HENDERSON — McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center is using the hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to make some long-awaited renovations to the auditorium.
Mark Hopper, operations director and board chairman for McGregor Hall and the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation, said a “significant gift” from Elmira Choopani and Khanh Vu and Vance Family Medicine will be used to lower the orchestra pit and place a curtain across the rear of the auditorium to improve acoustics.
“They really are invaluable sponsors and friends to McGregor,” Hopper said.
Meanwhile, he is working on the 2021 event schedule after being forced to scrub most of the 2020 lineup of concerts and stage productions.
The first event scheduled for the new year will be pushed to a later date. A program of gospel music featuring The Kingsmen and The Perrys scheduled for Feb. 12 is being renegotiated, said Hopper.
“It’s complicated because it involves two groups,” he said.
A popular gospel group for more than half a century, The Kingsmen recorded hit after hit, including “Excuses,” which stood at No. 1 for 18 months, making it the longest-running top song in Southern Gospel Music history.
The Perrys have also had their share of hits, including “I Wish I Could Have Been There” and “If You Know Him.”
The program was originally scheduled for March 2020. Tickets for that performance will be honored when it is rescheduled. Tickets may also be purchased online at https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/11557/mcgregor-hall-perform ing-arts-center.
Also rescheduled from 2020 are The Drifters. They are now scheduled for Oct. 3, a date Hopper said he feels “pretty confident” about. Current tickets will be valid for the rescheduled performance, he said.
Shutting down for most of the year created a financial crisis for McGregor Hall. As Hopper said previously, “There is no money coming in, but the bills continue to come.”
In September, the Vance County Commissioners helped to ease the situation by providing $50,000 in pandemic relief aid to McGregor Hall.
The commissioners’ Intergovernmental Committee recommended the subsidy in recognition of “the importance of McGregor to the continued growth and success of downtown Henderson and Vance County,” County Manager Jordan McMillen said in a summary of the action.
Although most major 2020 presentations were cancelled, McGregor Hall played a major role in a number of community activities:
• April/May/June: Hosted a personal protective equipment collaboration among First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church and McGregor Hall in which community volunteers made more than 6,000 protective medical gowns for area hospitals and nursing homes.
• May: Free Livestream concert featuring saxophonist Michael Stephenson and pianist Mark Hopper. (The concert is still available for viewing on the McGregor Hall Facebook page.)
• June: Online presentation of “Buyer and Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins, a one-man play starring Brian Westbrook and presented under exclusive agreement with Dramatists Play Service Inc.
• July: Livestream concert featuring smooth jazz from Greg Milton and his band. (Also available on the McGregor Hall Facebook page.)
• August: Free online presentation of “Melanin Marquee: A Black Theater Cabaret,” a presentation of Broadway excerpts by African-American actors from the community.
• November: Presented “With a Little Help From Our Friends: The Concert for McGregor,” a pre-recorded virtual concert of more than 30 Beatles favorites performed by local talent and premiered on the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre big screen.
• November: Recorded and presented online “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” the Vance County Arts Council’s 2020 Christmas variety show.
• December: Recorded, hosted, and presented the Miss North Carolina Christmas Spectacular and Scholarship Presentation.
Although McGregor Hall is closed, the phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.