Santa Barbara Choral Society Spring Gala Journeys to Rockwood Abbey

Coming to tea? SBCS Singers (lL-R) Erica DiBartolomeo, Manu Geiger-Kolbitsch, Ayllin Bilir and Deborah Rosique) ready the Marilyn Horne Main House at Music Academy of the West in preparation to welcome Royal Chef Darren McGrady and special guests to tea. Photo by Priscilla.

Coming to Rockwood Abbey? SBCS Singers (L-R) Erica DiBartolomeo, Manu Geiger-Kolbitsch, Ayllin Bilir and Deborah Rosique) are dressed up to welcome Royal Chef Darren McGrady and special guests. Photo by Priscilla.

Anglophiles and music fans will come together on May 20 for a wonderfully fun evening titled Rockwood Abbey, an homage to the beloved Downtown Abbey television series.

Honorary Chairs “Lord” Brooks and “Lady” Kate Firestone invite guests to be transported to a posh evening reminiscent of days gone by, where white-gloved footmen attended the creme de la creme of English society as they dined and danced.

Period dress is encouraged for this unique fundraising event, which evokes the dawn of the Jazz Age when the formalities of the Victorian era gave way to the frivolities of post war fun. As far as costumes go, you may choose your epoch from Edwardian grandeur to the flappers of the 20s!

Royal Chef Darren McGrady, courtesy photo.

Royal Chef Darren McGrady, courtesy photo.

As you enter the Rockwood Women’s Club, you’ll enjoy cocktails, aperitifs and appetizers on the terrace and browse the silent auction items. When the dinner gong sounds, guests will move inside to reserved seats in the grand ballroom, where they’ll be entertained by the full Santa Barbara Choral Society chorus performing their spring gala concert, conducted by SBCS Artistic Director/Conductor Jo Anne Wasserman. Eclectic musical treats are in store for guests—including the Downton Abbey theme song—as well as fine wine and appetizers.

Then it’s on to an exciting feast on a menu that’s literally fit for Queen. This elegant dinner is designed and supervised by The Royal Chef, Darren McGrady, former chef to her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and to the late Princess Diana and her sons. Chef McGrady will be on hand to regale you with stories of his time in the royal service. We got a taste of his banter at the recent Royal Tea preview for this event, and guests are certainly in for a Royal treat!

Our favorite local Brit about town Richard Mineards will emcee the program and as the evening comes to a close, a celebrity auctioneer will lead an auction featuring exciting vacation stays like a week in a historic villa in Provence, a stroll through the gardens at Highclere Castle (the location where Downton Abbey was filmed), and more.

Tickets for the Santa Barbara Choral Society Spring Concert and Gala Dinner are now available by calling 805/965-6577 or visiting Don’t miss this unique and festive event taking place from 5-9:30 p.m. on May 20 at Rockwood Women’s Club, 670 Mission Canyon Rd. Seating is limited and RSVPs are requested no later than May 12.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 11, 2017.