Pondering about small town America in a bygone era, one might conjure up an image of a bandstand, a horse drawn wagon, children playing in the park. O. O. McIntyre wrote about all those things, reminiscing about his time growing up in Gallipolis, and the rest of the country couldn’t get enough of his writing. Noted composer, Meredith Willson, also grew up in a small midwest town (he later wrote about it in the hit musical The Music Man) and he and McIntyre became close friends. He wrote a composition for his good friend title The O. O. McIntyre Suite that hasn’t been heard for over 80 years!
This special concert of The Ohio Valley Symphony, “The Homecoming” will present that long lost music on Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 pm. The fitting location is the historic Ariel Opera House which drew McIntyre like a bug to the fire. Each movement is named after favorite phrases of McIntyre, “Thingumbobs, Thots While Strolling and Local Boy Makes Good” (his spelling was atrocious).
McIntyre is long gone having passed in 1938, but a living local who has “made good,” tenor Phillip Armstrong will join the OVS with some selections from Porgy & Bess, and songs of hope and inspiration. Besides having an active solo career, Armstrong has performed all over the country with the vocal group The Mighty Sound of SEVEN.
The Ohio Valley Symphony will present a medley of music from Willson’s The Music Man. Willson filled this musical with plenty of singable tunes like Lida Rose, Goodnight Ladies and 76 Trombones. [The full length musical will be presented later in the season with the Ariel Players on June 16 and 17. ]
Rounding out this program of American music is another seldom heard piece, William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 2, “Song of a New Race.” This hauntingly beautiful symphony is filled with a bluesy lyricism full of sumptuous snapshots of musical moods. Still is often said to be the first classically trained African American composer. He was a prolific composer turning out nine operas, seven ballets and five symphonies and hundreds of other compositions. He was the first African American composer to write a major orchestral work performed by an American orchestra, the first to lead an American orchestra and the first to have an opera produced by a major American company. Still was also one of Paul Whiteman’s arrangers. It was the Paul Whiteman Orchestra that premiered The O. O. McIntyre Suite.
Part of the day’s festivities include a book launch by author, R. Scott Williams, on Saturday at 4:30 at the Ariel introducing his new book about O. O. McIntyre, “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York.” Williams will be on hand to speak about McIntyre, his book and answer questions from the audience. Williams is the CEO of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and is passionate about sharing forgotten stories from the past.
The OVS has a mission of bringing great music played by great artists to the Ohio Valley – and making orchestral music easy to love. To get a unique perspective on making music, the public is welcome to attend OVS rehearsals for free at 7-10 p.m. Friday, March 24, and 1-4 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Open rehearsals are a great way for young and old alike to become more familiar with symphonic music, and they offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes into preparing an orchestral performance.
Concertgoers -- new or veteran -- have another chance to learn more about the music with a free pre concert chat. Held in the third-floor Ariel Chamber Theatre, the pre concert talks are interactive and informal and begin at 6:45 p.m.
Tickets for The Ohio Valley Symphony's concerts are $24 for adults, $22 seniors and $12 for students. Tickets are available on the website at arieltheatre.org or ohiovalleysymphony.org or at the box office. Funding for The Ohio Valley Symphony is provided in part by the Ann Carson Dater Endowment.