Viennese Winter Ball gets it dance card ready for big night in Ottawa

Austrian-themed evening at Shaw Centre will raise funds and awareness for youth music education
event launch for Viennese Winter Ball

Sure, it’s all sun and shirt weather now but, come February, an evening of fine dining and dancing to live orchestral music is just what you’ll need to pull through the depths of winter.

Patrons of the annual Viennese Winter Ball were treated Wednesday to a reception, hosted with much warmth and spirit by Austrian Ambassador Stefan Pehringer at his official residence in Rockcliffe.

The ball is slated for Saturday, Feb. 10, in the Trillium Ballroom of the Shaw Centre, but with so much delicious talk happening about schnitzel and spaetzle, it felt like the event couldn’t arrive soon enough. The menu will feature golden-beet borscht, veal schnitzel and a chocolate cake dessert known as Sachertorte.

One of the highlights of the Austrian-themed ball is watching teenaged girls and boys perform Viennese waltzes and other traditional dances. The youth, who attend various area high schools, audition and rehearse at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio during the weeks leading up to the event.

Viennese Winter Ball reception
Viennese Winter Ball, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The ball maintains a long history in this city, founded in 1996 and now into its 21st season.

“I was there the very first year,” recalled Julian Armour, founder and director of the non-profit organization Music and Beyond, which has been running the ball for the past three years. “I’ve always admired it. I feel it’s the most elegant and glamorous event in the entire city.”

Armour touched on the charitable cause: raising money to help youth have better access to music education. Most private schools offer good music programs but only about 21 per cent of elementary schools in Eastern Ontario have a dedicated music teacher, he said.

The room also heard from Chris Spiteri, board chair of Music & Beyond and partner of Spiteri & Ursulak LLP, and from the ambassador. He told everyone how lucky he was to have had music in his life as a child. He learned flute and clarinet and performed in a band (as in brass, not rock). “I think making music together teaches people to cooperate and work with others,” Pehringer told OBJ.social.

Viennese Winter Ball reception
From left, Music and Beyond board chair Chris Spiteri with Austrian Ambassador Stefan Pehringer and Julian Armour, founder and director of Music and Beyond, at a reception hosted by the ambassador at his official residence on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, for patrons of the upcoming Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Attendees included Rob MacDonald, a partner at Gowling WLG and board chair of the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, and members of the large organizing committee, such as long-time supporter Grant McDonald, Ottawa managing partner of KPMG. There are also many new faces this year. Helping out on the committee is Micheline Saikaley, who’s also co-chairing next month's Ashbury Ball. Other supporters include Ward Griffin, president and CEO of the Lowe-Martin Group, and Franklin Holtforster, ‎president and CEO at Colliers Project Leaders Inc.

Viennese Winter Ball reception
Rob MacDonald, board chair of the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, with his wife, Claire, at a reception hosted by the Austrian ambassador at his official residence in Rockcliffe on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, for patrons of the upcoming Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball reception
From left, Ward Griffin, president and CEO of the Lowe-Martin Group, with Julian Armour at a reception hosted by the Austrian ambassador at his official residence in Rockcliffe on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, for patrons of the upcoming Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Viennese Winter Ball reception
Organizing committee member Birgitte Alting-Mees with her husband Franklin Holtforster at a reception hosted by the Austrian ambassador at his official residence in Rockcliffe on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, for patrons of the upcoming Viennese Winter Ball. Photo by Caroline Phillips

This year’s Viennese Winter Ball is shaping up to be great, according to Armour.

“It’s really coming together well. I think we’re going to be way ahead of where we were last year, in terms of sponsorship, attendees, revenue and money to the beneficiaries,” he told OBJ.social.

Proceeds from the ball go to Music and Beyond’s young people’s initiatives, Thirteen Strings Orchestra for its junior orchestra, and the OrKidstra music education charity. Single tickets go for $450 and tables start at $3,600.

- caroline@obj.ca