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Orchestra kicks off summer Pops series with salute to Mountain State

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 10:55 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Dee Carney sat in a lawn chair Saturday evening at Harris Riverfront Park, all while singing and dancing with her three granddaughters to tunes performed by the Huntington Symphony Orchestra.

"I don't know if there are any words to explain it," she said of Saturday's interaction with her grandchildren. "It nurtures my spirit. It really does. And it makes me believe that when I am gone, my spirit is going to live on in them."

The program, titled "Happy Birthday West Virginia," was the first of three concerts for this summer's Picnic with the Pops series. The evening featured the singing of J. Mark McVey. His renditions of "West Virginia Hills" and "Amazing Grace" brought several in the crowd to their feet.

Other songs McVey sang early in his set included "Anything Goes," "This is the Moment," and an a cappella version of the National Anthem.

The orchestra started the evening with the "Armed Forces Salute." Its music director and conductor Kimo Furumoto led into the melody by honoring West Virginia and noting the extraordinarily high sacrifice given by its citizens in defending the nation's security.

"The whole country owes a great debt of gratitude to West Virginia," he told the crowd.

John Galloway, a stagehand from Kenova, took in Saturday's concert from a hammock tied just behind the amphitheater seating. He purchased the hammock within the last year, and Saturday was its debut at the symphony.

"I'm just sitting here enjoying the music and just having a relaxing evening outdoors," he said. "I enjoy it every single time I come ... You can get past the benefits and the emotional stimulation from music in general."

Across the amphitheater, Terry and Jonel Pullen of Barboursville sat upon a concrete wall and enjoyed the orchestra's calming change of pace. They attend as frequently as they can.

"I think it brings you a different side of music," Jonel Pullen said. "You don't hear it on the radio. You don't see it much on TV unless you watch PBS. It's just a cultural experience that most people don't experience here on a daily basis. So it's nice."

Just down the east stairwell Sandra Linn tapped her toes with joy. She particularly enjoys the atmosphere.

"I think always the summer Pops, on the water with the sunset, just adds such an extra beauty to the music," she said

The Huntington Symphony Orchestra will return July 20 and Aug. 17 for additional performances in the Picnic at the Pops series.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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