The Valley Line: Tour of the Marciano galleries a bonus for Master Chorale gala guests

It was a spectacular evening in every way March 23 when the Los Angeles Master Chorale held its annual fundraising gala at the stunning Marciano Art Foundation in the Hancock Park area.

Annette Ermshar, who grew up in La Cañada Flintridge and now calls Pasadena home, was the chair of the evening. Her efforts to organize the gala paid off: The event raised a record-breaking amount of $741,000 for educational programs the Chorale sponsors.


More than 300 elegantly dressed guests arrived to experience the magnificent building that houses a jaw-dropping collection of contemporary art. This was the first time the Master Chorale had ventured out of its Disney Hall home for a gala and it was also the first time Maurice Marciano, who co-founded the art space with his brother Paul, had offered to open their building for a fundraiser.

The exterior of the building itself is a piece of L.A. history because it was designed by Millard Sheets as a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple and completed in 1961. The Masons had to vacate the property in 1994 due to zoning issues. Masonic symbols remain on the building’s facade, giving it a mystical look. Within the building there is a special Relics Room, where many of the items used by the fraternal order to conduct their ceremonies remain on display.


This was of special interest to me since my father was a member of a Masonic lodge and, as his daughter, I became eligible to join our local bethel of the International Order of Job’s Daughters when I turned 12.

On this festive night the Master Chorale honored Lillian Pierson Lovelace a philanthropist who is a longtime supporter of the organization. Also honored was Doug Aitken, an extraordinary multimedia artist.

The Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation, established by the founders of Guess Jeans and clothing lines, is a diverse and important private repository of contemporary art.

Gala guests were fortunate to enjoy exclusive after-hours access to the gallery’s exhibitions including a fascinating photographic exhibit by Catherine Opie titled “700 Nimes Road” that was taken over six months at Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel-Air residence, just before and after the famed actress’s hospitalization and death in 2011. The photographs of rooms, closets, shoes, clothing and jewelry create an indirect yet deeply intimate portrait of a woman whose life was defined by wealth and notoriety. This is an exhibit I want to see again.

Interestingly, one of those attending the gala was Kate Burton, daughter of Richard Burton, who was twice married to Elizabeth Taylor. Kate was at the gala with her husband Michael Ritchie, artistic director of Center Theatre Group.

After gallery viewing, guests gathered in the foyer to hear the Chorale’s signature Surround Sing, when 80 singers circled the audience from the mezzanine, conducted by Jenny Wong, associate conductor. Shortly after that experience, guests were seated for dinner. Once again, the singers surrounded the diners with another “Surround sing,” this time directed by Grant Gershon, artistic director and conductor of the Chorale.

A live auction was led by Classical KUSC host Rich Capparela. It began with the popular radio host auctioning off the opportunity to join him at his beach home to sit in on one of his “KUSC at the Beach” broadcasts.

Mark Beason, a La Cañada resident, was among the singers. Other Foothills and Pasadena area singers were Tamara Brevard, Claire Fedoruk, Elyse Willis, Michele Hemmings, Leslie Inman Sobol and Michael Lichtenauer.

It was a quite a unique and memorable evening for gala-goers.

Jane Napier Neely covers the local social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.