Ottawa business leaders, arts supporters raise $30,000 at Viennese Winter Ball

Caroline Phillips
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Black tuxedos adorned with red rose boutonnieres and white ball gowns paired with long satin gloves is the sort of strictly adhered to dress code worn by two dozen young men and women for their choreographed waltz at the Viennese Winter Ball, accompanied by the sweeping sounds of the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra.

It was an evening of elegance, sophistication and Austrian culture, drawing 250 guests to the scenic Trillium Ballroom of the Shaw Centre on Saturday for fine dining and ballroom dancing, in support of classical music programs for youth.

Liza Mrak, executive vice president of the Mark Motors Audi dealership, was back to chair the $450-a-ticket event with Grant McDonald, regional managing partner of KPMG.

Mr. McDonald told OBJ how lucky he was to have great access to music programs, and to reap the developmental benefits, during his own public school education years in Ottawa. “It’s really hard to get that today,” opined Mr. McDonald, a long-time supporter of the arts. “It’s all been stripped out of the school boards, so you’ve got to do it in other ways.”

More than $30,000 was raised that night to help kids gain exposure to classical music through OrKidstra, the Junior Thirteen Strings, and Music and Beyond’s programming for youth.

Attendees included Austria’s new ambassador, Stefan Pehringer, who can add this item to his list of things to do while in Canada: host a dinner for 10. It was auctioned off for $5,500 to top bidder Franklin Holtforster, president and CEO of Colliers Project Leaders. He also bought a getaway to Chateau Montebello for $1,500, with a rented Mercedes.

Gen. Jon Vance was among the special guests. So was Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi. He certainly earned his dinner – featuring a main course of braised beef Tafelspitz – by helping as celebrity auctioneer. He sold a Birks necklace for $1,000 to Chris Spiteri, senior partner at Spiteri & Ursulak and the board chair of Music and Beyond. It’s one of the event partners.

During the evening, the 250 guests were treated to a performance by soprano Donna Brown. As well, the youthful debutantes and cavaliers took to the dance floor to demonstrate their carefully rehearsed polonaise, as well as a waltz performed to the nostalgically charming tune Edelweiss.

Melissa Krulick from Fred Astaire Dance Studio got rhythmless wallflowers and dancing machines alike in the spotlight together for a crash course on the quadrille, a processional court dance.

The most touching performance was by Glebe Collegiate Institute student Devanand Buettner with his mother, Renu Khullar, who’s currently in treatment for breast cancer.

After her diagnosis last summer, Ms. Khullar worried she might not live to dance with her son at his wedding one day. So, she convinced her sporty teen to take lessons with her at the Fred Astaire studio and to participate as a cavalier in the Viennese ball.

Mr. Buettner never imagined himself as the ballroom-dancing type. “It’s been great,” he conceded. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it.”

Organizations: Shaw Centre, Mark Motors Audi, KPMG Chateau Montebello Glebe Collegiate Institute

Geographic location: Ottawa, Austria, Canada Ontario

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