Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rosemarie Fulbrook: Losing auditorium would be a blow to the community

The following appeared in the 11 April, 2007, edition of the Penticton Western News:

The fate of the Pen High auditorium has been on my mind for some time and I feel compelled to add my voice to those who are encouraging School District 67 and the City of Penticton to do “due diligence” in determining its future. I must first state that I am writing from one vantage only — and that is as an audience member.

On moving here from Vancouver in the mid ‘90s, I was delighted to find a theatre with such amazing acoustics. Years of studying music and many more years working “front-of-house” at the Civic Theatres (Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Orpheum and the Playhouse — all facilities owned and managed by the City of Vancouver), have tuned my ears somewhat and I thought Penticton was blessed to have such an excellent facility.

I felt a certain reluctance to lose the Pen High auditorium when the Penticton and District Performing Arts Facility Society needs assessment recommended a “state-of-the-art performance facility” to be built for Penticton’s 2008 centennial. But, I shrugged the feeling off as “too bad, such a shame” as the report indicated that the aging auditorium could not, cost effectively, be modified to meet current physical and technical performance needs.

Over the past few months, however, it has become increasingly clear that the South Okanagan Event Centre will usurp all the financial resources needed to construct such a state-of-the-art performance facility. It has also become increasingly clear that the City of Penticton had no intention of halting the wrecking ball until the citizens of Penticton and surrounding districts raised their voices in a concerted protest.

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear the Vancouver Chamber Choir in a concert presented by the Penticton Secondary music department. Seated near the back of the almost full 737-seat auditorium, the sound was as intimate and clear as if I’d been sitting in the third row.

Afterwards I thought that this type of concert — professional musicians, students learning about music, the performance arts, and fundraising via an exceptional concert for the community, was probably exactly what the school district and the city had in mind when the facility was constructed in the 1950s.

It may not be state of the art, but it’s what we’ve got and I’d greatly prefer it if Joni Mitchell’s lyric lines, “And don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” didn’t play through my head every time I walked past the parking lot that used to be the Pen High auditorium.

Rosemarie Fulbrook

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