Organizers of the 20th Anniversary Candlelight Concert to benefit the Orange County Performing Arts Center have begun orchestrating plans for what promises to be a glowing evening of dining and music.
About 50 people attended a tea Thursday at Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar to discuss the Dec. 12 fund-raiser and to take a nostalgic look back at the concert's colorful history.
Under the garden's gazebo, guests were served tea, delicate sandwiches and scones provided by the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach.
Lighting the Flame
The Candlelight Concert did not start out as the elegant affair it is today. The first benefit, called "the million-dollar concert in the 10-cent store," took place in a deserted dime store in Orange.
"The place was so ugly we couldn't turn on the lights, so we decided to use candlelight so people couldn't see where they were," said Tom Moon, co-chairman of the first concert with Ruth Ding and Gordon Hodge.
Minutes before the event was to start, the fire department decided the candles couldn't be lit because the store had no fire extinguishers. Moon and his cohorts hurriedly borrowed extinguishers from a closed bank across the street.
"It was a wild day," he recalled.
Still, the concert was a success--despite the fact that the center wouldn't be built for another 13 years.
"People gave on faith alone. There was no site, nothing," Ding said.
In a tribute to the concert's past, the planning committee has named all of the past chairmen as this year's honorary chairs, including Ding, Moon, Hodge, Floss Schumacher, Carol Wilken and Ciel Woodman.
"It's a way of thanking them," said Terry Goldfarb-Lee, who will serve as co-chairwoman of the concert with Jo Ellen Qualls, vice president of Tiffany & Co. at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. "Without their vision, we wouldn't have this amazing facility."
Passing the Torch
This year's gala will be far different from that first concert. Instead of taking place in a dime store, it will be held in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Irvine.
"This is the event that lets you know Christmas is coming," said Fiona Petersen, past chairwoman of the center guilds who has attended the concert for the last four years. "It's the magic of the holiday season, the lights and Tiffany."
Electa Anderson, special events director for Roger's Gardens, is leading a decor team in the creation of white-on-white table settings and decorations with gold accents. Tables will be adorned with towering topiaries formed into candelabra. Commemorative porcelain boxes by Tiffany will be given to each couple in attendance.
"There won't be a lot of colors, but there will be a lot of greens. It will be simple, understated and subtle," Anderson said.
The concert will feature performances by 120 representatives from five local groups: the Master Chorale, Pacific Symphony, Opera Pacific, the Pacific Chorale and the Orange County Philharmonic.
About 700 guests are expected to attend the dinner and concert, and organizers hope to net more than $60,000 for the center. Tickets are $250 per person and available by calling the center.
Among those helping plan the gala were: Tom Tomlinson, executive director of the center; Joan Beall; Edward Cumming; Barbara Glabman; Ken Goldman; Robert Guyett; Thomas Hammond; Ninetta Herbert; Bonnie McClain; Tom and Marilyn Nielsen; William Roberts; Michelle Rohe; Richard Schwarzstein; Sheri Shepherd; Mary Jean Simpkins; Lou Spisto, and Susan Strader.