One of the things that makes our cultural scene so great is that so much of what’s available is homegrown. Some upcoming events make that irrefutable. Here are a few pieces of evidence:
The Knoxville Choral Society is going big for its season opener. It will present one of the largest and most dramatic choral works of all time, Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” performed with full orchestra and featuring Knoxville’s own Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone, David Crawford, singing the title role.
The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Central Baptist Church of Bearden, 6300 Deane Hill Drive. The choral society is an auditioned choir established in 1951 whose leader list is a veritable who’s who in music directing that includes Edward H. “Pop” Hamilton, J.B. Lyle and Kirk Trevor.
“Elijah,” which recounts the Old Testament story as told in the Book of Kings, secured its place in choral repertoire at its premiere in 1846. The dialogue throughout the piece is a dramatic retelling of the Israelites’ waning faith in God during a long-lasting drought, as they resort to worshipping an alternate God, Baal. But secure in his belief and at the urging of several angels, Elijah seeks to restore his people’s faith.
John R. Orr, Knoxville Choral Society conductor and artistic director, will conduct “Elijah.” Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door, from a choral society member or by visiting the Knoxville Choral Society website.
85 years for Tennessee Folklore Society
The Tennessee Folklore Society will hold its 85th Annual Meeting on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park in Byrdstown. The meeting will begin at 11 a.m. (CDT) and conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m. It is free of charge and open to society members as well as the general public.
The Tennessee Folklore Society is a statewide organization of professional folklorists, arts presenters, community scholars and others who share an interest in studying, preserving and celebrating the rich folk arts and cultural traditions of Tennessee. Founded in 1934, the Society publishes the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, the nation’s oldest regional folklore journal. Its operations are managed by Jubilee Community Arts in Knoxville.
The annual meeting is a time for members, prospective members and others interested in Tennessee’s folk traditions to gather, present papers and exchange ideas. The proceedings also include a report from Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program Director Bradley Hanson on TAC program news and activities.
The meeting will include presentations on several timely topics relating to Tennessee traditional music. Michael Doubler will speak on the career of his great-grandfather, Grand Ole Opry pioneer Uncle Dave Macon, sharing materials from his new biography of the “Dixie Dewdrop.” James Akenson will reflect on Ken Burns’ recent television documentary “Country Music,” reactions to and assessments of the series, and its overall impact. Shawn Pitts will examine Carl Perkins’ early career and discovery of his earliest sides among the Stanton Littlejohn home recordings.
The meeting will also include screening of a video about TFS activist and Tennessee State Parks ranger Bob Fulcher from recent Washington ceremonies in which he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship.
Big bunny brings back the funny
The Tennessee Stage Company is bringing back “Harvey” by Mary Chase for its 30th anniversary. The play will run Nov. 8-24 at the Broadway Studio of Performing Arts, 706 N. Broadway.
When Elwood P. Dowd starts to introduce his imaginary friend, Harvey, a 6-and-a-half-foot-tall rabbit, to guests at a society party, his sister, Veta, decides she has seen as much of his eccentric behavior as she can tolerate. Vera decides to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium. Alas, her ploy takes a detour when she is mistakenly assumed to be the one on the verge of lunacy.
Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Fundraiser for Jubilee
Jubilee Community Arts will hold a fundraising event to support general operations at the Laurel Theater featuring a silent auction beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, with music by the Tennessee Stifflegs beginning at 8 p.m. The auction will offer the work of local artists as well as donations from area individuals and businesses. Income from the auction supports general operations at Jubilee Community Arts.
The Tennessee Stifflegs are a four-piece string band from Knoxville featuring a repertoire of old-time country, western swing and hillbilly jazz. Steeped in the tradition of Appalachian string-band music, the Stifflegs have played square dances and fiddler’s conventions throughout the region. In addition to the group’s spirited fiddle-led numbers, the Stifflegs also showcase a unique take on a wide variety of classic American music, including harmony-driven ballads and upbeat jazz standards. The Tennessee Stifflegs are Frank Bronson, fiddle and vocals; Thomas McNair, guitar and vocals; Tom Cook, bass; and Nathan Black, banjo and lap steel. Tickets are $25.
Sheik ’em up
Another November treat will be The Tennessee Sheiks at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at Laurel Theater. Taking inspiration from the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, they describe their music as acoustic swing. The Sheiks’ members are known individually for their work with area bands and musicians for over 20 years working in bluegrass, old-time, jazz and swing idioms.
The Sheiks are Don Cassell on mandolin, guitar, dobro, and vocals; Nancy Brennan Strange on guitar, vocals; Don Wood on guitar; Barry (Po) Hannah on guitar; Ken Wood on percussion, vocals; Michael Crawley on blues harp, vocals; Marcus Shirley on piano and keyboards; and Vince Ilagan on bass. Tickets are $15.
Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news reporter best known as the longtime film critic for the Knoxville News Sentinel.