After 10 years of being dark, Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena will reopen to classical music in December. Harvest Rock Church, the new owner of the 1,250-seat hall, widely considered one of the finest in Southern California, will launch the opening with performances of Handel's "Messiah," Dec. 17 and 18. Jorge Mester will conduct the Pasadena Symphony and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
A series of eight performances spread over four months by the San Marino-based California Philharmonic, led by Victor Vener, will follow, beginning in February. Dates will be announced.
"As a church, we feel blessed with the stewardship of this very lovely building, which the Worldwide Church of God kept in immaculate condition for the last 10 years," says Doug Huse, Harvest Rock Church's director of operations. "It is our church and we have our Sunday services there, but our senior pastor, Che Ahn, also wants to reach out to the community. He decided that nothing would be more appropriate than the 'Messiah' with the Pasadena Symphony."
The church plans to upgrade the hall's 30-year-old sound system and make other small improvements, but Huse doesn't foresee a return to concert series on the scale of the Ambassador in its heyday.
"The Worldwide Church of God put millions of dollars into keeping that series going," he says. "They had a staff of more than 500 people to run it. We don't have those funds, and we have a very limited staff. Still, in time, who knows?"
Ambassador Auditorium and other key structures on the former Ambassador College campus in Pasadena were purchased by Harvest Rock, an evangelical Christian church, in May.
Other parts of the property are still owned by the Worldwide Church of God, which closed the college in 1990.