The beauty of spring is certainly the time of year that conjures up beautiful celebrations, the sounds of music and the festivity of gala season. At the French Embassy, that could not be more evident as a few hundred well-wishes attended the Parisian Spring Gala on Tuesday evening hosted by The Washington Chorus. Brilliant colors, sparkling champagne and the elegance of the crowd all marked a festive evening honoring the chorus’ executive director Dianne Peterson and Washington attorney and cultural benefactor Leonard Silverstein, who served as leader of the The French-American Cultural Foundation, a partner in the evening’s festivities.
A unique aspect of any gala in Washington is certainly having a theme. In advance of The Washington Chorus’ Kennedy Center Concert featuring the music of French composers, what better way to punctuate the beauty of French culture through wonderful food, fashion and of course, music. There was a wonderful showing of arts leaders in particular to celebrate Dianne Peterson’s exemplary leadership. Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, Washington Performing Arts President and CEO Jenny Bilfield, Chorus American President Catherine Dehoney, NEA Director of Music and Opera Ann Meier Baker, Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington Executive Director Chase Maggiano,Wolf Trap President and CEO Arvind Manocha among many other arts administrators came out in full force to celebrate the accomplishments of two towering arts figures in Washington.
And there were surprises too! In the great French tradition of composition, music director Julian Wachner improvised at the piano on each letter of Peterson’s first name: DIANNE. The improvisation nodded to many of the great choral music that Wachner and Peterson have collaborated on over the years, many of which were settings of the Requiem. Vale Ridout who has sung with the chorus on several occasions as guest soloist serenaded Dianne with a special song of tribute, much to her surprise.
“I thought there may have been some surprises in the last year…but I am just stunned. I am bursting with so much love and gratitude. This is an incredible honor, especially to me with Leonard who I have been in awe of for so many years…I never dreamed that 32 years later I would be standing here tonight trying to explain why I could still be here.” she reflected. In her generosity, she also announced and acknowledged her successor as executive director, Chase Maggiano.
Watch and listen to a touching excerpt of Dianne Peterson’s remarks.
A hallmark of Peterson’s leadership has been the Side by Side program which gives exceptional high school choirs the opportunity to perform with The Washington Chorus. The outstanding performance of the evening by A cappella! directed by Sandra Zinkievich was a wonderful example of this wonderful partnership and nurturing of young performers.
Rounding out the special celebration was the rendering of the beautiful “Cantique de Jean Racine” by Gabriel Fauré by The Washington Chorus conducted by Julian Wachner. What a perfect prelude to their special concert at The Kennedy Center.
The Washington Chorus in partnership with the French-American Cultural Foundation presents “A Parisian Spring” on Sunday, May 1, at 5 p.m. In the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, featuring the music of French composers Fauré, Duruflé and the premiere of Julian Wachner’s “At the Lighting of the Lamps.”