A classical event, with a Chinese twist

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From left, Karen Corsten, Donna Scorpio and Sharon McGarry at the Fête Champêtre garden party for the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, held Thursday, June 7, 2012, at the residence of the Chinese ambassador in Rockcliffe Park. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

You wouldn’t have wanted to skip this year’s Fête Champêtre garden party for the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. Not for all the tea in China.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai opened up his official residence to OSO supporters on Thursday, offering 250 guests a rare chance to visit the Rockcliffe Park property.

Visitors arrived to find several luxury cars from John Mierins’ St. Laurent Automotive Group on display out front. Inside the grand home, the ambassador received guests alongside OSO board president Martha Hynna and event chairman Rod Bryden, CEO of Plasco Energy Group.

In the backyard, a quartet played classical music under the poolside gazebo while guests mingled over drinks and food on a picturesque evening. OSO music director and conductor David Currie was seen catching up with former Around Town columnist Margo Roston while OSO special events chair Snookie Lomow was bustling about with her clipboard in hand.

The embassy played first-time host to the annual fundraiser thanks to good connections and good neighbours (Lomow lives in the same building as the embassy’s cultural counsellor, Lin Difu).

In his speech, the ambassador cited cultural interactions as an example of how China and Canada can strengthen their bond. Both countries have agreed to hold a series of cultural activities on each other’s soil in 2013 and 2014.

“The people of our two countries will have more chances to appreciate the nature of each other’s culture and develop, correspondingly, better knowledge and closer friendship between each other,” said Zhang.

Attendees included Mayor Jim Watson, who had Around Town hot on his tail as he left for his next fundraiser at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

PUTTING THE ART IN PARTY

Oh, to have been a well-drawn stick figure. It would have made for easier manoeuvring through the thick crowd of artists, collectors and enthusiasts at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s popular art auction Thursday.

Some 450 attendees ate, drank and bid the night away at the public art gallery located in the Arts Court. Le pArty, chaired by Leslie McKay, raised $95,000-plus through ticket sales, sponsorship and the selling of 66 works from area artists.

OAG board chairman Lawson Hunter, counsel at lead sponsor Stikeman Elliott LLP, bought an office-bound mixed media work by Maniwaki-born artist Étienne Gélinas. Art collectors Glenn and Barb McInnes, who recently donated 35 works to the OAG, couldn’t resist the bidding temptation; Glenn acquired photo-based artist Jeff Thomas’ Buffalo Boy Meets Champlain.

It was fun to see Victor Rabinovitch and his wife, Miriam Bloom, so enthused with their purchase of ceramic artist Jim Thomson’s four-panel piece, I’ll Eat This. It’s inspired by the local cuisine of China, where son Simon Rabinovitch is Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times.

Canada Council Art Bank director Victoria Henry was vying for Jonathan Hobin’s The Pied Piper, but it went to Christina Selin from McCaffrey Haute Couture. Selin plans at some point to hang the photo piece at partner David McCaffrey’s flagship boutique store on Sussex Drive.

New this year were the critics’ choice awards selected by Henry, artist Michèle Provost and the Citizen’s Peter Simpson. “There were so many good works here; it was almost impossible to make a decision,” said Henry. Their final picks were pieces by Hobin, Andrew Morrow, Carol Wainio and Anna Williams.

ROCKIN’ POLITICOS

Not since the Pacific Railway Scandal of 1873 has Parliament Hill been rocked like it was Wednesday by Karkwa and The Sheepdogs.

Heritage Minister James Moore hosted his second music night at the National Arts Centre’s Studio for the political set. The minister was absent, having gone across the pond for the Diamond Jubilee in London and the PM’s meeting with France’s new president in Paris. So, Moore’s colleague Rona Ambrose filled in for him.

A bunch of MPs caught most of the show before heading back to work to do that “vote thing,” as so casually put by Sheepdogs frontman Ewan Currie in some brief onstage banter.

Among the sponsors was TD Canada Trust CEO Tim Hockey, who told the full house how he’d met The Sheepdogs backstage. He learned that the shaggy-haired retro rock band from Saskatoon survived off a $7,500 line of credit from his bank when it was getting started eight years ago. The bank is happy to take credit for the three-time Juno Award-winning band’s success and, why not? “We took all their interest,” Hockey kidded.

Sighted at the post-concert reception were such bigwigs from the music industry as Music Canada’s Graham Henderson, Deane Cameron (EMI Music Canada), Steve Kane (Warner Music Canada), and Shane Carter (Sony Music Entertainment Canada).

Members of The Sheepdogs were seen chowing down and chatting with fans while Karkwa frontman Louis-Jean Cormier was checking out a digital image Quebecor’s Serge Sasseville was eager to show him of a painting he owned. It was done by Ottawa-born artist Marc Séguin. His work is on Karkwa’s album cover for Les Chemins De Verre. That’s the album that won the francophone indie rock band from Montreal the 2010 Polaris Music Prize.

HELP FOR SMALL FARMERS

If only attendees of OneProsper International’s gala dinner could have bottled some of the damp weather to lately hit Ottawa.

“We don’t need irrigation we need a drain,” quipped Clearford Industries CEO Bruce Linton, one of about 90 attendees seen ducking out of the rain last Sunday and into the East India Company restaurant on Somerset Street West.

The inaugural dinner raised $7,500 for OneProsper, an Ottawa-based charity that provides poor farmers in Southern India with irrigation systems to boost their crop yield.

“I believe that helping small farmers to grow more crops is the best solution for alleviating hunger and poverty,” Raju Agarwal, executive director of OneProsper, told Around Town at the event, which also showcased Hindustani classical music and Indian classical dance.

Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon and his pal, entrepreneur Perry Mody, were out supporting the event, as were A&A Pharmachem co-founder Atul Aggarwal, and Citizen deputy editor Carl Neustaedter with his journalist wife, Louisa Taylor.

Also spotted were OneProsper board chair Greg Boyle, managing partner of StoneWood Group, and board members Rajiv Muradia, CEO of MobileWellbeing, and Mark Saunders of Saunders Farm in Munster.

Carolyn001@sympatico.ca

Connect with Caroline Phillips |carolyn001@sympatico.ca