Thursday, August 30, 2018

1 Million Gift Music to the Victoria Symphony's ears.

Dallas and Len Chapple were married 37 years, more than half of which they spent in Victoria supporting various arts and community organizations — the Victoria Symphony in particular.

Now Len, honouring the wishes of his late wife, has made a $1-million donation to the symphony. It represents the largest private donation in the organization’s 77-year history.
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“To find the right words that would be powerful enough to express our excitement and appreciation … it’s hard to find the right adjectives,” said Victoria Symphony CEO Kathryn Laurin.

“It’s exhilarating and overwhelming.”

Dallas, a longtime board member at the Victoria Symphony, died in December at age 66 following a two-year battle with cancer.

Len said his wife did not want to hamstring the symphony with instructions, so left the Foundation for the Victoria Symphony to decide how it would allocate the funds.

“It would have been wrong of us to tell them how to spend it,” he said. “They have some very good citizens who are members of the board, who spend the money in the best way they can. It would have been presumptuous of us to say how the money should be spent.”

Laurin said the interest generated by donations helps to offset expenses; in effect, the $1-million gift will provide annual funding to the symphony in perpetuity.

“It’s going to elevate the level of our artistic endeavours for the organization,” she said.

“It’s going to give a bit more flexibility to bring in those outstanding guest artists, and reach higher than we’ve been able to previously. Raising the artist bar — that’s where [the donation] is going to help us.”

The arts had always been a big part of the Chapples’ lives, both in Victoria and elsewhere. Len had a background in radio and television news, and Dallas was the daughter of renowned Vancouver big-band leader Dal Richards. The couple met at CBC corporate headquarters in Ottawa, and were married in 1981. They lived in Toronto, Calgary and Seattle before landing in Victoria in 1990.

Dallas, a successful real estate agent, was a board member of several charitable organizations.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, but remained on the board at the Victoria Symphony until just two months before her death. Her commitment to the symphony was something that never wavered, Len said.

“We were lovers of the symphony, and attendees all through the season,” he said.

“My wife felt the proper thing to do was to give away a certain amount of money, and knew that the board was always pressed for money to keep the symphony going. If we were going to leave any money to anything in particular, the symphony would be very high on the list.”

The symphony will acknowledge the Chapples over the next few seasons as underwriters of their Christmas Pops concerts, one of the couple’s favourite annual events.

“There was only one thing [about the donation] that my wife felt strongly about, and that was the Christmas concerts,” Len said. “She was very high on them, so she left some of the money to sponsor those.”

Len deflected much of the praise over the donation announcement toward Dallas, who he said was honoured to be a part of the symphony team.

Laurin also praised the Chapples’ unwavering support. “Clearly, the symphony played a big role in their lives. It was their opportunity to give back.”

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