2020-02-12

Lunenburg Opera House mortgage paid in full by two benefactors

by Charles Mandel

  • <p>File photo</p><p>The Lunenburg Opera House.</p>

It's the last act for the Lunenburg Opera House's mortgage. Donors Guenther and Susan Reibling have donated the remaining $300,000 on the venue's mortgage, paying it off in full.

The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society, which owns the opera house, expressed "profound gratitude and a huge sense of relief" over the donation.

Reibling is the President of the Taurus Investment Group Inc., a commercial real estate developer based in Austin, Texas.

At the end of December 2019, the Reiblings approached the Folk Harbour Society, offering to discharge the mortgage on the opera house.

In a letter to the Folk Harbour Society, the Reiblings stated that they were "pleased to see the Society acquire the Opera House in order to expand their programming and provide entertainment in a beautiful facility."

They also acknowledged the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society for its work to "preserve and showcase traditional folk music from a range of cultures and regions." The Reiblings went on to highlight the "economic stimulus in our community" provided by the Folk Harbour Society.

"We are humbled and honoured by this incredible donation," said Folk Harbour treasurer, Louis Robitaille. "We know that having the Lunenburg Opera House in the hands of Folk Harbour can benefit all arts groups in the area." Robitaille points out that not-for-profit groups get a 25 per cent discount on rentals of the Opera House.

Robitaille said that the Folk Harbour Society still has huge challenges ahead, with the need to raise funds for the regular, year-round work of the Society in addition to the expenses associated with maintenance and renovations of the Opera House. However, he said that this gift has removed a great weight from the minds and hearts of Folk Harbour volunteers.

It's no wonder the donations comes as a huge relief for the society. A GoFundMe campaign started in July by the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society to help cover its mortgage and interest for the Lunenburg Opera House had only brought in about $11,275 by November 2019.

The campaign carried the title, Let's save the Lunenburg Opera House!, and invited contributors to "team up to make this venue a keeper!"

"A lot of people said, 'You're crazy, don't buy it. You'll go broke, you'll go bankrupt, you'll have to sell it.' And we're nowhere near it," Dana Allen, society publicity chair and board member previously told LighthouseNOW. "We're doing well enough. We're keeping it afloat, and we're making good use of the space so far," he said.

The Folk Harbour Society bought the Opera House in April for $733,800 from Farley and Courtney Blackman, who put it up for sale after squabbling with the Town of Lunenburg over building permits, and who subsequently moved to Australia.

The society received a donation of a total of $433,800 by the Fordi Foundation toward the purchase, and secured a $300,000 mortgage. The lender agreed to an arrangement where the society would pay only the interest on the loan for the first three years.

In addition to ensuring that the Lunenburg Opera House will remain in the hands of a community arts group, Guenther and Susan Reibling wanted to honour the memory of Thomas H. and Ethelyn Jane Covey (Spindler), Susan's parents, who loved this town, its heritage, arts, and music.

Since the society took over the venue, the opera house has hosted concerts from the likes of Jimmy Rankin, Heather Rankin, The Northern Pikes, and Ashley MacIassc.

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