The Sugar Plum Ball
by Ruth Siburt
This holiday season could go down in Decatur history as one of the most exciting and magical times ever.
Fresh on the heels of the Millikin Decatur Symphony Orchestra’s (MDSO) magnificent accompaniment of the “Great Russian Nutcracker” performance comes the Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur’s gala Sugar Plum Ball. If you’ve ever dreamed of dancing the night away in a Victorian setting, this event is for you.
Co-chairs Kathy Brown and Carol Tyler have been working behind the scenes for months and anticipate a unique and memorable event.
“It was the dreamlike setting of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker that inspired the theme of this year’s gala,” says Brown. “And we hope the magic of the Nutcracker will carry right through to the Sugar Plum Ball.”
The Ball comes to life at the Decatur Club on Friday, December 1, beginning at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction.
“Guests are encouraged, but not required, to wear formal dress including Victorian era gowns for the ladies,” Brown says.
In keeping with the Nutcracker theme, toy soldiers will serve as attendants. Patrons also will be treated to a special performance by local ballerina Grace Brewster, a student of Nancy McReynolds Dance.
Dinner will have a Russian flair, complete with Borscht and European breads, seasonal salad, a variety of entrée selections and dessert buffet. A live auction and dancing follows dinner, with music provided by the four-piece combo of Terry Brennan and Friends.
Among the many auction items are: An annual family membership to Scovill Zoo; tickets to a Kirkland Fine Arts Center performance; a private party for 12 at the Millikin Homestead; and a day at the pony farm. A particularly dazzling offering is a beautiful diamond pendant with just a touch of Victorian styling from Flora Gems.
Assisting co-chairs Brown and Tyler were committees comprised of 12 faithful Guild members. Together, these teams were responsible for every aspect of the Ball — from floral arrangements and raffle gifts to selecting the menu and securing auction items.
Members also share a common focus: Long-term support of musical arts in our community.
“Most of the funds raised by Guild events go toward salaries of the MDSO’s professional musicians and its director,” Tyler says. “And while it’s fine to have an orchestra today, we want to ensure that we have music tomorrow. That’s why we also support arts for young people in the community.”
The Guild raises $65,000 annually. In addition to orchestral support, these funds provide educational opportunities for local school age children. Initiatives include staffing youth music camps; supplying instruments for a “lending closet;” securing private music lessons for students on scholarship; and sponsoring performances in schools.
New members are always welcome. There’s a $30 membership fee, in addition to purchase of the Symphony’s season tickets. “When I was asked to participate in The Guild to promote the arts, it seemed like a natural way to continue to serve the community through music,” says Brown, who retired as a general music teacher for District 61.
Tyler, also a retired teacher, moved to Decatur eight years ago and was first introduced to the MDSO when her neighbors gave her tickets they weren’t able to use. She and her husband were hooked.
“Compared to other places I’ve lived, Decatur has the best and most reasonably priced access to great symphony music,” Tyler says.
And whether it’s organizing a first-ever event, or nurturing future musicians, Brown, Tyler and fellow members are passionate about MDSO performances and involvement in the Symphony Orchestra Guild.
“When I listen to a recording, I hear the orchestra,” Tyler says. “But when I am in the audience at a live performance, I have a multi-sensory experience. I see the movement of the bow on strings; I feel the vibrations of the notes.
“I become a participant, not merely a listener.”
Mark Your Calendar
• The Symphony Guild of Decatur’s Sugar Plum Ball; Friday, December 1, 6:00 p.m., Decatur Club.
• Tickets are $100 per person, and are available from The Decatur Area Arts Council, 217-423-3189.
• Schedule of events:
6 – 6:45 p.m., check in/cocktails/silent auction;
7:10 p.m., dinner; 8:15 p.m., live auction; 8:45 p.m., dancing;
9 p.m., raffle drawings.