Tradition Guides Chamber Orchestra's Ruby Anniversary Gala at the Ambassador

For the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's all-red 40th anniversary gala, organizers returned to the group's original venue, the Ambassador Auditorium.

By Irene Lacher September 30, 2008, 6:54 PM EDT

The orchestra's ruby anniversary gala

Photo: Lee Salem Photography

If there was one inspiration guiding the planning of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Ruby Jubilee gala, it was tradition. The 40th anniversary celebration began with a concert conducted by the group's founder, Sir Neville Marinner, at its original venue, the Ambassador Auditorium. The British conductor, who steered the orchestra until 1978, led the full orchestra in a program of Schumann, Stravinsky, Kodály, and Beethoven.

The orchestra now performs at UCLA's Royce Hall and the Alex Theatre, so the return to the Pasadena venue reflected “a very special choice by our music director [Jeffrey Kahane] and orchestra members, because they'd spent almost 20 years playing at the Ambassador,” said gala chair Joyce Fienberg. “They wanted to go back there for the nostalgia.”

The venue dictated much of what was to follow—a tented dinner on the auditorium's spacious grounds. In keeping with the traditional ruby theme for a 40th anniversary, Fienberg and Gerry Huffman of Smash Event dressed the party area in rich red, starting with tiny lights dotting Boulevard Greenhouses' spiral trees lining the pathway to the tent entrance. Red lighting washed the clear tent's interior in warmth, and lavish arrangements of red roses topped tables, covered in a sheer red beaded overlay.

As Mora's Modern Rhythmists—regulars at orchestra events—performed hits from the '40s, the black-tie crowd of about 330 savored a leisurely meal of sea scallops and linguine, cassoulet, and “ruby red poached d'Anjou pears.” Between bites, KUSC-91.5 FM host Alan Chapman roused revelers to bid on a live auction of trips and dinners, and hoofers took to one of two dance floors located at either side of the tent (duplicated to give everyone a ringside seat).

Fienberg said that the gala's $750 tickets—costlier than previous years'—didn't scare off supporters despite gloomy economic news of recent weeks. “We exceeded our budget in table sales, and we were thrilled to death, especially with the way our world is,” she said.

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