June 17, 2014 at 1:00 am


DSO Heroes Gala draws fans from the Emerald Isle

The Garden Party co-founders Sydney and Elizabeth Ross, left, share a moment with daughter-in-law Meggan Carney-Ross and son Josh Ross. (Martin LeFlore / Special to The Detroit News)

Boy, does James Close know how to plan a surprise. His girlfriend, Sorcha McCague, is an accomplished concert harpist and diehard fan of Oscar-winning composer John Williams. So it only seemed natural that Close, a doctor, should treat his favorite girl to tickets to the DSO’s fourth annual Heroes Gala and concert featuring Williams along with legendary director Steven Spielberg. The event took place Saturday at Orchestra Hall in midtown Detroit.

Here’s the kicker: Close and McCague live in Dublin, Ireland. For them, attending this gala also meant a 10-hour plane ride to Detroit, a place where neither of them has ever been. If that weren’t enough, unfortunately, the two-day excursion included a delayed flight and temporarily lost luggage.

“None of that matters,” beamed McCague. “This is one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and the concert and gala were beyond magical.”

That was the general consensus of the 550 guests who attended the concert and gala, whose travel time for the most part was less than one-tenth of the time absorbed by Close and McCague. Gala ticketholders witnessed the Heroes Award presentation to Dan Gilbert and Matt Cullen and enjoyed a cocktail reception with music from the Ben Sharkey Quartet.

The house was filled with prominent Metro Detroiters, including Kid Rock, Philip and Lauren Fisher, Art Van Elslander and Sarah Cuyler, Nate and Cathy Forbes, David and Jennifer Forbes, and GM’s Mary Barra, to mention a few. After the dreamlike concert conducted by Williams and narrated by Spielberg, gala guests were ushered into the mystically decorated Music Box and the Allesee Rehearsal Hall for a gourmet meal prepared by Forte Belanger. Tickets to the gala and concert ranged from $500 to $10,000 per person, raising $1.3 million.

Basking in sunshine

Sydney Ross, co-owner of Great Lakes Wine and Spirits, who co-founded the Garden Party with his wife, Elizabeth, made a promise to his friends that there would be perfect garden party weather — sunny and warm — for the outdoor charity event that took place at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills on the afternoon of June 8. Well, that morning, Mother Nature had a different plan.

Yep, chilly thunderstorms.

But lo and behold, just moments before guests were scheduled to arrive, the clouds parted, the sun came out and the temperature rose to a balmy 77 degrees. Ross joked about having “connections” as some 600 people filed onto the perfectly manicured grounds of Meadow Brook Hall for one of this area’s most prominent annual food and wine events.

About 30 top local restaurants served up samples of their finest dishes alongside hundreds of fine wines. Nationally recognized vintner Larry Mawby was on hand, greeting guests at the entrance with his well-known sparkling wine from Leelanau County. Many guests brought their classic cars for display, including a 1971 Chrysler Hemi Cuda Tribute Convertible and a 1970 Ferrari Dino 246GT.

The Garden Party event was initiated and is maintained by the J. Lewis Cooper family and Elizabeth and Sydney L. Ross Foundation. Its mission is to support multiple charities and use the money raised to support various causes.

This year, presented by Advance Engineering Co., the Garden Party will benefit Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, Children’s Tumor Foundation and OCC Culinary Studies Institute. Tickets were $150 and nearly $200,000 was raised.

Chuck Bennett is the Fox 2 News Style Ambassador and the creator of the Social D, a website that represents the social side of Metropolitan Detroit. See thesociald.com.

Dr. James Close and concert harpist Sorcha McCague came from Dublin, ... (Martin LeFlore / Special to The Detroit News)
Cathy and Nate Forbes attended the concert and gala. (Martin LeFlore / The Detroit News)