Big Ears gets new life with livestreamed concerts

Lesli Bales-SherrodArts 865, Our Town Teens

Pellissippi State Community College’s media technologies faculty and students are directing, filming, recording, photographing and engineering Sites & Sounds from Big Ears, a series of intimate concerts at the historic Bijou Theatre.


The initiative fills a gap left when Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival was canceled due to coronavirus. The next concert, with the top-tier contemporary jazz trio The Bad Plus, will premiere at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 on the day of the livestream. Those who purchase their tickets in advance or during the livestream also have access to a recording of the concert that will be available until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.

Ashley Capps, executive and artistic director of Big Ears, reached out to assistant professor Mischa Goldman, who has served as production manager for Big Ears at the Bijou for many years, to brainstorm how they could support artists and venues that had suffered severely due to COVID-19 closures.

What they landed on isn’t your typical livestream, where the viewer experiences the concert from a fixed perspective, far from the stage.

“Ashley wanted to make this very personal and engaging for the audience,” explains Goldman, who serves as program coordinator for audio production engineering at Pellissippi State. “There wasn’t a concrete vision of how he wanted to do this, but I believe we were able to translate and capture Ashley’s desire to present a unique streaming experience.”

Sites & Sounds from Big Ears livestreams concerts in a single take with a Steadicam – taking viewers down Gay Street, viewing the marquee out front, into the empty Bijou Theatre, backstage and, ultimately, up on stage with the artists.

“A lot of streaming is flat,” Goldman said. “We got comments like, ‘I didn’t expect this. Wow.’ You are seeing the concert through the eyes of someone invited on stage with the musicians, and that provides intimacy.”

The students are receiving class credit for their participation.

“This gives students real-world experience of how to put together a production like this: how to gather assets, how to work within the restraints of technology, how to work on tight deadlines,” Goldman said.

For more information on the jazz trio The Bad Plus or to purchase tickets for the livestream, visit www.bigearsfestival.org/thebadplus.

Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.

 

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