Holiday concert marks first performance at Oak Harbor High School auditorium

Project manager Mitch Romero gives a tour of the grand, 500-seat auditorium in the new Student Union Building.  - Photo courtesy of Joe Hunt
Project manager Mitch Romero gives a tour of the grand, 500-seat auditorium in the new Student Union Building.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Joe Hunt

The first concert at the new Oak Harbor High School auditorium won’t open until Sunday, Dec. 6, but the improved performance area is already getting rave reviews.

“It’s very spacious and will easily accommodate a large choir and 40-piece orchestra,” conductor Legh W. Burns of the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra said. “I expect first class sound.”

The orchestra will present a holiday concert, “The Many Moods of Christmas,” giving the community its first chance to see some of the results of the new Student Union Building.

The building falls under the $75 million modernization at Oak Harbor High School, which began construction in May 2008.

For the first time in many years, the school will have a useable stage and auditorium, with elevated seating for 500 people on both the main floor and mezzanine levels.

“We’re excited to bring the orchestra to the north end and inaugurate the building,” Burns said.

The Saratoga Orchestra primarily performs on South Whidbey, but 25 percent of its members live in the north. It will be the group’s first holiday concert in Oak Harbor.

“It’s fitting to bring the concert to an Oak Harbor audience. We will make this a regular part of our season,” Burns said.

“Now we have a building where we can do that,” said Vern Olsen, who is on the orchestra’s board of directors.

The flagship concert will be family-style and festive, with several familiar Christmas songs. The orchestra is teaming up with the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Conservatory Choir, conducted by Robert W. Prosch. A few of the holiday favorites include “I Saw Three Ships,” “Away in the Manger” and “Fum, Fum, Fum.”

“Nothing can celebrate the season as effectively as music,” Burns said. “We want people to feel as though they’ve gotten into the Christmas spirit, even though it’s early.”

With the new stage, lighting and sound equipment, Principal Dwight Lundstrom is also anticipating a resurgence of the drama department. The students are already working on a musical production of “Into The Woods” for later this year.

“It’s a 12 to 18 person play and 50 students tried out, so you can tell kids are excited about the possibility of this,” Lundstrom said.

The new Student Union Building is one of the most ambitious construction projects since the school was constructed in 1973; besides Wildcat Stadium. It will also house a cafeteria, new band and choir rooms, and a larger kitchen and serving area.

The highly-anticipated building was originally slated to open in early October, but construction is taking longer than first expected.

Burns said the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra scheduled their first regular concert in the building Oct. 27, but the date was postponed.

“We always leave with one impression. Will it be ready on time?” Burns said, of the group’s ongoing tours of the facility.

Lundstrom says crews are confident they will hit the target date, and the school will take over the building on Nov. 30. The community celebration for the grand opening of the Student Union Building is set for Jan. 13.

For tickets to the facility’s first concert Dec. 6 by the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra, visit Bayleaf, or Wind & Tide Bookshop in Oak Harbor. They can also be purchased at the high school the day of the performance. Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for seniors or the military and $12 for students.

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