Houston Symphony Ball Opening Night Enthralls Sir Ben Kingsley
There are some roles and actors that are so perfectly matched; it’s as if they were born to play the part. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Sean Connery as 007, and George Clooney as, well, pretty damn near anything! But any Indian in the world will tell you that Sir Ben Kingsley absolutely nailed the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1982 film “Gandhi”. It certainly helped that Sir Kingsley is half Indian and was born as Krishna Bhanji. Apparently the rest of the world concurred as he was awarded an Oscar for Best Actor and a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording in 1985 for “The Words of Gandhi”. He went on to make additional award winning films including “Schindler’s List”, “Bugsy”, and “House of Sand and Fog”, and has earned 45 awards and 65 nominations.
LCA Houston was honored to meet the distinguished actor at the Houston Symphony Opening Night Concert & Gala, “A Celebration of ConocoPhillips’ 30th Consecutive Years of Supporting the Houston Symphony Opening Night Concert and Gala” at Jones Hall. In front of a crowd of almost 2,000 attendees Sir Kingsley narrated Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with the musicians of the Houston Symphony providing the musical backdrop led by Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. This was another role perfectly suited to the actor. They Symphony also performed Rossini’s thrilling Overture to The Thieving Magpie and Richard Strauss’ Suite from Der Rosenkavalier.
Backstage, LCA’s Editor and Founder Ruchi Mukherjee had the unique privilege of speaking with Sir Kingsley. Actually it was Sir Kingsley that approached Ms. Mukherjee, recognizing a fellow Indian amongst the sea of faces. As she recalls, he initiated the conversation with a beaming smile and the question “How many time have you watched Gandhi?”, to which Ms. Mukherjee replied “Well I was pretty young the first time and my mother had to drag me…”, resulting in a mock groan from the actor followed by laughter. Sir Kingsley went on to discuss his wonderful experience making the movie and the connection he shared with fellow Indians around the world. It was a very special moment for our editor and for LCA Houston.
After the performance, nearly 600 guests were treated to a grand dinner at the Corinthian which was decorated in an array flowers by decorators Bergner and Johnson. The lavish dinner included a chilled poached salmon and salad, followed by a main course of herb crusted beef tenderloin, and finished with a “Symphony Trio” desert consisting of Lemon Curd Tart, Handmade Chocolate Truffle and Tiny Bittersweet Chocolate Wafer, and Fresh Berries with Raspberry Coulis. ConocoPhillips’ continued support of the Symphony was honored by dessert plates garnished with a chocolate “Oil Derrick.” Selections of excellent wine pairings were provided by Spec’s Wine, Spirits, & Finer Foods. Music during and after dinner was performed by The Richard Brown Orchestra.
The event raised over $730,000 which benefited the Houston Symphony’s Education and Community Programming. This was the second most successful Opening Night Concert and Gala in the history of the event, and was coordinated by Chairman Ralph Burch, Honorary Chairs Lisa and Ryan Lance, and Underwriting Committee Chairs Robin Angly and Miles Smith. The event was generously underwritten by ConocoPhillips.
Gala Chairman Ralph Burch stated that “Since the arrival of our Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, I have witnessed our audience change. I see a younger audience attending our classical performances, as well as one that is more ethnically diverse and, as such, is becoming more reflective of the city’s demographics. As the youngest music director since the 1970s – as well as being the first Hispanic to lead the Symphony’s music and artistic teams – Andrés has bought energy to the Symphony that is contagious and exhilarating. As I mentioned above, I hope I continued that push towards a younger and more diverse audience through the strategic decisions I made in organizing the Opening Night Concert and Gala.”
Honorees included ConocoPhillips and Conoco CEOs/Chairs: Ralph E. Bailey; Howard W. Blauvelt; Archie W. Dunham; Ryan M. Lance; L.F. “Frank” McCollum (in memoriam); John G. McLean (in memoriam); James J. Mulva; Constantine S. “Dino” Nicandros (in memoriam); Andrew W. Tarkington (in memoriam), Past and Present Houston Symphony Trustees from ConocoPhillips and Conoco: Ralph Burch; Clyde W. Lea; Kevin O. Meyers; Wayne E Glenn (in memoriam). Also in attendance were: Ryan Lance; Ralph Burch; Kevin O. Meyers; and representing L.F. “Frank” McCollum, his daughter Olive Jenney and granddaughter Emily Brown.
Other notable guests included Jan Barrow; Marian and Gary Beauchamp; Gina and Devinder Bhatia; Marie and Joy Bosarge; Stephanie von Stein; Barbara Burger; Janet Clark; Sue and Chris Conway; Nathalie Diamantis and Scott Rosen; Amber Elliott; Josette George; Christina and Mark Hanson; Suzi and Al Hirshberg; Shelby Hodge and Shafik Rifaat; Scott Irvine; Sippy and Ajay Khurana; Rochelle and Max Levit; Cora Sue and Harry Mach; Joella and Steve Mach; Carmen and Butch Mach; Beth Madison; Barbara and Pat McCelvey; Dore and Kevin Meyers; Farida Abjani; Rey and Orlando Ocanas; Dianne and Mike Pfister; Dave and Alie Pruner; Scott Rosen; Daniela and Manolo Sanchez; Jerry Simon; Dr. Tomm; Susan and Andy Truscott; Phoebe and Bobby Tudor; Betty and Jesse Tutor; Fran Vallejo; Judith Vincent; Lori and Don Wallette; Margaret Alkek Williams; Jim Daniel.