Co-chairs Elizabeth Jones (Laguna Beach), Kathy Dogali (Newport Beach) and Leslie Ordonez (Newport Beach) with Dean Corey at Corey's retirement luncheon held at the Island Hotel. (Peggy O'Donnell / March 20, 2014)

It's off to France for Kaly and Dean Corey, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

The erudite Dean Corey has served the society and the community as a beacon of culture since 1993. He retires at the end of the 2014 season and crosses the pond to start Act III of life in Europe. He and his wife will be missed.

Last week in Newport Beach, about 150 members of the devoted Cameo Committee of the Philharmonic Society gathered in a posh dining room at the Island Hotel to celebrate Corey's artistic career on the coast. The luncheon was one of the first in a series of farewell events planned over the next few months during the Philharmonic season.

In addition to accolades bestowed, these events have a larger community purpose — fundraising in support of music education. And this is a purpose close to Corey's heart; he has made it a personal mission during his 21-year tenure to fund youth music programs.

The Cameo Committee raised an impressive $50,000 for the Philharmonic Society's music4kids program. Even better news is that the Cameo funds will be doubled by an anonymous matching grant from the Philharmonic Society's 60th Anniversary Challenge Grant. The luncheon crowd cheered as a symbolic oversized check was presented to Corey by Cameo members and the philharmonic board chairman, banker Noel Hamilton.

Joining his bride, Kathy, Hamilton served as master of ceremonies for the afternoon. He told the donors and guests that the funds raised would provide musical instruments and training to students at many of the region's financially challenged schools. The audience was reminded that research demonstrates that music training can have a positive effect on children's ability to learn in subjects such as math, science and language.

Supporting the cause were Newport-Mesa guests Jane Grier, Sabra Bordas, Bobbitt Williams, Catherine Emmi and Donna Kendall. Also front and center for Corey and the philharmonic were Marian Jones, Dickson Shafer, Michael and Katherine Dogali, Bev White, Mary Olsen, Burton Karson, Stanley Behrens, and Bing and Vickie Girling.

The luncheon theme was decidedly French. The Island Hotel staff served a magnificent menu at tables adorned with spring florals provided by Roger's Gardens, underwritten by Cameo Committee member Barbara Wheeler.

The luncheon crowd was entertained by 15-year-old Melody Tai on harp during the arrival and champagne reception, followed by a presentation by Daniel Alfred Wachs, director of the philharmonic's youth symphony orchestra.

Two of Wachs' young protégées, vocalist Alexandra Kramer and clarinetist Julian Rymar, performed Franz Schubert's "Shepherd on the Rock" and then Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from "Candide."

Keynote speaker was Timothy Mangan, classical music critic for the Orange County Register. Mangan is also the author of the foreword in Corey's published memoir, "Beethoven: The Late Great, 33 Personal Variations."

Mangan told the audience, "Dean Corey is the O.C.'s 'curator of classical music,'" adding, "He is an accomplished musician himself and he is an impresario who has brought to Orange County audiences some of the greatest musical ensembles in the world."

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.