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MERRILLVILLE | The theme was "Rhapsody in Blue," but no one was feeling blue Wednesday at the 43rd annual May Wine Brunch hosted by the Women's Association of the Northwest Indiana Symphony.

Hundreds of guests, many sporting hats celebrating the season, shopped at boutiques featuring jewelry, handmade clothing, gourmet candy and foods and artwork before toasting each other with the beverage of the day.

The annual hat contest drew more than a dozen entrants who paraded before judges Laura and Chris White, publisher of The Times Media Co., in straw picture hats, fanciful flowered chapeaus and even bonnets adorned with musical notes and coins. The winners were Jackie Wickland, first place; Vicki Young, second place, and Leilani Suehanuk, third place.

WANISS' Sue Crisman, co-chair of the event, welcomed guests, while John Cain, executive director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, gave the crowd "David Letterman's Top Ten Reasons" to attend tomorrow's (Thursday) “Gershwin!” symphony concert, set for 7:30 p.m. at the Star Plaza Theatre, 8001 Delaware Place.

Music Director/Conductor Kirk Muspratt will conduct the orchestra in a salute to American composer George Gershwin, whose jazz-influenced compositions spanned both popular and classical genres. In addition to the NISO chorus, guest artists will include Lyric Opera of Chicago alumni Kimberly Jones, soprano, and Bill McMurray, baritone.

Pianist Clipper Erickson, who attended Wednesday's brunch, will inspire with his powerful rendition of the instantly recognizable "Rhapsody in Blue" before heading to Europe next week for a performance in Birmingham, England, and a recording session in Germany.

"It should be a great concert to close out the season," Crisman said. "Gershwin's music is so beautiful."

Making that point musically was vocalist Jim Bulanda, who captivated the luncheon audience with a sampling of Gershwin's favorites, from the 1926 ballad "Someone To Watch Over Me," recorded by no less than 76 artists through 2014, to the Frank Sinatra version of "Love Walked In," penned in 1930, to the upbeat 1938 classic "Our Love Is Here To Say," which Bulanda admitted he was performing for the first time.

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