Viennese Winter Ball offers dreamy night of dining and dancing in support of youth music initiatives

Singer Kellylee Evans, violinist Kerson Leong among artists to perform at annual event

 

No other charity event in Ottawa quite compares to the Viennese Winter Ball, with its ballroom dancers floating effortlessly across the floor to the enchanting sounds of live orchestral music.

The atmosphere was particularly cozy Saturday inside the Shaw Centre’s Trillium Ballroom; its windows partially covered by a curtain of snow. There, more than 250 people, including many from the business community, came together in support of causes that connect children and youth to classical music. 

Viennese Winter Ball
Ottawa teens spent weeks rehearsing their ballroom dance numbers to be performed at the Viennese Winter Ball, accompanied by the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Debutantes and cavaliers perform the Polonaise at the Viennese Winter Ball held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Chris Spiteri, managing partner at law firm Spiteri & Ursulak, co-chaired the 17-member organizing committee with powerhouse Crickett Williams Lindgren. Her daughter Noelle, a Grade 11 student at Ashbury College, was one of the debutantes.

The $400-a-ticket Viennese Winter Ball has pretty much been a fixture on Ottawa's social scene since 1996. Its causes are OrKidstra, the Junior Thirteen Strings, and youth programming through Music and Beyond.

Music and Beyond has taken the lead in promoting the ball. Cellist Julian Armour is the executive and artistic director of the non-profit arts organization while Spiteri serves as chair of the board.

Viennese Winter Ball
From left, Chris Spiteri and his wife, organizing committee member Jane Spiteri, with their guests, Judith Manley, and former deputy prime minister John Manley, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, at the Viennese Winter Ball held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Crickett Williams Lindgren with her husband, John Lindgren, president and CEO at California-based IPVALUE, at the Viennese Winter Ball held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Here's John Lindgren one more time, dancing with his daughter Noelle. Photo by Caroline Phillips

 

Viennese Winter Ball
Bernie Myers, vice-president of office/industrial in eastern Canada for sponsor Morguard, with image consultant Annette Quinet at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
From left, committee member Micheline Saikaley with Anna Rumin, Laurie Legallais and Norman Southward, head of Ashbury College, at the Viennese Winter Ball, held Saturday, February 10, 2018, at the Shaw Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
From left, Ted Wagstaff, president of North45 Partnerships, with Jacqueline Belsito, vice-president of philanthropy at the CHEO Foundation, with Alison Hindo, who, really, would have had a hard time upstaging the striking formal uniform worn by her husband, honourary colonel Paul Hindo, for the Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Terry McLaughlin and Catherine McLaughlin from sponsor Terlin Construction at the Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
From left, Grant McDonald, managing partner at sponsor KPMG, with his wife, Carol Devenny, managing partner of PwC, with guests Kaitlin Marriner Brulotte and Bryan Brulotte, CEO of MaxSYS, at the Viennese Winter Ball.

Spiteri shelled out $1,250 for the chance to conduct the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra to Johann Strauss Sr.'s Radetzky March.

“It’s for a good cause,” said Spiteri of his interest in the live auction item. Later, he was seen waving his arms on stage, with baton in hand, while maestro Kevin Mallon kept a close eye and clapped along. 

Viennese Winter Ball
Kevin Mallon, artistic director of the Thirteen Strings Orchestra, passes the baton, so to speak, to Chris Spiteri to lead the orchestra, at the Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Every year, the organizing committee encourages high school students to apply to become a debutante or cavalier for the ball. When it came time for Rachel Murray, a Grade 12 student at Glebe Collegiate, to find the required formal white gown, she went the practical route and decided to wear her mother’s wedding dress. It had been in storage since 1991, when Laurel Murray, of Murray Management Consulting, got married.

Her mom's dress fit perfectly, after they shortened the hemline a little and removed the outdated poofy sleeves. 

Viennese Winter Ball
Rachel Murray, seen with mom Laurel Murray, who wore her mother's wedding dress to perform as a debutante at the Viennese Winter Ball.

Lara Crone made her own satin dress, with organza skirt overlay and beaded detail. It’s no surprise the 17-year-old Glebe Collegiate is so handy; her father, Jonathan Crone, works in high-tech but does woodworking as a hobby. He made the baton that was auctioned off that night and the unique writing pens that were gifted to the youth and guests of the head table.

Viennese Winter Ball
Jonathan Crone with his daughter, Lara, who made her own dress for the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
From left, Tim Lane, deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, with his wife, Rosemary, and Claire MacDonald with Rob MacDonald, partner at Gowling WLG and board chair of Thirteen Strings, at the Viennese Winter Ball held Saturday, February 10, 2018, at the Shaw Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Julian Armour with Blair Dickerson and Mayor Jim Watson at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball
Businessman David Luxton with Laura Brown Breetvelt at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Together, the co-chairs thanked the sponsors, to the popular tune of My Favourite Things from the Sound of Music. The words had been modified by committee member Micheline Saikaley, who, when she co-chaired the Ashbury Ball last fall, used a similar creative approach for acknowledging supporters.  

The crowd was dazzled by talent throughout the night. Young violin virtuoso Kerson Leong, 20, performed. So did singer Kellylee Evans. She crooned the sentimental ballad Edelweiss, sounding as delicate as the alpine flower itself, as high school students performed a choreographed waltz they’d been rehearsing for weeks. She followed up later with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, accompanied by harpist Caroline Léonardelli.  

Following the candlelit dinner, the Stevens and Kennedy Band took to the stage and the dance floor was open to all dance moves.

Viennese Winter Ball
Kellylee Evans
Viennese Winter Ball
Kerson Leong
Viennese Winter Ball
Franklin Holtforster, ‎president and CEO of sponsor ‎Colliers Project Leaders, danced with debutante Mirana Rambelo , a Grade 11 student from Canterbury, at the Viennese Winter Ball.

Last fall, Music & Beyond got Canadian rock singer-songwriter Sam Roberts to pay a visit to students of Canterbury High School to talk music. He sang a couple of his own songs but he also played violin with classical musicians. Roberts was funny, engaging and, of course, talented.

“To see the look of awe on the faces of these young people, as this rock star was playing classical music, was incredible,” said Spiteri on stage while recalling how the visit left at least one kid musing that it might be time for him to take another stab at playing the violin.

“This is what we’re all about, and this is what this is all about,” said Spiteri.

Viennese Winter Ball
Chris Spiteri with his wife, Jane Spiteri, and their daughters Victoria (left) and Rebecca (both of whom are former debutantes), at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

-caroline@obj.ca