Last night, we attended an event at the Punta Gorda Isles Yacht Club – we’re not members, but occasionally there is something special hosted there and we go. This particular event was the “farewell” to our beloved Maestro of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra – T. Francis Wada. His last season as conductor has just come to a close and there seems to be no end to the love and gratitude our community has for this extraordinary person!
We were not here in Punta Gorda (heck, we had not even heard of Punta Gorda!) before Maestro Wada took the helm of the CSO. During our first winter, looking around at things to do, we discovered that 10 minutes from our house was a concert hall where a Symphony performed. I admit I had my doubts. Having lived in New York City and Boston, I proudly consider myself a music snob. So, with my nose sufficiently in the air, I went to hear this so-called Symphony Orchestra. (sniff). I mean, how good could it possibly be?
Quite good, as it turned out. And, that little concert hall (affectionately known as CPAC) proved to be as well designed as any of its size in any major city! Who knew? Well, now I did! So, it came to pass that we have been season subscribers since. And as the years have flown, our Charlotte Symphony Orchestra continues to grow and evolve, playing to sold out audiences who absolutely love them. Maestro Wada has had everything to do with that. His musicianship and creativity are, of course, exemplary. But what has worked the magic is his SELF. His loving, charming, funny, delightful, completely endearing SELF. It may sound a little trite to say “everyone loves him”, but we all honestly do.
Last night was another sold out house – how could it not be? True to Wada’s mission, there was entertainment and style, and unabashed energy for fund raising. An endowment now in place, in Maestro Wada’s name, funding is in full swing and our dearest leader is more than happy to bend a knee – if that’s what it takes – to keep his Orchestra going and growing. How can anyone say ‘no’ to him? Well, they can’t.
Sitting at the beautifully appointed table in the dining room of the Yacht Club, looking out at another stunning sunset, palms, the boats, the canals, being here to honor this man and this music, I had a mystical moment of ‘look where I get to live!’. How lucky can anyone get?
As the evening ended, Al Holland – yes, THE Al Holland of the Platters(another fine, gifted human happily caught in Wada’s net) sat down at the piano to sing the celebration to a close. As I walked down the hall to leave, and heard him croon “Only You……” and I couldn’t stop myself from singing along ‘can make this world seem right…”. When I got to the front door, there were a few others waiting for their rides and they were also singing, so we finished the song together, smiling at each other, enjoying our flashback. Our music! That was our time! One of the ladies turned to me and said “We were so lucky”.
Yes. We were. We still are.