GALLIPOLIS — With the Ariel Opera House having been the site of its previous recording, on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m., the television special “Songs of Rural America” starring The Ohio Valley Symphony and folk singer Michael Johnathon will premiere on RFDTV.
The show was recorded before a live audience at the historic Ariel Opera House in Gallipolis. RFDTV is offering the premiere as part of Johnathon’s “Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour.”
Johnathon keeps a busy schedule hosting “Woodsongs” which airs in millions of TV homes in this country and abroad on a weekly basis, recording and producing CDs and DVDs, writing books, singing and playing banjo and guitar all while sharing the gospel of folk music.
The Ohio Valley Symphony is a professional orchestra performing in the restored 1895 Ariel Opera House with musicians from seven states and Canada. The town of Gallipolis is in the foothills of the Appalachians and the combination of the quality ensemble, the 19th century ambiance of the Ariel in the bucolic Ohio River town of Gallipolis was the perfect fit for his new show, supporters said. Johnathon, who said he has always “danced around classical music,” said he began pulling together songs that celebrated rural America. He joined forces with arranger, Joshua Carter, to create the orchestrations and the show premiered live October 6.
Johnathon mixes humor, pathos and spellbinding stories to weave the songs together. The OVS, under the direction of conductor Tim Berens, provides a lively and capable partner in this program that crosses boundaries between folk, classical, pop, rock and ballads.
“We were pleased that Michael chose The Ohio Valley Symphony as the vehicle to premiere this program,” said Ariel and Ohio Valley Symphony Executive Director Lora Lynn Snow.
Conductor Tim Berens said, “We had a wonderful time exploring the centuries-old relationship between folk and classical music.”
“(Songs of Rural America) roots the audience with the elements of the classical world and turns symphony stages literally into a front porch,” said Johnathon before the recording at the Ariel Opera House. “Songs of Rural America was developed to bring these two worlds together…We’re going to travel from the Civil War to Buddy Holly. It’s going to be a musical adventure and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Some of the stories the audience is going to hear during the concert, I think, will leave them rather amazed. These are the songs that ended up shaping their culture. It’s really a beautiful experience but it’s the stories that go along with the songs that become special. The performance is being filmed for public television and will air nationwide.”
Johnathon said Gallipolis was chosen as the key performance location because it was “sort of the epitome of rural America.”