The Most Unforgettable Symphony Performance Ever — Yo-Yo Ma Steals the Show in Dallas: A Night of Standing OvationsBY Christina Geyer // 09.25.17
Yo-Yo Ma performs with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Barbara & Don Daseke
Bill & Shirley McIntyre
Clay & Lisa Cooley
Clay Cooley, Margaret McDermott, Lisa Cooley
DJ Steffi Burns
Fanchon & Howard Hallam
Fehmi & Elizabeth Karahan2
Joseph F. Hubach
Kara & Randall Goss
Inside the Eugene McDermott Performance Hall
Key & Katherine Coker
Lissa Wagner, Bill Gau, Sherwood Wagner
Mark Porter, Anne Davidson
Michelle Miller Burns, Jaap van Zweden, Sanjiv Yajnik
Mike & Micki Rawlings
Nancy Nasher & David Haemisegger
Pat & Charles McEvoy
Rhonda & Fraser Marcus
Roger & Marena Gault
Ross & Margot Perot
Sheila & Jody Grant
Tennell & Marshella Atkins
Wendy & Boyd Messman
Yo-Yo Ma, Jaap van Zweden
Of all the unforgettable occasions I have been fortunate enough to witness (Karl Lagerfeld presenting his Métiers d’Art collection at Fair Park in 2013 and composer Alan Menken tickling the ivories at the debut of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in 2009 come to mind), this year’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala will go down as one of the most memorable.
Expectations were high, as this was music director Jaap Van Zweden’s final Gala performance, before assuming his new role as music director for the New York Philharmonic in 2018. Build up for Van Zweden’s Farewell Celebration Season, which kicked off this month and runs through spring 2018, has been growing since his announcement to leave Dallas was made almost two years ago.
Per usual, the DSO went above and beyond in securing a mega star for its annual black-tie evening — this year tapping master cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the featured soloist. The combination would prove a stellar pairing, with Van Zweden’s intense presence at the podium mixing brilliantly with Ma’s unmatched talent and passion. More on that in a moment.
As has become Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala standard, prior to the concert, a beautiful seated banquet was served in the lobby of the I.M. Pei-designed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Chairs Lisa and Clay Cooley worked with the city’s most sought after event designer, Todd Fiscus, on the decor — a look that was appropriately subtle and elegant, with towering palm leaves replacing de rigueur (and, dare I say, tired) floral centerpieces commonly seen at most functions.
The moment chimes signaled dinner’s end, Gala attendees packed into the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall for the performance. First, a major honor was in order, as a spotlight shone onto the balcony, highlighting the vibrant 105-year-old Margaret McDermott — wife of the late Texas Instruments co-founder and the music hall’s namesake, Eugene McDermott. She was this year’s DSO Gala honorary chair, though everyone in the room knew her contributions to the city, the arts and the symphony make her worthy of a much weightier title. She received an ovation that lasted at least several minutes, with raucous applause and cheers. Rightly so.
But more ovations were yet to come.
While I won’t pretend to be an expert in classical music and its many, many nuances, I have long appreciated the art form. I always say there are only two ways to make me cry — one is by way of hearing an impeccable symphony; the other is by watching a beautiful classical ballet performance.
Witnessing Van Zweden conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with Ma on the cello — together they performed Dvorak’s Concerto in B minor — was one of those moving moments. I certainly wasn’t the only one captivated by the otherworldly energy resulting from two of the world’s great musical minds coming together. After the entirety of the concert was complete (once Ma took his final bow, the DSO performed Mahler’s Adagietto and Rondo-Finale from Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor), audience members jumped to their feet. We couldn’t get up fast enough, nor could we clap loud enough or long enough.
Of course, the cheers were for Ma’s talent and for the decade of excellence Van Zweden has brought to Dallas. But in the end, the copious applause was the result of being part of one of those rare, emotional moments that restores your faith in humanity. In a brief moment, the audience was one, collectively inspired. For what better way to bring people together than by art — performed at its highest level at that.
A congratulations is in order for those talented Dallas Symphony Orchestra organizers and performers — as this was one evening few in attendance will ever forget.
Who was there? After Party chairs Lara and Brian Pryor and Graeme Ross; After Party honorary chairs, Wren and Benji Homsey; DSO board chair Joseph F. Hubach; DSO interim president and CEO Michelle Miller Burns; After Party DJ Steffi Burns; and attendees Diane and Hal Brierley, Katherine and Key Coker, Barbara and Don Daseke, Laree Hulshoff and Ben Fischer, Nancy Nasher and David Haemisegger, Cece Smith and Ford Lacy, Alex Bolton and JR Gower, and Olivia Lowery.