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The Ohio Valley Symphony kicks off its 22nd season with a combination of hip style and traditional flair

by Thomas Consolo

For its 2011-12 series opener, southeast Ohio’s only professional orchestra welcomes Deborah Henson-Conant back to the
Ohio Valley for “Hip Harp,” a night with the world’s first electric harpist. Ray Fowler, the orchestra’s music director, leads the 8 p.m.
performance Oct. 8 in the Lillian & Paul Wedge Auditorium at the Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High School in Pt. Pleasant WV.

The program’s sponsor is Ohio Valley Bank, a long-time OVS supporter. As a part of the bank’s “Year of Celebration”, OVB
will be giving away symphony tickets at their Main Office during the week of October 3rd-7th.  Stop by their office to register for
free tickets and join them as they celebrate a very special anniversary.

It’s the fourth year the OVS has performed in Point Pleasant, including a concert that helped dedicate the facility’s completion.
“We can’t expect everyone to come to us,” said Lora Snow, the orchestra’s founder and executive director, “so we’re happy to go
to them to share our beautiful music.”

That organization has, over more than two decades, built a reputation for offering a lineup of world-class guest artists performing music
ranging from R&B to classical mainstays to holiday favorites. That variety is key both to the OVS’s mission and its two decades of
success, said Snow.

“Great music comes in all kinds of packages,” she said, “and we try to show people all the things an orchestra can do. It’s a lot more than
just symphonies.”

That will be clear at “Hip Harp.” Henson-Conant — a Grammy-nominated performer, composer and songwriter — has built a renegade
image on her evocative singing voice and the 36-string, custom-built electric harness harp she plays. Her programs fuse theater, stories
and virtuosic playing skill and cover genres from ballads to jazz to flamenco.

She’ll put on a different program on October 8.

It’s the first time a guest artist has appeared with the OVS twice in the same year. For Fowler, Henson-Conant was an obvious choice
for the honor.

“This is a person who will reach right into the heart and soul of the audience,” he said. “She’s just so natural on stage.”

Henson-Conant is a composer, performer, singer, songwriter, author, cartoonist, entertainer, comedienne — all rolled into one! She’s put
on a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, opened for Ray Charles, toured with the Boston Pops and released
a dozen albums from Latin jazz to Celtic to blues.

She’s also revolutionized the harp — usually though of as a genteel instrument — with a custom-made, 36-string electric “harness harp.”
When she turns on the “fuzz box,” though, audiences know they’re in for a different kind of evening.

It’s more than showmanship, Fowler continued. “I was so impressed with how thoughtful she was about her choice of pieces,” he said.
“She wanted to choose just the right repertoire to reach our audience.”

Fowler hopes some people who saw Henson-Conant in July will want to experience her and the orchestra indoors. “There are people
who keep cracking the door of the Ariel open but not quite coming in. We knew that, when they heard Deborah on July 4, they’d want
to hear her again.”

Also on tap for the Saturday evening performance is the conclusion to the annual Maestro for a Moment fund-raising campaign. Find out
which of this year’s finalists earns a spot on the podium to conduct the OVS by raising the most for the orchestra. Mike Brown, Joe Li
and Darlene Ringhand are vying for the honor.

As part of the Ohio Valley Symphony’s mission to bring live, professional, orchestral music to the region and to instill a love of music —
especially in children, the public is encouraged to attend OVS rehearsals for free at 7-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and 1-4 p.m. Oct. 8 at
Wedge Auditorium. Open rehearsals are a great way for young and old alike to grow familiar with symphonic music, and they offer a
fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at the preparation of an orchestral performance.

Single tickets to the Ohio Valley Symphony’s “Hip Harp” cost $22, $20 (senior) and $10 (student). Subscriptions to all five 2011-12
OVS concerts, including the always popular Christmas concert, are available for $100, $90 (senior) and $50 (student). Family
subscriptions for two adults and children are $275.

Single-ticket buyers who decide they want to lock in their seats will be able to buy pro-rated subscriptions for the four remaining
OVS performances at the Oct. 8 concert.

Tickets and more information are available at the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre box office, 428 Second Ave.,
Gallipolis; by phone, (740) 446-2787 (ARTS); and through the website arieltheatre.org.

Funding for the Ohio Valley Symphony is provided in part 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.