All the Night Notes!
The English-Speaking Union, New Orleans Branch presented “Rach and Bach” on a recent Saturday evening at the Orpheum Theatre with due fanfare. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ESU worldwide, which celebrates English as a shared language and fosters global understanding. Organized more than 30 years ago, the New Orleans Branch provides educational and cultural programs to students, educators and members, as well as sponsoring the annual National Shakespeare Competition for Southeast Louisiana high school students, the ESU Middle School debate program and Teachers Learning Abroad. F. David Grissett is the Branch president and his presidential predecessor, Dr. E. Quinn Peeper, is the national ESU president.
The “Rach and Bach” was a highlight of the ESU National Conference, which occurred in New Orleans and drew a number of dignitaries from away, such as the Hon. Karen Bell, Her Majesty’s Consul General of the United Kingdom, Houston, Texas; and ESU dignitaries Paul Beresford-Hill, CBE (chairman of the board, English-Speaking Union United States, New York), Jane Easton (London) and Lucia Dumont (Paris). Also, national board member Janet Haedicke, NOB.
Officers from out of state were Donald Best, Dr. Julia Van de Water, Ruth Mader, James Kerr, Dr. and Mrs. Charles Jackson, Julanne Portis, Barbara Hughes, Rosanna Ivanova, and L. Conquest and Fred Kleinschmidt. Friends from afar were Norma and Alicia Volk, Bettie McGowin Miller, Naoma Tate, Bette Lynn and Coy Peeper (Quinn’s parents), Cade and Tara Peeper and Vicki and Vin Speck.
Key sponsors of “Rach and Bach” were Baptist Community Ministries (board Chairman Drew Jardine), Inside New Orleans (editor-in-chief Anne Honeywell), Best Clinical Trials (Liz Uchello) and The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society (Rosemary James and Joseph J. DeSalvo Jr.).
The ESU New Orleans “Rach and Bach” Centennial Gala Concert has been the buzz for months and served as a “grass roots” local benefit of the Branch. Julie Jardine and Shauna Grissett — their respective spouses are the above David “Dave” and Drew — were the co-chairwomen. The gala’s honoree was James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr., CBE, Honorary British Consul for Louisiana, a position he has held for decades.
Thrills awaited at the Orpheum and its program that featured the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Ryan McAdams, opera soloists and sopranos Irini Kyriakidou Hymel and Christina Vial, and Toccata Sponsors and guest concert pianists Michael D. Harold and E. Quinn Peeper, who respectively played piano concertos by Bach and Rachmaninoff (hence, “Rach and Bach”) to standing ovations. And some hoots and hollers from countless fans.
Additional program principals were Dave Grisset for the welcome; master of ceremonies David Bernard; Paul Beresford-Hill for remarks; Jane Easton and Lucia Dumont as international ESU friends; Serena Newberry of Xavier University, scholarship winner; and New Orleanian Rohan Padmakumar, ESU-US National Shakespeare Competition finalist, who performed two Shakespeare selections.
Post-concert socializing took place in the Orpheum’s Ice Pit, where the venue provided bar service and The Lakehouse in Mandeville, the savory snacks and desserts. Branch board members, concert supporters, and kin and kith of the pianists converged to congratulate Michael and Quinn, who recognized the fundraiser evening, their co-program participants, and their keyboard roles as “a thrill of a lifetime.”
The new, attractively decorated home of Anne and Sandy Villere was the location for the recent Historic Houses Society Members’ Gala that supports the Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, National Historic Landmark properties. Both located in the Vieux Carre, they were built respectively in 1831 and 1860. Every fall, Houses’ board of managers honors the generous supporters with a reception and a dinner to celebrate society members. The Woman’s Exchange (TWE) owns and operates the two houses.
Notables were TWE President Sarah Young with husband George; gala co-chairwomen Betsy Nalty, TWE board emerita, and Kit Fritchie, TWE board member, with husband Gus; board officers Betsey Todd, vice president, and Melissa Steiner, treasurer, with their husbands, Andrew and Jerry; Houses’ executive director Megan Koza Mitchell with spouse DeWitt A. Godfrey; and Ralph Brennan, whose Ralph Brennan Catering & Events fed the comely crowd. Food stations were set up in various locations, allowing for a comfortable inside-outside flow.
Still others were former City Councilwoman Stacy Head and Jeremy, Rob and Anne McIlhenny Gardiner, Tink Friedrichs, Alma and Bob Pettit, Susu and Andrew Stall, Ashley and Edgar Bright, Nickie Lane, Amy and Stephen Farnsworth, Ellen and Grant Coleman, Virginia Weinmann and son Robert, Holly and John Nieset, Sheila and James Favrot, Beth and Clifford Favrot, Julie and Scott Habetz, Nell Howcott, Pixie and Jimmy Reiss and scores more. Marla Garvey was the sole name in the Director’s Circle Members, while the Heritage one included Tink Friedrichs, Kit and Gus Fritchie, The Helis Foundation, Betsy Nalty and Dick Simmons, and Susan and Jimmy Gundlach.
More features of the lovely levity were the two stunning centerpieces by Mitch’s Flowers, and additional ones by Sarah Young, Kit Fritchie and Betsey Todd; music by Telhorst Studio Youth String Ensembles; and gifts of the books, “Creole Cookery” and “Luxury, Inequity & Yellow Fever.”
Thy Friendship Makes Us Fresh
The Advisory Board of the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane amassed supporters and friends of the Bard to the beautiful home of Patricia and Vernon Brinson for a Sunday soiree. Food, drink and a round of toasts were part of the format of “Thy Friendship Makes Us Fresh” (a quote from "Henry VI, Part 1"), as were news of the Festival’s activity, and a tribute.
Headliners — all thanking the Brinsons and enjoying the cuisine of Joel Catering (the fried oysters were such a hit) and the keyboard delights of Jeffrey Pounds — were board Chairwoman Cassie Worley with Rob, SFT artistic director Marty Sachs (who also chairs Tulane’s theater department, honoree Nell Nolan (who performed a scene from “The Merchant of Venice”), Kathryn and Jeff Scurlock, Marie and Jimmy Kahn, Herschel Abbott (the honoree two years ago) and Anne, Shannon and Eric Holtzman, Robert “Bob” Lemon, Sarah and Patrick Vance, Robert E. Young, Bill and Mary Hines, Ned and Gail Bergin, Hunter and Kaylea Hill, Elizabeth (Mrs. Charles “Chip”) Goodyear, Lock and Lori Ochsner, Marjorie Nolan-Wheatley and Julian Wheatley, George and Sarah Young and Anne and Jimmy Morse, who just celebrated their 50th anniversary with nearest and dearest at Latrobe’s On Royal.
Also, recent “birthday boy” Michael Semmes with Yvette, Mary Beth Ellis, Lou Hoffman, Barbara and Biff Motley, John and Dathel Georges, John and Laura Williams, Valerie Besthoff, Katherine de Montluzin, Bergers three in Darryl and Louellen and Donna Kay, the Arthur Neads, Michael Harold, Paula Dickey and Richard Gill, Dave and Shauna Grissett, Rosemonde and Carlo Capomazza, Tony and Ann Fuselier, Pixie and Jimmy Reiss, Juan and Ana Gershanik, Julie Miller Hart, Steven Putt, Vaughan Fitzpatrick and Melissa Gibbs, and scores more.
Festival chatter focused on the open-to-the-public “remount” of “Macbeth” on Jan. 11, 2019, with flanking daytime performances for thousands of school children; and the two plays that will be performed in the summer, “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Hamlet.”