Last weekend, I had the total honor of attending the largest annual fundraiser for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: the Symphony Ball. Celebrating its 133rd season and hosted by the Women’s Board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the glitzy spectacle raised over $1 million with a sold-out concert and post-concert gala that welcomed over 400 guests.
After only a year of living in Chicago, I fell in love with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra just earlier this year back in March. For my birthday, I dragged my boyfriend to see them perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, which holds so much sentimental value for me. I’ve played violin and piano for sixteen years now and played in the Mizzou Philharmonic Orchestra back in college. So you could say getting to attend the Symphony Ball was truly a Cinderella moment for me.
The Red-Carpet Treatment
Upon arrival to the ball, guests could take photos on the red carpet outside of the symphony hall on Michigan Avenue. A champagne toast preceded the concert and Riccardo Muti led the CSO. Earlier this month, Muti accepted his new role of Music Director Emeritus for Life and was honored for the title on-stage.
A spectacular performance moved the crowd from world-renowned violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Kavakos is no stranger to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, having performed five other times in the past with the ensemble, the earliest dating back to 1989. As a highly recognized artist, he has developed close ties with some of the world’s most prominent orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and London Symphony Orchestra. Kavakos has also made a name for himself as a conductor, having led the New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
During the Symphony Ball performance, Kavakos played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the last four performances of the night, the CSO played selections from Italian opera, including Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora, Puccini’s Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut, Leoncavallo’s Intermezzo from Pagliacci, and Verdi’s Overture to Giovanna d’Arco.
Party Time at the Four Seasons
Following the concert, guests were shuttled to the breathtaking Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. The evening started inside the glamorous upstairs area outside the hotel’s ballroom, where guests could mingle with musicians from the symphony, sip on cocktails, and have their photos taken. A quartet from the symphony also performed until the doors opened for dinner.
Decorated with autumn hues and elegant floral arrangements by VH Designs, the ballroom was an absolute showstopper. Guests enjoyed a lavish dinner, including a first-course salad with roasted butternut squash, mesclun lettuce and baby kale, candied hazelnuts, dried cranberries, parmesan, balsamic vinaigrette, and balsamic pearls. For the entree, a succulent sea salt roasted filet of beef with chianti reduction and lobster was served alongside a mouthwatering crab cake with lobster butter, sundried tomato risotto, and assorted vegetables.
Dessert included a chocolate pot au crème, apple crumble, and assorted berries in a cookie basket. Served alongside dinner were two wines, including a French Louis Latour Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres and an Italian Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Makes an Impact on Young Musicians
CSOA President Jeff Alexander and John Fumagalli of Northern Trust, the evening’s presenting sponsor, both gave speeches during dinner. The latter shared how Northern Trust has long supported the symphony since 1891, only two years after the ensemble’s founding in 1889.
Brant Taylor, a cellist from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, gave a heartwarming speech about the symphony’s positive impact on Chicago’s many communities. With a touching video playing alongside his remarks, he particularly focused on how the symphony educates young children in schools without music programs.
Additionally, Taylor went on to explain how much of an impact he and other symphony members have made while mentoring young musicians from the Civic Orchestra. Taylor stated that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has trained 450 of these musicians throughout this year alone as Civic Orchestra participants work their way up to becoming professional artists.
All of the funds raised from the Symphony Ball will go towards the symphony’s artistic, educational and community engagement programs. To learn more about the Symphony Ball, read the CSO’s Program Book.
A Night to Remember
The ball ended on the dance floor, of course! My friend and I danced the night away with flutes of champagne in our hands, the way any ball should be LOL. Needless to say, I was already a big fan of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but now I plan to be a lifelong patron. I recently discovered the Symphony’s Overture Council, its young professionals board for those under the age of 45, and I will definitely be joining.
Have you seen the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform in concert? Let me know your favorite performances in the comments below!