The difficulty in describing last night’s gala concert is knowing where to begin. The guest artists? The staggering amount of money raised, including a surprise announcement that shocked nearly everyone in attendance? The past-concert party with 800 of our closest friends on the Southam Hall stage?
I should probably start with the music. Daphne had assembled the greatest concert line-up in the Centre’s history. Start with four of the biggest names in classical music – Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Gil Shaham, and Pinchas. Throw in Natalie MacMaster to add some cross-over appeal and you had an extremely potent mix.
It was a perfect gala program. Each of the guest artists was featured at some point during the concert, either as soloist or in a chamber work. The interplay between Gil, Pinchas, and Manny was so much fun to watch – some people around me were laughing at Gil’s goofy grin as he seemingly tried to out-do Yo-Yo’s grand gestures.
The highlight for many, though, was surprise guest Jan Lisiecki. Jan is an 11-year old pianist from Calgary, and he’s one of those ridiculously gifted kids who can do anything – music, math, science, writing. He played three solo works, and you could only marvel at how someone so young could play with such elegant phrasing and pathos. Pinchas was right on when he said Jan is an old soul.
The gala raises money for the NAC’s National Youth and Education Trust, and last night was a record-setting event. The concert began with an announcement that the concert has raised $1 million. Then, in the second half, there was a special surprise announcement. Richard Li, an extremely wealthy Hong Kong businessman, was at the concert and agreed to donate another $1 million. If you include the $500,000 endowment that was set up to honour David Leighton, it was unquestionably the most successful single evening in the Centre’s history.
I’ve left a lot out – the glamourous socialites, the leaders of industry, free wine and martinis, fine food on stage, cleavage, gifts from Holt Renfrew. It was a fairytale evening, and easily ranks as one of the most memorable events I’ve been part of.