Songs of Rural America returns, features OVS

Staff Report

OHIO VALLEY — Songs of Rural America will once again broadcast April 25 at 2 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting featuring Michael Johnathon, The Ohio Valley Symphony and the Ariel Opera House as the event’s host venue.

The program originally made its television premiere on RFDTV February 22, 2019 and was recorded in Gallipolis in October 2018.

The show was recorded before a live audience at the Ariel Opera House. RFDTV originally offered 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. Johnathon, who said he has always “danced around classical music,” said he began pulling together songs that celebrated rural America and felt the Ariel Opera House would be an ideal location to perform. He joined forces with arranger, Joshua Carter, to create the orchestrations.

The OVS, under the direction of Conductor Tim Berens for the Songs of Rural America performance, partnered in the program that crossed 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.”

Staff Report