Also, for 26 years, the event has managed to avoid being rained out — although it was close this year! Just an hour prior to start time this past Sunday, South Knoxville (where Ijams is located) was drenched in an afternoon downpour. Tablecloths, napkins, everything became soaked.
But by the time we got there shortly after 5 p.m., the skies had cleared, the temperature had dropped to a tolerable level, and we didn’t mind that our linens were damp.
After a long (possibly too long) cocktail and silent auction period, we were called to our tables. The setting is just breathtaking. As longtime table sponsors, we have a table in the lower area near the bandstand. But the tables up on the hillside look like they would be fun, as well. And there’s just a feeling I can’t describe that descends on the crowd as dusk falls and you can hear the sounds of chirping insects and such.
Dinner always is served family style, which seems appropriate in such a relaxed atmosphere. This year caterer Nancy Kendrick charmed with big glass bowls of potato salad (was that a hint of nutmeg in it?) and broccoli salad served along with grilled vegetables and grilled chicken breasts with fresh mango salsa. Dessert was summer berry shortcake.
As everyone knows, Sunday had been a somewhat stressful day in general. The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it just had me and my friends a little on edge as well as sad and reflective. I was glad to be in such a peaceful setting with some of our favorite neighbors and friends as that day drew to a close.
Appropriately, one of the first pieces Maestro Lucas Richman selected for the program was Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. He explained that a few days after the attacks in 2001, the KSO had a concert scheduled and they wrestled with what would be the appropriate course of action. Should they cancel the shows? Or would the audience members cherish the concerts as an opportunity to find comfort in the company of their fellow citizens and the healing power of music itself? The decision was made to play the concerts, but then-Maestro Kirk Trevor added the somber Adagio for Strings in honor of those who had died.
As the first notes of that piece wafted over us this Sunday, Alan and I instinctively nodded at each other in recognition because the melody instantly brought us back to that concert 10 years ago. It was startlingly powerful and the tears in my eyes were unexpected.
After that, the mood lightened considerably as we got a solo violin performance by the KSO’s gifted new, young (23!) concert master, Gabriel Lefkowitz. That was followed by a couple of children’s pieces that brought welcome chuckles and then the clear, pretty vocals of local favorite Christa DeCicco of the band Christabel and the Jons. It must have been a thrill for her to hear the power of the KSO swelling behind her delicate voice. It was for us.
Then it was a Sousa march and the evening was over. We were out of there by 8:30 and, after a quick drive around downtown Knoxville just because it’s our hometown and we love it, we went home to our center-city condo and our sweet calico cat, glad that this horrible anniversary had ended in such a gentle way.
If you would like to hear what the Adagio for Strings sounds like, click here. It’s not the KSO playing it, but I think you will recognize it as one of the most well-known pieces of classical music in the 20th century.