Black & White and fun all over

Break out your formal wear — The City’s party of parties, the San Francisco Symphony’s Black & White Ball, takes over the Civic Center on Saturday.

Thousands of revelers will dance the night away in what’s billed as the largest gala of its kind.

Grammy-winner Seal headlines the event, which also features multiple stages and tents boasting 12 bands and orchestras and gourmet fare.

Glamour never had it so good. Chair Patricia Sprincin, who also headed up the Black & White Ball in 2005, will wear a new couture gown by San Francisco designer Sara Shepherd created specifically for the ball.

Sprincin calls the gala “the signature event that sets San Francisco apart. You really haven’t lived in San Francisco if you’ve never been to a Black & White Ball. With gowns and tuxedos, great food and drink — it’s our own Mardi Gras, where San Franciscans of all persuasions can enjoy The City and each other and have a wonderful party.”

For those who purchased special tickets, the evening begins at 8 p.m. with a 75-minute concert by Seal at Davies Symphony Hall. Gates open for all partygoers at 9 p.m. at various sites, where patrons will indulge in elegant refreshments and music of all genres spanning five decades: rock ’n’ roll, Latin-Brazilian, country, hip hop, big band and tribute groups.

Amid private patrons’ dinners, and symphony-booster committee-sponsored events before and after, the ball also will include its traditional “Midnight Surprise” musical production.

Organizers also promise an additional “surprise-surprise” to top off the event, which concludes at 1 a.m. Sunday.

The Black & White Ball has raised funds for the symphony since 1956, when it was part of the institution’s commemoration of the 1906 earthquake.

It originally was held in four downtown hotels.

Proceeds support the symphony’s award-winning education program Adventures in Music, which is celebrating its 20th year of providing free music education for San Francisco public school students in first through fifth grades.

For Sprincin and many other attendees, there’s a nostalgic quality about the Black & White Ball. She says, “It’s become a night of lifetime memories, a night to remember. People have come up to me and said, ‘I met my wife at the Black & White Ball’ or ‘I proposed there.’”

IF YOU GO

Black & White Ball

Where: Civic Center, bounded by Van Ness Avenue, McAllister, Hayes and Franklin streets, San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. for Seal concert; 9 p.m. for parties

Tickets: $200 to $325

Contact: (415) 864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org/ball

Here’s where to hear the music:

Grove Street Tent Pavilion

– Marianne Kent and Bay Society Band, 9:30 p.m.

– Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, 10:45 p.m.; 12:15 a.m.

Van Ness Main Stage

– Elephone, 9 p.m.

– Blues Traveler, pictured, 10 p.m.

– The Sun Kings, 12:15 a.m.

Veterans Building Lobby

– Big Bang Beat!, 9 p.m.

– Dick Bright’s SRO, pictured, 10:40 p.m.

War Memorial Opera House

– Boca do Rio, 9 p.m. in lobby

– Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra, 9 p.m. in lobby

– Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra featuring Faye Carol, 10:15 p.m.; 12:15 a.m. in cafe

– DJ Afrika Bambaataa, 11:30 p.m.; 12:15 a.m. in lobby

– Larry Vuckovich Jazz Latin Quintet, 9 p.m.; 10 p.m. in the café

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