Roomful of Teeth coming to Big Ears

Harold DuckettFeature, Our Town Arts

The Big Ears Festival has announced its line-up for next spring’s gathering, March 21-24, 2019. This unique and genre-defying music festival has been hailed by the world’s music press for its special vision and consistently superior quality that attracts fans from around the world. In recent years, Big Ears has expanded to also be an important film festival for non-commercial films and a celebration of important filmmakers.

As always, there will be something for almost every music genre in the realm of cultural, non-commercial art music. Usually one or more cutting-edge, masterful, avant garde composers will be featured during the festival. This year is no exception.

Groundbreaking vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth: Avery Griffin, Virginia Warnken Kelsey, Martha Culver, Cameron Beauchamp, Estelí Gomez, Brad Wells, Eric Dudley, Dashon Burton and Caroline Shaw

Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw, along with her vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, will be performing composer Bryce Dessner’s “Triptych, on Robert Mapplethorpe.” Shaw won the 2013 Pulitzer for her a cappella piece “Partita for 8 Voices,” written for Roomful of Teeth, an ensemble that is changing the concept of vocal music by mining the sounds and voice techniques from cultures around the world that are completely foreign to traditional classical music. Hopefully, “Partita,” along with other Roomful of Teeth commissions, will find a place during the festival.

There will also be three concerts and world premieres by innovative composer Harold Budd. The atmospheric and ethereal music of young Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir will also be featured. Her music uniquely captures aspects of nature that we often feel only on emotional levels.

In addition to Shaw and Thorvaldsdottir, there will also be a spotlight on other groundbreaking women with the work of Joan La Barbara, Kim Kashkashian, Rachel Grimes, Nicole Mitchell, Clarice Jensen, Kara-Lis Covedale and the music of Ashley Fure and Ellen Reid.

Other groups and individual musicians who regularly appear in solo concerts around the world include: Spiritualized, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Punch Brothers, Nils Frahm, Béla Cleck, This is Not This Heat, Rhiannon Giddens, Jack Dejohnette Meredith Monk, Sons of Kemet, Richard Thompson, Mary Halverson, Bill Frisell, Yoshimio/Ibarra/Lowe and Makaya McRaven.

Also scheduled for concerts are Alvin Lucier and Ever Present Orchestra, plus Oren Ambarchi & Stephen O’Malley, Lonnie Holly, Jlin, Yves Tumor, serpentwithfest, Kayhan Kalhor, and Carl Stone, along with others whose performances haven’t yet been confirmed.

Along with all this, there will be a selection of films, exhibitions, talks and discussions, and interactive experiences.

Big Ears is the product of the very special vision of our own Ashley Capps, who has as broad a knowledge of the music world as anyone. When Capps calls, musicians worldwide respond.

I have been privileged, proud and honored to call Ashley a friend for many years. He is a genuine Knoxville treasure.

As in past years, Big Ears will be staged in multiple venues downtown. Knoxville is a very unique city in being able to present its more than 100 concerts over the festival’s four days at venues all within walking distance.

Big Ears attendees treasure the opportunity of coming to Knoxville for the music and our very special city. Those of us who live here don’t realize how much Capps and Big Ears have made Knoxville one of the landmark cities on the world’s musical map.

Coming to Big Ears is the rare chance to hear, in one place, concerts by important musicians that would otherwise take extensive travel and thousands of dollars, not to mention finding the time to travel to dozens of places.

Tickets for Big Ears Festival, March 21-24, 2019, are on sale now at

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