Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration offers a night of music, dancing, dining and romance

Annual ball celebrates Austrian culture while featuring special performances and raising money for young people and music
Editor's Note

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, the Foundation (WCPD)Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. Read their stories here.

The Shaw Centre was alive with the sound of music on Saturday as the 22nd edition of the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration whirled its way through the nation’s capital with graceful and elegant ease.

Ottawa’s beloved Viennese ball is a lively age-old cultural tradition that originated in the Austrian capital of Vienna, bringing generations together in celebration of music, culinary delights and customs.  In Vienna, more than 400 balls are staged each winter. 

The black-tie dinner also raises funds for three local arts organizations that are working to expose more young people to classical music. The beneficiaries of the ball are: Music & Beyond’s youth initiative, Junior Thirteen Strings and OrKidstra.

VWB
Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Maya Evans from Glebe Collegiate Institute with Stuart Bowden, a student at Immaculata High School, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Debutante Avril Sun, a student at Elmwood School, at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Ashbury College students Giulia Rhodes and Phil Valiquette at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Canterbury High School student Sydney Shelp with Carleton University student Seva Losev danced a solo together at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Kevin Mallon leads the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Debutante Grace Lemon, a student at Merivale High School, with cavalier Damien Smith, a student at Ashbury College, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening’s patron was Austria's charming ambassador, Stefan Pehringer. He was joined at the dinner by his wife, Debra Jean, along with a number of heads of diplomatic missions, and a representative from the City of Vienna.

From presenting sponsor Colliers was Franklin Holtforster. He's the president and CEO of Colliers Project Leaders, as well as being a man who waltzes like he's waltzed a thousand times. His wife, Birgitte Alting-Mees, was part of the organizing committee.

Many guests dined on the main course option of Esterhazy roast beef short ribs served with golden beet garlic potato mash, grilled asparagus and honey-glazed baby carrot, followed by an apple strudel dessert. 

VWB
Austrian Ambassador Stefan Pehringer and his wife, Debra Jean Pehringer, at the Viennese Winter Ball, held at the Shaw Centre on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Colliers Project Leaders president and CEO Franklin Holtforster with his wife, Birgitte Alting-Mees, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Franklin Holtforster on the dance floor at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Music & Beyond has been overseeing the Viennese ball for the past four years, after its future faced some uncertainty. Rejuvenating the ball with new energy and ideas is a dedicated and hard-working volunteer organizing committee, led by Crickett Williams Lindgren and Catherine McLaughlin. The pair creatively delivered their brief remarks, interspersed with singing by Jessica Morgan of the Sound of Music hit Do Re Mi. She got the audience singing along, creating for a nice musical bonding moment.

VWB
VWB co-chairs Crickett Williams Lindgren, left, and Catherine McLaughlin at the podium during the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
From, VWB committee co-chairs Crickett Williams Lindgren and Catherine McLaughlin. Photo by Caroline Phillips

McLaughlin's husband Terry McLaughlin, owner of Terlin Construction, was one of the sponsors. Other sponsors included Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, represented by Marilyn Wilson and her daughter Reba Wilson, who was on the organizing committee and is a former Viennese ball debutante. Minto Group/Minto Apartment REIT CEO Michael Waters was also supporting the event. His son, William, was one of the cavaliers while his wife, Sarah Waters, was part of the committee.

VWB
Marilyn Wilson and Reba Wilson from sponsor Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
From left, Minto Group CEO Michael Waters with his wife, Sarah Waters, with Carol Devenny, senior partner at PwC, with her husband, Grant McDonald, a VWB committee member and managing partner at KPMG, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Lawyer Chris Spiteri, head of the Music & Beyond board of directors and managing partner of sponsor Spiteri & Ursulak LLP, expressed his deep gratitude to the committee members for their “tireless work” and “countless hours” and to the co-chairs, who fastidiously took care of all the details. “It was like a military operation,” Spiteri said light-heartedly.

He also touched on the role of music as “a common language” that unites us all.

“It’s incumbent on us to encourage it, to promote it and to fund it,” said Spiteri, who has now seen all four of his children participate in the Viennese Winter Ball. His wife, Jane Spiteri, was also a volunteer on the committee. 

