- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

“T his will not be the last time I see you,” maestro Leonard Slatkin announced to a standing ovation upon receiving the Laura E. Phillips Angel of the Arts Award Saturday at the gala marking the 65th anniversary of the Cathedral Choral Society.

J. Reilly Lewis, the society’s music director, eloquently introduced his former Juilliard classmate by recalling Mr. Slatkin’s response to inquiries about what it takes to become a good conductor: “Good teeth and a nice smile.”

After 35 years of wielding his baton, including 11 years with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), Mr. Slatkin, a recent victim of the airline bad weather flight cancellation debacle, is looking forward to being able to say “no” and be “more selective” regarding the many requests he receives for concert dates. Although he has no long-range plans after stepping down as music director of the NSO later this year — except spending more time with his family — Mr. Slatkin is scheduled to conduct the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of “The Ghosts of Versailles” in 2010.

Cathedral Choral Society supporters attend the gala with relish, knowing they will find just the right gift for that special occasion at what is one of the best silent auctions in town. Gifts of wine and liquor were generously donated by various embassies, with Sweden’s basket containing Orrefors crystal, two bottles of Absolut Vodka (among other items) topping the list.

There was also live bidding, conducted by Tom Weschler in between the iceberg lettuce salad and Vidalia onion-encrusted beef, which racked up major dollars, especially the surprise auction to provide orchestral support of the society that contributed $25,500 to the live auction proceeds of $49,600.

The “family get-together” of local performing arts supporters included Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre, overheard discussing with former Angel of the Arts award recipient Dorothy McSweeny his Virginia Wolfe “Orlando”-inspired choreography concept for the upcoming production of Carl Orffs’ “Carmina Burana.” The production features 120 Cathedral Choral Society members and 40 St. Albans School choristers accompanying 28 of his company’s dancers.

Spinning yarns before the farewell hour of 11 p.m. were NSO President Michael Brewer, the Shakespeare Theatre’s Nicholas Goldsborough (plotting another joint venture with Mr. Webre), Pepco’s J. William Sim, Jill Downs (looking most Irish on St. Patrick’s Day with orange-red hair and a dark green velvet gown) and husband Lawrence Brown, Diana and Doug Dykstra and Charles Kovatch, whose green sequined bow-tie proved an attention grabber as well.

—Jennifer Crier Johnston

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