Even the most steadfast Christmas traditions must change from time to time. Stephen and Bernice Ditchfield know this.
The matriarch and patriarch of Sarasota’s favorite singing family broke tradition this year when they announced that their annual Christmas concert would not be held at the Sarasota Opera House as it had been for the previous 10 years.
Instead, the family decided to take the concert out east — to Faith Baptist Church, where Stephen Ditchfield has served as the congregation’s choir director for nearly one year.
The decision was a practical one.
Parking had become a problem for many Christmas concertgoers. Further adding to the traffic headache: The Ditchfield’s Saturday night shows often coincide with the downtown Sarasota Boat Parade. Even the valet crew had trouble efficiently moving cars.
When Faith Baptist offered the family its 1,200-seat auditorium on its sprawling Fruitville Road campus located three miles east of I-75, the Ditchfields opted to make the move.
The facility has enough parking to accommodate hundreds of drivers, in addition to the several tour buses that pull in from out of town.
Without having to pay Opera House rental fees, the family was able to lower ticket prices from $40 for reserved seating to $30.
“We felt with the downturn in the economy and the parking situation, the time was right,” Bernice Ditchfield says. “It was our best option. The biggest thing we want people to know is that this isn’t a church service. It’s our regular Christmas show.”
Minus the curtains, of course.
Though the Faith Baptist auditorium is equipped with two flat panel screens perfect for broadcasting multi-media presentations, the venue doesn’t have stage curtains.
As a result, the Ditchfields have had to invent creative scene changes, which they say isn’t a problem given that they have access to the stage for an entire week before the show.
“This way we can do more elaborate set building,” Bernice Ditchfield says. “At the Opera House we couldn’t have a dress rehearsal. We had to set up at 8 o’clock in the morning and load out at 11 o’clock at night. We’d be worn out and dog-tired. It’ll be nice to do a show without the pressure of a three-hour setup.”
IF YOU GO
The Ditchfield Family Singers will perform “The Wonder of Christmas” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, in the McCall Auditorium at Faith Baptist Church, 8751 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Tickets are $20 for open seating or $30 for reserved seating. For tickets, call 923-2013 or visit www.ditchfieldfamily-singers.com.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].