The Walrus Gala, Toronto
Shelley Ambrose, the executive director and publisher of The Walrus, and Helen Burstyn, who chairs the Walrus Foundation, were on hosting duties at the 11th-annual Walrus Gala on Jan. 23. The cheer-filled mid-winter evening saw a room full of literature-loving guests raise funds for the beloved magazine and foundation that publishes it. Between courses, the usual helping of thank-yous and speeches were served to the supporters who dotted the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto. But also taking the stage was a special guest, Julie Payette, Canada’s 29th Governor-General (the former Walrus Talk-giver was a guest of long-time Walrus supporter Pierre Lassonde). She spoke, sans script, of her time at school in Toronto and her love of Canada. Later, it was financier and Walrus board member Ira Gluskin’s time at the podium; he professed his love for the publication, and announced he and wife Maxine Granovsky-Gluskin’s decision to join the Walrus Trust, a small but growing group of super-givers committed to securing the future of fact-based journalism. Mr. Gluskin and his wife join a list that includes, among others, my seatmate, philanthropist Rosemary Phelan, the trust’s lead donor; philanthropist and financier Donald Ross and his wife, Gretchen, and Margaret McCain, who alongside daughter, Eleanor McCain, served as honorary chairs.
Calgary Opera Valentine Ball, Calgary
Another love-fest took place a couple of weeks later and a little further west, at Calgary Opera’s Valentine Ball. The fund- and awareness-raising event may still be in its infancy, but local lovers of opera seem to have fallen madly for the gathering: This latest, the third incarnation, was held on Feb. 9 at the Fairmont Palliser and drew more than 150 supporters. The evening is focused on raising funds for the Emerging Artist Development Program, which offers up to eight Canadian junior vocalists the chance to study under esteemed staff members, instructors and fellow (though more advanced) performers. The opportunity, which is unlike any other program in Canada, serves as a sort of bridge between academic programs and the world of professional opera. A performance by current members of the program was on offer, and later they were joined by program alumnus and Broadway star Andrew Love for a number from Les Misérables. Love starred in Calgary Opera’s recent Canadian premiere of Everest (the work’s composer, Joby Talbot, attended the do), which served as inspiration for the winter-timed and -themed gathering. Interior designer Jerilyn Wright and the boldly bespectacled branding and communications pro Sharie Hunter served as the gala’s co-chairs.