The skies were aligned for this year’s Kansas City Symphony Ball annual fundraiser.
Story by Ann E. Butenas | Photos by Strauss Peyton
It never fails. Year after year, it seems the Symphony Ball, one of the main fundraisers for the Kansas City Symphony, always outdoes itself. The 31st Annual Ball, held on Saturday, September 6, 2014, was no exception. With its dazzling and spectacular “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars” theme, this black-tie affair proved to be, without a doubt, an over-the-moon experience for everyone in attendance.
Overseen by 2014 Ball Chairman, Pam Fleischer, along with the Honorary Ball Chairs, Landon and Sarah Rowland, and a host of volunteers from The Symphony League, the magical evening began with an engaging performance by the Kansas City Symphony in the Helzberg Hall at The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Guests began their evening with a toast to the symphony in the Brandmeyer Great Hall, where cocktails were served before everyone gathered in the Hall to experience this one-of-a-kind performance that celebrated the celestial. Since the performance was in Helzberg Hall, it was the first time the entire orchestra was able to perform at the Ball.
During the symphony’s stellar performance, guests were treated to both visual and auditory delights as Music Director Michael Stern offered a program of French music inspired by the region of Provence in France where famed artist and post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, created his legendary masterpieces. “Diane Durbin, who was on the ambiance committee, suggested Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting as inspiration for the color theme, incorporating hues of blue, yellow and orange,” noted Pam.
As the 45-minute moving performance ended, it created a wave of chills throughout the Hall as the symphony and the pipe organ played harmoniously together the classic number, Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Opus 78 Organ Symphony II Maestoso, by Saint-Saens. “It was very beautiful and moving,” said Pam, emphasizing how it was more than just a concert, but an experience for the senses.
The evening’s theme captured the essence of the sun as it shined brightly down upon the guests as they arrived for the performance. As it began to rest its head upon the horizon to welcome the glorious evening, guests then moved to the Kansas City Convention Center via Promenade and Tricycle Transit to the Grand Ballroom at Bartle Hall for a night of cocktails, appetizers, dinner, dessert and dancing as the full moon (and magically a Super Moon this year!) began to rise into the brilliant night sky.
“It was breath-taking to see the moon shine down over the performing arts center from Bartle Hall,” expressed Pam. “It truly added to the ambiance of the night.”
During the cocktail hour in the Grand Ballroom at Bartle Hall, shooters of vichyssoise were offered, along with mouth-watering Brie and raspberry on brioche and pommes frites with a truffle aioli. The succulent entrees, pre-selected by the guests, included poached sea bass and steak au poivre. The meal was served the European way –– continental style –– which meant the entree came first, followed by the salad and then a cheese and fruit course. The meal ended elegantly with French macaroons, chocolate truffles and coffee. Aramark catered the entire affair, and Trapp and Company provided the eye-catching floral arrangements and coordinating tablescapes. Harvest Productions oversaw the sound and lighting for the evening.
“The ballroom was partitioned into three sections,” explained Pam. “As the guests arrived for the cocktail hour, the dining area was curtained off and when it was eventually opened, it revealed a huge, orb-like moon suspended from the ceiling. Projected on the walls were trees of a forest, giving an outdoor-like feeling.”
The second curtain went up after dinner to reveal the dance floor, where guests danced to the sounds of the Craig Duncan Orchestra. Stars suspended from the ceiling gave the essence of dancing under the stars. “Trapp and Company created the idea for and designed the suspended moon and stars,” noted Pam.
“During dinner, the band played standing under the suspended moon,” said Pam, who also revealed a distinct feature about this year’s event. “We invited the orchestra members and their guests to be our guests at the Ball. Everyone really loved talking and interacting with them, and the musicians greatly appreciated it.”
Of course, what is a Symphony Ball without a silent auction? Overseeing the auction were co-chairs Elaine Mann and Annette Sherrow, who are also slated to be next year’s Co-Ball chairpersons.
“We raised nearly $67,000 this year through the auction and a raffle,” noted Pam, who compared that figure to last year’s total of $55,000.
Among the fabulous items featured in the auction were a jacket from Alaskan Fur; ten piece of jewelry designed especially for the Symphony Ball from Helzberg Diamonds; and several donated vacation destinations throughout the country.
“We had a variety of vendors who donated several gift packages, too, such as a wine tasting evening and a grandparents’ package,” smiled Pam.
For a $100 raffle ticket, individuals had the chance to win a private dinner catered by Lon Lane in the Kansas City Southern’s Truman Dining car. Those who were among the first 100 ticket buyers for the raffle received an amenities bag filled with chocolates, coffee, candles and other assorted goodies.
The Wednesday prior to the Ball, a Benefactor Party was held at the American Restaurant, hosted by Don Hall, Sr. and overseen by committee members Jackie Middelkamp, Karen Mische, Susan Ahn, and Peggy Lyons.
“It was spectacular,” recalled Pam. “We could see the performing arts center from the restaurant, which gave us a preview of what was to come that weekend.”
A pre-check-in was offered at the party so that guests could pick up their table assignments and tickets for the performance prior to the Ball, which greatly helped to facilitate things on the night of the event.
“The Ball is certainly our major fundraiser and our team of about 40 women made this the success it was,” smiled Pam, whose mother, Barbara Fleischer, was the Ball Chair 17 years ago. “I was honored to carry on that tradition this year.”
Pam, along with Anne Elsberry, had the distinct honor of introducing several key individuals prior to the dance the night of the Ball, including Bill Lyons, Chair of the Board of Directors and Frank Byrne, Executive Director of the Symphony.
“It was our pleasure and honor to announce that the Symphony League netted over $700,000 that evening,” said Pam.
Earlier this year, the symphony received funds from the highly anticipated shopping night at Hall’s on the Country Club Plaza.
“My mom and Miki Christophersen co-chaired that event, which also featured author Danielle Rollins, who did a book signing for her new release, Soiree: Entertaining with Style,” said Pam. “We raised about $5,000 that night for the symphony.”
Additional fundraising efforts still on the agenda for 2014 include a shopping night on the Country Club Plaza, a Vendage, hosted by Ursula Terrasi, owner of Scandia Home, scheduled for Monday, November 10th.
“Several Plaza shops will be a part of this event and will contribute a portion of sales that evening to the symphony,” said Pam.
As Van Gogh once elaborated, “Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.” Yes, it was a very enchanting evening. Van Gogh would be proud.