Ambassador Auditorium: It Is Risen!

ambaud.jpgBeing embarrassingly out of the loop in most news San Gabrielian, when I heard on KPCC yesterday that Pasadena’s world-renowned Ambassador Auditorium was grandly reopening, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Closed since the mid-’90s and long thought to be doomed to redevelopment, I was thrilled to discover that the prestigious performance space had been saved and was beginning its resurrection last night with a glorious performance of Handel’s “Messiah” by the Pasadena Symphony and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Eager to know who or what had raised the 1,200-plus seat theater from the dead, I hopped online and googled around a bit. Turns out its savior is a 10-year-old Pasadena-based organization called the Harvest Rock Church, which, in partnership with Maranatha High School, concluded the sale last summer with the place’s previous owners, the Worldwide Church of God, for an undisclosed amount and a whole bunch of hallelujahs. I just love it when various apostolic religions can come together to spare such a work and place of art.

Hang onto your fire and brimstone… I’ve got nothing against the ownerships past or present, and on the surface the new kings seem very enthusiastic to have had the duly ordained ways and means to salvage such a world-renowned stage. In addition, they say that though the building is going to function primarily as its new church, they’re genuinely eager to share it with the community at-large. But for those of us envisioning its return as “the Carnegie Hall of the West,” and hosting an eclectic mix of performance and art in such an acoustically perfect envionment, hold on to your horses of the apocalypse…

Things first get a little too evangelical for my taste in a Harvest Rock Church press release announcing the purchase and answering how they arrived at the decision to buy the 30-year-old Ambassador:

“Beginning in 2001, God began to speak through his prophets that it was time for Harvest Rock Church to look for property. This constant theme has been spoken to us by major prophetic voices: Cindy Jacobs, Kim Clement, Jim Goll, Jane Hamon, Chuck Pierce and many others. God also guides his people through open doors. The door began to open in January 2004 when a letter of intent was given to us that we could purchase AA if we came up with asking price. God then supernaturally provided the funds to purchase AA. What was once a prophetic vision has become a reality.”

Supernatural funding… whatever you sayeth.

As to what we might find up on the auditorium’s stage, the church’s founder and senior paster Che Ahn sets that straight right quick: “We will continue to make rental of the auditorium available to Pasadena and Southern California for major arts events and Christian concerts as long as the performances are worked around our church schedule and that the performances do not conflict with our values.”

Did ya get that last part: “…that the performances do not conflict with our values.” Thus it’s no coincidence that Handel’s “Messiah” is first up on the stage. And thus it’s a good bet ladies will never be flinging their undergarments up at Tom Jones there รณ which is all fine, so spare me the wrath of gawd and property ownership stuff. I’m not here to contest that the new landLORDS can’t do whatever they damn well please with the place. I’m just saying that an Ambassador so “saved” will leave a lot of performance opportunities spurned.

Jesus Is their Ticketmaster. The bible tells them so.

6 Replies to “Ambassador Auditorium: It Is Risen!”

  1. Had it really been closed that long? When I lived in Pasadena my one and only time at the Ambassador was for a wonderful afternoon concert by Wynton (or was it Branford) Marsalis and his legendary jazz pianist father, Ellis Marsalis.

  2. Wynton: Trumpet. Branford: Sax. I believe the Ambassador last hosted a concert as a performance arts venue in 1994 or 1995. After that it functioned primarily as the assembly hall for the Worldwide Church of God. There may have been occasional concerts during that time.

  3. I remember watching the Chick Corea Akoustic Band perform there back in 1991. Great show.

    I could have sworn there was a bust of L. Ron Hubbard in a glass case in the lobby though. Heh.

  4. Now that few months have passed since the sale, it’s time for a truthful perspective. There have been 10 performances at the Ambassador with The Pasadena Symphony and these past months with the California Philharmonic Orchestra. We not only heard Handel’s ‘Massiah’ but a Night at the Movies, an Evening in Paris, an Invitation to the Dance and Andrew LLoyd Webber Meets Puccini. Lots of fine music. All this in less than one year since Harvest Rock Church purchased the Ambassador Auditorium. Not bad for a staff of four persons and Harvest Rock Church Volunteers. Be reminded that in the Ambassador’s glory days there was a staff pool of 500 student’s required to serve the performances as well a very substantial yearly budet in the millions to underwrite “the eclectric mix of performaces and art” that performed at the Ambassador. Those free spending days of the 70’s and 80’s are long gone. So add the current concert schedule with Maranantha High School’s Broadway Review Nite and numerious school evenings, plus HRC Sundays and Conferences with the above mentioned “prophetic” names; the old place is blessed with new life…as well as a new sound system for other types of music and many other needed upgades for the aging Pasadena landmark. This was an impossible happening, and just maybe Pastor Che Ahn knows how fill those 1200+ seats at The Ambassador Auditorium and give something to our fine City that we are proud of. Come by and check it out!

  5. Hi. I think you need to talk with Pastor to see what he has said. He stated that the only thing the church requires is to be allowed to preach the Gospel fo 15 minutes prior to any performance. I don’t think that is too great of an effort do you ? This whole world needs more Christianity and more love for our fellow man.

  6. I remember Joan Sutherland’s final concert there, watching the orchestra members join in the applause after her performance.

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