Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Charity party circuit ends hibernation

Chamber orchestra, soup kitchen and OTR park benefit

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Whew, the weekend benefit circuit awoke from its usual holiday lull with a plenty major bang last weekend - three events, all built around entertainment themes.

Centerpiece of the weekend was a $150- to $250-per-person do for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra at the Hyde Park home of Melody Sawyer Richardson. A sold-out crowd of 175 artsy A-listers braved ferocious cold and wicked winds - the furs were all out, you betcha, as was the weekend-only jewelry - for the late afternoon cocktail and dinner party (5:30 p.m.).

The star here clearly was Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, the former local favorite who conducted the CCO's afternoon concert, then posed patiently all evening because everyone wanted a picture taken with him.

Which is to say it took him forever to do justice to the curried chicken and roasted pork loin the guests chowed down on. Bless his heart, he smiled, handed his dinner plate to wife Lucy Lin, and jumped up every time someone asked.

"How could you not love a guy like that?" one guest asked. "It makes you feel good about writing a check for the orchestra."

Saturday night's two benefits were less glitzy, but no less enthusiastic.

About 150 Over-the-Rhine supporters showed up at Music Hall's Corbett Tower for a $60-a-head deal that raised money to light Washington Park, across the street from the hall. Artistically light it, Over-the-Rhine Foundation exec Marge Hammelrath said, with spots planted at the bases of trees throughout the park.

Guests here munched an assortment of pastas, plus cold salmon and turkey, while listening to three groups from the School for Creative and Performing Arts - the Jazz Ensemble, the Baby Grands and the Harp Ensemble - perform before the evening's Cincinnati Symphony concert.

Oh, and spent a lot of time swapping stories about their favorite Over-the-Rhine characters past and present.

Meanwhile, off on the west side, Our Daily Bread, an OTR soup kitchen that feeds about 400 daily, threw its first fund-raiser. Caring Cabaret crammed more than 300 guests into Father Reardon Hall in the undercroft of St. William Church in Price Hill for cocktails, music and a chance to win some plenty elaborate gift baskets - 45 of them valued at a minimum of $150 each - assembled by members of the community.

Entertainment here was a goodly sized delegation of Elder and Seton high schoolstudents - the Elder Ensemble, Elder Vocal Ensemble and Seton Ensemble - and a mix of west-side fave entertainers, including the Starlight Band and vocalist Sean Kelly.

"Every last thing in this room was donated, so every penny is profit," said chair and Daily Bread volunteer Joeline Lecture. She was expecting to make about $15,000.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com

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