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Symphony's Dance Card, Coffers Filled

July 07, 1987|PAMELA MARIN

Virginia Buckles bought her grandson, Lewis Darwin, a new suit so he could "come out and see what the adults do."

But the founding president of Crescendos, the South Coast Symphony's volunteer support group, might as well have bought the teen-ager a pair of dancing shoes, because what 310 adults gathered to support the symphony did was dance, dance, dance.

From the moment Tex Beneke's big band swung into action Friday night at the Red Lion Inn in Costa Mesa (serving up "Ain't Misbehavin' " with the lobster and papaya appetizers), the Crescendos and their guests crowded the dance floor, missing entire courses of nouvelle cuisine and behaving like, well, music lovers would.

"I don't know if they're getting enough nourishment," joked Red Lion general manager Russ Cox, who was pleased to see the hotel's grand opening go off without a hitch. "But they do seem to be having a good time, don't they?"

That's exactly what event chairwoman Sandi Beneke had in mind--"with an ulterior motive," whispered the bandleader's wife: "money and new subscriptions."

Beneke, dressed in a pale blue gown with organza ruffles, estimated proceeds from the $75-per-person fund-raiser at $14,000.

The evening began with a champagne reception in the dusty-rose-and-blond-wood lobby, where symphony members Ed and Roxie Persi and Carolyn Litchfield performed classical and baroque selections for violin and cello. Enjoying the mini-concert, symphony board president Norman Broadhurst noted that season subscriptions were up 40% from last year and still climbing.

"I know there are a lot of groups vying for support in this county," Broadhurst said, "but there's enough demand for cultural arts for all of us to do well. We averaged 1,000 people per performance last year, which means we're basically selling out our concerts."

Musical director John Larry Granger, 38, who is also the symphony's conductor, called the evening "the first of many to come where the orchestra reaches out to a new clientele."

Granger said the symphony, which performs at the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College and at Santa Ana High School, will use the proceeds to improve artistically, as well as for expanded advertising.

"Last year, the Performing Arts Center got all the attention, and so naturally people began to see playing there as some sort of stamp of approval. It's not; a high school band can play there if they have the $10,000 (rental fee).

"We want to wait until we have an audience who wants to see us, rather than see a building."

Buckles, who was honored with a plaque presented by Crescendos co-president Paul DeLong, recalled her tenure in the 1950s as musical supervisor for Costa Mesa's elementary schools.

"I've seen so many music students grow up at a time when there really wasn't much in the way of culture in this county," she said.

"Now, every time I go to a concert, I think how enriching it is for kids to have access to such wonderful musicians--to be able to hear how music should really sound."

Buckles said it was "just natural for me to get involved" when the South Coast Symphony relocated from Long Beach in 1984. Three years and a handful of fund-raisers later, she said she still has a soft spot in her heart for the symphony:

"We sort of feel that this is Costa Mesa's resident symphony. I really shouldn't, but every once in a while I'll suggest something to Larry (Granger)--some piece of music which I think they would do so well. And he says, 'Well, Virginia, I'll give it some thought.' "

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