"The older I get, the less I know, but I am certain that what we do matters." - from Master Class, music by Jake Heggie, lyrics by Terrence McNally
Gordon Getty is one of those names one automatically associates with San Francisco and the arts, but not everyone knows that he was a student of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Bay Area equivalent to Julliard. Years later, Getty donated funds to help build the new Recital Hall, named after Getty's principal teacher there, Sol Joseph. Among his many talents, Getty is also a composer, so it's fitting that for their gala this year, the Conservatory honored Gordon Getty with a performance for him including pieces written by him, to thank him for his passion and generosity over the years.
Upon entering the multi-level open atrium at the Conservatory, guests at Tuesday night's gala were showered with light and color as many beautiful gowns glittered up the many staircases. This very special evening brought some of San Francisco's most dedicated musicians and music supporters together to say, as event Chair Jan Buckley (pictured top left, with Getty) put it "Gordon, Dear Heart, we love you."
Buckley and Frederica "Flicka" von Stade, world renowned opera singer worked tirelessly to put together the event, building an incredible list of performers including composer-pianist Jake Heggie, pianists Robin Sutherland, Reiko Tsuchida, cellist Emil Miland, and singers Eleazar Rodriguez, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Lisa Delan, Marnie Breckenridge. (Sadly, von Stade was seriously ill and unable to perform.)
As the 500 guests sat in the auditorium, Getty must have known the best seat for acoustics is not always in the very front. Seated centered in the seventh row, he beamed as the performers charmed him from the stage. Fittingly, the concert began with "The Homework Suite" written by Getty himself. The piece, segments of varying styles, began as soulful and lamenting on the piano, then became joyful and adventurous, pensive and dramatic, poetic an lyrical, and finally jovial and triumphant, as Sutherland played it seemingly flawlessly.
As Kiri Te Kanawa and Marnie Breckenridge (shown right, with Heggie on piano) took the stage, their amazing voices lifted the room to yet another level. Te Kanawa's voice filled the hall with "O Mio Babbino Caro," entrancing the audience. Breckenridge, touted as an up-and-coming star, had a lightness and purity to her voice from a distance that fit perfectly with the graciousness and beauty she has up close. She both looked and sounded like an angel in her flowing white gown.
Turning up the tempo, as Lisa Delan finished Getty's "I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed," Getty was the first to applaud immediately at its ending. Soon after, fourteen year-old Reiko Tsuchida flew through the Liszt's "Gnomenreigen" at a superhuman speed, flooring the audience.
By the time the concert concluded, guests were well satiated from music but hungry for dinner in the opulent tent pavilion designed by Robert Fountain and McCall Associates. Drinking wine provided by Klamie Wine Cellars, The Plumpjack Group and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Himes, feasting on lamb, rissoto, soup, salad and butterscotch creme brulee, the feasting finally concluded after five hours.
Board Chair Lisa Miller (pictured left, with her daughter, Lauren) said she was incredibly proud of the event that was put together and that both Buckley and von Stade "worked the magic" along with their very loyal support group to create an evening to remember. Bravo.
Sarah Granger played piano and sang soprano long enough to appreciate the good ones when she hears them.
(Photos by Drew Altizer Photography.)