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Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre

Past & Present

 33 YearsThe Ohio Valley Symphony
The Ohio Valley Symphony is the only professional orchestra in the Ohio River valley, a region including its home city of Gallipolis, Ohio, and Point Pleasant, W.Va., on the river’s south bank. Now beginning its 30th season, the OVS is the resident ensemble of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre. The orchestra was created as a result of the vision of Lora Lynn Snow, a Gallipolis resident and professional oboist. She was frustrated during a different orchestra’s rehearsal early in 1987 and realized “how music-making should be.”

The result was the Ohio Valley Symphony. Since its first performance on April 1, 1989, the group has never wavered from its guiding principles: to bring live, professional, orchestral music to southeast Ohio audiences; to provide performers an atmosphere of positive reinforcement; and to instill a love of music in children through education and exposure to great music. The OVS offers a six concert subscription series with three concerts in the fall and two concerts in the spring and sandwiched between is a Christmas Concert the first weekend in December.

The orchestra performs a wide variety of music to satisfy every musical appetite. Besides Gallipolis, the OVS has performed in Athens, Portsmouth and Rio Grande, Oh., Ashland, Ky., and Point Pleasant, WV.

The Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre
Nestled in the hills of Southeast Ohio is the 1895 opera house known as The Ariel Opera House. Located in the historic district of the French town of Gallipolis on the Ohio River, the Ariel was built during the age of gas light elegance. During her heyday, she hosted such luminaries as Will Rogers, Sarah Bernhard and Daniel Emmett. Ensembles such as the Chicago Opera and the Ziegfield Follies graced the Ariel’s stage. Vaudeville led to movies and the Ariel’s eventual closing. Neglected and forgotten, she began the steady march of decay.

The Ariel Opera House Grand Opening, 1895

The Ariel Opera House Grand Opening, 1895

Twenty-five years passed before a local professional musician Lora Lynn Snow entered the Ariel’s doors and noticed the marvelous acoustics, the hallmark of craftsmen who built in a day and time when electronic amplification wasn’t known. The Ariel had all the trademarks of the finest halls in the world, a shoe box shape, thick walls covered with plaster and being built in the 19th century.

Lora formed a volunteer group and the work of cleaning up was begun in the fall of 1988. Years of accumulated pigeon manure and debris had to be removed. Volunteers sifted through everything looking for bits and pieces of ornaments, woodwork and clues to the Ariel’s original look. Golden oak woodwork prevailed throughout which the Ariel’s new caretakers lovingly stripped and refinished. Crumbling plaster was replaced and new wiring and plumbing was installed. Gas-look sconces were placed on the walls where the original gas lights hung and the Ariel was fitted with opulent crimson drapery and Victorian reproduction seats. Near the planned reopening of the theatre, elaborate stenciling on the ceiling, accidentally discovered, was reproduced on the new plaster by volunteers who worked all night on scaffolding 30 feet in the air!

June 9, 1990 the Grand Opening of the newly restored Ariel Opera House was heralded by The Ohio Valley Symphony, resident ensemble of the historic theatre, and dedicated by local resident Maj. Gen. George E. Bush who made his own Ariel debut in 1906. In 1991, the auditorium was renamed The Morris & Dorothy Haskins Ariel Theatre in honor of the Haskins contributions to the community.

The Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Theatre

Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre

In July of 2005, Ann Carson Dater purchased the entire complex containing the auditorium and presented it to the community as a permanent home for The Ohio Valley Symphony and for use as a performing arts centre. The re-dedication of the facility as The Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre was April 22, 2006 (110 years after the original dedication on April 23, 1896). Ownership of the building has made expansion of all programs a reality. The newly obtained space includes a banquet hall, ballroom and meeting rooms and the Ariel Chamber Theatre on the third floor. While the primary focus is on the performing arts, all of the spaces are available for rental by other individuals and organizations.

Today the historic building is bustling with activities. The Ohio Valley Symphony, the only professional orchestra in southeast Ohio, offers a five-concert subscription series. Barbershop and Sweet Adeline choruses find the Ariel’s incredible acoustics and turn-of-the-century look makes the perfect partner with their music. The Ariel Children’s Chorus provides a forum to allow young voices to develop properly. The Ariel Players, a community theater troupe, entertains audiences with classic comedies and dramas and a string program provides education for budding young musicians. A hallmark of all Ariel programs is the staffing of these ensembles and educational programs with professional artists.

Local businesses find the Ariel the perfect place for a meeting or presentation. Couples find the Ariel a romantic and elegant setting to exchange wedding vows and celebrate afterwards with a dinner, dance and/or reception. Models think the Ariel provides a glamorous runway for fashion shows. Lectures, debates and classes also work their way into the Ariel’s busy schedule.

