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MSO fans get taste of Egypt at ball

November 02, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Some have said the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is the jewel of Hagerstown.

How fitting, then, that the MSO Guild would choose "Egypt, Jewel of the Nile" as the theme for its 2008 ball and auction.

Guests were greeted Saturday night on the Fountain Head Country Club lawn by a statuesque camel named Miranda, who was draped in fine linen. Behind her were a model pyramid situated in sand, and flaming torches jutting from the landscape. People lined up before entering the ball to have their pictures taken in the desert vista.

Guild President Linda Hood conceived of the theme and thought the camel would add panache.

"We thought it would provide a dramatic entrance to the event," she said.

Guild member Connie Richards of Hagerstown, who has traveled to Egypt many times, served as chairwoman of the decorating committee. Inside the building, hallway ceilings were draped with neutral fabric and the lobby floor was graced with fine oriental rugs. A camel saddle and Egyptian artifacts and prints conveyed the feeling of a Bedouin tent. In the dining room, hookah pipes served as exotic centerpieces, and a grand mural of King Tut overlooked the band.

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In the auction tent, guests dug through the sands of a jewel pool for $20 per scoop. Landing a semiprecious jewel put them in the running to win a piece of jewelry from R. Bruce Carson Jewelers.

Ancient Egyptian attire was optional. Jody Long of Hagerstown planned to wear a dangling silver-beaded headdress, but chose not to because it flattened her hair. Instead, her husband, Nicholas, wore the piece. Beads dangled and swayed along his forehead and just above his shoulders.

"It covers up some of my aging issues," Nicholas Long joked.

Beth Beckner-Mills wore a simple black dress enlivened by accessories, including an ornate wrap draped over one shoulder, a beaded necklace and gold cartouche earrings that bore her name in hieroglyphics. Most striking, though, were her black-banged wig, her gold-beaded headdress and her gold asp with emerald eyes. Beckner-Mills said she "fell in love" with Egypt as an art history undergraduate and went on to work there for the State Department.

Hood said 205 people attended the fundraising event. Tickets cost $125 each and the guild hoped to raise $70,000 to benefit MSO programs.

David Steele, 62, of Frederick, Md., said he regularly goes to MSO concerts, but was attending the MSO ball and auction for the first time in its 27-year history.

"I love (the MSO). It's fabulous," Steele said. "It's crazy. It's so good and it's gotten better every year."

Jeanne and Michael Stoner of Hagerstown said they regularly attend the MSO ball and auction.

"I think this year is more creative than ever," Jeanne Stoner said. "We love the camel and the gem digging."

MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze called the event "excellent" and "beautiful."

"Everyone seems to be going with the spirit of the evening," she said. "The MSO is better than ever. I'm coming up on my 10th year here. I feel completely a part of this community. I feel the orchestra is a part, in so many ways, of our endeavors to make the community stronger.

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