There are few people in Orange County who care more and work harder for the cultural enrichment of the community than Corona del Mar's Sharon McNalley.
The diminutive woman, with snow white hair and a velvety-soft speaking tone, belies the real strength of purpose that she exemplifies: the promotion of a musical organization known as the Hutchins Consort.
It is a matter of cultural as well as intellectual pride. And it is a family affair.
Sharon's son, Joe McNalley, leads the musical ensemble made up of eight acoustically matched violins. The consort takes its name from the late Carleen Hutchins, an internationally respected luthier. Some of Hutchins' octets are in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Performing its inaugural concert in Orange County at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in the year 2000, Joe McNalley and his troupe have perfected their unique performance style for the past 12 years with concerts at local, national and international venues. They do so with the behind-the-scenes support of mother Sharon McNalley and a cadre of high-minded musical devotees who believe in the Consort and its highly creative and unusual style.
On Sunday night in Newport Beach, the Hutchins Consort fronted a dinner and performance at the Pacific Club that was both fundraiser and salon gathering.
Called for four in the afternoon, the gala committee, led by chairwoman Kathryn Smith with support from co-chairwoman Rosita Brown, welcomed the crowd to a massive silent auction cocktail reception. Committee members bringing together the generous donations from local business leaders and Hutchins Consort donors included Susan Beechner, Sabra Bordas, Bobbitt Williams, Barbara Woods, Betty and David Comgys, Ruth Ann and Robert Burns, Shell Grossman and Jan Landstrom.
Also working to raise the financial bar were Nella O'Grady, Alma Vanasse, Marilyn Stevens, Denny Scholz, Sharon Morrison, Sharon and Harvey Fair and Karen Cornell. Many, if not all of these individuals, are found on the rosters of the O.C.'s cultural elite. To clarify, not cultural elitist, but rather elite.
They exemplify people who support cultural pursuit, in this case the Hutchins Consort, because they deeply believe in the importance of classically trained musicians and performers securing their place in the present and future cultural landscape.
In a manner of speaking, these people have become extended family with a bond that is quite special. The Sunday evening at the Pacific Club was more of a cultural salon gathering than just another fundraiser and dinner.
Major support came from community activist Margaret Gates, Martha and Jack Larson, attending with son Bruce Larson and granddaughter Nicole. The respected Jane Grier was in the crowd as was Dorothy Ray, Donna and Ernie Schroeder, Audrey Schneiderman, Nora and Jim Johnson, Victoria and David Collins, and erudite Armine and Vahe Megrhrouni.
Guests were ushered into the main salon following the auction/reception, as the Hutchins Consort took to the stage. Founding artistic director Joe McNalley (on the enormous contrabass violin) joined Frederick Charlton, Maksim Velichkin, Pete Jacobson, Adrienne Woods, Kevin Connolly, Beth Folsom and Christopher Woods for a performance billed as "The Birds, The B's and The Beatles."
The whimsical program traveled from the classical to classic rock. McNalley and friends had the crowd singing the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" at one point in the show.
The comedic antics and remarkable skill of Christopher Woods on the tiny treble violin added joy to the evening. A standing ovation capped the Hutchins Consort performance, and dinner was served in the posh private dining room.
The Pacific Club always serves a first-class presentation. A salad sprinkled with Nasturtium blossoms drizzled with champagne vinaigrette preceded a delicious pan-roasted chicken and pea-pecorino risotto.
Spotted in the celebratory dining room were the lovely Barbara Steinberg, Suzi Lyon, Adeline and Bob Mah, Ann McLean, Chris Smith, Warren Coy, Beth McNalley, and Charles and Marjorie Ringwalt.
For more information about the Hutchins Consort, please call (949) 675-6010.
THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.