News & Politics

A Night Out: Choral Arts Society Holiday Concert and Gala

Belgian chocolate, brass bugles, and Beyonce at the Society's 30th anniversary gala

Norman Scribner conducting the Choral Arts Society's 30th Annual Holiday Concert. Image by Chris Svetlik.

For more pictures from the Choral Arts Society Holiday Concert and Benefit, click here for our slideshow

What: The 30th annual concert and benefit for the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Where: The Kennedy Center.

When: Monday, December 13.

Ticket price: $600 for individuals; tables started at $7,500.

Who: Each year, the Choral Arts Society enlists a different ambassador to lead the event. Last night it was Belgian ambassador Jay Matthysen and his wife, Agnes Aerts, and they brought along Belgian Defense Minister Pieter de Crem and the Royal Band of the Belgian Guides. The Belgians weren't the only diplomats in the crowd, which also included Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his wife, Colombian ambassador Gabriel Silva and Mrs. Mariana Espinosa de Silva, and Belgium's ambassador to Russia, Vincent Mertens de Wilmars.

Other bold-face names included former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler; retired Brigadier
General Samuel Lessey; and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy; and benefit chair Sara O'Keefe.

The scene: The night started with caroling to "Silent Night" in Flemish, and it ended with a mixed-age crowd dancing to 'Round Midnight's covers of Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas, and Michael Jackson. In the spirit of the season, many women sported red, and one intrepid gentleman took the dance floor in reindeer antlers. The gala was long on song and short on speeches, though society founder and artistic director Norman Scribner did pause the concert to recognize veterans in the audience, "some of whom were at the Battle of the Bulge," he noted.

On the menu: True to the night's Belgian theme, there was poached white asparagus with endive salad and salmon caviar; braised beef short ribs with parsnip mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts; and lots of Belgian chocolates for dessert.

Hot auction items: Bidders snapped up dinners at Bourbon Steak and Marrakesh early, and fierce bidding wars erupted over lunch at the Turkish embassy and VIP tickets to a taping of the Daily Show (a backstage tour of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams didn't loosen attendees' pocketbooks in quite the same way). Despite the snow that started falling during the party, bidders were a little slow to move on the splashiest item in the auction, a five-night private South African safari valued at $20,000.

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