For over 20 years, the Ambassador Club of Sun City Center and Kings Point has been taking classical music lovers to the Florida Symphony Coffee Concerts at The Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg, which shares a beautiful large patio with the Dali Museum. In a series of eight concerts, starting in October and running through April 2016, selections of best-loved music are served up with complimentary coffee and doughnuts and lively insights by Principal Guest Conductor Stuart Malina.
“My husband George and I used to love going to the symphony together,” said Anna Marie Orenchek of Sun City Center. “He passed on three years ago, but now when I go, I feel him right there beside me.”
Through the Ambassador Club, symphony lovers travel to St. Petersburg in a comfortable bus arranged by Carolyn Deming, who conducts the tour and keeps it interesting with cheerful commentary along the way. Pickup is at 8:30 a.m. at Kings Point and SCC, and passengers arrive home by 2 p.m. A special bonus is the free Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee served upon arrival.
“I’ve been going to the symphony with this group for about 10 years, and I enjoy the camaraderie,” said Charles Feil, adding with a grin, “that and the free doughnuts.”
One of the highlights of the Coffee Concerts is the preview before the performance, explained Deming. Prior to each concert, there is an interview with a concert member or a guest soloist, followed by questions from the audience. Once the concert begins, the conductor discusses each piece of music and familiarizes the audience with the composer. “There is a lot of humor as well as a feeling of excitement in the air at these concerts,” said Deming. “We try to make it entertaining for our subscribers and enriching at the same time.”
“I just love the music,” said German-born Helga Martin. “My son goes to the symphony as well, and loves it as much as I do.”
“It’s a great way to meet people, make new friends and enjoy the arts,” said Heather Holmes, a history major and member of the group, who also serves as a docent at the Dalí Museum, giving tours and lectures on Sunday afternoons.
Deming, a former biologist and teacher, has been leading a variety of tours for more than 20 years, both locally and internationally. She spent 16 years organizing tours and events for the United Community Church College program in Sun City Center. “I took people to museums, historical homes, hotels, restaurants, you name it. I enjoyed giving uplifting experiences to others, and learned a lot myself in the process,” Deming said.
The Ambassador Club’s history dates back to the days of early developer Al Hoffman, who devised it as a way of helping to sell houses. As an incentive for referring prospective home buyers, you could become an “Ambassador” and take low-cost cultural excursions on a bus provided by Hoffman. Mary Dial of Kings Point ran the program for 20 years, and over time, the Coffee Concert series grew from four to eight concerts per year. Longtime members still return season after season to experience the symphony and to make new friends.
Located in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, The Mahaffey Theater hosts top-quality national and international performances that include Broadway, classical, pop, rock, comedy, dance, family and the renowned Florida Orchestra. The theater is a 2,031-seat cultural jewel, featuring elegant ballroom space, spectacular waterfront views and European box-style seating.
The plaza itself, which has been renamed the Duke Energy Center for the Arts, features visual and performing arts and includes The Mahaffey, the Center Plaza Waterfront Park and the Salvador Dalí Museum. In addition to hosting events for seniors, The Mahaffey Theater prides itself on its highly successful Class Acts program, which enables schoolchildren to experience the performing arts through in-theater performances, as well as in-school outreach and extension programs.
Prices for the Coffee Concerts range from $22 to $38 per concert. For more information on joining the group, bus reservations and tickets, call Carolyn Deming at 813-633-2241. For information on other events at The Mahaffey Theater, visit www.themahaffey.com.