‘Great’ Lyle Lovett charms Tocqueville Society

Country singer Lyle Lovett performing at the Mill & Mine in October. If you are not a country music fan, you may know him for being married to actress Julia Roberts for two years.

Country singer Lyle Lovett performing at the Mill & Mine in October. If you are not a country music fan, you may know him for being married to actress Julia Roberts for two years.

Country singer Lyle Lovett was in Knoxville the other day providing a concert for a small gathering of Knoxvillians at the Mill & Mine on Depot Avenue. The occasion was the annual Alexis de Tocqueville Society dinner, a “reward” for those who give $10,000 or more to the United Way of Greater Knoxville in any given year.

Jim Haslam, the chair of the Tocqueville Society, loves several of the French philosopher’s famous quotes. But one he most often cites is this one: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” As you probably know from a civics or government or world history class, Tocqueville is most famous for his seminal work, “Democracy in America,” published in 1835.

It was a treat seeing Lovett in such an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. His kind of country music really is a fusion of country and swing and jazz. He played with just two accompanists: a bass player and a fiddle player. He was chatty and funny. At one point, he called Knoxville “one of the prettiest cities in the country.” (I like that description much better than “scruffy,” of which I am growing weary.)

Dinner was catered by chef Tim Love, who earlier this year opened the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in the Old City. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville, Music | 4 Comments

Bidding for experience brings event to a boil

Allyn Purvis Schwartz presents dinner -- a Low Country shrimp boil at the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Allyn Purvis Schwartz presents dinner — a Low Country shrimp boil at the Knoxville Botanical Garden. Lining up to fill their plates are, from left, Bruce Anderson, Carmen Hicks, Monique Anderson and Bill and Gay Lyons. (Gay’s a little excited!)

Since Alan and I downsized several years ago to a condo in downtown Knoxville, we have adopted a new strategy for all the charity auctions we attend. We don’t have much space to acquire more “stuff.” So, we have a pretty strict rule for ourselves: Bid on “experiences” instead of things.

As the end of the year approaches, I decided to clean out our “winnings” drawer. Here is one of the items I found in it: a Low Country shrimp boil courtesy of our friends John and Allyn Purvis Schwartz. We bought it at an event benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum — and that’s where the shrimp boil was held. We redeemed our prize when my brother and sister-in-law were visiting last week from Gulf Shores, Alabama. Check it out. You might want to adopt this same policy!

Thanks to our great hosts, Allyn and John, as well as to their daughter, Ashley Schwartz Giles, and her husband, John Giles, who helped prepare the feast. This was a great auction item! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 18 Comments

Party of five, your jazz orchestra is ready

the-band

The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra performs at Sherri Lee’s house for “Evening Under the Stars.” That’s band leader Vance Thompson on the trumpet in the back.

For years, when speaking of arts organizations in Knoxville, people have referred to “the big four,” meaning the Knoxville Symphony, the Knoxville Opera, the Clarence Brown Theatre and the Knoxville Museum of Art. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville, Music | 8 Comments

Secret garden steeped in Knoxville ‘her-story’

Presley Ford checks out a huge bird's egg in a nest at the new "Secret Garden."

Presley Ford checks out a huge bird’s egg in a nest at the new “Secret Garden.”

The folks at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum put together a touching and creative tribute to two special Knoxville women recently. During its popular annual Green Thumb Gala fundraiser, the garden unveiled a real “secret garden” created in honor of the late Andie Ray. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 12 Comments

‘The Final Season’ captures essence of Pat Summitt

Author Maria Cornelius, left, with Lady Vols basketball coach Holly Warlick. Warlick is a former Lady Vol player and was Pat Summitt's assistant coach for 27 seasons.

Author Maria Cornelius, left, with Lady Vols basketball coach Holly Warlick. Warlick is a former Lady Vol player and was Pat Summitt’s assistant coach for 27 seasons. (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

I was lucky enough to receive one of the first copies of “The Final Season,” the new book about University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt’s last season coaching the legendary Lady Vols. The early copy was a gift from its author, Maria Cornelius, my friend and colleague at Moxley Carmichael.

As you surely know, Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball, passed away this summer after a five-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I tore into the book the first Saturday after I received it. By page 13, I was weeping. Pat Summitt is not only an inspirational basketball coach, but an overall inspiration. Maria, who covered Summitt and her teams for many years as a reporter with the Knoxville News Sentinel and Inside Tennessee, was privy to Summitt’s inner circle and that’s where she got most of her insights. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Journalism, Knoxville, Media, Public Relations, UT sports | 9 Comments

‘Dinner on the Bridge’ beguiles

Here's the view from our table last night as sun was setting on the "Dinner of the Bridge" to celebrate Knoxville's 225th birthday.

Here’s the view from our table Sunday night as sun was setting on the “Dinner on the Bridge” to celebrate Knoxville’s 225th birthday.

What a great idea this was!

To celebrate Knoxville’s 225th birthday, the Arts & Culture Alliance hosted a dinner on the Gay Street Bridge Sunday night complete with keyboard music by Carol Zinavage Shane of the Knoxville Symphony and a reading of his inaugural poem by Knoxville’s new poet laureate, R.B. Morris.

The poem was called, “A Birthday Card to Knoxville,” and it was sweet and moving. Well-known auctioneer Sam Furrow auctioned off a painting of the Gay Street Bridge by well-known artist Mike C. Berry. And Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced that “contrary to speculation,” she would not be leaving her post early to accept a position in the Clinton administration should Hillary Clinton be elected president.

