The buzz at the benefit gala following the performance of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra last week wasn't about the star of the night, cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The spotlight, instead, was on the virtuoso with the tool kit, Brian Alexander, who strode onto UCLA's Royce Hall stage, mid-concert, to repair a broken key on the Steinway concert grand played by pianist-conductor Jeffrey Kahane.
As Ma goodnaturedly recounted at the party in the Fowler Museum of Cultural History on campus, "Jeffrey whispered to me, 'The key's stuck.' I told him, 'Just go on'--of course, it wasn't my instrument, that's why I told him to keep playing." Kahane explained later, "I finished the movement but I couldn't go on because when a key is frozen in the center of the keyboard, it's like running a race and hitting a bump in every lap." Violinist Margaret Batjer, who also was on stage, later said the instrument mishap was the most dramatic she has ever encountered on stage.
In honor of Ma's interest in the Silk Road Project, a program he has launched to retrieve and preserve the music of the ancient trade route, benefit chairwoman Philippa Leach asked guests to wear something silk.
In keeping with the theme, red and gold Asian silk-paper banners marked the path to the museum's terrace, where tables, covered in gold lame, held Asian jardinieres of white phalaenopsis orchids. Patina catering created a Persian menu with lamb, couscous and a filo shell filled with honey ice cream and orange flower sauce.
Ma was among the last to leave the party, lingering to chat with the guests, who included Sara and Ed Nowak, Jonathan Bender, Carol and Bruce Ross, Jennifer and Royce Diener, Gina and Andrew Goldsmith, Heidi and Stuart Laff, Hanna Kennedy, Annette and Peter O'Malley, Ruth Eliel and William Cooney, Ginny Mancini, Judith and Ronald Rosen, John Fiberger, Ann Fogel, Hilda Adler, Julia and Scott Bottles, Belinda and Bruce Broughton, Simon Clark, Marie Knowles, Lois and Allen Evans, Claudia and Stu Fishler, Liz and Mike Harris, Sharon McNalley, Anne Miller, Dorothy and Martin Recchuite, Greg Soukup, Natalia and Leonard Ross, Edie and Tom Van Huss, Karen and Les Weinstein, and a delighted high school cellist, Rachel Dubois.