Social Notes: A drop-it-like-it’s-hot social doubleheader

The Bal des lumières and MAC Ball were LIT — as in: beyond awesome.

PERFORMANCE PERFECTION: Contemporary dancers Guillaume Michaud and Saskya Pauzé-Bégin accompany neoclassical virtuoso Alexandra Stréliski's performance at the recent 2019 Bal des lumières. ERIC CARRIÈRE and VANESSA CYR

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Let’s do this. 

Hey Montreal Social Gals and Gents, hope you enjoyed last week’s supersized Fall Winter Social Calendar, awash in all kinds of attend-worthy events and benefits. Clearly, it’s going to be a bizzzy season … Speaking of which, let’s kick it off in true Social Notes style with a drop-it-like-its-hot doubleheader.

LIGHTING UP OUR WORLD: First up on today’s 2019 action-packed agenda is an event we had not yet had the pleasure of covering in the pages of Social Notes, the Bal des lumières, presented this year under the honorary co-presidency of BCE and Bell Canada president/CEO George Cope (attending with wife Tami), Sun Life Québec president/CEO Robert Dumas (with wife Katherine Dorais), CGI founder/executive chair Serge Godin (with daughter Julie), Groupe CH president/CEO Geoff Molson (with wife Katie), and National Bank president/CEO Louis Vachon (with wife Chantal Carrier).

Currently in its third year, and held once again at the Bell Centre, the event is unique and memorable for many reasons, but most importantly for shining the light so vigorously on the urgency of preserving mental health in our society, and to that end, providing as many good and solid resources as possible for those facing related challenges and issues.

In an ultra high-paced, high-tech world where stress is on overload (5 per cent of boys and 12 per cent of girls between the ages of 12 and 19 in Quebec will experience an episode of major depression), there is more need than ever before to support mental health, which is why the record-breaking $1,825,000 raised at the ball for the benefit of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Foundation, the Fondation de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the Fondation Jeunes en Tête is so profound. Indeed, the funds will have far-reaching impact given that the prestigious trio of organizations cover a range of mental health interventions, from raising awareness and dispelling prejudice surrounding mental illnesses, to prevention and the promotion of groundbreaking treatments, quality care, pioneering research and social integration. Amen to that.

As for those other traits that made the human-nature-themed evening so alluring (the official event name was “La nature humaine”), let us count the ways:

Engrossing entertainment was the vibe from the moment the next level Urban Science Brass Band danced guests down the red carpet to neoclassical virtuoso Alexandra Stréliski’s compelling performance — accompanied by Maud St-Germain’s exquisite choreography of contemporary dancers Guillaume Michaud and Saskya Pauzé-Bégin — to singer/instrumentalist/pianoman extraordinaire Christian Marc Gendron’s equally mesmeric set. Like WOW. 

Solid adventures in gastronomy: Inspired by nature, chefs Yves Lowe and Claudie Ferland of Lévy Restaurant served several mouthwatering courses (complemented by a spot-on selection of Bambara wines) that included an appetizer of braised portobello parmegiano with steamed broccoli and miso, main of roast sirloin, quinoa, zucchini, crispy chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes, and spiced cake, caramel apple and mini donuts for dessert. (The amuses-bouches at the opening champagne cocktail in Mythik, the new Bell Centre lounge, were similarly inspired.)

Top-tier attendees: You name them, they were there, including such dignitaries as Quebec Premier François Legault, Minister of Health and Social Services Danielle McCann and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. And there were foundation board presidents: Jeunes en Tête’s Éric Bujold, National Bank Private Banking 1859 president, accompanied by Marie-Eve Landry; Fondation de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal’s Martin Gagnon, National Bank Financial co-president and co-CEO, accompanied by Marilyne Couture; Douglas Mental Health University Institute Foundation’s Marisa Giannetti, plus celebs galore à la elegant emcee Maripier Morin, Bal des lumières artistic director Joël Legendre, Véronique Cloutier and Félix-Antoine Tremblay, Florence K, Jean-Philippe Dion and Marie-Eve Janvier, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Jannie-Karina Gagné and many others.