In July of 2005, philanthropist Ann Carson Dater, who grew up in Meigs County, made a gift to the community of the building that houses the historic Ariel Opera House at 426 Second Avenue in Gallipolis, Ohio. She wanted to provide a permanent home for The Ohio Valley Symphony and a place for youngsters and adults to take lessons and participate in performing arts programs that rival those offered in larger cities.

Mrs. Dater, Lora Snow and her daughter Julia

Mrs. Dater, Lora Snow and her daughter Julia

To celebrate the gift, April 22, 2006 was chosen as the Grand Re-Dedication of The Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre almost 110 years to the day of the original dedication of the Ariel Opera House. The Ariel was given a facelift that included new energy efficient windows, repairing, painting and refurbishing the second floor rooms, a new marquee, poster boxes, awnings and a new entrance with energy efficient, handicapped accessible doors. A new sprinkler and heating and cooling system has also been installed on all three floors which are accessible by a new elevator and the latest fiber optic wi-fi system is available throughout.

In 2010, the final stage of restoration was completed with the opening of the Third Floor Ariel Chamber Theatre. The seven foot windows allow light to stream in to the elegant performance space that is also perfect for business meetings, weddings, lectures, poetry readings, recitals and much more. Seating 180, the space has a baby grand piano, podium and the same amazing acoustics that prevail in the main auditorium. In 2014-15 one of the street side store fronts was rehabilitated as the Ariel box office restoring the 1895 gas-light look with 21st century technology built in to better accommodate arts patrons. Handicapped accessible restrooms with a diaper deck were added to the third floor near the Ariel Chamber Theatre.

Mrs. Dater was given a Montgomery Ward violin in her youth, took lessons from a German violin teacher and performed with her high school orchestra and later with the Rio Grande College (now the University of Rio Grande) orchestra. Although she no longer resides in the area, she has generously endowed the OVS over a period of years so as to bring professional music to local residents and youths. “The world would be a better place if everyone listened to symphonic music,” says Mrs. Dater. We agree.

The Ariel is the shining star at the very heart of a region that cherishes its heritage. After all, Gallipolis not only preserves its past, it polishes it and puts it on display!

Mrs. Ann Carson Dater, benefactor, Will van der Heyden, Intarsia sculptor (seen in rear) and Ariel Founder and Artistic Director, Lora Lynn Snow at the Grand Re-Dedication of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre April 22, 2006.

Mrs. Ann Carson Dater, benefactor, Will van der Heyden, Intarsia sculptor (seen in rear) and Ariel Founder and Artistic Director, Lora Lynn Snow at the Grand Re-Dedication of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre April 22, 2006.

Reprinted with permission from The Columbus Dispatch Article by Mary Beth Lane GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Nobody in the local symphony orchestra has ever met Ann Carson Dater. As quietly as a soft violin note, Dater has donated $3 million in recent years to endow the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra. And last year, she gave the orchestra a permanent performance home in downtown Gallipolis.

She provided $1 million to the nonprofit board that runs the orchestra and affiliated arts organizations so that it could buy and renovate the brick building that houses the historic Ariel Theatre. “This is all her idea,” said her attorney, Quintin Lindsmith, of Columbus. “She has never heard it perform, never met anyone associated with it. But she knows that for that part of Ohio, for there to be a symphony at all, really is a small miracle.”

Dater did not want to talk about her donations, preferring to remain in the shadows. But this weekend, the longtime patron of the arts in this Ohio River village will be in the limelight usually reserved for the musicians. Dater’s name appeared this week on the new marquee of the renamed Masonic Lodge building at 426 2 nd Ave. And the 89-year-old is expected to attend today’s rededication ceremony of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre and the 8 p.m. symphony concert in her honor. The concert will include a new work specially commissioned to pay tribute to her. The building was first dedicated April 23, 1896, when it belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and included the Ariel Opera House.

Bernard Di Gregorio tunes his viola before rehearsal in the new Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in Gallipolis

Bernard Di Gregorio tunes his viola before rehearsal in the new Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in Gallipolis

What a gift for Gallipolis, said Lora Lynn Snow. The professional oboist founded the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra in 1989 in the Gallia County seat, about 90 miles southeast of Columbus, and now manages it and performs with it. Co-founder Ray Fowler is the maestro. “It doesn’t make sense to have an orchestra in a town of less than 5,000,” Snow said proudly. “But we do. It is happening.” Thanks to Dater’s generosity. The quiet philanthropist lives in an assisted-living development in Prescott, Ariz. Her roots lie here by the Ohio River, though, and so does her earliest immersion into classical music. Her history will be shown on a plaque the Board of Directors of the Ariel Cultural & Performing Arts Centre plans to install.

