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ECSO summer gala concert Friday at Stonington Vineyards

Normally, benefit galas for fine arts organization take place in cathedrals or lobbies of architectural showplaces made of glass. Attendees' formal wear is made of gold. And the items available on the silent auction include stuff like a draft of "I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed" in Emily Dickinson's handwriting (and with cartoon hens drawn in the margins), a lock of Paganini's hair and, because someone's always donating one, a baseball signed by Luis Tiant.

Jeez! Ease up!

The Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra is holding its summer fundraiser on Friday with just the proper recipe of ambience and relaxation. For one thing, it's taking place outdoors at the lovely and thirst-quenching Stonington Vineyards. The winery and the ECSO began a partnership with their Soundscape Concert Series last summer as each sought ways to navigate the pandemic.

The gala also and importantly boasts an actual concert — as in, the ECSO is willing to work for your contributions! Music director and conductor Toshiyuki "Toshi" Shimada will lead 40 ECSO musicians in works by Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Edward Elgar and more — and renowned soprano Sarah Yanovitch Vitale will guest on selected pieces.

Yes, there IS a silent auction, and the items ARE excellent. But not so much so that you're guilted into bidding on Van Gogh's ear. Woodfellas Pizza & Wings will be on-site offering victuals; you can bring your own food, too. Light jackets, lawn chairs and blankets are good ideas, and bring a mask to order wine inside the tent; masks are optional on the lawn.

All proceeds go to the ECSO as it prepares to return to indoor performances for its 75th anniversary season this fall. Silent auction bidding goes through Friday (preview items and bid at And ticket sales are advance only.

ECSO Summer Gala Concert Fundraiser, 6-8 p.m. Friday, doors at 5:30 p.m., Stonington Vineyards, 523 Taugwonk Rd., Stonington; $75; tickets available at; for more information


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