary Beauchamp.