It’s Big Ears time in Tennessee!

This news crew interviewing Big Ears founder Ashley Capps is from local WATE Channel 6. But dozens of other reporters are in town covering it, too.

The Big Ears Festival opened on Thursday and thousands of folks flooded into downtown Knoxville. They came from 48 states — including Alaska and Hawaii — and 21 foreign countries. (The only states not represented: Idaho and Nebraska.)

It was thrilling to walk down Gay Street and hear, not only foreign accents, but also groups of people speaking in foreign languages, some of which I didn’t recognize. At the ballet last night — Lucy Negro Redux presented by the Nashville Ballet — the folks sitting beside us were from Rochester, New York. Those in front of us were from Charlotte. The Rochester people said they were considering moving here. “We want to live somewhere where the people are real,” the woman confided. “Oh, I can assure you we are real!” I laughed.

All in all, more than 16,000 patrons and artists will take part in Big Ears, with more than 150 concerts, films, panel discussions, installations and surprises through Sunday when the festival shuts down. Many of the offerings are free of charge. Check out the Big Ears website for more info on everything. Or, look for the News Sentinel’s Go Knoxville section, largely devoted today to Big Ears coverage. Continue reading

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

KMA’s Artist’s Luncheon: a Friday of fabulousness

Cassidee Dabney is the executive chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm. She has been nominated for a James Beard Award.

While L’Amour du Vin would seem to be about wine, the whole long weekend really is about art. L’Amour du Vin, a wine dinner with a visiting chef, a visiting vintner and a visiting artist, is the single largest fundraiser of the Knoxville Museum of Art each year.

It’s a wonderful whirlwind of activities including, not only the culmination wine dinner at the Knoxville Museum of Art (read about the 2019 version here), but also two other culinary events, both at Blackberry Farm: the Sponsors’ Dinner and the Artist’s Luncheon. My favorite is the Artist’s Luncheon. It’s a little less formal and it’s held at lunchtime on the Friday before the main event, giving all attendees an excuse to knock off work! Hey, it’s for a good cause.

I usually talk my friend Dawn Ford into also taking the day off — it’s not difficult! —  we hire a driver (there is, after all, quite a bit of wine!) and off we go!

This year’s featured artist was Andrew Erdos. The Knoxvile Museum of Art already has one of his pieces. The other was auctioned off at the L’Amour du Vin event’s live auction. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Events, Food | 2 Comments

L’Amour du Vin 2019: It was love, all right!

Knoxville folks can rock the formal attire when they want to! Here are Allison Burchett and Mike Strickland during the reception and silent auction segment of the evening.

L’Amour du Vin, in its 16th year and held this past weekend at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA), is among our community’s most successful fundraisers. Benefiting the museum and aided in a big way by the chefs and staff of Blackberry Farm, it features an artist, a guest chef and a vintner each year. Last year, it raised more than $500,000 for the KMA. Organizers are hoping that this year tops that.

The Saturday soiree is basically a fancy meal with great wine and tons of auction items — primarily wines and dining experiences. (L’amour du vin, after all, means “love of wine” in French.) The silent auction contains scores of options on which to bid. So many, that the offerings are grouped into three sections with staggered closings. The live auction contains 30 items, which makes for an extremely long evening. We normally advise against having so many live auction items, but who can argue with success like this?

In any case, this year’s culinary guest of honor was Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta, an award winning chef and co-owner of the farm-to-table eatery in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood. In 2017, after several previous nominations, Satterfield was named “Best Chef: Southeast” by the James Beard Foundation. He is fiercely committed to seasonal cooking and to supporting local farmers. Continue reading

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Susan Packard’s lessons we need to heed

From left, Bill and Susan Packard with former HGTV CEO Ken Lowe and CFO Jim Clayton at a launch party for Susan Packard’s new book last week.

I went to a party last week that was two years in the making. Not because it was so fancy or ornate. Quite the contrary. It was warm and cozy.

But, two years ago, when Mary Ellen Brewington heard that her friend Susan Packard, a co-founder of HGTV, was writing a new book, Mary Ellen said she wanted to host the launch party for it. Continue reading

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Charlie Daniel’s reluctant retirement party

Retired News Sentinel Executive Editor Jack McElroy, left, and editorial cartoonist, Charlie Daniel.

Former News Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel has so many friends that his retirement party on Sunday had to be divided into two shifts! We were in the early shift: 1:30 to 3:30. Another group came from 3:30 to 5:30.

For his part, Charlie was nonplussed, of course. “No speeches,” he said, as folks called for him to make remarks after he was presented with proclamations by U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett and Jane Chedester of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office.

Burchett got the biggest laugh when he gave Daniel a flag that he said “allegedly” had flown over the Capitol!

