Big Ears is the big deal

Betsy PickleOur Town Arts

The 2019 Big Ears Festival officially launches today, and you can count on it taking over downtown Knoxville and the Old City through Sunday with music, film and dance.

Joan La Barbara will perform twice at Big Ears, tonight at St. John’s Cathedral and Friday afternoon at the Bijou.

An eclectic mix of traditional and exploratory musical genres, Big Ears has turned into an international big deal. Venues include everything from the Bijou and Tennessee theaters to St. John’s Cathedral, Church Street United Methodist Church and the Knoxville Museum of Art to the Knoxville Visitors Center and the Pilot Light, with a bunch of bars and restaurants in between.

There are big names at Big Ears, but the point of the festival is to expand your musical universe. So sure, check out Bela Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Ralph Towner, Richard Thompson and Punch Brothers, but don’t miss out on Roomful of Teeth, Altered Statesman, Nils Frahm, Makaya McCraven and Kristin Anna Valtysdottir.

One of Big Ears’ most highly anticipated events is the Nashville Ballet performance of “Lucy Negro Redux,” choreographed by Paul Vasterling, with music by Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turisi, and poetry by Caroline Randall Williams inspired by Shakespeare’s muse “the Dark Lady.” The performance is at 8 tonight (3/21) at the Tennessee Theatre.

Mimi Goese & Ben Neill perform Saturday at the KMA.

Violist Kim Kashkashian will perform works by Bach and Kurtag at 7:15 p.m. Friday at St. John’s, which will also showcase its own Cathedral Choir performing Arvo Part’s “Passio” at 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

Thompson performs “KIA,” a song cycle reflecting the horrors of World War I with the Knoxville Symphony Strings at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tennessee Theatre.

Seriously, there is a lot of music going on. Some day and festival passes are still available. Click here for a full lineup and purchasing info. There are also quite a few free events.



‘This Will Be Our Reply’

Meanwhile, next weekend, a local favorite will return to visit with a new musical work.

Lucas Richman (Photo by Ric Tyler)

Lucas Richman, former maestro of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, will be on hand as the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, led by Music Director Dan Allcott, presents the regional premiere of Richman’s “Symphony: This Will Be Our Reply.”

The concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, in the Oak Ridge Performing Arts Center, 1450 Oak Ridge Turnpike, will also include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”

To celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein (Aug. 25, 2018), Richman sought and received permission from the Bernstein office to create a new work for chorus and orchestra inspired by the speech Bernstein delivered to the United Jewish Fund two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Known as “An Artist’s Response to Violence,” the speech addresses the manner in which musicians might best use their abilities in the aftermath of a horrific event:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

The three movements of Richman’s symphony expand on the three directives, exploring the contrasts of great beauty and horrific violence that pervade our modern era. The work ultimately resolves with an anthem-like setting of an original poem that frames the ancient Hebrew text, “L’Takken et Ha’Olam (Repair the World).”

A reception will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at the Beth El Center in Oak Ridge, 101 W. Madison Lane. Richman will speak about his inspiration for the composition. The reception is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVP here or 865-483-5569. Additional adult and student activities with the maestro will occur during the week. Info here.

Tickets for the March 30 concert are available online, via email or at 865-483-5569. Adult admission is $25; young adult (ages 19-29) admission is $10. The Oak Ridge Civic Music Association participates in the Penny4Arts initiative, providing free admission to youth 18 & under to ORCMA subscription concerts during the 2018–2019 season.

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