Dare we bestow upon the night the highest-grade millennial compliment that also happens to be so on-theme? We dare. It was “LIT” (as in: beyond awesome).

THE CAPTIVATE OF CANDIDE: We skip now to one of the most glittering tickets on the fall benefit circuit, the super-glam and always well-attended annual MAC Ball for cultural bijou, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, presented in 2019 under the distinguished honorary presidency of National Bank Private Banking 1859 president Éric Bujold and Caisse de dépôt executive vice-president, legal affairs and secretariat Kim Thomassin alongside proud host-presidents: foundation board chair Justin Méthot, committee ball chair Marie-Josée Simard, museum board chair Alexandre Taillefer and museum director John Zeppetelli.

As is tradition, the call of the playful and nostalgic Candide theme did not go unnoticed by the 800-plus enthusiastic patrons as they trotted out a kaleidoscopic array of haute ensembles at Arsenal, fashioning a fashionating landscape that left countless jaws agape in designer wonder. Style statements by Marie-Josée Simard in Oscar de la Renta, Debbie Zakaïb and Sophie Banford in Denis Gagnon, Josée Noiseux and Nathalie Goyette in Xavier Laruelle and Élizabeth Camiré in Rush Couture were especially stirring.

Of course, the stir did not stop at style’s door … 

There was also that arresting art direction by creative agency Bob catapulting attendees into a party playground for grownups with a retro whimsical twist that impressed even the most discriminating power pairs, like Claudine and Stephen BronfmanAnne-Marie Boucher and Mitch Garber; Ruby Brown and Richard Speer;and Emmanuelle Dupéré and Daniel Lamarre.

And who could not be moved by such an epic epicurean experience courtesy of the masters at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, featuring brimming seafood platters, artisanal pasta, red snapper in a sea salt crust, roasted AAA beef tomahawk, and flawless mignardises tablets by Jean-Marc Guillot for dessert? (Kudos to the SAQ and Univins for excellent wine pairings).

Finally, last but not least, there were those signature touches that sent the soiree straight over the celebratory moon, including scintillating night-long entertainment by A-list DJs Karaba and Miss Shelton and the beloved auction (featuring magnificent artworks and packages). 

It’s no wonder the sold-out galadventure raised a triumphant $700,000, money integral to the support of MAC’s educational activities, enriching the collection, extending the reach of contemporary Quebec artists, and bringing leading international artists to Montreal.

Power to the dream team: committee members, president Marie-Josée Simard, Mélanie Aubut, Sophie Banford, Christine Boivin, Elizabeth Camiré, Nathalie Goyette, Stéphanie Larivière, Sharon Stern, and Nicolas Urli, without whom such magnificence would simply not be possible.

MAC, you killed it again. BRAVO!

NOT.DONE.YET: And before we say goodbye for now, some Social Notes love is in order for another pre-fall frontrunner supporting a mental health initiative: Maria and Vince Guzzo’s 12th annual Notte in Bianco. Presented in 2019 under the honorary presidency of Robert Dumas, president/CEO of Sun Life Financial Quebec, white-hot continued to be the whight formula, drawing an A-list crowd and helping the team raise over a quarter of a million dollars for the Guzzo Family’s initiative in youth mental health, distributed between the Jewish General Hospital, Shriners Hospital and Youth Mental Health (Literacy for Dyslexia).

(Fun footie: the homegrown Dragon also turned a fabulous 50 in May and marked the occasion with a private bash that was as blockbuster as the mental pic you have right now. 😉  

Montreal, you never cease to inspire.

That’s the social sauce for now, dolls. Tune in next week for more fete fab from your fave Party City. Meantime, head to DIARYOFASOCIALGAL.COM and @DIARYOFASOCIALGAL on Instagram and Facebook for more exclusive pics and video from today’s events and a blast of others. This season is ON, ahem LIT !!! 😉