Symphony performs at Shangri La Botanical Gardens

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

What started as an experiment three years ago has in short order become a classic, must-attend annual event; symphonic music wafting through Shangri La gardens on a perfect evening. Gentle late afternoon breezes drifted through the venue, adding to the glorious setting under old oak trees on the main lawn surrounded by manicured gardens with sprays of colorful flowers with a canopy of blue skies and fluffy white clouds overhead.

The Symphony of Southeast Texas, formerly known as Beaumont Symphony retooled its mission statement and lived out the vision by again performing at Shangri La gardens on Sunday for several hundred attendees settled into folding chairs, some groups had picnic baskets with all the fixings.

Rick Lewandowski is the Director of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center and responsible for providing the vision, leadership, and strategic direction to fulfill Shangri La’s mission.

Lewandowski said, “Several years ago Chelesa Tipton had a dream to create an outdoor concert. When he toured the gardens with us we knew we had a perfect venue. I am so pleased we can again host the symphony this year.”

“Bringing music, art, nature, and culture together benefits all of us,” Lewandowski added.

Lynae Sanford, Lutcher Theater Managing Director said, “The concert was originally schedule for October 2017 but Hurricane Harvey happened. Although the gardens are currently closed for renovation we are so glad we could open the grounds for this event.”

Douglas Fair, Executive Director of the symphony said, “This has all been made possible by a joint venture of the Stark Foundation and we are so appreciative of that. They are wonderful to partner with and to help us give back to the community.”

“This is our way of saying thank you to the community,” said Fair.

Through its Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts and Shangri La Botanical Gardens, the Stark Foundation will continue to host the symphony at this annual event in partnership with the Symphony of Southeast Texas.

“We will back again next year, whether it’s in the Spring or Fall,” Fair said. “This is such wonderful place to play. Combining nature and the arts in an outdoor setting like this make us want to come back year after year.”

Draped in a star spangled shirt, Maestro Chelesa Tipton, II took to the rostrum and led the orchestra starting with “Star Spangled Banner” and ending with “Stars and Stripes forever.”

Tipton summoned up the event, “Thanks goes to all supporters of the symphony. We couldn’t do it without you. I encourage everyone to continue to support the arts.”

The evening concluded after approximately an hour-long performance, punctuated by two feature solos from Abagail Dueppen singing “Think of me” and “I could have danced all night.”

The concert was so captivating it seemed to be over before it began, but no one was complaining. If smiles on multitude of faces streaming toward the exits were any indication, the Symphony of Southeast Texas at Shangri La gardens was again a big hit.

Looking back, it could be my imagination and the magic of the setting combined with music precisely and professionally delivered that caused those pleasant spring breezes to dance in time with violin strings as the symphony delighted the crowd with “Yellow Rose of Texas”.

For all that it was there is no better word to describe the entire event from start to finish as – perfect.