Work is progressing well on the Armstrong Auditorium, an 800-seat concert hall on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus, at 14400 S. Bryant in north Edmond, and school officials hope to have it completed by spring.
The 44,266-square-foot auditorium will sit on the southern end of the college campus. It will serve as a worship center for the Philadelphia Church of God’s headquarters congregation in addition to housing the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation’s performing arts series, which kicks off its new season in February.
Shane Granger serves as marketing director for the college. He said work began in 2008 on the auditorium, which is now estimated to cost about $18 million. The building is designed by the Oklahoma City-based firm Rees Associates, which designed the Rose State College Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a quality building from front to back,” Granger said. “It’s of the finest quality we can make it.”
Granger said the school has a full-time contracting staff that is serving as the auditorium’s general contractor.
“We save quite a bit of money doing it ourselves,” Granger said.
Granger said the auditorium will have a number of unique features including some of the very treasures that were considered the crown jewels of the Ambassador Auditorium: a nine-foot Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano and two Baccarat crystal candelabra commissioned by the Shah of Iran.
Those items were obtained in 2004 by the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit, humanitarian organization sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God.
Granger said another added feature is the “Swans in Flight” a bronze-and-steel sculpture by internationally renowned sculptor Sir David Wynne, which will be installed in a 120-foot-long reflecting pool in front of Armstrong Auditorium.
In 2009, the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation brought the sculpture to Edmond.
It was first unveiled in 1968 by Herbert W. Armstrong and Wynne at the Big Sandy, Texas, campus of Ambassador College.
After the demise of Ambassador College, the Worldwide Church of God eventually sold the 1,600-acre Big Sandy campus in 2000 to the Green Family Trust, owner of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., of Oklahoma City.
Green then transferred ownership to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a nonprofit educational ministry based in Oak Brook, Ill., at the end of 2001.
In November 2008, the Armstrong Foundation contacted the IBLP to inquire about purchasing the Swans in Flight sculpture. After several months of negotiations, the parties reached an agreement.
The swans, each weighing about three-quarters of a ton with wingspans from 11 to 13 feet, were disassembled and transported from Texas to Oklahoma, where they underwent minor repairs and refinishing at the Crucible Foundry before being installed in their new home in front of Armstrong Auditorium. Situated in a 120- by 30-foot reflecting pool, they appear to soar into flight as six water jets cascade over them.
Until the auditorium is completed, the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation’s performing arts series will again be on campus at the John Amos Field House.
“Our field house is a very intimate place,” Granger said. “You are really getting up there close with the artist.”
The foundation began sponsoring a small performing arts series in 1998 in Edmond. Since then, the series has grown significantly, attracting thousands of guests to the school campus. Featured artists have included the Vienna Choir Boys, the Canadian Brass, the Berlin Philharmonic Winds and other world-renowned performers.
The foundation’s concert series is patterned after the famed Ambassador International Cultural Foundation’s series, hosted in the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif.
Under Herbert Armstrong, the auditorium, known as the “Carnegie Hall of the West Coast,” hosted greats such as Luciano Pavarotti, Vladimir Horowitz, Joan Sutherland, the Vienna Philharmonic and other musical legends.
Ryan Malone serves as the concert series manager.
“This is our 11th season and this is the most events we’ve had,” Malone said. “We wanted to make this concert series special and stand out. There is something for everyone.”
The new season kicks off Feb. 14 with a performance by the Band of the Irish Guards and the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
That will be followed two nights later on Feb. 16 with a performance by the King’s Singers, England’s premier vocal ensemble.
The month of February closes out Feb. 28 with a performance by the Grammy-winning Canadian Brass.
“These are some very prestigious groups,” Malone said. “We feel much honored to have such a distinguished group of performers coming to this campus. We feel like this will excite a lot of people. We feel like this is bringing a royal caliber to the performing arts of Edmond. They are really an enjoyable group to watch. It’s very family-friendly.”
Malone said famed pianist André Watts will perform in concert on March 9.
The concert series closes out in April with three performances, including an appearance on April 8 by mezzo-soprano opera star Frederica Von Stade with legendary bass Samuel Ramey. This is one of the stops on Von Stade’s farewell concert tour.
“They are opera legends,” Malone said. “This is going to be an opera lover’s dream with these two people on stage.”
On April 15, the famed Romeros Guitar Quartet will perform. This event includes a special one-night appearance by original group member Angel Romero.
The concert season concludes April 25 with the Herbert W. Armstrong College’s Choral Union with a full orchestra performing Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”.
“It’s going to be a dramatic performance,” Malone said. “We’re thrilled to be doing it. It should be exciting.”
Malone said ticket prices will vary for each concert, but will be affordable.
“We are trying to let people know that we are trying to continue that (Ambassador) concert history and tradition,” Malone said. “We feel like it’s going to match the caliber of talent that we have been bringing thus far. We feel like we will have the venue to match that. We really want everyone from the artist to the patrons at the front door to feel like they are being treated very special and this is a really great experience for everybody.”
For ticket information call 285-1010, or visit www.armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong College is a privately supported co-educational institution offering courses in theology, liberal arts, applied arts and sciences. The school offers two- and four-year scholastic curriculums. The college does not offer accredited associates or bachelor’s degrees.