Society / Featured Parties

Music in the Air — This ROCO Gala Breaks New Ground in Virtual Fun

A Most Original World Premiere

BY // 09.28.20

Planning virtual fundraising events is no easy task — and not very promising on delivering interest. That said, ROCO (previously known as River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) met the challenge in style over the weekend by airing its live performance from Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands. It was a first in many ways.

ROCO — which presents performances across the city in such diverse locations as Saint Arnold Brewery, Rienzi,  and Holocaust Museum Houston — made its debut in the open-air pavilion. All 40 members of the orchestra participated in the prelude to the 16th season, which will be virtual due to COVID-19.

Guests viewed the Revelry-themed evening from their homes while feasting on a scrumptious dinner courtesy of Berg Hospitality Group restaurants (Annie Cafè & Bar, B&B Butchers, B.B. Italia), with the menu created by renowned chef Robert Del Grande. Accompanying wine was procured through personal recommendation of Mike Muna and through Dionysus Imports. And top-end donors received at-home decor from Swift + Company.

The concert featured the world premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and the overture to Fauré’s Masques et bergamasques. These were excerpts from the live-streaming of the opening concert of the season, which followed on Saturday night.

“It was a critical element for us to incorporate live performance into the evening,” ROCO founder and artistic director Alecia Lawyer said. “Because we’ve been live-streaming for years and recording since we started 15 years ago, it was the only way to invite our guests into what we truly do: making classical music fun, lively, and completely accessible.”

Two supernova philanthropists in the city’s arts world, Kelley Lubanko and Leigh Smith, chaired the evening that saw participation by 250, many of whom joined together at various homes for viewing dinner parties. Taking bows as honorees were John Bradshaw, recognized for his role in advancing ROCO’s reputation as an elite arts organization, and retired Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson, who received the second annual Wildcatting in the Arts Award.

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After the live-stream, guests transitioned to virtual Zoom tables and were joined by ROCO musicians. The night concluded with a recorded performance of ROCO’s signature piece, the triumphant “Anthem of Hope” composed by Anthony DiLorenzo and commissioned by ROCO.

Among those dining out across the city and applauding ROCO musicians: Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Kelli and John Weinzierl, Susan Whitfield, Nancy Allen, Betty Hrncir, Julie and Stephen Chen, Cabrina and Stephen Owsley, Duyen and Marc Nguyen, Isla and Tommy Reckling, and Drew Helmer with Salil Deshpande.

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