Prairie Village News 6/18/19

Faron Wahl, Manager.

I absolutely love our mission of preserving the past, most of all when visitors’ eyes widen with excitement over one of our offerings they’ve never-before encountered, or one that calls up for them fond, deeply nestled memories. But I’m not quite satisfied with just static displays and buildings if some instead can be presented in a way that lets them live on as they once were.

In other words, it’s very good to utilize every possible facet of our facilities in a living manner, rather than settling for only still-life displays. Some of the internal stories of the past will live on in dynamic fashion if we’ll let them. And such an evergreen approach, if you will, already plays out here in several corners of our property. One of the most prominent examples is our Opera House.

Constructed in 1912 in neighboring Oldham, this relic structure served that community in many ways prior to moving to the Village in the early ‘70s. We know that Lawrence Welk found himself playing there for his very first time with a stage band in 1924, after being noticed uptown playing for donations in a hotel lobby during the town’s potato festival. The rest is Welk history.

Our Opera House underwent a major renovation only a few years ago, a project that saw completion – including full air-conditioning – in 2013. One of our concertgoers at Abbey Road this past Saturday night recalled fondly watching the SDSU Prairie Repertory Theater perform on this stage not so many years ago, albeit in the more traditional sweltering setting sans climate control. I was among the sweating crowds a time or two at those very events, and I recall easily the oppressive heat but also the keen performances.

Another lady enjoying Saturday’s show recounted for me with great thought how as a young girl she went with her parents to this Opera House many decades ago in Oldham and spent evenings with them square dancing to live music. We visited about Mr. Welk’s footprints in our hall as well. She seemed equally thrilled to hear Abbey Road perform and to see and talk about a couple of our early photos from the Oldham days when I offered her the opportunity. It seemed that her evening was enriched by both our current musical offering as well as our willingness and desire to share all of this venue’s past.

We do our best to sustain the ongoing storyline inside this grand hall. Just two years ago, our piano tuners helped us locate an excellent-quality upright piano to replace one that was badly needing to go. Thanks to Bob’s Piano and their sharp eye for what we’ve got going here, our stage now features an instrument that’s not only worthy of its spotlight but that was constructed within a year or two of the original build-date of the Opera House that now features it. A quality instrument blending precisely with correct age and era. Perfect.

To top that off, our performers regularly express how pleased they are with this venue. Abbey Road shared with me Saturday night that our Opera House is among their very favorite venues they’ve played anywhere. They love the historic component, the classic layout, and the acoustics. When both the artists and the audience love the physical plant and structure, you have an arrangement demanding continued utilization. We’ll do that again this Sunday night at 7:00 with our annual variety show, and with two more fantastic concerts in July.

So there you have it: a current day band here in the 2010’s, drawing attendees also reminiscing about performances here in the ‘80s while the band is playing hits from the ‘60s, causing yet other guests to recall fondly this building in the ‘40s and a famous young bandleader’s start there in the ‘20s – all coming out of a structure built in 1912. That’s quite the historic package, being unwrapped and re-lived every time we start filling the house. And we intend to keep filling it.

You just can’t beat that.