Thursday, October 11, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Lang Lang Foundation Draws Star-Studded Crowd to Tenth Anniversary Gala

The music students
All photos Lieba Nesis
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Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, famously declared "without music life would be a mistake"- a statement that resonates all too clearly today. The respite that music provides in tumultuous times is critical; allowing listeners to experience a brief moment of solace where nothing but the notes of the piano or the soothing melody of a melancholy voice can be heard. Consequently, I was excitedly anticipating The Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s tenth-anniversary gala and concert dinner held on October 10, 2018, at Cipriani 25 Broadway with cocktails beginning at 7 PM.

The ticket prices started at $5,000 per person and attracted an illustrious guest list with Sandy Weill, John Paulson, Ann Ziff, Michael Shvo, Joanna and Brian Fisher, Sana Sabbagh, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Karen, and Richard Lefrak, David Sarfati, and Irwin and Joan Jacobs being just a couple of the philanthropic moguls who gathered for the event. In fact, I would venture to say without the group in this room there might not be a Carnegie Hall or a Metropolitan Opera.

Lang Lang

At the top of the guest list, was superstar pianist Lang Lang whose boyish looks belie his 36 years of age and who continually astounds with his spectacular performances. Lang Lang started this organization in 2008 to inspire and motivate the next generation of music lovers and performers by teaching music education in public schools around the world. They have heretofore reached over 200,000 students in over 20 countries and continue to bring music to the masses.

Alec Baldwin with Honorees Irwin and Joan Jacobs

Lang Lang is Founder and President and not only devotes his time and energy but is the largest donor to the organization. The evening raised more than $1.6 million for music education. Tonight's host, the ubiquitous Alec Baldwin - who can be seen on the Hamptons and New York social circuit, television shows, movies, and awards shows-looked more handsome than ever. Baldwin implored the crowd to donate money to this worthwhile cause. I am convinced Baldwin continues to be gainfully employed because he is one of the few Hollywood actors who has not been a #MeToo offender and is seemingly sober.

Joanna Fisher, Sana Sabbagh, Brian Fisher Suzanne Vega, and Paul Mills

John Paulson who was the Gala Chair introduced Alec as the winner of 7 consecutive SAG awards and numerous Oscar nominations - I guess it really is an honor just to be nominated. Lest you think Alec has become a politically correct bore tonight he remarked he was donating $30,000 not in honor of classical music but rather to pay tribute to “Haitian rap people”- a comment that had the crowd painfully sighing. He also implored the audience to contribute at least $1,000 by forgoing Soul Cycle classes for one month.

David Sarfati and Wyclef Jean

Rap artist Wyclef Jean, who seemed unfazed by Baldwin's comment, took to the stage to perform the song he produced for Carlos Santana "Maria Maria" with incredible fervor. Jean remarked that the last time he saw Lang Lang was when they were practicing a song for Obama's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize which they had three hours to produce. Wyclef said he was about to perform a concert in Geneva, Switzerland but canceled when his friend Lang Lang requested his attendance at the gala. He stayed for the duration of the dinner patiently posing for pictures with attendees. I overheard Wyclef telling Jason Wu that he was in awe of his clothing designs which had impacted him greatly.

Ledisi and Jason Wu

Other phenomenal performers included tenor Roberto Alagna and Grammy nominated vocal powerhouse Ledisi - who regaled the crowd with the Beatle's song "Yesterday." However, the absolute star of the evening was Lang Lang. Lang who had been out of commission with an injured left arm up until July 2018 is one of the most bankable living stars. This protege began playing piano at the age of 3 and mesmerizes crowds not only because of his mastery of the piano but also due to the rawness of his emotions while performing.

Left to Right: Shanshan Weh, Lukas Barwinski Brown, Joan Kahn, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Xiaoshan Ren

His rock star status has led to endorsements with sneaker companies and collaborations with designers.  While all this may sound gimmicky there are few living artists who possess his otherworldly talent. Unfortunately, tonight he played only one Chopin song, utilizing one hand for part of it, leading the audience to hunger for more. Lang who is supposedly engaged to Asian beauty Gina Alice was readily accessible to all those at the dinner and was elated with the success of his "passion project."

Isabella Herrera, Julio Cesar Herrera, Julio Herrera and Melanie Nennig

He presented the Lifetime Philanthropy Award to Joan and Irwin Jacobs who announced this was the second gala this week they had attended with Lang. Joan Jacobs who was dressed in a beautiful studded gown was not alone; other sartorial stars of the night included Elizabeth Segerstrom and Tracey Amon. I spoke with a subdued Naeem Khan, who said a number of tonight's attendees were wearing his designs.

Daniel Peuscovich and Tracey Amon
After guests enjoyed Chateaubriand and some signature Cipriani Key Lime Pie they were treated to one last musical performance before the harsh realities of the outside world set in.




- Lieba Nesis

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