Viennese Ball

L-R: Marc Bissell, Honorary Consul General of Austria, Parliamentarian and Vienna City Counsellor Omar Al-Rawi, his daughter Amina, and Marc's wife Morli Shemesh.

The Austrian Society of Montreal’s signature event, the Viennese Ball of Montreal, took place last month. For over 55 years, the Ball has been celebrating the splendor of the Viennese ball tradition with a glorious evening of lively music and dance, elegant atmosphere and a magical debutante performance. A night full of excitement, including dancing till dawn, good food and champagne, prizes to be won, great entertainment, and of course, all for great youth causes!

The Viennese Ball combines two centuries of tradition with our modern world, and is the only one of its kind in Montreal whereas during the ball season in Vienna, there are literally hundreds of balls to choose from.

Empress Maria Theresia

Each year, the Ball is dedicated to a theme from Vienna’s history and culture. This year marked the 300th birthday of Empress Maria Theresia. She was the subject of innumerable books and films, of music, paintings and sculptures, and, of course, of the undying devotion and admiration of the Austrian people. Over the years and centuries, her life, achievements, and personality have become legendary as she was one of the most important personalities in European history. She ruled for 40 years, had 16 children and accomplished numerous much - needed political and social reforms including compulsory schooling for all. Her reign stands for modernization, reform and cultivation of the arts and she was successful in laying the foundations of a modern state in the present-day sense. Maria Theresia was also beautiful, charming, intelligent, and very energetic. She became the first female of the Habsburg dynasty to rule over the largest empire in Europe, and one of the world’s most famous monarchs.

Viennese Ball of Montreal

The ball was held at the Hotel Marriott Château Champlain under the distinguished patronage and in the presence of the new Austrian Ambassador to Canada, Stefan Pehringer and Mrs. Debra Jean Pehringer. Special guest from the Vienna City Hall was Omar Al-Rawi, Member of the Vienna Provincial Parliament and Vienna Municipal Counsellor attending with his daughter Amina.

The Ball opened with a Sekt (Champagne) reception where arriving guests were welcomed by an orchestra playing Austrian melodies, and Maria Theresia herself, together with husband Emperor Franz mingled with the crowd. Ladies gifts, courtesy of the City of Vienna, were lovely Swarovski pendants inspired by Maria Theresia’s jewelry. Head Table guests entered the Maria Theresia – themed ballroom to the tune of the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Sr. Schulich School of Music students: soprano Chelsea Rus and baritone Jason Spungin sang the national anthems and operatic arias accompanied at the piano by Patrick Hansen – Head of Opera McGill. Ball guests were treated to a marvellous performance by members of dance school Tutu Deluxe to the tune of Strauss’ The Blue Danube. Principal dancers and owners of the school, Austrian Sandra Muehlbauer and Diego Castro, together with a group of 10 tiny dancers delighted the assembled crowd.

Twelve debutantes in identical long white gowns and glittering Swarovski coronets, were officially presented to the Ambassador and Ball President Astri Prugger before performing their opening waltz to the tune of Johann Strauss Jr.’s “The Emperor’s Waltz.” The M.C.s traditional call of “Alles Walzer” (Everyone Waltz) had the dance floor full of couples twirling to Strauss’ “Wiener Blut”. Three Ensembles: The Furino Orchestra, alternating with the SophistOccasion Showband and the Ballroom Blitz Big Band played continuous music for traditional and modern ballroom dancing until 2.30 a.m. During the five -course gourmet dinner, which was accompanied by strolling musicians playing Viennese songs, internationally renowned tenor Stefano Algieri of the Schulich School of Music serenaded the guests with a famous Viennese song. The midnight draw for the Grand Door Prize - two plane tickets to any city in the Air Transat world network, courtesy of Vacances Air Transat - was won by Louis Arseneault. Throughout the evening, the large and tempting silent auction was packed with bidders, and the very popular charity Casino was buzzing all night with players who could choose from a multitude of prizes as their winnings. The Heuriger wine tavern, open from midnight to the wee hours, featured a musical duo playing lively Viennese music. It quickly became crowded with exuberant guests and singers who stayed until after 5 a.m. Typical Austrian Goulash soup, sausages, beer and wine, as well as apple strudel were available to keep everyone going strong!

Dance for others

All proceeds from the Ball go to deserving causes focused on helping children in need and other youth initiatives. The primary beneficiary is SOS Children’s Villages one of the largest child welfare organizations in the world providing long-term, family-based care to orphaned children in over 130 countries. The Schulich School of Music of McGill University is also an important recipient for bursaries for the study of music in Austria. The Ball also supports Leave out Violence - L.O.V.E. - the leading youth violence prevention organisation in Canada, the Alexander von Humboldt German International School and DSQ (German Language Schools of Quebec) which offer German courses for all ages.

Head Table guests

Head Table guests were: Austrian Ambassador to Canada Stefan Pehringer and Mrs. Debra Jean Pehringer;  Honorary Consul General of Austria, Marc Bissell, and his wife Mrs. Morli Shemesh; Member of Vienna’s Provincial Parliament and Vienna Municipal Counsellor Omar Al-Rawi and his daughter Amina Al Rawi; Honorary Vice Consul of Austria, Elisabeth Canisius and Christopher Martin, President of the Austrian Society, Harold Scheer and Mrs. Ewa Dorynek-Scheer; and Ball President Astri Prugger with husband John McGaughey

Behind the scenes

The Austrian Society of Montreal, founded in 1958, is a non-profit organization whose primary fundraising event is the annual Ball held in November each year. The current president is Harold Scheer. The Ball Committee, headed by Ball President Astri Prugger, is an enthusiastic team of volunteers of different nationalities all working together to ensure the continued success of the Viennese Ball.

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