As one attendee observed, Mercury Houston's Crystal Gala more closely resembled a "black-tie birthday party" than a standard formal.
Guests of "the orchestra redefined" nonprofit's 15th anniversary soiree were showered with surprises from the get-go. String musicians serenaded 280 patrons as they walked onto the Wortham Theater Center's Brown Stage for the first act of a three-part celebration.
Champagne, miniature bites, and fine jewelry curated by auction chairs Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl and Judy Nyquist were offered stage left during the cocktail hour, while co-chairs Isabel and Danny David and Carolyn and Garry Tanner graciously welcomed each arrival, including honorary chair Lynn Wyatt.
For act two, gala-goers dined under chandelier-festooned rafters. "Now remember, your salmon is supposed to be cold," advised A Fare Extraordinaire owner and CEO Rachael Volz of the chilled entree served in between a roasted vegetable Caesar starter and festive birthday cake with Chantilly "ice cream" dessert.
For the grand finale, Wyatt recited poet Siegfried Sassoon's "Dead Musicians" before sharing a few words of her own. "Music inspires us when we are flagging, comforts us when we grieve, and speaks the beauty we cannot articulate."
As she read aloud, a cloud of smoke formed around the doyenne; by the time the haze cleared, Mercury performers were onstage, seemingly out of thin air. Artistic Director Antoine Plante led a "Happy Birthday" concert whimsically arranged in every style imaginable from Bach and Beethoven to polka and ragtime.
DJ Mav, who came highly recommended by Susie Criner, provided the dance-party encore, though the ultimate gift was more than $340,000 for Mercury's educational programming and operations.