No one could call the Orange County Philharmonic Society's fifth annual Golden Baton Gala on Friday just another black-tie event.
This one was black tie and white tennis shoes, in deference to the casual-yet-formal attire of the evening's featured performers, the Canadian Brass.
The tennies were only an option, according to the invitations, but several dozen of the more than 400 guests decided to exercise it, showing up at the Four Seasons in Newport Beach at sunset in their spiffiest white canvas footwear.
All the tennies seemed to be on male feet, however--there wasn't a Cybill Shepherd emulator in sight.
Anticipating an active evening on the dance floor with his wife, Nancy, society president Jack Caldwell had his favorite tennies resoled for the occasion. And Erich Vollmer, the society's executive director, decided tennis shoes weren't quite enough. "Tennies just didn't feel right with long pants," said Vollmer, who sported black Bermuda shorts, along with white-on-black polka dot knee socks, a black-and-white striped shirt and a "faux snake" bow tie.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 13, 1988 Orange County Edition Orange County Life Part 9 Page 5 Column 1 Life Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
The Orange County Philharmonic Society's annual budget is $1 million, $100,000 of which is paid to Orange County professional musicians. The annual budget figure was incorrectly reported in a story May 5 in Orange County Life.
Society board member Jeff Pero, however, stuck to the traditional approach from the ankles up. But he made up for it below the cuffs with sneakers decorated by his wife, Bunny, featuring red maple leaves and musical notes.
"I have to play racquetball in these on Monday," Pero said, peering down to admire his wife's handiwork. "I wonder if this stuff will come off?"
Society chairwoman Eva Schneider was credited not only with the tux-and-tennies theme but with organizing the entire gala, sans committee. "I had a lot of help from the staff," she said. But Caldwell put it another way. "This wasn't organized by a committee," he said. "It was organized by a czar!"
The $150-per-person gala netted more than $30,000 for the society, but Vollmer said the evening was also a way of expressing appreciation to the group's major donors.
And with this year's Golden Baton award, the society also acknowledged the contributions of Orange County-based Yamaha Music Corp. U.S.A.
"Yamaha supports two music education centers in Orange County where people of all ages can go to get the most up-to-date training," Vollmer said. "They've made a significant contribution to the Performing Arts Center, including the donation of nine pianos. Much of what they do indirectly helps us by encouraging people to enjoy music as a leisure-time activity."
Company President Nick Mitani, who accepted the award, said Yamaha's interest in music goes far beyond selling instruments. "We feel that it is very important to contribute to the society that we live in," he said. "Our life is music, all kinds of music, and we want to increase participation in music by people of all ages."
Mitani got rousing applause from society members, who fully agreed with those goals. "This organization has been supporting music for 34 years," Schneider said. "Long before we had the Performing Arts Center, we were bringing music to the gym at UCI and then to Santa Ana High School auditorium."
The society now spends more than $100,000 each year to bring performers to the Center, for the enjoyment of adults and children alike. The group's youth programs, the most extensive in the nation, according to Vollmer, entertain and educate more than 300,000 children each year without charge.
After the award presentation, the five members of the Canadian Brass strode forward--in their own trademark tennies and tuxes--with their 24-karat gold-plated Yamaha instruments--to offer a sampling of the eclectic style that has captured audiences from Carnegie Hall to the People's Republic of China.