It began nearly five decades ago as a fundraising dinner lit by candles, and has morphed into one of the most anticipated and acclaimed charity events in Orange County.
The 46th annual Candlelight Concert to benefit Segerstrom Center for the Arts was held on Dec. 6 inside Segerstrom Hall and attended by more than 400 arts supporters. The black-tie event raised more than $2.79 million to support the Center’s array of entertainment, artistic, education and community engagement programs, as well as the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School and the School of Dance and Music for Children with Disabilities.
Chaired by the mother and daughter team of Marta Bhathal and Lisa Bhathal Merage, the event also served to introduce the Center’s new president, Casey Reitz, and his wife Naomi, who had arrived in Orange County earlier that week. Reitz had been president and CEO of Second Stage Theater in New York before tackling his new position at Segerstrom Center.
The evening began with a champagne and cocktail reception inside Segerstrom Hall, with tray passed hors d’oeuvres along with a beautiful and tasty cheese and charcuterie display.
Mark Perry, chairman of the Center’s board of directors, welcomed everyone to the Concert and said that “if this is your first time at Candlelight, you will not be disappointed. The event has two purposes — to have fun, and to thank you all for your support and being part of this great Center family.”
Perry noted that the community had over the years been wildly generous to create Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
“There is nowhere else in the world like it,” he proclaimed. “The great symphonies across the globe say they want to play in the Segerstrom Center. Collectively we deliver the arts to more than one million people a year. And you see the dirt being moved? The Orange County Museum of Art is happening. It will complete the Center. We are becoming the eighth wonder of the world.”
Perry also mentioned that the Center was “in great shape financially, operationally, and culturally.”
Co-chairs Bhathal and Bhathal Merage also welcomed the crowd, and thanked the evening’s sponsors, including presenting sponsor Lugano Diamonds of Newport Beach.
Then came a highlight of every Candlelight concert — the intimate musical concert prior to dinner, on a makeshift stage erected over part of the Segerstrom Hall orchestra seats.
This year, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, a popular bluegrass band, provided the entertainment. Most people know Martin as a comedian and actor, but he’s also an expert banjo player, and he showed off his musical chops over the course of a 45-minute concert. He also kept the audience laughing with his witty song introductions and silly side comments, including this gem: “I heard you raised a record amount of money, until they saw my fee.”
For one song intro, Martin quipped that “this is a love song of sorts, but rather than being about the love of getting together, this is about the joys of walking way. The song is called ‘Jubilation Day.’”
After the concert came the big reveal. The large stage curtain went up, revealing the dazzling on-stage dining area. The co-chairs had selected a stunning monochromatic winter white motif, with dramatic chandeliers and white floral displays.
The menu, courtesy of Patina Group, which operates the Leatherby’s Café Rouge restaurant adjacent to Segerstrom Concert Hall, included a winter white farmers market salad with salsify, Tokyo turnips, celery root mousse, crispy parsnip, Belgian endive, fennel, oro blanco, braised leek, shimeji mushrooms, icicle radish, white truffle essence, and lemon foam.
The man course was a duet of roasted rib eye “mignon” and Chilean sea bass with foraged mushroom hunter sauce, gratin of potato, roasted sun choke, Bloomsdale spinach, and lemon beurre blanc. Two desserts were served — a chocolate fromage blanc cheesecake and persimmon bread pudding.
After dinner came another surprise: Prince’s original band, The Revolution, performed for the after-party and kept patrons dancing to classic Prince songs such as “1999,” and “Little Red Corvette.”
As guests left Segerstrom Hall, they were treated to an after-hours treat: In-N-Out burgers and soft drinks.
In addition to Lugano Diamonds, as Luxury Jewelry Presenting Sponsor, Platinum Underwriters included Marta and Raj Bhathal, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Jane and Jim Driscoll, Shanaz and Jack Langson, Elizabeth and Paul Merage, Terry and George Schreyer, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Sally Segerstrom and Toby Andrews.
For more information, visit SCFTA.org.