The show must go on: Deadlines nearing for Oxford projects
by Eddie Burkhalter
May 06, 2013 | 7759 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Oxford performing arts center in May, before it hosted the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
The Oxford performing arts center in May, before it hosted the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
OXFORD — Opening night looms for Oxford’s unfinished new performing arts center, and rain threatens to delay Oxford Lake renovations past the Independence Day celebration planned for the park.

Oxford’s city project manager, Fred Denney, is betting it all, however, that both projects will finish on time.

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform at the center May 17 at 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve got a few things going on. Touch-up painting and odds and ends,” Denney said, speaking about the 1,210-seat theater, but he’s confident it will be ready in time to drop the curtain.

Technicians will be testing the theater’s sound and lighting systems this week, Denney said.

Alabama Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Christopher Confessore said he was unaware until Monday that the performance would be the first in the theater, but instead of being worried about first-time glitches, he expressed excitement over the fact.

“The great thing about our orchestra and our production team is that we perform all over the state and we’re used to performing in lots of different venues,” Confessore said. “As long as the electricity is on, I think we’re going to have a great time.”

The show itself will be a showcase for Birmingham native and multi-instrumentalist Bobby Horton’s music and storytelling abilities, Confessore said, as well as the talented musicians in the orchestra.

There are certain requirements venues must meet to host the orchestra, Confessore said, from overhead lighting to climate-control, and those things are worked out in contracts prior to performances.

The cost to host the orchestra varies, he said, and grants are often available to help communities pay for performances. He was unaware of Oxford’s cost for next Friday’s concert.

Attempts Monday to reach the center’s director, Rani Welch, and the Oxford Arts Council for comment were unsuccessful.

The $10.4 million project included renovation of the existing nearly 100-year-old building, and addition of the theater with several large meeting rooms.

The building, originally a school, was once Oxford’s city hall and police station.

Work began in June 2011, but problems with loose soil beneath the building delayed construction by several months.

In another major project, rains in recent weeks have hampered progress at Oxford Lake, but it too will be ready as the site of this year’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration, Denney said.

What remains in the $2.8 million project is the completion of concrete retaining walls around the lake and construction of three boat houses, landscaping and lighting, Denney said.

“If we could get the rain to slow down it would help,” Denney said. “The rain is killing us out there, but we’ll get there.”

The will play at the center on May 17 at 7:30 p.m.

The Oxford Arts Council will present the Alabama Symphony Orchestra show, titled “Alabama: Here We Stay.”

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and may be purchased at the Oxford Civic Center, BB&T, Noble Bank and Trust, and Cheaha Banks.

A reception for ticket holders will be held prior to the concert from 6 to 7 p.m. in the center.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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