GALLIPOLIS - The Ohio Valley Symphony is gearing up for another year of doing what it does best - bringing great music played by great artists to southeast Ohio.
For its 19th subscription season, the OVS, under music director Ray Fowler, will carry listeners around the world with the help of tunes of a diverse lineup of classics. From composers in 19th-century Vienna to 20th-century America, the pieces evoke destinations as close as the barnyard and as far away as the islands of the South Pacific, the Caliphate of old Baghdad and Jazz Age Manhattan.
To help bring the program to life, Fowler and the OVS will welcome a parade of talented guest artists to the stage of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre.
“It's all part of the OVS philosophy of making orchestral music easy to love,“ said Lora Lynn Snow, orchestra manager. “We have the big masterpieces, like Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, that everyone loves, but we have fun with our programs, too.”
The season kicks off Oct. 4, with an all-American program. Titled “America the Beautiful,” it features Gershwin's Concerto in F, one of the first American pieces to secure its place in the concert hall. In a nod to the incredible variety of American songs - from hymns to jazz - the concert is rounded out by arrangements of favorites including Amazing Grace and the hits of Duke Ellington.
Pianist Richard Glazier performs the Gershwin concerto. Glazier “has Gershwin in his soul,” according to pianist and singer Michael Feinstein, himself an expert on American song. Glazier has the Midwest in his soul, too, having studied piano both at the Indiana University School of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Beginning with the 1996 Gershwin centennial, Glazier has created and performed four (so far) one-man, multimedia programs dedicated to the American song, and particularly to the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira.
Nov. 8's “Halloween Spooktacular” has become something of a tradition, with orchestra members (including Fowler on the podium) trading their tails and bow ties for whimsical or ghoulish costumes.
“It gives the audience a chance to see that we're all just people up there on stage, and it gives us a chance to show off our individual personalities,” said Snow.
The OVS offers up a full plate of musical tricks and treats, including The Sorcerer's Apprentice (immortalized in Disney's original “Fantasia”), the Witches Ride from “Hansel and Gretel” and selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.
The Broadway-inspired program slated for March 21, 2009, shows the cross-pollination between the concert hall and the Great White Way. Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from “Prince Igor” leads seamlessly to excerpts from Broadway's Kismet. The show's tunes are all taken from Borodin's works, and the 19th-century Russian even shared a 1954 Tony Award for Best Musical.
“These are songs that people know,” said Snow, “but they're pulled from classical music.”
The program also includes excerpts from West Side Story and from the classic shows of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Some equally well-known opera and operetta arias round out the night.
John and Nancy Williams Shuffle, who have collectively played more than 150 lead roles in their combined careers, sing the Broadway and light opera songs. John was a “critic's pick” in Chicago for his starring role as the Poet in Kismet there. Nancy counts leads in Guys and Dolls, The Music Man, and Titanic among her favorites.
Another OVS tradition returns with the Dec. 6 Christmas show.
“It's an audience favorite,” said Snow. “It's become part of the town's holiday kickoff to the Christmas season.”
As usual, Fowler has assembled a program that balances past and present with traditional carols, purely classical pieces with a Christmas theme, and upbeat popular songs of the season. To take the fullest advantage of the wide sonic range of a modern orchestra, Fowler turned to some of the nation's greatest arrangers - including Hershy Kay, Carmen Dragon and Jeff Tyzik.
The OVS saves two of the biggest guns of classical music, Beethoven and Brahms, for the May 9 season finale. Beethoven's exuberant and rustic Symphony No. 8 is paired with Brahms' refined and passionate Concerto for Violin. Soloist for the Brahms is Michi Wiancko, whose classical prowess - she has appeared with both the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics - is but one facet of her wide-ranging musical talent. Her other interests include country fiddle, gypsy violin and jazz. Her band, Kono Michi (a string quartet, bass and drums) appears regularly in New York's clubs.
Subscriptions for all five Ohio Valley Symphony concerts are on sale now. Prices range from $50 for students, up to $275 for a family pass which includes two adults and as many children as they have. Adult season tickets are $100 and seniors are $90.
For more information, call the Ariel-Dater box office at (740)446-ARTS (2787), visit the box office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday located at 428 Second Ave. in downtown Gallipolis, or visit the website at www.ohiovalleysymphony.org.
Funding for the Ohio Valley Symphony is provided by the Ann Carson Dater Endowment. Further support is provided by the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.