Starry-eyed? Not Ann Steinmann, chairman of the board of the Master Chorale of Orange County. But when she stepped on stage at the chorale's dinner and benefit auction Sunday night at the Irvine Hilton & Towers to make an important announcement, there was a twinkle in her expression as she gazed out toward the crowd.
"I have it on good authority from an unnamed but well-connected source that the constellations are aligned favorably for us tonight," she said, cashing in on the furor over First Lady Nancy Reagan's interest in astrology. Then Steinmann offered some tongue-in-cheek astrological advice:
"Don't worry about your normal sensible spending habits tonight," she counseled. "Just forget your inhibitions and have a good time."
The crowd of more than 250 chorale members and supporters at the $50-per-person event laughed on cue, but they seemed to take the humorous horoscope to heart. By the end of the evening, they had spent $61,500 for the nearly 350 items available in the voice and silent auction, bringing the net proceeds of the event to more than $50,000, according to Katie Duncan, who chaired the event.
As auctioneer Jan Bendis pointed out, the after-dinner entertainment by the Californians, the chorale's pops group, also encouraged patrons to dig deep.
"First they sing, 'We don't have a barrel of money,' and a few minutes later, it's 'Although I don't have any money. . . .' " he said. "I think they're trying to tell us something."
In keeping with the event's title, "S'Wonderful III," the group opened and closed their performance with the George Gershwin song.
Voice auction items included a ride on the Goodyear blimp, trips to Santa Barbara, New York, San Francisco, Alaska, Hawaii and Palm Springs, and a variety of shopping sprees and meals.
The chorale's new music director, William Hall, also made two donations to the auction: an antique music manuscript, estimated to be from the 16th or 17th Century, and a day of sailing aboard the 58-foot yacht Serenade, which happens to be Hall's home. The manuscript sold for $450, and the high bid for the cruise was $950.
More than 300 items were donated for the pre-dinner silent auction, including fur coats, microwave ovens, wine and stereo equipment.
The event was the third annual auction fund-raiser for the chorale, said Duncan, a longtime Master Chorale supporter who joined the group as a singer a year ago.
"You can't ever understand the thrill of being part of 100 voices singing," said Duncan, an alto. "When that first sound breaks the silence--it's just indescribable."
Most of those who volunteered to put together the auction also are singers, she said. In addition to heading the board of directors, Steinmann sings soprano with the chorale.
Duncan said ticket sales for the chorale's performances only cover about 40% of the costs, so fund-raisers are necessary.
The chorale, now entering its 33rd season, is taking a new direction under Hall, who took over as music director in March.
"We'd like to increase the number of singers in the group," Hall said. "We also plan to schedule performances in all parts of Orange County to broaden our base."
Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.