BY JENNY CALLISON
LEBANON -- Marjorie Donovan remembers the time in 1970 when the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra came to perform in Lebanon.
Laura Cooper of Finneytown rehearses with her cello last week.
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"We were so excited that we strung a big banner across Broadway saying, "Welcome CSO.' "
That outreach performance was the start of Lebanon's Area Artist Series.
Mrs. Donovan, head of the Artist Series for the past 20 years, said that as the symphony performed less often, the series supplemented with other performers. When the CSO bowed out entirely several years ago, Keith Lockhart brought the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra to town, and it has anchored the series ever since.
Other musical organizations have sprung up. The Lebanon Area Community Chorus was founded in 1991. Until recently, the chorus hired a "pick-up' orchestra to accompany each of its performances, but last year it found a permanent match -- Lebanon's fledgling New Little Symphony Orchestra. Music teacher David Donovan organized the group, updating the name of an earlier Lebanon orchestra, The Little Symphony.
Mr. Donovan scheduled a five-concert season for 1997-98, an ambitious undertaking for a newly formed orchestra. Four of those performances also featured the community chorus. The season finale takes place this evening.
"The New Little Symphony has taken off very quickly," says Fred Gibson, a board member. "There is a real vision among some of us who can't play a lick on an instrument but see what can happen with the arts in this community."
After a season's trial marriage, the Lebanon Area Community Chorus and the New Little Symphony Orchestra are merging as The Lebanon Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
"We are in the process of incorporating as one entity, and the change should be complete in a week or two," said Walt Davis, who will be chairman.
Not all of Lebanon's arts are musical. The Lebanon Theatre Co. entered the arts scene with a production of Camelot in 1995.
"There were a couple of theater groups in Lebanon during the '70s, but they died out," said Roger Hill, a Lebanon Theatre board member. Local interest in community theater motivated him and others to start a new group.
In the past year, the company formally organized and incorporated. Their new season will start in September with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.
"We're hosting a children's workshop the last week of July, funded by the Cincinnati Arts Foundation," said board member Penny Haas.
The workshop will introduce young people in grades four through eight to aspects of theater production.
The Lebanon Area Fine Arts Society has 30 to 35 visual artists as members. According to Michael Coyan, the acting manager, the society's major limitation is facilities.
"There just aren't that many places that are secure, well-lit and available with enough wall space for exhibits," he said.
One workable location is the Lebanon train station, where the society holds its "Art on the Tracks" show and sale each May.
Finding venues for performances in Lebanon can be a challenge. Lebanon High School's auditorium works well for larger events, but it is heavily used and scheduling weekend dates is difficult. The Theatre Co. presents its cabaret and children's shows on the top floor of The Shoe Factory, an industrial building turned antique mall.
Today's concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Lebanon High School, 160 Miller Road, Lebanon.
Tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for seniors and students. Information: 932-7376.