University of Tennessee Orchestra at Alumni Auditorium

Three free music events in Knoxville on Sunday are worth absorbing.

At 4 p.m., at the Alumni Auditorium at UT, the University of Tennessee Orchestra will perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 10 in E Minor,” Op. 93. If you can only make one of the three free events, I’d pick this one. Parking is free in the lot across from Neyland Stadium, close to Alumni Auditorium.

It’s the power of music to overcome despair. It was written in a period during which Joseph Stalin had it in for Shostakovich. But was smart enough to know that making Shostakovich “disappear” might backfire. So he did everything in his power to isolate the composer and take away Shostakovich’s ability to communicate to the Russian people through the voice of music.

There are some parallels there about certain things in our own slice of time that readers are free to draw for themselves.

Stalin did succeed in so severely criticizing the 29-year-old Shostakovich’s opera, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” after attending a performance in January 1936, that not only did the opera disappear overnight in Russia during enormous success, Shostakovich became a social pariah that people would cross the street to avoid out of fear of association.

Shostakovich struggled for the next 17 years, until Stalin’s death in March 1953, to survive emotionally and maintain his artistic integrity.

“Symphony No. 10 premiered in December 1953. He had worked on it in secret. The symphony has been described as “48 minutes of tragedy, despair, terror and violence and two minutes of triumph.” The entire piece is a response to Stalin’s brutality. The second movement is specifically a portrait of Stalin himself.

Lynne Wright leading Knoxville Opera Gospel Choir through exercises preparing for rehearsal.

This isn’t “good time music.” But it is music that should be experienced to understand the power of art, whether it’s music, visual art or theater.

At 5 p.m., the Knoxville Opera Gospel Choir opens its 9th season with a concert at Overcoming Believers Church, 120 S. Bell Street.

“We are the only opera company in the world that has its own Gospel Choir and we are proud to present our eclectic repertoire featuring outstanding local and visiting guest artists,” said choir conductor Jeanie Turner Melton.

Inversion Vocal Ensemble

The concert will feature gospel music, spirituals and opera aria highlights.
Melton is not a push-over choir director. If you don’t put in the work, you don’t sing for her. The choir has a demanding 12-rehearsal schedule to prepare for their concert season.

At 6:30 p.m., at St. John’s Cathedral, 413 Cumberland Ave., downtown, Inversion Vocal Ensemble will present another eclectic music concert. Comprised of classically-trained students and alumni of several universities: Tennessee State, Oakwood, Morgan State and Vanderbilt; and Morehouse and Westminster Choir Colleges, the ensemble performs music that covers the genres of classical, gospel, jazz and inspirational music, often in their own unique arrangements.

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Written by Harold Duckett