A glittering goodbye

Houston Symphony Ball blends czar-like grandeur with New Orleans good time

Houston Symphony "Russian Rhapsody" Ball is fit for a czar

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The chairwoman and the honoree in a close moment at the Houston Symphony Ball dinner. Phoebe Tudor , Hans Graf Photo by Jenny Antill
0023, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Betty Tutor, Jess Tutor
The Houston Symphony Society chairman and his wife were among the 600 guests. Betty Tutor , Jess Tutor Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0031, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Pearl, the Living water fountain
Pearl , the Living Fountain was just part of the elaborate decorative/entertainment scheme at the symphony ball. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0029, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Christina Hanson, Mark Hanson
The Houston Symphony CEO and his wife were among those on the dance floor. Christina Hanson , Mark Hanson Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
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Note the jeweled trim on the edge of the head table where red roses added bright notes to the otherwise white environs. Photo by Jenny Antill
0016, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Harry Mach, Cora Sue Mach, Joella Mach, Steve Mach
The Mach family consistently support the Houston Symphony. Harry Mach , Cora Sue Mach , Joella Mach , Steve Mach Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0007, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, ballerina
Houston Ballet dancers displayed their talents on elevated platforms in the ballroom tent. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0030, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Phoebe Tudor, Bobby Tudor
Houston Symphony Ball chairs received rave reviews for the stellar evening. Phoebe Tudor , Bobby Tudor Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0014, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Nancy Peiser, Robert Peiser
The New Orleans music inspired Houston Symphony Society president Robert Peiser and wife Nancy to the dance floor. Nancy Peiser , Robert Peiser Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0012, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Elizabeth Petersen, Gary Petersen
Houston Symphony supporters dressed to the nines. Elizabeth Petersen , Gary Petersen Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
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Gilded urns were over-laden with armloads of red roses. Photo by Jenny Antill
0024, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Lynn Wyatt, Bradford Wyatt
All-stars in the group attending the Houston Symphony Ball. Lynn Wyatt , Bradford Wyatt Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0013, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Philip Bahr, Denise Bahr, Dancie Ware, Jim Ware
Ladies in red matched the red roses that accented the mostly white decor. Philip Bahr , Denise Bush Bahr , Dancie Ware , Jim Ware Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0009, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, John Adcock, Mayor Annise Parker, Charles Spain
The Mayor and friends at the Houston Symphony Ball. John Adcock , Mayor Annise Parker , Charles Spain Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0027, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Toby Bean, Ann Coffey
A rocking good time at the Houston Symphony Ball. Toby Bean , Ann Coffey Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0026, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Beth Lee, Chris Johnston
A pretty contingent attended the Houston Symphony Ball. Beth Lee , Chris Johnston Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
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Vast arrangements of roses, hydrangeas, orchids and lilies filled over-sized urns stationed throughout the party tent. Photo by Jenny Antill
0025, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Margaret Alkek Williams, Joanne King Herring
Belles of the Houston Symphony Ball. Margaret Alkek Williams , Joanne King Herring Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0006, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Danny David, Isabel David, Gina Bhatia, Devinder Bhatiajpg
A new generation of symphony supporters turned out in white-tie-and-tails. Danny David , Isabel David , Gina Bhatia , Dr. Devinder Bhatia Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0028, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Steve Marks, Hans Graf
A moment among friends at the Houston Symphony Ball. Steve Marks , Hans Graf Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0002, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Scott McClelland, Soraya McClelland
Beautiful people on a beautiful evening. Scott McClelland , Soraya McClelland Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0020, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Mary Ann McKeithan, David McKeithan
A former symphony ball chair and hr husband were among guests. Mary Ann McKeithan , David McKeithan Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0008, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, David Leebron, Y. Ping Sun
The Rice University president and his wife were among gala guests. David Leebron , Y. Ping Sun Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
0022, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Frank Huang, Sarah Ludwig
The Houston Symphony Ball drew a glam collection of well-dressed guests. Frank Huang , Sarah Ludwig Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
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Todd Fiscus and his team constructed two opulent bars on either side of the bandstand. Photo by Jenny Antill
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0023, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Betty Tutor, Jess Tutor
0031, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Pearl, the Living water fountain
0029, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Christina Hanson, Mark Hanson
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0016, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Harry Mach, Cora Sue Mach, Joella Mach, Steve Mach
0007, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, ballerina
0030, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Phoebe Tudor, Bobby Tudor
0014, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Nancy Peiser, Robert Peiser
0012, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Elizabeth Petersen, Gary Petersen
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0024, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Lynn Wyatt, Bradford Wyatt
0013, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Philip Bahr, Denise Bahr, Dancie Ware, Jim Ware
0009, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, John Adcock, Mayor Annise Parker, Charles Spain
0027, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Toby Bean, Ann Coffey
0026, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Beth Lee, Chris Johnston
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0025, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Margaret Alkek Williams, Joanne King Herring
0006, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Danny David, Isabel David, Gina Bhatia, Devinder Bhatiajpg
0028, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Steve Marks, Hans Graf
0002, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Scott McClelland, Soraya McClelland
0020, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Mary Ann McKeithan, David McKeithan
0008, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, David Leebron, Y. Ping Sun
0022, Houston Symphony Ball, March 2013, Frank Huang, Sarah Ludwig
News_Shelby_Symphony Ball_March 2013