Former Knoxville mayor and ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, who was in attendance Sunday night, has been promoting that idea for months in his weekly newspaper column in the Shopper News. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 13 Comments

See the art of Chicago – and what’s on the way here!

Which one of these items does not belong? That would be my husband, Alan Carmichael, posing with sculptures from a gallery called Marlborough which has locations in New York, London, Barcelona and Madrid. This was at Expo Chicago.

Which one of these things is not like the others? That would be my husband, Alan Carmichael, posing with sculptures from a gallery called Marlborough, which has locations in New York, London, Barcelona and Madrid. This was at Expo Chicago.

If you see 16 people walking the streets of K-town looking dazed and disoriented, it will be the group who just returned from the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Collectors Circle trip to Chicago.

We saw so much art in such a short period of time that it was impossible to process. The core of the trip was a visit to Expo Chicago, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, an annual event held at Chicago’s historic Navy Pier. The expo featured 145 of the world’s leading art galleries from 22 countries and 53 cities and included works by more than 3,000 artists.

Additionally, the Knoxville group visited The Arts Club of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, two galleries and the homes of two collectors. (Plus, we went to all those restaurants you saw on the previous Blue Streak post!)

The purpose of the trip was to look at modern and contemporary art, some of which is coming to Knoxville next year and some of which the museum is looking to acquire. Of particular interest were works by Knoxville native Beauford Delaney. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Travel | 9 Comments

Hungry in Chicago? Go here!

One of the best salads I've ever had was at Blackbird at lunch. It consisted of endive, dijon and pancetta in a crispy potato nest topped with a poached egg. Unbelievably creamy and full of flavor on top of the crunchy potatoes.

One of the best salads I’ve ever had was at Chicago’s Blackbird at lunch. It consisted of endive, dijon and pancetta in a crispy potato nest topped with a poached egg. Unbelievably creamy and full of flavor on top of the crunchy potatoes.

Sixteen hardy Knoxvillians have just returned from an action-packed trip to Chicago. The purpose of the trip, organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art for members of its Collectors Circle, was to take in a wide variety of art, some of which will be coming to Knoxville within a year or so and some the museum has an eye toward acquiring.

The next post on the Blue Streak will show you some of the art we saw. But this post will deal with another kind of art — the culinary kind — that obsessed us almost as much as the framed and sculpted variety.

Chicago is home to many great chefs and many great eateries. With just a couple of exceptions, the trip planners at the KMA wisely left time on the schedule for our group of travelers to split up and make our own dining plans. Alan and I did research and then made reservations in advance for four to six people at each meal, figuring we could always adjust our reservation downward if no one was interested in joining us at the places we picked. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that. Others took the same approach, resulting in different groups dining together at a different fabulous restaurant at every meal. Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Travel, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Downtown pitch for Knoxville’s new maestro

Downtown dweller Bill Lyons, left, with new Knoxville Symphony music director Aram Demirjian at the final stop of our progressive dinner Saturday.

Downtown dweller Bill Lyons, left, with new Knoxville Symphony music director Aram Demirjian at the final stop of our progressive dinner Saturday.

On the first stop of our downtown progressive dinner last Saturday, I tapped my cellphone to my wine glass in order to get everyone’s attention for an announcement. “D-flat,” stated Aram Demirjian, the Knoxville Symphony‘s new conductor, in a matter-of-fact tone. “What?” I asked. “That’s a D-flat,” he said, referring to the sound that emanated when I tapped the glass.

Demirjian, who along with his new wife, Caraline Craig, was a guest of honor for our dinner, explained that he has what is known as “absolute pitch.” That, according to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), is “a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.” Researchers estimate that about 1 in 10,000 people have absolute pitch.

This, I thought, is not a bad characteristic for a music director. On the other hand, however, Demirjian related that he is color blind.

As many readers of the Blue Streak know, a group of us downtown residents hold a progressive dinner a few times a year, and we often invite an extra couple to join as our guests. Our motive in this is to convince the invited couple to follow our lead and move downtown. We have been very successful with this strategy. Now we have Aram and Caraline in our sights. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville, Music | 13 Comments

Symphony in Park was sublime. Season will soar!

The KSO's new music director, Aram Demirjian, conducts the "Star Spangled Banner" to open Symphony in the Park on Sunday.

The KSO’s new music director, Aram Demirjian, conducts the “Star-Spangled Banner” to open Symphony in the Park on Sunday.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra launches its 81st season tonight and Friday with new conductor and music director Aram Demirjian taking the podium at the Tennessee Theatre for a program called “Russian Passion” featuring the works of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

But Demirjian started his week in a much more pastoral setting with the 31st annual Symphony in the Park at beautiful Ijams Nature Center on Sunday. The weather could not have been more perfect and, as the sun set and the moon rose, it was almost magical to hear the ambient sound — cicadas and the occasional high-flying jet — mingle with the ethereal melodies wafting from the bandstand.

While attendance was down this year — something apparently was going on in Bristol the evening before! — those who made it to the 300-acre urban green space were treated to music ranging from that of Rossini and Elgar to Nat King Cole. And local composer and pianist Ben Maney, one of the guest artists, provided three works of his own, one performed by the riveting vocalist Yasameen Hoffman-Shahin. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville, Music | 10 Comments