Angels on the Ohio

Due to a bit of ongoing drama lately, I’m behind in writing about my concert with The Ohio Valley Symphony, but here’s the short version: it was a wonderful homecoming. Beautiful weather along the beautiful Ohio River, and a sensitive and energetic orchestra. The musicians come from six states, and they’re young – a lot of them were probably scratching out their first Suzuki lesson when the orchestra and I played its first season 20 years ago! The OVS is the brainchild of Lora Lynn Snow, an oboist who dared to dream up her own professional orchestra for Gallipolis, the small town in Appalachia that is also my husband Tom’s hometown.

Beautiful Gallipolis

Beautiful Gallipolis

Lora Lynn involved the entire community (which numbers less than 5000 people) to fund a full symphony orchestra that is not only solvent but has a nice healthy endowment. She discovered an abandoned Victorian opera house in town and drummed up enthusiastic helpers — students, doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers, teachers –- to paint, build, and renovate the old place into a lovely and jewel-like theater. Did I mention she also plays principal oboe? (We had some lovely piano/oboe solos in the slow movement of the Mozart concerto.)

The day before the concert, as she drove me to Huntington, W. Virginia for an interview with Channel 3′s Carrie Cline, I asked her how the orchestra won the attention of its angel, Mrs. Ann Carson-Dater, who once lived in Southern Ohio but now lives in Arizona and who, without ever having heard or seen the orchestra, began her support of the OVS with a gift of 2 Million dollars,

“Well,” Lora said, as she navigated along Route 7, (and I’m paraphrasing a bit,) “about twelve years ago, I was running around taking care of my kids, and I got a long-distance phone call from this lady in California. I didn’t have time to talk just that second, but when I sat down to nurse my son, we finally had the opportunity for a more leisurely conversation. She asked me several questions, and I told her what the orchestra was up to. A few months later, she set up our endowment…”

No doubt Lora’s idealism and her absolute passion for classical music inspired confidence in Mrs. Dater, who loves classical music as well. A few years ago, Mrs. Dater bought the theater building for the orchestra so that it will always have a home. Classical music will never die, despite headlines to the contrary, as long as there are Lora Snows and Mrs. Daters around.

Marquee at the Ariel Theater

Marquee at the Ariel Theater

A few memorable highlights of the Saturday night concert: my dear friend and colleague David Kim, who, in addition to his position as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, still concertizes as soloist around the world, played a gorgeous rendition of the Sibelius Violin Concerto though about to collapse from the flu. That’s a true artist for you! (David is fine now.) I also enjoyed working closely with Maestro Ray Fowler (he’s co-founder of The OVS,) who is so alive to the music the notes practically leap from his skin. Many old friends came from around Ohio and made my day (Olev, Trish, Bob, Sally, Ken, Bobbie, Waltraut and Richard, Manfred, Marille, RuthAnn, Hank, and many more.) My parents-in-law Sig and Alix took wonderful care of me.

And here’s the icing on the cake -– two music students from Marshall University asked me at the reception, “Did you write your own cadenzas? We loved them!” If you’ve read my last blog post, you’ll know that was a thrill for me indeed.

There are 3 responses to “Angels on the Ohio”

  1. Ms. Harder, I went to OSU with Lora Lynn Snow then known as Lora Conner. She was my roommate for awhile in the early to mid 70′s, dating ourselves here, and I knew then that Lora was destined for good things in the future. She and I keep up through email on occasion, but although she has invited me several times, I have not yet been able to see her theatre and hear her symphony. Thanks for the description, she would never have told me her involvement in such detail.
    Connie Judd Taylor

  2. Hi Debra! I am a professor of music history at Marshall University, write the OVS program notes, and have known Sig & Alix for over 35 yrs. One of the Marshall students you mention has been in two of my music history classes & we discussed Mozart and his cadenzas some time ago. I’m pleased that the question was asked. My husband and I have seen/heard you every time you have performed with the OVS and it is always a treat. Many thanks for sharing your gifts with Gallipolis!

  3. So pleased to read your blog. We’ve been subscribers to the Ohio Valley Symphony for a few seasons and value it so much. Still amazed to have such a creation in our little neck of the woods. Thanks for telling a bit of Lora’s story and the Ariel’s & the symphony’s history. I’ve often wished it were more widely appreciated how unique this story and Lora are.

    At the time of your performance here, Gail and I were nursing various ailments and were not able to attend, so we surely hope that you will return to Gallipolis soon. Our best wishes to you.