A Look At The San Francisco Symphony’s Glamorous Gala

Previous Post7 Of The Best Farm-To-Table Restaurants In NYC
Next PostJulien Farel Tells All On Haircare, Fall Trends, And His Thousand Dollar Haircut
Michael Tilson Thomas and Yo Yo Ma
Michael Tilson Thomas and Yo Yo Ma

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Every San Franciscan should add ‘attend the Symphony gala’ to their experience bucket list. The annual event—that took place last Thursday, September 14—is a glittering and memorable evening unlike any other. More than a 2000 people don elaborate ball gowns and perfectly-tailored suits for the celebratory opening of the San Francisco Symphony’s season.

Max Hollein, David Shimmon, Dede Wilsey and Jack Calhoun
Max Hollein, David Shimmon, Dede Wilsey, and Jack Calhoun

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

For most gala goers, it’s more than just an evening, it’s an entire day that starts with makeup and hair appointments or a last-minute dress fitting. The festivities begin promptly at 5 p.m. with a champagne reception and photo opportunities at City Hall and a tent adjoining Davies Symphony Hall. There is an excitement in the air as some streets are closed to traffic and police officers make sure the best-dressed patrons are able to cross with ease. Cars slow down and passerbys marvel at the spectacle that is the opening night of Michael Tilson Thomas’s orchestra.

The decor in the tent during the Patron's dinner
The decor in the tent during the Patron’s dinner

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The symphony hosts not one, but four distinct dinners before the show. The most exclusive is the Patron’s dinner that takes place in the tented pavilion. This year guests of honor included Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, who charmed everyone at his table (Vanessa Getty, Trevor Traina, and Marissa Mayer to name a few) and the honorable mayor Ed Lee. The four-course menu was the most  upscale of the dinners and featured eggplant mousseline with smoked mountain trout; wild mushroom and burrata with asparagus; a lamb duo with fava bean mash; and goat cheesecake with dark chocolate shortbread crust. Pine Ridge Vineyards and Seghesio Family Vineyards poured red and white varietals to pair with each course.

Trevor Traina, Hamish Bowles and Marissa Mayer
Trevor Traina, Hamish Bowles, and Marissa Mayer

For the Wattis Room meal, the McCall’s catering team served a chilled Maine lobster, roasted rack of lamb with potatoes and peppers, and an apple tarte tatin with olive oil gelato. Waiters filled wine glasses with Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc and Paras Vineyards Syrah. This was the most intimate dinner with just six tables of six people each. Kathryn Huber, Phyllis B. Blair, Kent Baum, and Eileen and Ralph Battat were some of the lucky few who enjoyed the exclusive setting.

City Hall was the setting for the Symphony supper
City Hall was the stage for the Symphony supper

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

Over at City Hall the Symphony’s young professional group, Symphonix, enjoyed a three-course meal of asparagus and fig salad; grilled fillet mignon with roasted peaches; and chocolate pyramid cake with oozing caramel. A different Pine Ridge and Seghesio Family wine was paired with each course. The room was transformed into a light-filled and sophisticated space with sage green curtains, abstract black, white, and pink floral art, vases overflowing with greenery, cream tablecloths and chairs, and blush pink and peach florals—roses, dahlias, orchids, and hydrangeas.

Samantha Duvall Bechtel and Darren Bechtel
Samantha Duvall Bechtel and Darren Bechtel

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

The Symphony supper guests, who dined in the middle of city hall, in a gorgeous space decorated in a royal blue, pink, white, and gold, enjoyed the same meal as the Symphonix group. Towering vases were filled with a cascading mixture of white orchids and hydrangeas and pink roses. The tables were set in a gold-printed cloth with gold chargers, navy napkins, and hot pink votives.  Among the crowd at the Supper and Symphonix dinners were Clara Shayevich, in a beautiful blood red velvet Vasily Vein gown, Julia Millay Walsh, in a fabulous cactus-print Matthew Williamson maxi, ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan, engineer and bombshell blonde Erin Sawyer, and the Symphony’s social media chair, Whitney Hudak.

Inside Davies Symphony Hall
Inside Davies Symphony Hall

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The most festive part of the night is the moment when the dinners end and all the people move from City Hall, the tent, and Wattis Room to their seats in Davies Symphony Hall. It’s the grandest most glamorous parade in town—as the guests greet each other in excited anticipation of the show. The second most festive part of the night is the moment when the performance begins and music director Tilson Thomas takes his place on the stage. The show began with the Star-Spangled Banner before moving onto the lively program that featured Bernstein’s Overture to Candide (commencing a season-long celebration of the composer’s centenary), Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1. Ravel’s Boléro. Tilson Thomas was joined onstage by acclaimed cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. His music and mastery of the craft held the crowd in delighted rapture.

The after party
The after party

Photo Credit: Andrew Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography

After the show, the after party commenced in the tent adjacent to the symphony hall. Guests nibbled on caviar from Mourad, meatballs from Tony Gemignani, and crudo from Maybeck’s. Wonderbread5 got the lively crowd up on their feet, dancing the night away.

Who was the best dressed? Allison Speer and Carolyn Chang stunned in black and white Chanel and Andrew Gn gowns. Vanessa Getty looked like a glittering Greek goddess in a gorgeous one-shoulder metallic gold Naeem Khan. San Francisco Protocol Chief Charlotte Shultz exuded chicness in sequin pantsuit with tunic by Carolina Herrera. Chrissa Pappas was elegant in a long-sleeved Chanel dress with exquisite details—we saw the pearl beading up close! Other looks we loved? Marissa Mayer in Gucci, Sabrina Buell in Rodarte, and Paula Carano in Andrew Gn. Two young style stars relatively new to the scene were Rose Fisher and Catherine Geeslin. Fisher is the daughter of Sako and Bill Fisher—her mom is the president of the Symphony. Geeslin is the daughter of Priscilla and Keith Geeslin—her mom was the gala chair. Both ladies looked radiant, Fisher in a more fashion forward black and white check-print gown and Geeslin in a sultry silver number.

The team of chairs who put on the gala
The team of chairs who put on the gala

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Besides Priscilla B. Geeslin, it should be noted that opening night also had honorary chairs, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem. Ann Paras and Joelle Benioff were the Wattis Room dinner co-chairs, the Symphony supper was co-chaired by Heidi Bjornson-Pennell and Dr. Manjula Noone. Logan and Elizabeth Allin and Nicholas and Meredith Tan co-chaired the Symphonix dinner party, and the after-party was co-chaired by Annie Dreshfield, Cate McDonough, and Sharon Seto. Décor and lighting design was provided by Blueprint Studios and GotLight.

connect with haute living National
Loader