OHIO VALLEY — The Ohio Valley Symphony will open the season Oct. 2 with “Mostly Mendelssohn” with opening night at the Wedge Auditorium, in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
“This [is] a happy, upbeat, uplifting selection of music,” said Lora Snow, founder and executive director of the Ariel Theatre.
This year’s opening show will also be a tribute to Paul Simón, former president of the Ariel Theatre Board of Directors, who passed away earlier this year.
The show will be conducted by Scott Woodward, music director of the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra, with special violinist, Elizabeth Pitcarin, American violinist.
Woodward will be directing the “energizing and uplifting ‘Symphony No.4’” and during the performance Pitcarin will perform ‘Concerto for Violin, Op. 64,’” according to the Ariel Theatre’s website.
“She [Pitcarin] offered up some solo selections and I selected the symphony, ‘Mendelssohn’s’s Symphony No. 4.’ It [has] a really joyous and lively opening,” Snow said. “I didn’t want it to be dreary, I wanted it to be a celebration for Paul’s life.”
Pitcarin has performed with the Ohio Valley Symphony several times with the invitation of Simón.
“It actually started with the art gallery in Point Pleasant,” Snow said, explaining his involvement with the gallery put him in contact with the Pitcarin family.
“…And we were talking about concerts and stuff and he said, ‘you know they have a concert violinist in the family, let me ask them.’ And so, that started it,” Snow added, saying Simón and Pitcarin became great friends over time.
“When she heard of Paul’s passing, she wanted to come back and play for his memorial concert,” Snow said.
Pitcarin made her debut orchestra performance at the age of 14, the violinist has several performances under her belt. One that she is most known for is her performances with the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius violin of 1720.
“That’s a whole amazing story right there,” Snow said. “She likes to say she partners with the legendary Red Violin.”
Behind the Red Violin
The violin was made by Antonio Stradivari in Cremona, Italy in 1720. According to Pitcarin’s website, Stradivari is still “the most famous violin maker of all time.” However, sometime after the creation of the “Red Mendelssohn,” the instrument’s whereabouts were unknown.
The website says historians, writers, critics and more speculated on the ownership and location for more than 200 years — this is what led Canadian filmmaker, Francois Girad, to create the multi-awarding winning film, “The Red Violin,” that premiered in 1998.
What is now known as the Red Violin, resurfaced in Berlin during the 1930s. It traded hands a few times over the years and in November of 1990, was placed up for auction once again. While it is said that many sought the instrument, the winner, Pitcarin’s grandfather, would gift it to the then, 16-year-old musician, according to her website.
At the time, the violin reportedly sold for €902,000 (euros), which today is equivalent to $1,934,664.87 in the United States dollar.
The website further stated she took the gifted violin and did not share the ownership for almost 30 years. Pitcarin practiced for the day she would share it with the world, what is considered to be “one of the best sounding and most beautiful of Stradivari’s remaining violins.”
Being the only known solo performer of the Red Violin, Pitcarin has said her goal is to share the beautiful sound with as many people as she can.
It is also noted on Pitcarin’s website that she would “come to view the violin as her life’s most inspired mentor and friend. Many have said that the violin has finally found its true soulmate.”
Snow said the way Pitcarin waited until she was ready for such an instrument and knew what a responsibility it is to have a “gift like that in your hands” was special.
“She waited until she had developed enough and worked hard enough on her talent to play the instrument,” Snow said. “Which I would think would take an extraordinary amount of willpower.”
While Pitcarin works with young music students in New York, Snow is encouraging them in the Ohio Valley with open practices and dress rehearsals.
“Saturday [Oct. 1] afternoon dress rehearsal, from one to four, is a great time to bring young children,” Snow said. “Children can always appreciate music, it’s just a matter of how long they can sit still.”
Snow said this is also the perfect opportunity for people to come out and try a new type of music or even for those who may not be able to come to the main event, there is still a chance to see some of the show.
“Most professional groups don’t do that, but I very much wanted to have a different policy for those very reasons,” Snow said.
As noted earlier in this article, the performance is set for Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Wedge Auditorium which is located on the campus of Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School. This temporary change of venue is due to HVAC renovations and Snow also said due to the larger size of this auditorium, this will also allow more room for social distancing.
Tickets are available now on the Ariel Theatre’s website.
Snow noted that all of the musicians will be vaccinated and wearing masks when possible. Organizers are asking that all audience members wear masks.
More on the upcoming concert season in an upcoming edition.
Brittany Hively is a staff writer with Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (740) 444-4303.