At 11 last night, the Darcy band was winding down, but the party in the German Embassy definitely wasn't. Most of the 150 guests were out in the middle of the ballroom floor ("one of the best dance floors in Washington," according to an enthusiast), shifting gracefully from samba to foxtrot to disco, sipping wine or nibbling from two enormous cakes that had begun the evening with inscription, "Happy Birthday, Beethoven."

"How much will you charge for an extra half-hour?" hostess Maria Fisher asked the bandleader, and after a minute of quite negotiation the music began again. A few minutes later, when a couple of guests came over to say goodnight, Fisher shooed them back to the party: "Get in there and dance. I've just paid $75 for an extra half-hour. Get back in and enjoy it."

The Beethoven Society -- alias Maria Fisher and approximately 750 friends -- was celebrating (one day late) its fifth birthday and the 209th of its eponym, whose plaster bust stood solemnly between two candelabra, looking slightly uncomfortable as the guests sang, "Happy birthday, dear Ludwig."

"If you sing very well," said Fisher, "we'll have a piece of Cake -- donated by Avignone Freres because I twisted their arm." The audience sang well enough to earn its cake, having warmed up earlier by joining soprano Elena M. Jurgela (who works for the Republican Party when she isn't singing) in a chorus of "Edelweiss." Then they bullied Fisher (a retired sopramo into singing "Wunderbar" and joined her in the chorus, clapping rhythmically with hands already sore from egging on tapdancers Heidi Miller and Charles Stinson Respectively an attorney and a hair stylist better known as Charles the First.)

Watching the proceedings with a bemused smile was James F. Green, who became a member after his term of office expired Sunday as president of the Beethoven Society of Michigan. "I would have given my right arm for someone like her in Michigan," he said, pointing at Fisher, who was leading a long, swaying conga line across the floor. Then he returned to his conversation with Paul Teare, program manager of WGMS, who was talking about his debut with the National Symphony next month, when he will recite Ogden Nash's verses to the "Nutcracker."

Pausing a moment, Fisher looked across the tables, which were not numbered but labeled with such names as "Waldstein," "Eroica," "Fidelio," "Emperor" and "Appassionata." "I don't know how Beethoven would have liked it," she said, "but I think he would."