Ardrey re-opens with gala
By Laura Thompson
Beautiful and unique art lines the lobby that leads into the newly painted black Ardrey Auditorium. This intimate space was the setting for a gala with performances by the best the School of Music has to offer.
Ardrey Auditorium originally opened in June 1975. Talk of renovation began in 2008, but was put on hold until October 2011.
Not even a year later, the new auditorium is now an intimate and professional canvas for the students of the College of Arts and Letters to display their talents. The gala was a free event to the public and showcased performances by the Elden Brass Quintet, NAU Wind Symphony, Shrine of the Ages Choir, NAU Symphony Orchestra and others including faculty members, students and alumni. Director of the School of Music and master of ceremonies Todd Sullivan said this performance showcased what the School of Music aims for.
“This program is a great musical event in addition to the celebration . . . an incredible snapshot of what makes the School of Music so special,” Sullivan said.
As the audience filled the house and sat in their new, comfortable red seats, pride and excitement radiated from the stage. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the beginning of the night full of music and rich history.
Following a dazzling performance from the NAU Wind Symphony accompanied by the Elden Brass Quintet, the audience was taken back to the 1970s and then up to the present to see the beginnings of Ardrey Auditorium and how it evolved into the artistic and inspiring venue it is today, which was narrated by Sullivan.
“It’s a participation in history . . . it’s more than music,” Sullivan said.
Pianists Juhee Park and Francisco Naranjo put a gap in the story of the Ardrey with a breathtaking duet.
The Shrine of the Ages Choir then took the stage, singing event-appropriate songs like “Consecrate this Day,” “Behold! I Build a House” and a memorable rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” featuring soloists Melanie Rau and Chris Denton.
Senior choral education major Simon Nissen, who is in the Shrine of the Ages chorus, is pleased with the new stage.
“It’s pretty incredible . . . it feels a lot more intimate. It’s nice to know that the university decided to put money into something so close to us.”
Another Shrine of the Ages choir member, sophomore choral education major Stephanie Whitaker, is excited to be part of such a celebration.
“It is something to be proud of. It’s a new piece of art to make more art in,” Whitaker said.
After intermission, the audience was treated to the NAU Opera, with a powerful performance of Act III from “La Boheme.” The audience was then transitioned into a performance by Velocity2, a duet of John Masserini on the clarinet and Jonathan Bergeron on the saxophone performing “Chamaeleon II.”
As the night came to a close, Sullivan took the stage again to explain and introduce the richness of the renovations, from the art-filled lobby to the environmentally friendly LED lighting in the auditorium.
Sullivan took the audience on the same journey, showing all who contributed to this project pictures of the construction and clips of interviews with the masterminds who made this all come together. One final performance was left to tie the night together.
The NAU Symphony Orchestra exploded onto the stage with Beethoven’s overture to “Consecration of the House.”
The audience could not help but be moved by this shining performance. Just when the performance seemed to be winding down, the audience was reunited with the Shrine of Ages choir and soloists Sheronda Mckee, Judith Cloud, Ricardo Pereira, Quentin Lee and Robert Allen Saunders to sing the final song, “Make Our Garden Grow.” The orchestra transitioned into this song along with the soloists perfectly.
As Sullivan said, it was a performance that perfectly showcased what the School of Music has to offer.
Nissen was overjoyed to be part of this history making performance and looks ahead.
“It’s overwhelming, knowing that I will see my future students performing on the same stage one day,” Nissen said.
Whitaker said the revamped auditorium will play a part in the auditorium’s rich history.
“I think it will continue the tradition of being proud of what we do,” Whitaker said.
The Ardrey Auditorium Grand Re-Opening Gala showed NAU and Flagstaff the arts are valued and promoted here and these Lumberjacks are proud of what they do. The next upcoming event for Ardrey is “All the World’s a Stage” performed by NAU’s Opera on October 13 from 5 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.