May 31--The sound of music will be heard again at an old amphitheater that once held twilight concerts and outdoor worship services.
The amphitheater at First Christian Church of Oklahoma City will be the site of the new Hawkstock 2014 Music Festival set for June 28. The festival will feature performances by the Red Dirt Rangers, Broken Okies, OK Chorale and Annie Oakley, to name a few.
The Rev. John Malget, senior pastor, said the amphitheater has historic beginnings because it was the first structure built on First Christian's property at NW 37 and Walker Avenue. The landmark church, with its familiar dome, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary.
The amphitheater had fallen into disrepair in recent years, but students and administrators from Harding Fine Arts Academy made church leaders an offer they couldn't refuse, Malget said.
Sherry Rowan, the school's principal, said the school agreed to provide the labor needed to renovate the amphitheater, and the church agreed to provide some funding for the project.
Rowan said administrators and students wanted to have a music festival to help raise funds for renovation projects at the school, 3333 N Shartel.
Rowan said student Tristan Todd initially had asked that his blues-rock band The Huemans be able to perform at the school as part of his senior capstone project. She said he wanted to raise money for the school at the same time, and she thought they could invite more people if they held the event at a larger venue.
First Christian Church, 3700 N Walker, is between the Edgemere Heights and Edgemere Park neighborhoods where Rowan lives, so she knew a lot about the old amphitheater. She said she thought it would be the perfect site for a family-friendly festival like Hawkstock (named after the school's mascot, the fire hawk).
"It's such a beautiful place, but too many people don't know about it," Rowan said during a recent weekend workday at the site.
Soon, that won't be the case.
Amphitheater came first
Malget said the 3,500-seat outdoor amphitheater was constructed in 1947. The amphitheater's seats are made of concrete with wooden backs. According to church history, the amphitheater was dedicated in August 1947, at a time when the congregation worshipped at First Christian's building at NW 10 and Robinson Avenue. The morning worship services were held at the church, but evening worship services were in the amphitheater on the north part of the grounds of the church's then new property.
Called "Edgemere Under the Stars," the inspirational outdoor services featured the preaching of the church's pastor at the time, the Rev. Bill Alexander, and choral music under the direction of Tracy Sylvester.
On Friday evenings, people flocked to the amphitheater for "Twilight Time," which featured musical entertainment with guest artists and local talent.
The landmark domed church at the corner of NW 37 and Walker didn't come along until 1956, but the amphitheater had made the site a popular draw for worshippers, families and music enthusiasts. Malget said the amphitheater eventually became the site of such events as Jewel Box Theater outdoor musicals but had not been used in recent years.
So, when Harding Fine Arts Academy students and supporters volunteered to do the needed renovation work on the worn-out structure, church leaders were pleased, he said.
Rowan and Lance Lightner, a Harding parent overseeing the project, said several workdays have been held to get the amphitheater in shape for the festival.
School volunteers weeded and chopped trees and were in the process of replacing many of the wooden seatbacks, Rowan and Lightner said. All of the backs will be repainted, they said.
The stage area was cleared of debris, they said. Lightner said JoeCo Construction donated a crew to replace the stage, and Spectrum Paint furnished paint for the wooden backs. He said other businesses also agreed to help out, including Maughan Studio, which will provide a public address system for the festival, and Greg Robertson with Audio Associates, who is donating audio equipment.
Todd, the student who came to Rowan with the idea for a musical fundraiser, said he has enjoyed helping coordinate the festival.
"It's been pretty cool," he said.
Rowan said the event will include a concession stand and food trucks and children's activities in addition to musical performances.
"It's a good project because it unites people in something positive," she said.
"In Oklahoma, we're so good at coming together in times of tragedy. It's nice just to come together to have a good time."
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