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New auditorium gives Oak Harbor a musical venue

More than 200 people arrived for the holiday concert “The Many Moods of Christmas” Sunday in the new Oak Harbor High School auditorium. It was the first-ever concert in the new Student Union Building.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
More than 200 people arrived for the holiday concert “The Many Moods of Christmas” Sunday in the new Oak Harbor High School auditorium. It was the first-ever concert in the new Student Union Building.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

The inaugural concert in the new Oak Harbor High School auditorium was a festive one Sunday, as wide-eyed crowds stepped into the building for the first time.

“As a parent, I couldn’t be happier,” Sara Beadles said. “The kids deserve this.”

The two-story Student Union Building was one of the most anticipated openings of the campus’ three-year and $74 million remodel.

The auditorium provides elevated seating for 500 people on the main floor and mezzanine. The stage was acoustically engineered.

“Musically, you have a winner,” conductor Legh W. Burns said of the auditorium.

Sunday’s concert began with an energetic opening barnburner, “March of the Three Kings,” performed by the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra.

The songs fit the season, even if not all of them were overall Christmasy, Burns said. “Kings” was followed by 16th century dance music named “Antique Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1.”

The second half featured the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Conservatory Choir, with heartfelt holiday songs such as “Still, Still, Still” and “The Many Moods of Christmas” for the dramatic finish.

“We hope this is the first of many good performances,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said.

In the past, many of the concerts were held in the former cafeteria, located in Parker Hall. Junior Robert Beadles remembers the poor acoustics when he played with the school band.

“This is awesome,” he said of the new facility. “I’m excited to start classes here.”

The Student Union Building will contain choir and band rooms, several practice rooms and new administrative offices. When not in use for performances, the seating will fold up bleacher-style and the auditorium will be used as a cafeteria.

While many were excited to hear holiday music from musicians from all corners of Whidbey Island that night, they were also intrigued by the promise of the new facility.

“I have worked in the district for 23 years and I’ve had many moments to be proud of, but this is ecstasy,” Carole LaFond said.

Her friend Helen Chatfield-Weeks chimed in, “I would’ve paid money to sit here with it empty.”

Another chance to tour the building is Jan. 13 from 4 to 7 p.m. during the community celebration and open house. The public can tour the new classrooms, listen to music in the auditorium and get free cafeteria samples.

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