Piano and Vittles at the Presidio

El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park Chapel was the charming setting for a unique and classy evening. The Trust for Historic Preservation hosted a piano performance by Javier Rovira of Spain complete with a grand piano near the altar. As President of the Board Barbara Lindemann remarked, “I don’t believe there was a grand piano here back in 1787!”

Executive Director of the Trust Jerry Jackman said the chapel was lost to an earthquake in the 1850s and rebuilt in the 1980s. One of the town’s historical matriarchs, Vie Obern, told me, “I spent sixty hours painting this chapel. The wainscoting pattern is my initials – V and O.” (Many years ago, Obern and her late husband, George, bought and restored the Hope House.)

The Consul General of Spain Inocencio F. Arias, his wife, Ludmila, and District Superintendent of California State Parks Richard Rojas were at the reception to greet guests as we came in from the cold through the chapel door and went into a side courtyard. It was toasty warm with a giant horno blazing, a tent cover and gas heaters. Besides martinis and wine the specialties among the many treats were cheeses, compliments of Barrie Lynn, the Cheese Impresario.

Sid Cook (is that his real name?), a Wisconsin Master cheese maker, had us taste one of his cheddars that had been aged 10 years in a Wisconsin cave and won second place in its class at a 2005 American Cheese Society Competition. Another was a Cardona (goat) cheese aged for more than eight months and rubbed with cocoa powder. No doubt you could get as hung up on cheese tasting as wine tasting.

Craig and Cindy Makela, who own the Santa Barbara Olive Company, let us sample their many varieties of olives, like green ones stuffed with blue cheese or jalapenos. Craig serves on the Chapel Board and was the one who sparked the idea for this evening’s performance after meeting the Consul General at a former event. Membership and publicity relations coordinator Jared Brock was chair for the night.

Before the concert the Consul General Arias remarked, “We in the diplomatic field have to go many places but this Presidio in Santa Barbara is one I love to go.” Both the Ambassador and the pianist are from Andalucia (where I lived for seven years).

The elegant Javier Rovira was decked out in tails and gave us a moving concert of Mozart, Chopin and several Spanish composers. Among Javier’s many credits are recitals in Spain, France, Belgium and Russia and touring in Australia and Asia. He has taught at the Conservatory of Peking and is currently teaching in Madrid.

Dr. Pearl Chase was one of the founders of the Trust for Historic Preservation in 1963. If you are interested in becoming a member call 965-0093.

We All Wear Mazques

Remember reading about those romantic mask costume balls in the French court of Louis XIV and all the dalliances that went on? Well, I didn’t see any dalliances, but I did see lots of mask “gentry” atop the Hotel Andalucia the other night. It was the second in a series of masquerade parties to be given corresponding to the full moon of each quarter and benefiting a different local charity. This evening’s beneficiary was Santa Barbara Middle School celebrating 30 years serving the community. According to the President of Santa Barbara City College John Romo, “Santa Barbara Middle School is a pioneer in its field. Its innovative programs are a model for middle school educators nationwide.”

By the light of the moon, some electricity and the much-needed gas heaters (the north wind was howling), five local artists performed throughout the evening – Jason Serfling, Brittany Batastini, Orlando Napier, Chelsea Skidmore and 13-year-old Savannah Meares.

Middle School Community Dean Whitney Ingersoll was greeting guests, who were sipping bubbly and comparing masks decorated with feathers, sequins and glitter. Some were harlequin inspired. A favorite was “Phantom of the Opera.” Others had painted on their own unique designs.

Event coordinators were Justin Michael and Brianna Winn, who are president and vice president, respectively, of their company Mazque, which specializes in mask balls to be given for non-profits. Their first gala was held in October, when they had 350 partygoers to help out Westside Boys & Girls Club. They crowded the rooftop in an array of Venetian and local masks, gowns and tuxes.

Since these events are moon-related, Michael told me an interesting sidelight. “Instead of the Man in the Moon we see, the Chinese see a bunny when they look at the moon,” he said. “So the invitation had a picture of a gold Venetian bunny mask we found at Victorian Vogue on State Street.”

Save up your masks for the next full moon!