Who comes to a first annual gala, honoring Washingtonians in the arts, sponsored by the National Choral Foundation?

For openers, two men about town:

Roy Harris -- who's on the board of the National Choral Foundation, which programs the Paul Hill Chorale. He initiated these awards to honor prominent supporters of the arts in Washington. "It was a concept I came up with when I joined the board," he said yesterday evening in the Atrium of the Kennedy Center. "I thought this was highly appropriate. It falls in line with the Ambassador's Ball for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which I'm involved in. I'm kind of proud of that."

And Steve Martindale -- who goes to a lot of parties of all kinds. "They called and said they were honoring Roger Stevens [head of the Kennedy Center], Mstislav Rostropovich [musical director of the National Symphony Orchestra], and Patrick Hayes [managing director of the Washington Performing Arts Society]. How can you say no? We love them all."

For closers (administered with a shrug by a guest who wished to remain unnamed): "It's just a way for them to make money."

The tickets were $100 a person at this black-tie dinner that honored six people -- one of whom was Col. C. Haskell Small, the vice president of the National Choral Foundation, among other things. They turned out some quests of note from the arts world in the dinner party for 150 (actually a luxuary in these fund-raising-conscious days):

David Lloyd Kreeger, on the board of just about everything in town -- "Some of my friends said that if I were a girl, I would be pregnant all the time because I can't say no." (He was honorary chairman for the evening.)

Joseph Duffey, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (who was presenting an award to Peggy Cooper, chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts) -- "I've been doing this for years. It's the story of my life."

Livingston Biddle, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. (He cheerfully goes out every night to something.)

Patrick Hayes. (He was receiving an award.)

Father Gilbert Hartke, former head of the drama department at Catholic University. "A living legend," said Martindale of Hartke. "In his own mind," added Hartke on Hartke. "With wonderful hair," said one women guest of Hatke's thick white mane. "Comes from all those cold churches," Hartke commented.

Todd Duncan, the original Porgy in the Broadway "Porgy and Bess," and a former president of the Washington Performing Arts Society, who presented the award to Hayes. During his after-dinner talk, he suggested a way to get more prominence and involvement in the arts: "Just invite a congressman to the finest concert you have . . ." (The National Symphony Orchestra already tried this.)

Some of the honorees didn't make it: D.C. Mayor Marion Berry, Rostropovich -- but he has to perform Beethoven's Ninth today and he had to rehearse. Roger Stevens appeared in the doorway in tux around 10 when the guest speaker, Rep. Fred Richmond (D-N.Y.) was just getting warmed up. Richmond started an arts caucus this winter in the House. "What happens without the NEA? What happens without the NEH?" he was saying, noting the proposed 50 percent budget cuts to each agency. "What happens is that these small organizations -- the minor leagues of this country -- can't continue. Without those, how can we hope to have major league cultural institutions?"

Outside the Atrium, two tourists were walking in from the roof terrace: "They call this place the Kennedy Center," one announced to the other.