“I think they just put cartons of flags on a plane and then the plane flies over the Capitol,” Burchett joked. “That way, all those flags have flown over the Capitol!”

The party was at the new Farragut condo of Steve and Lin Oglesby, longtime friends of Charlie and Patsy Daniel. Unlike many retirement parties, this one was not at all raucous and joyous. It was sedate and almost sad. Continue reading

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Chopin and champagne: as elegant as it gets

Jim Haslam with Caraline Demirjian. She came to Knoxville from New York to visit her husband, Aram Demirjian, the music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

For a few idyllic hours on this past rainy Sunday, a couple dozen music lovers were transported from West Knoxville to a lovely salon in mid-19th century Paris by virtue of music, dainty nibbles and flowing champagne served in fine crystal flutes.

The occasion was one of the most elegant of the Knoxville Symphony League‘s popular  “Elegant Dining” series of fundraisers. The actual location was Dr. Frank and Anna Gray’s beautiful home on Lyons View Pike. But, gazing out the window at the Tennessee River, you easily could have imagined it to be the Seine, flowing through “the City of Light.”

The Grays generously offered their residence — and their Steinway D Concert Grand piano — to an afternoon of music by composer Frederic Chopin performed by the Knoxville Symphony’s principal pianist, Emi Kagawa. Dr. Gray, himself an accomplished musician, also took a few turns at the keyboard.

“This is the kind of setting for which Chopin composed his music,” Gray explained as everyone settled into chairs in the music room and living room. “Chopin and his friends, who included fellow composer Franz Liszt, spent a lot of time performing and attending performances by others in Parisian salons. This was a major form of entertainment at that time.” Continue reading

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Testerman for Council: Make the best better!

Knoxville City Council candidate Janet Testerman speaking last night in downtown Knoxville during a fundraiser in support of her candidacy.

It seemed like a good excuse for a party. Our friend Janet Testerman is running for an at-large seat on Knoxville City Council and needed a fun fundraiser. We have our new condo downtown that we haven’t yet occupied. (I swear we are going to move there one day!) We offered it for the festivities last night.

What a blast. More than 50 folks showed up in a mood for a good time and excited to support a positive, forward-thinking candidate. Her campaign slogan is “Make the best better!” Here are a few of the priorities she outlined during her brief remarks:

  • Knoxville is at a crossroads in its leadership. The county has a new mayor; the city will get a new mayor this year; the University of Tennessee has an interim president and is searching for a chancellor for its Knoxville campus; the Knoxville Chamber is in the midst of a search for a new president. The decisions we make about these positions and others — including four Council seats — largely will determine the future of our community.

Continue reading

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An enchanted evening: music, chocolate and wine

Janet Greer is enthralled by Michael Rodgers performing the Nat King Cole classic, “Too Young.”

How’s this for a clever idea? The Marble City Opera will be performing a Valentine’s show at Holly’s Gourmet’s Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week.

But on Tuesday of this week, the opera company allowed members of the Knoxville Museum of Art Guild to invite folks to a rehearsal — featuring chocolate desserts and wine — with proceeds benefiting the KMA.

It was a light and delightful evening. The music ran the gamut from opera and musical theater to standards, even including a little Elvis.

If the rehearsal was any indication, the real events will be breathtaking. So grab your honey and get over to Bearden for one of the shows. Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased here:

Continue reading

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Next KSO season: Beethoven, romance and surprises

The folks from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra held a little reception downtown earlier this week to unveil some of the highlights from the upcoming 2019-2020 season. Let me urge you to get your tickets as soon as possible, because it’s going to be a great season.

Moxley Carmichael’s Katrina Roberts designed the “look” for the KSO’s upcoming season.

December 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian has programmed Beethoven’s masterpieces throughout the entire season’s Masterworks and Chamber Classics series. Continue reading

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Frivolity at the Fire and Ice Ball

Those crazy kids! Actually, this is Knoxville Opera’s new director of marketing and public relations, Beth Evans, with her husband, Jim. Yep, it was that kind of evening!

The Knoxville Opera called its annual fundraising ball “Fire & Ice.” Held last month at the Knoxville Museum of Art, it was a blast. But attendance was down, causing the Opera to do what the Knoxville Symphony did last year — move the big money-maker out of December. This year, the Opera Ball will be in October. The Symphony Ball will be in March.

Trust me. This is better for all concerned. After Thanksgiving, there are just too many holiday events going on. And if you aren’t attending a holiday event on any given evening in December, you are probably watching — or trying to keep track of — a football game.

The Fire & Ice Ball featured a performance by the Knoxville Opera Chorus. In particular, Don Townsend, chorus master and production manager for the Opera, received a shout-out. Continue reading

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