Dater grew up in Rutland in neighboring Meigs County and learned to play a Montgomery Ward violin that her parents bought for her when she was in the eighth grade at Parker Elementary School, a one-room schoolhouse. She went on to perform with student orchestras at Rutland High School and in college. She attended what is now Rio Grande University and paid tuition by raising and selling chickens and borrowing money from her grandfather. Dater earned an education degree, became a schoolteacher and later married Cincinnati businessman and philanthropist Charles Dater. He died in 1993, but she has quietly continued the couple’s good works. Dater has said that she always drew comfort from the beauty and elegance of classic symphonic music.

Shows the Ariel Building with a bicyclist riding past.

Clarinetist Geane Helfrich, of Charleston, W.Va., rides his bicycle as a worker touches up the marquee of the the performing-arts center in Gallipolis. The center will be rededicated tonight.

The Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra had been performing in Gallipolis for about eight years when Snow received a surprise phone call. It was Dater, who had heard of the symphony. She asked what was needed, and the stream of contributions began. The symphony is excellent, said Lindsmith, who has attended performances. Snow takes pride in that. “We are losing our timpani player to the Cincinnati Orchestra,” she said. “We lost one of our horns to Philadelphia. Even in a town much larger, people wouldn’t expect it to be this good.”

The symphony orchestra had been renting its performance space from the Gallia Masonic Co. When the Masons decided to sell the three-story building in July, Dater donated the money so that the arts board could buy it. The building bustled with activity this week as community volunteers painted and cleaned, preparing for today’s concert and rededication. “Think of the mark a lady can leave. She is leaving her mark, and this kind of facility will definitely leave a mark on a lot of people,” said retired highschool teacher Lloyd Danner, who was perched atop a ladder painting the ballroom.

In addition to the symphony, the balconied, 465-seat Ariel Theatre and the rest of the performing-arts center are home to a dance troupe, adult and youth community-theater groups, and a women’s chorus. Dater plans to fly in by private jet with her daughter and a caretaker to attend the rededication and concert, Lindsmith said.

A bronze plaque will tell her story, ending with her life philosophy:

The gift of Ann Carson Dater was made with the hope that this building is forever to be a place where girls scratchily play their first violin, boys courageously play the cello, and little girls wear their first tutu. This building is forever to be a place where the ordinary demands of life shall be suspended upon the commencement of great performances. This building is forever to be a place where thundering crescendos and soundless smiles live on in memory and feeling long after they have passed. This building is forever to be a place where, hopefully, from time to time, even just a few people become disoriented by wonder.

“When I was approached about making a music piece for the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in Gallipolis, Ohio, I was thrilled,” says van der Heyden. “Music is large… even the softest notes from a single string on a violin surrounds you. And with the full orchestration, it can take you someplace only the listener is privy to.

I listen to Chopin’s Romanze and think that he perhaps stumbles verbally – in speaking to his lover – and the only way he can fully communicate his love or feeling for her is through his music.

The object of any artist is for their works to affect the audience in such a way that they are moved by it… be it visual art, music or theater… and for the audience to feel that they are not alone, even if it opens a door that the viewer knew was there, but never would open on its own.

Wood is a product of the rain, sun and earth. It comes like music and paint, in various tones. I try to mix them to give each piece of work its own tone or tempo… hence “Intarsia” (meaning a mosaic worked in wood). Perhaps my next piece should be both visual and audio incorporated together.

The music stimulates the visual… …the visual stimulates the music. When you see this piece and it affects you visually, as the first bars or stanza of a Beethoven Symphony would affect you audibly, then I have achieved my connection with the viewer. Please take from it what you need and enjoy.”

Thank you, Will van der Heyden

Willem Berhard van der Heyden

Willem Bernhard van der Heyden immigrated to the United States in 1957 from Holland. He has always displayed artistic talent, winning the National Gold Key Award for painting while still a student in high school, leading to a full art scholarship which was subsequently forfeited for military duty.

Throughout his life, he has worked with various media, but found his niche in wood designs. His most recent works showcase his passion for music. With a rare combination of creativity and craftsmanship, the artist magically captures the essence of music and uses his fine sense of composition and harmony to intricately weave into his designs. His creative style conveys a European influenced expressionism projecting what he feels through his artistry.

Using select woods, he handcrafts each original piece and applies a clear satin finish to the final work, allowing the natural beauty and richness of the wood to come through adding warmth and dimension to each composition.

These unique pieces consistently win “Best of Show” and “People’s Choice” awards in juried art exhibits and are in private and professional collections across the continental United States.