The Crowd: Pacific Symphony Orchestra marks St.Clair’s 30th in white marble

From left to right, John Forsyte, president of the Pacific Symphony; event chairwoman Diana Martin; Joann Leatherby, board chair of the Pacific Symphony; Music Director Carl St.Clair; and Ling Zhang and Charlie Zhang. The group is posing with a recently unveiled statue of St.Clair, who just marked 30 years as the Pacific Symphony's maestro.
(Kevin Warn)

Patrons of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra arrived some 300 strong in traditional black tie to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Maestro Carl St.Clair’s commanding role as music director of Orange County’s internationally celebrated orchestra.

The salute coincided with the Sept. 26 season opening night concert in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. A grand evening of social note was chaired by the dedicated and passionate Diana Martin, who began the gala nod to St.Clair by gathering the sophisticated crowd in the foyer of the concert hall for a pre-dinner and pre-concert cocktail reception featuring a most unusual reveal.

A white silk draping covered an object of curiosity as the crowd toasted champagne, gossiping about what might be underneath. Some were clearly in the know. Others conjectured that it must be some sort of art in tribute to the PSO and St.Clair.

Herald trumpets sounded as patrons quieted, and the curtain was removed, partially revealing a magnificent white Carrera marble at the base. With the final pull of the silk, a life-size statue of St.Clair, carved by notable sculptor Márton Váró, stood proudly as a neo-classic art form against the decidedly contemporary backdrop of the sleek concert hall.

The crowd then sauntered across the Argyros Plaza, arriving at the Samueli Theatre, which had been transformed into a chic dining room to welcome the dinner assemblage, raising upward of $315,000 in support of PSO’s artistic and educational programs. Glamorous symphony sponsors, including Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Doug and Lynn Freeman, Leona Aronoff Sadacca, Dave and Jaynine Warner, Mark Tomaino, and Larry and Dee Higby, dined on a multi-course seasonal menu created by Patina Group. To the delight of guests, a first course featured a Fuji apple salad with crumbled blue cheese, arugula, shaved red onion, dressed in apple cider vinaigrette and topped with crostini.

Board chairwoman Joann Leatherby welcomed the guests and invited event chair Diana Martin to the podium.

“Please enjoy your evening of the first concert of the season and the beginning of this ‘Grand Musical Tour’ celebrating our musicians and music director,” Martin said. “You will experience a night like no other.”

The main entrée, which featured seared arctic char with leeks, haricot verts, smoked fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and green olive tapenade was accompanied by Willamette Valley Vineyards wines from 2017, a pinot gris and a pinot noir.

Symphony President John Forsyte talked about Carl St.Clair’s 30th anniversary and introduced soprano Chelsea Graves, tenor Nicholas Preston and pianist Hye-Young Kim performing selections from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

Yet again trumpets sounded, signaling the party to move, returning to the concert hall where St.Clair led Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale in an opening of the season performance featuring Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture” and “Choral Fantasy” along with Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

Following a performance capped by cheers and ovation, a late-evening champagne dessert greeted guests in the Box Circle Club of the concert hall.

St.Clair was showered with toasts and well-wishes from longtime friends and associates, including a touching tribute delivered from PSO President John Forsyte.

Also celebrating the late-night repast were Tim and Susan Strader, Mike and Ellie Gordon, Alex and Barbara Bowie, David and Victoria Collins, John and Ruth Ann Evans, Greg Bates and Joann Leatherby and Jerry and Whitney Mandel.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.