VWB
Music & Beyond board chair Chris Spiteri with his wife, Jane Spiteri, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Members of the volunteer organizing committee gather at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
From left, Rob MacDonald, a partner at Gowling WLG and board president of Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, with its maestro and artistic director, Kevin Mallon, and cellist Julian Armour, who's also artistic and executive director of arts organization Music & Beyond, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Juno Award-winning singer Kellylee Evans was at the top of her game during her collaborative performance with the senior jazz and choral ensembles from Canterbury High School. Her two daughters also participated in the ball, as a debutante and a debutante-in-waiting.

VWB
Kellylee Evans performed at the Viennese Winter Ball in collaboration with senior jazz and choral ensembles from Canterbury High School. Photo by Caroline Phillips
vwb
Singer Kellylee Evans with her partner, Shawn Minnis, and debutante daughter Maya, left, and Nura, who volunteered as a debutante-in-waiting, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Organizers moved this year’s big night from its usual February time slot. But for the increased daylight, you’d never know looking out the ballroom’s sweeping windows it was almost April. Winter had stubbornly decided to stick around.  

Inside, however, the ballroom felt like a breath of spring. The place was beautifully decorated with edelweiss, a delicate flower that grows in the Alps. The room’s modern and minimalist design was transformed to give an historic feel of soaring ceilings, sparkling chandeliers and gilded marble halls.

Also bringing a fresh feel to the evening were the dozens of local youth who took part. A group of 30 students from 11 public and private schools served as debutantes and cavaliers, performing a series of carefully rehearsed dances, with the girls in flowing white evening gowns and the boys looking sharp in their tuxedos. They were accompanied by the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra.

It's tradition at the ball for the young dancers to pluck people from the audience and lead them to the dance floor. Many youth were seen waltzing with their proud parents.

VWB
Scott Parkes, senior partner at Taggart Group of Companies, dances with his debutante daughter, Ashbury College student Gillian Parkes, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Sarah Waters dances with her cavalier son, Ashbury College student William Waters, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Giulia Rhodes, a student at Ashbury College, danced with her father, Tony Rhodes, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The ball has added a new program for younger teenagers with an interest in perhaps one day becoming a belle of the ball. They can volunteer as debutantes (or cavaliers)-in-waiting.

VWB
Catherine McLaughlin, co-chair of the VWB, with her daughter Charlotte, a debutante-in-waiting, and Terry McLaughlin, owner of sponsor Terlin Construction, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Luxury real estate agent Tony Rhodes with his wife, Pia, along with Meredithe Rechan and Les Rechan, CEO of tech company Solace, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Dr. Benjamin Chow with his wife, VWB committee member Nancy Chow, and VWB committee member Parmoun Eatemadi and Dr. Shahram Zolfaghari at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
From left, Patrick Dion and his wife, Raylene Lang-Dion, with Christina MacPherson and Dr. Aly Abdulla, who's on the VWB committee, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
Entrepreneur David Luxton with Laura Brown Breetvelt at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
VWB
From left, John Manley, former deputy prime minister and former president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, with his wife, Judith Manley, and lawyer Lynda Bordeleau (Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall) and her husband, Ottawa Police Chief Chuck Bordeleau, at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

CTV Ottawa’s Michael O’Byrne helped as emcee and live auctioneer, selling off an embassy dinner for 10 to be hosted by the Austrian ambassador and his wife at their official residence in Rockcliffe. It sold for $8,500.

Spanish Ambassador Enrique Ruiz Molero and Leticia Herberg Carrera donated a similar dinner,  for 12, at their home. It went for $9,500.

VWB
The Canterbury Senior Jazz Ensemble performs at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
VWB
The choir ensemble from Canterbury High School performed at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

There were also donations made by Howard Fine Jewellers, Sukhoo Sukhoo Couture, Terlin Construction and Ottawa artist Andrew King. His donated painting, The Lonely Cellist, sparked a bidding war that saw Lindgren’s husband, John Lindgren, buy it for $4,300.

VWB
From left, Charlotte McLaughlin and Alexa Nasrallah, both debutantes-in-waiting, hold up the Andrew King painting, The Lonely Cellist, as it's being auctioned off at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
 
VWB
Ashbury College students Isabella Bruinsma and Will Jones at the Viennese Winter Ball: Spring Celebration, held at the Shaw Centre on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca