Out to a Fancy Gala : The Royal Occasion


As mentioned in my last post (here), we were at the music venue, Koerner Hall, twice within a week, last week.

This time we were there for an event that we look forward to every year, called The Royal Occasion, hosted by The Royal Conservatory of Music. It is an event during which three people who’ve made a significant contribution arts and culture in Canada, are presented with an Honorary Fellowship. Our friend Isabel works at the conservatory and we are thankful to be invited each year.

There was a Gala Dinner for conservatory sponsors beforehand, which wasn’t quite finished when we arrived so we had time to check out some of the vintage instruments and a sculpture in their collection. (If you’re interested, I showed some of the wind instruments and sculptures in this previous post from the 2013 party, which happened to be where we first met our now good friend Andrea. I like it because there’s a picture of me sitting in my seat in the hall and Andrea is sitting directly in front of me, but we were strangers at the time, only to meet for the first time about an hour after the shot was taken. Here is the write-up from last year, when I got a selfie with Ron Sexsmith).


↑ A Three-keyed Leather Bound serpent circa 1760 ↑


↑ A Harpsichord ↑


↑ Franz Liszt ↑

Part of the evening was spent within the music hall itself, enjoying performances by some of the students of the conservatory and by the three inductees.

Isabel thought it would be fun if we changed our usual vantage point for the show, and arranged for seats in the upper balcony.




The show began with a piano piece played by 14 year old Coco Ma, who had had her debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of 9. It was mesmerizing hearing and seeing such a talented young person play so well, wearing a floor length pink gown, sitting so poised at the Steinway Grand piano. She memorized the music (Alberto Ginastera’s Danza Argeninas, Op 2, parts 2 and 3) and played it by heart, with no sheet music.

The inductees were given the stage, one at a time. Each performed for about 10 minutes, stepped up to the podium and spoke a bit. Then their framed certificates were unveiled.

This year they were : (listed in the order they were introduced)

– Mario Romano : While he is a very successful businessman (see his site including his bio here), he has also clearly always been into playing music. His jazz band performed with Mario on piano, a stand-up bass player and a drummer (who used brushes). They were great.

– James Ehnes : He began playing the violin at 4. At 39 he has performed in 30 countries and won many awards (see his site including his bio here). He played a one-of-a-kind violin that is 300 years old – the Marsick Stradivarius. It was breathtaking to hear.

– Buffy Sainte-Marie : You know who she is, but if you’d like details, here’s a link to a wiki page about her and here’s her website. Buffy and her band played 3 songs, including Universal Soldier, which she later told the audience she wrote at The Purple Onion in Yorkville in the early 60s. Seeing her perform live was such a gift.

The presentations were followed by a final onstage performance, 12 year old pianist Sunny Zhai, accompanied by an orchestra, students at the conservatory. If you’d like to be blown away by her remarkable skill, check out this Youtube video, filmed when she was only 10. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, I encourage you to let it play in the background. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself clicking back just to see this child playing her home piano, dressed in a fluffy pink turtleneck and green corduroy pants. It’s over 7 minutes, all played by heart. Stunning.

A quick selfie while still in our seats …


Since we were on the second floor, when we exited the hall into the reception area we were up on a balcony.


This gave us an awesome view of the crowd below.



We hadn’t seen our friend since February (when she brought us these bagels from Montreal) and were long overdue for a visit, so we decided to stay up where it was quieter, to talk a bit, while a live band played on the main floor.



The party was catered by 10tation Event Planning.

They always serve such wonderful baked goods at this event. On the way over to the party (we took the streetcar and subway), I told Nick that I had saved room at dinner so I could try one of everything. But I failed – there was so much variety presented I just couldn’t do it. I tried though.

The desserts were so pretty and delicious. My favourite of what I tasted was the tiny canoe-shaped lemon mirengue pie, with a shortbread crust. Nick particularly liked the macarons and Isabel chose a little cheesecake tart with a filigree pattern on top as her fave.



The exquisite floral beauty included lilies, lilac, sweet peas and hydrangeas, lit by candles in lovely vintage-looking mercury glass holders, and was thanks to Stemz.



The sounds from the live band eventually lured us downstairs. They were called Asiko Afrobeat and were so much fun.



We found a table near the band.






We’ve been to to this event a few times now, and I’ve never seen people dancing. But this band had people moving big time.


It was such a good night and we appreciate having been invited.

Thanks very much for checking out my post. I hope you have a great weekend.
xo Lou