Part sentimental adieu, part vibrant celebration, the Houston Symphony Ball "Russian Rhapsody" raised the bar Friday night on gala grandeur in an evening that honored departing maestro Hans Graf and his wife, Margarita Graf.

For the occasion, chairs Phoebe and Bobby Tudor moved the white-tie-optional fundraiser from it's traditional hotel ballroom venue to a vast party tent on the Rice University campus. But the evening began in the Shepherd School of Music foyer, just steps from the tent, with champagne flutes and Stoli shots raised in honor of the Grafs. The stunning music and video tribute that followed in Stude Concert Hall brought tears to the honorees' eyes.

As guests entered the ballroom tent, Houston Ballet dancers in in ephemeral white gowns danced atop elevated platforms. 

After 12 years at the helm of the Houston Symphony, Graf remarked on his feelings surrounding his departure. "What is the emotion of a leaf on a tree in autumn? It's just what goes on in life." 

What doesn't typically go on in life is the over-the-top decor that had this sophisticated crowd swooning. Thank you Todd Fiscus, the Dallas-based special events planner who partnered with the symphony (read that an $80,000 in kind donation for decor) to create the most stunning gala environment in memory. "We wanted it to be magical," Fiscus said of the decor that could only be described as beyond opulent.

The gala served as Fiscus' calling card as he works to develop special event business in Houston, where his partner, stylist Cerón, has home base. For the Russian-themed evening, he created a vision in white — white carpeting, white linens, white draping and truckloads of white flowers with orchids, hydrangeas and lilies exploding from oversized urns and with crystals shimmering at every turn. As visual focalpoint, his team constructed two gilded, czar-esque bars with mirrored backdrops that flanked the bandstand.

And then there were the touches of red — vast swaths of deep red roses centering key tables, covering lampshades and exploding from gilded urns. As guests entered the ballroom tent, Houston Ballet dancers in ephemeral white gowns danced atop elevated platforms.

 As soon as Jeremy Davenport of New Orleans and his band cranked up the music, the dance floor filled.

The tableau practically outshone the guests and the ladies who were stunning in their designer gowns. Phoebe Tudor dazzled in a beaded J. Mendel, Denise Bush Bahr wowed in red Oscar de la Renta and Elizabeth Petersen magnificently channeled a czarina — Andrew Gn jacket in velvet, fur and jet beading worn over a navy lace gown by Monique Lhuillier with black, elbow-length Bottega Veneta gloves.

The chatty, exuberant throng finally found their places for the Russian-inspired dinner by Jackson and Co. But they weren't in their seats for long. As soon as Jeremy Davenport of New Orleans and his band cranked up the music, the dance floor filled. His Crescent City-infused music, courtesy of New Orleans ex-pats Darlene and Cappy Bisso. That duo was the first to grab their napkins when Davenport hit it with his second line tribute.

Joining the festivities were symphony CEO Mark Hanson and wife Christina, Houston Symphony Society president Bob Peiser and wife Nancy, society chairman Jesse Tutor and wife Betty, Rice University president David Leebron and Y. Ping Sun, Lynn Wyatt, David Wuthrich, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Marie and Ed Bosarge, Joella and Steve Mach, Susan and Dick Hansen, Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein, Ann and John Bookout and Soraya and Scott McClelland.