We know classical music can inspire flames of passion, but why were firefighters stationed in the kitchen at the annual fund-raising event of the Orchestre Symphonique Montreal?
The reason was something many events take for granted – a hot entrée. This was something that the caterer, Yves Levesque of Danserau Traiteur, had lobbied for over the past couple years. Because Montreal Symphony Hall is lined with Canadian beechwood the fire department was apprehensive about the idea of a hot entrée. But after years of cold meals at the annual fundraiser, in 2013, with firefighters stationed in the kitchen itself, patrons got their first hot entrée: filet of veal with figs and candied lemon.
It’s important to include such showstopping touches at annual philanthropic events. After all, the stakes are high: the main objective is to get donors to return year after year. The planning team of Dansereau Traiteur, the designer, Dick Walsh, and Catherine Lussier from the Symphony has certainly done its job at the symphony gala; in five years the event has grown from 550 attendees to more than 700.
The entrée was not the only hot item on the table. Walsh, a powerhouse international designer who has designed the event since 2008, found inspiration in the idea of one large floral print going down the middle of the table. Instead of traditional linens, but chose the unexpected — an actual photo on a static transparent sticker custom created for the table.
“For me, a dinner table is like a movie,” says Walsh. “Every element has a role.”
This year the flower was the star. The die-cut sticker is Walsh’s signature style that he has used on china plates, but this time he blew it up to fit down the entire length of the custom-built 8×42-foot tables.
To produce the table, Walsh turned Carl Vosko’s Celebrations, a 52-year-old, family-owned Montreal rental company that has been involved with the OSM for 25 years. Vosko brought in Celebration’s sister company, Celebrations FX, for lighting, sound and multimedia to help “set the table” and make it shine.
“The table was designed in-house and produced locally through several of our manufacturers,” Vosko says. “Most illuminated tables feature standard LED. But we worked hard to come up with a technique that illuminates, yet gives a painterly effect.”
The size of table allowed sufficient space for the floral photo, the simple centerpieces (a medley of pink and variegated carnations and roses) charger plates, and glassware which maintained the effect without too much clutter.
With 55 tables finished on-site, the room took 14 hours to complete. With the change they saw this year, it will not surprise anyone when the patrons of OSM return next year to see what new tricks Levesque, Walsh, Vosko have up their sleeves.