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Gala celebrates 100 years of live symphonic music

May 13, 2024

Gala celebrates 100 years of live symphonic music

Offhand, there could easily have been 100 different ways the Colorado Symphony could have marked its centennial year – and indeed many of them were part of the orchestra’s Centennial Gala, held May 4 at Mission Ballroom.

There was music, of course, and lots of it. Plus, a lively cocktail hour where guests could enjoy specialty drinks and five different types of hors d’oeuvres while placing silent auction bids and catching up with fellow supporters of symphonic music.

A filet mignon dinner followed, with resident conductor Christopher Dragon leading the orchestra through classical selections and solo spots featuring concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams, principal trumpet Justin Bartels and principal harp Courtney Hershey Bress.

Sierra Boggess, a Denver native turned Broadway star, was the special guest, bringing the audience to its feet with a series of songs from several of her favorite shows.

She also recalled that she had first performed with the Colorado Symphony when she was a member of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. At the time, she said, “I didn’t know what Broadway was. My ambition was to be a Barnstormer at the Country Dinner Playhouse.”

Boggess made her Broadway debut as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and has subsequently had key roles in “The School of Rock,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and the London productions of “Les Misérables” and “Love Never Dies.”

Yet another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Margaret Phipps Award to the Butler family. The award was created in 1993 to honor the philanthropic contributions and memory of Margaret Rodgers Phipps, a Denver native who served two terms as president of the Denver Symphony Association and was a passionate advocate for music and the arts.

The Butler family’s association with Colorado Symphony began with the late Brad and Erna Butler and continues with their children, Jim Butler and Nancy Accetta, and their spouses, Sharon Butler and Tony Accetta.

Nancy Accetta is a past chair of Bright Beginnings, an early childhood education nonprofit started by her father, and currently chairs the symphony’s Women of Note. Her husband is a symphony trustee.

Jim Butler is treasurer of the symphony board and has served on the boards of Servicios de la Raza, Mile High United Way and Swallow Hill Music Association. Sharon Butler is on the board of Warren Village and for 10 years has been a volunteer tax return preparer for AARP.

“The Butler family has established a true legacy through service and philanthropy,” said Mark Cantrell, the orchestra’s president and chief executive officer. “They’ve been amazing partners … and with their support the symphony has grown to the thriving artistic organization it is today.”

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston was there to congratulate the symphony on its milestone anniversary, noting that “Colorado is incredibly lucky to have this world-class orchestra in our midst.”

Marta O’Grady, an administrative director in the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s department of surgery, chaired the Centennial Gala. Her committee included Gretchen Hollrah, executive director of Denver Arts & Venues; Brook Ferguson, the symphony’s principal flute; and Alex Thomas, an associate with the Sherman & Howard law firm.

The evening’s proceeds are expected to top $700,000.