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Symphony season kicks off

PARKERSBURG — A new season of classical music began Sunday in Parkersburg with the opening concert of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra-Parkersburg at Blennerhassett Middle School.

The symphony, which is based in Charleston, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year and Sunday’s concert began its 32nd season coming to Parkersburg.

“We’re like their second home,” said Mary Ann Osborne, chairman of the all-volunteer WVSOP Board of Directors. “The musicians like us here because it’s a nice, up-close, personal environment for them to play and appear at Blennerhassett Middle School.”

On Wednesday, Osborne said the symphony will be returning for “Symphony Safari” at Blennerhassett School, one of three youth concerts presented each school year. The program is for all fourth-graders in Wood County, including public, private and home-schooled.

Sunday’s concert was conducted by WVSO Music Director Lawrence Loh with guest pianist Orion Weiss. Prior to the concert, Loh and Weiss gave a free lecture to anyone who wanted to attend. Weiss talked about his experiences touring and performing, how he goes about learning or preparing new music to perform and some of the ways he deals with nervousness and stress.

Marshall Griffin and Julie Rathbone, both of Parkersburg, took the opportunity Sunday to attend the lecture before the concert.

Griffin said this is the third year he has been attending the symphony concerts in Parkersburg and he usually tries to take in the lecture as well as the music. He has a long interest in symphonic music, but could rarely attend the concerts prior to retiring because of his work schedule. He especially like the opportunity for such music close to home.

“It’s really intriguing to hear a live performance as opposed to a recording,” Griffin said.

Rathbone said she has been coming to WVSOP concerts on and off for about 20 years and also appreciates the chance to experience them in person as “just wonderful.” She also likes to attend the lectures when they are offered.

“To hear these talks ahead of time because then when you’re listening to the piece being played, you’ve heard the performer talking about it and you can sort of picture what’s going through his mind or her mind. It’s fantastic that they give us this opportunity,” she said.

Several more concerts are planned for the 2019-2020 season in Parkersburg. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students with more information available at www.wvsop.org.

The next show will be “Violin or Fiddle?” on Nov. 17 with Melisse Brunet as guest conductor and violinist Tessa Lark as the soloist.The concert will feature Brahms’s Nanie with the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, Torke’s Sky (Bluegrass Concerto) featuring Lark on violin, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

The annual holiday show will be “Sounds of the Season” on Dec. 8, celebrating holiday music under the direction of guest conductor Michelle Merrill.

“A Night at the Oscars” will be presented Feb. 9, 2020. With Loh conducting, the concert will feature music from blockbuster movies like “Gone With the Wind,” “Ben Hur,” “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music,” “ET,” “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Schindler’s List” and more.

“A European Tour” will be the final performance on May 3, 2020, with Loh as conductor and violinist Timothy Chooi.

The concert will feature Dvorak’s “Finale from Symphony No. 9” with a side by side with the West Virginia Youth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto featuring Chooi on violin; Part’s: Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten, and E. Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

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