Tonight is the annual fundraising gala at the major arts institution where I work. It’s a big, glitzy affair that attracts an A-list crowd, features superstar soloists, and raises a ton of money for youth and education activities.
B and I have been fortunate to attend each of the last ten galas, usually as the guest of the law firm that advises us on negotiations and labour issues. Unfortunately, the streak ends tonight as my departure from the orchestra means I no longer make the cut.
My first gala was back in 1998, and the featured soloist was Kathleen Battle. I was working that night – my role was to hang out backstage and pitch in if Ms. Battle needed any help. She has a fearsome reputation, and I was terrified that I would do something to upset her and set off her legendary temper. At one point she asked me to carry her dress out to a waiting car, and I can remember backing slowly out of her dressing room, head bowed, avoiding eye contact.
It should be an interesting concert tonight. While in years past it has featured the established stars of the classical music world – Yo-Yo, Itzhak, Renee, Dame Kiri – tonight’s special guest is Tony Bennett. In many ways, I think Tony might be a better fit for a large part of the audience, which is an interesting mix of corporate sponsors, individual donors, politicians, and just regular ol’ music fans.
So, while I’m sure it will be a terrific evening, I’m actually a little relieved that I’m not going. Why?
- I won’t have to worry that someone will finally notice that my tuxedo is actually an old gig suit that I picked up for $25 at Phase 2 back in 1994;
- I will avoid the temptation of the post-concert martini bar and the resulting challenge of saying the letter “S” during dinner without sounding like a lush;
- Nobody will turn on their T.V. tonight and see me rubbing elbows with a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up. [Ed. note: tonight’s gala is not subsidized by taxpayers. Subsidies for artists have actually gone down.]