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Clyde Iron all dressed up with symphony supporters

And the most spontaneous award for Saturday night goes to Katie and Steve Rice, who have no ties to Duluth -- let alone its symphony orchestra -- yet were drawn here from Des Moines to the Symphony Soiree at Clyde Iron.

Mass Ensemble performance
The earth harp stretches across a ballroom at a Mass Ensemble performance. This is close to what it will look like when it is installed at Clyde Iron Works for the DSSO fundraiser in April. Submitted photo
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And the most spontaneous award for Saturday night goes to Katie and Steve Rice, who have no ties to Duluth -- let alone its symphony orchestra -- yet were drawn here from Des Moines to the Symphony Soiree at Clyde Iron.

The out-of-towners read about the event in a regional publication and said they were intrigued enough by MASS Ensemble and its epic Earth Harp that they watched videos of the group slated to perform at the annual fundraiser, then started monitoring ticket sales on the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's Web site.

"How often do you get to do this?" Katie Rice said.

They bought tickets. She bought a long black gown -- then added a feather and wool headband to her short black hair when she noticed that it was a creative black tie event. Steve Rice wore a traditional tuxedo -- with a gray T-shirt featuring the muppet "Animal" and the slogan "Party Animal" written on it.

Katie Rice said she caught a preview of an Earth Harp rehearsal earlier in the evening. The 20-string instrument was stretched 100 feet, from the stage to the rafters of the entertainment space on the East side of the building.

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"It's amazing," she said, adding that they would be back to the event next year and were bringing friends. They had turned the trip into a long weekend.

"I've been up this way before," said Steve Rice, who 10 years ago stopped in Duluth on his way to the Apostle Islands.

The sold-out fundraiser offered a glimpse of the newly renovated Clyde Iron Works, and included a performance of "Carmina Burana" by MASS Ensemble and the DSSO. Dinner was catered by the soon-to-open restaurant. There was mingling at the bar, which offers a 270-degree of Duluth view: railroad tracks, water and the almost-green hills. There were gourmet cakes with marionberry swirl and Bellini champagne with blackberry and whipped cream. These were decorated with music themes, available for tables to bid on.

Creative black tie on this occasion meant psychedelic tights, glittery eye makeup, flowery wraps or sheer pink tulle skirts; Men in flashy bowties with colorful handkerchiefs. The event sold out with 450 people attending, and more expected for standing-room-only tickets during the concert.

The event was scheduled to go late, with a sort of night-club ambiance to follow.

r MASS Ensemble and the DSSO will team up for two free children's performances today, one at 2:30 p.m., with a workshop at 1:15 p.m.; the other at 4 p.m. with a workshop that starts at 2:45 p.m. Adult tickets are $10 and available at the door.

DSSO fundraiser
People mingle in the atrium of the Clyde Iron building during the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's fundraiser on Saturday night in Duluth. [Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com]

Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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