The affable Ed Arnold emceed the dinner at Big Canyon. The evening began with a cocktail reception at dusk followed by a New Orleans-themed dinner of cheddar cheese grits, braised collared greens with smoked ham hock, shrimp etouffee and Southern fried chicken. For dessert, what else but Southern Comfort peach cobbler?
The dinner celebration was a prelude to the Nov. 6 gala billed as "An Evening in New Orleans." Mary and Phil Lyons will chair the big night, which will begin with a late afternoon champagne reception complete with a live Dixieland jazz band, followed by the concert. Afterward, the gala dinner will unfold in the Samueli Theatre, featuring Creole cuisine catered by Patina. The New Orleans theme was selected to honor Alexander's Louisiana heritage.
Back at Big Canyon Country Club, Mary Lyons introduced Laura Harrison, a member of the Pacific Chorale, who also happens to be a talented jazz vocalist. Harrison joined accompanist Josh Nelson, who has been traveling worldwide for two years as the personal pianist for Natalie Cole.
Following Harrison's glowing tribute to the importance of the Pacific Chorale in her life as well as in the cultural life of the Orange County community, she and Nelson treated the dinner audience to a wonderful mini concert that set the tone for the excitement of the gala to come in November.
Also enjoying the evening and supporting the chorale were Wanlyn and Benton Bejach, Phyllis and Terry Clark, Doreen Marshall, Donna Morse, James and Yuko Dunning, Cecilia and Richard Goodman, Chris and Susan Lindley, Sharon Morrison, and Janice and Clarence Turner.
The Pacific Chorale's Kelly Ruggirello, its president and chief executive, was front and center, greeting the crowd and welcoming Michael Carroll, Denice Douglas, Carol Dalton, David Exline, Betsy and Jerry Moulton, George Reiss, Katherine Yang, Alina Mircea-Trotz, Dominic Mumoto and Dana Ramos.
For reservations and more information about the 40th anniversary concert, contact Katherine Yang at (714) 662-2345.
THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.