You are here

What a Swell Party It Was!

March 31, 2022

On March 19, Meany Center held our third virtual gala in as many years. As late as December of 2021, we were still hoping to host an in-person event on the Meany Stage, but with yet another COVID variant on the way, we switched gears and moved to our virtual stage one more time.

And to be honest, there are advantages to a virtual gala. For one thing, we could invite artists from Ragamala Dance Company and Cuarteto Latinoamericano to join us from Mexico and Minneapolis, as well as pianist Aaron Diehl in New York City. As if that weren’t pleasure enough, we also had a performance by guitar virtuosa Sharon Isbin, LIVE from the Meany stage!

And since our guests couldn’t come to us, we went to them — delivering wine and hors d’oeuvres to their doorsteps to enjoy during the gala.

After Sharon’s brilliant performance of two pieces, Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Albéniz Asturias, on our stage, guests joined the artists in their “virtual green rooms,” for informal conversations about everything from the programs they’d be presenting on our 2022–23 Season, to their favorite collaborations, passion projects and their pandemic pastimes.

In the Ragamala Dance Company green room, for example, Founder, Artistic Director and choreographer Ranee Ramaswamy described an unusual work the Company developed in collaboration with a deaf poet. “I couldn’t understand ASL, but I could hear the words she was signing,” Ranee said. “And she couldn’t hear the music we were dancing to, but she could feel the vibrations.”

In the Chamber virtual green room, Arón and Alvaro Bitrán of Cuarteto Latinoamericano shared an ongoing passion project the ensemble has been working on: building a free library of classical music by composers from Mexico and elsewhere. They think they’ve spent as much time on this endeavor as they have performing over the past decades. For example, they dedicated close to 20 years tracking down and re-compiling all 17 of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s string quartets, many of which had been thought lost to time.

And it turns out Aaron Diehl is licensed to fly many different types of aircraft when he isn’t tickling the ivories. Despite his many remarkable skills as pianist, composer and pilot, when asked what talent he wished he had, he responded, a bit wistfully, that he wished he could dance.

Diehl may have two left feet, but his fingers danced effortlessly across the differing tempos of jazz and classical during a pre-recorded program he shared during the gala: a composition of his own, The Vagabond; the Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier; and Willie “The Lion” Smith’s Fading Star.

Gala guests were also treated to excerpts from Ragamala’s exquisite The Fires of Varanasi, and Cuarteto Latinoamericano’s La Calaca, by Gabriela Ortiz, part of their Mexican Art and Music program. Audiences will be able to see both programs live on our stage next season.

Many, MANY thanks to all of our generous donors for helping us surpass our fundraising goal this year! We ate, we drank, we talked, we enjoyed beautiful performances — and by the end of the gala we had raised $350,000 in support of Meany artistic and educational programming.

As Executive and Artistic Director Michelle Witt remarked after the gala, “I am basking in the confidence that we will be able to move into next season on solid financial footing, which is no small accomplishment in times like these.”

We couldn’t have done it without you — you are proof that there is no “I” in Meany!