- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

THE EVENT: The Choral Arts Society of Washington's 20th annual Christmas concert and ball.

THE BUZZ: It was one of those memorable moments, and it happened sometime between the "Tea for Two" cha-cha and a nice little rumba version of "Besame Mucho."

No sooner had Jack Sloat and Magda Chrobog, Lucky Roosevelt and Dick Goodyear, Arturo and Hilda Brillembourg and other merry souls gotten the dancing started to the pulsating rhythms of Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends than the news began rippling through the crowd: The Supreme Court finally had handed down its decision in the presidential election case.

The only problem was that no one could figure out what the decision truly meant because of its length and complex legal language, a situation that caused some indigestion at tables where Washington insiders were just about to dig in to their roasted rack of lamb pistou with grilled asparagus and baby carrots wrapped in white radish bundles.

"C.D. Ward just heard the court decided for Bush," said Brad Alexander, all smiles at table 19.

"They're going to send it back to Florida," Mayor Anthony A. Williams reported in a news flash he soon shared with his table mates, including Democratic fund-raisers Ron and Beth Dozoretz and Proxicom founder Raoul Fernandez.

After a call to his office, ABC newsman Chris Wallace knew little more than before. "ABC and NBC came out with completely different reports," he said with some frustration as news junkies gathered around the table where he and his wife, Lorraine, were hosts.

"Typical of the media, they can't get anything right," someone cracked — eliciting a tension-breaking laugh that finally put things in perspective at the capital's most beloved holiday bash.

That meant getting back to the things that really count: dining, dancing and making merry with friends.

THE THEME: Spain was the featured country this year, and that meant plenty of Spanish music at the Kennedy Center concert, including the 180-member chorus's moving processional hymn, "Riu, riu Chiu"; Castilian and Catalan carols (one performed by a remarkable castanets soloist); and "Silent Night," which conductor Norman Scribner commanded the audience to sing in Spanish whether they could pronounce the words or not.

"[Guest soprano] Lisa Willson is going to sing it first, and that's your study time," Mr. Scribner told the thousand-strong audience, whose performance later was commended graciously by Spanish Ambassador Javier Ruperez, the event's honorary chairman.

For the post-performance dinner-dance, benefit chairwoman Connie Carter Lawson had superbly transformed the Ritz-Carlton's ballroom into a night in Old Spain, with specially designed murals depicting the Alhambra and the great mosque at Cordoba covering an entire wall. Instead of taking a first course served at the tables, the 640 guests mixed and mingled at tapas bars, choosing from among marinated salmon, Serrano ham, calimari and a selection of delicious Spanish cheeses, among other delicacies.

The music was the biggest hit, and though it wasn't exactly Spanish, the South American sounds proved popular with the lively crowd that thronged the dance floor until well after midnight.

Lynda Webster admitted she could "dance to anything after a few rum and cokes," but others required further inducement before abandoning wallflower status. "I need about seven drinks before I can do that," said Percy Reynolds, obviously a die-hard waltz and fox-trot man, as an energetic couple merengued past.

KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLES: Thanks to finance chairman C. Gregory Earls, the genial chairman and chief executive of U.S. Technologies Inc., the benefit raised about $450,000, with the bulk of the proceeds coming from donors at the $6,000, $10,000 and $25,000 levels.

To further help the cause, Mr. Earls had persuaded many of the moguls to sit together at four "power tables" (with primo dance-floor views) rather than at their own individual tables of 10 — which meant that numerous seats could, in effect, be sold twice.

"We raised prices and sold out in September, before the invitations even went out," Mr. Earls reported with some satisfaction, making sure to thank Jonathan Ledecky; Michael Saylor; William Eacho; Gilbert and Jaylee Mead; and Mrs. Lawson's husband, David, among the many magnanimous contributors who were there and James Kimsey, Joe Robert and others who were not.

An additional $100,00 or so from the silent auction (chaired by Linda Huguely Camalier) should guarantee a Feliz Navidad indeed for the choral arts.

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