Oxford's new performing arts center opens with ASO program
by Eddie Burkhalter
OXFORD — From the opening notes of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” the arts in Oxford entered a new era Friday evening.

Opening night at the city’s new performing arts center saw hundreds come out to hear the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham musician and storyteller Bobby Horton.

Organized by the Oxford Arts Council, the concert nearly filled the 1,210-seat theater, though an exact figure for ticket sales was not immediately available Friday.

Arts council president Gloria Horton smiled and greeted patrons as they entered the new facility. If there was any worry on the part of the arts council and the center’s director, Rani Welch, of a low turnout, they were fast put at ease as the center quickly filled with concert-goers.

“There was a lot of hard work put into it, but to see it come to fruition is wonderful,” Horton said.

Work began in 2011 on the $10.4 million renovation and addition at the former city hall in downtown oxford. It was completed just in time to welcome the orchestra, led by resident conductor Christopher Confessore.

Prior to the start of the concert Oxford Parks and Recreation Director Don Hudson talked to the audience about the woman responsible for the founding of the arts council in 1980, Norma Martin.

With Martin standing by his side, Hudson announced that the City Council and Mayor Leon Smith had proclaimed May 17, 2013, as Norma Martin Day in Oxford.

Smith and two members of the council were at the Alabama League of Municipalities conference Friday and could not attend the event.

Longtime arts council member Jane Batey walked back and forth as the symphony warmed up on the stage. Batey said the night’s performance was just the beginning, and that the aim is to bring more acts like the symphony.

“I could just jump up and down,” Batey said. “I’m just so proud.”

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.
© 2013