New Carousel Theatre to be ‘a jewel box’

A pretty good photobomb! Randy and Jenny Boyd sneaked up behind, from left, Bruce Hartmann, Adrian and Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay, just as I snapped their photo at the Carousel Theatre update last week. Ha.

COVID might have delayed progress on the new Carousel Theatre on the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus, but it didn’t stop it!

Supporters of the Clarence Brown Theatre gathered last week for a design update on the planned new version of the intimate little Carousel, located on campus next to the larger Clarence Brown Theatre. Continue reading

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Jazz and Cocktails ’23: beautiful on all fronts

Marga and Jay McBride opened their home to jazz lovers.

“Jazz and Cocktails,” one of the most compelling excuses for day drinking on the Knoxville social calendar, changed locations this year. A fundraiser for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra’s youth scholarships, it generally is held at the venerable Maple Grove Estate on Westland Drive.

But this year, arts enthusiasts Marga and Jay McBride generously offered to host it in their fantastic new home that Jay designed for them in the Arcadia neighborhood. The setting, the music and the camaraderie were off the charts for this laid-back Sunday afternoon event. Arcadia is located on a peninsula in deep west Knox County. Formerly a Cherokee hunting ground, it is surrounded on three sides by the Tennessee River and set against the Great Smoky Mountains.

Not only were attendees entertained by well-known jazz pianist Eric Reed and bass player Dean Torrey, who accompanied him, but they also were introduced to a student phenom, Mimi Terry, who attends Maryville High School and stunned us when she took a turn on the keyboards. Expect to hear more from and about her in the near future. Continue reading

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Cellist Yo-Yo Ma calls East Tennessee ‘paradise’

In addition to performing, cellist Yo-Yo Ma acted as emcee for the 2-1/2 hour “Our Common Nature” event last Friday.

“I thought I was in paradise, except that I’m not dead yet!” exclaimed superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma during his appearance at World’s Fair Park on Friday night, referring to the beauty and culture he discovered in the Appalachian Mountains and East Tennessee.

“Maybe that’s why there’s so much creativity here,” he added.

Ma stuck around these parts long enough to know what he was talking about. Prior to his appearance as part of his “Our Common Nature” project, which had him playing with a diverse band of 11 other accomplished artists Friday, he made a series of unadvertised “pop-up” appearances in our region. They ranged from Cades Cove and elsewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to Lakeshore Park in West Knoxville, Market Square downtown and the University of Tennessee Gardens.

Ma is the best-known cellist in the world. He has recorded 90 albums and won 19 Grammy Awards. In 2020, he was named one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people.” And — here’s one I just love and which embarrasses him the most — in 2011 “People” magazine declared him “the sexiest classical musician!” And, the icing on the cake: he’s appeared as himself on “Sesame Street” five times! Continue reading

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The Swag: It just keeps getting better

Some friends from Knoxville returned recently from a long weekend at The Swag, and we noticed a number of notable improvements to an already wonderful experience. We are told that even more upgrades are on the way.

From left, Phyllis Nichols, John Winemiller, R.J. Hinde, Jim Nichols and Alan Carmichael toast to a great weekend at The Swag.

The Swag, a breath-taking 250-acre property located just 90 miles from downtown Knoxville, truly is a magical place. At 5,000 feet above sea level, it’s usually about 10 degrees cooler there than in Knoxville. Alan and I try to go there during three seasons — spring, summer and fall — because every season at The Swag offers a totally different experience. Continue reading

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New season of Broadway at the Tennessee excites!

Alex Lugo singing highlights from the Broadway play “Hadestown” at the Tennessee Theatre last week. “Hadestown” is one of six Broadway shows coming to Knoxville next season.

The Tennessee Theatre announced its upcoming series of touring Broadway performances last week to an enthusiastic crowd that applauded and whooped when each of the six upcoming shows was named. Even though “Wicked” had been previously announced, it still received massive cheers.

Notably, every show booked for the 2023-24 season is a premiere in Knoxville — none has ever been performed professionally here before. And, even more notably, every year the number of season subscribers climbs — from 2,597 in 2021 to 7,609 today. And that’s before sales even open to new subscribers for the upcoming season!

The format of the night was designed to be fast-moving and fun. Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock and musical theater historian Dr. Kristin Presley, also known as “Dr. Broadway,” introduced the upcoming season and shared a few insights about each play. Short clips of the productions were shown. And three performers who will appear in Knoxville during the upcoming season offered songs from two of the shows.

Afterwards, the invited season ticket holders were guests at an open bar and buffet on the stage of the historic Tennessee. What’s not to like? Continue reading

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The happiest party of the year!

Natalie Dowling rocked one of the most unusual hats at the Hats in Bloom fundraiser. She bought it in London.

Question: Do hats make people happy? Or do happy people wear hats?

The answer really doesn’t matter. The upshot is that Hats in Bloom, an annual fundraiser and hat sale benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, is the happiest party of the year. I mean folks are absolutely giddy at this luncheon.

The fact that it’s one of the first events of spring — and that there are unlimited glasses of champagne, mimosas and Bloody Marys — could also be factors. Hats off (ha) to the few brave men who also attend this mostly female occasion.

A couple of fun facts about this year’s Hats in Bloom. It was a sellout with more guests, sponsors and money raised than ever before. Congrats to co-chairs: Jenny Bushkell, Victoria Daniel-Cape, Jacque Hawks and Gay Lyons. And to past chair and honorary co-chair Jackie Wilson, who helped found Hats in Bloom back in 2013. It’s been making us smile ever since. Continue reading

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Symphony Ball ‘springs’ into success!

Symphony Ball Chair Adrian Jay and her husband, Larsen, pose in one of the beautiful settings at The Quarry Venue, where this year’s Symphony Ball was held.

Through a combination of luck and nimbleness on the part of organizers, the Knoxville Symphony League just pulled off one of its most successful Symphony Balls ever. Set for March 25, the important fundraiser originally was scheduled to be held at the recently remodeled Marriott Hotel on Henley Street.

But, just a few weeks prior to the date of the benefit, the hotel notified ball organizers that it would not be possible for them to have valet parking at the formal affair. The hotel staff blamed that situation on the massive influx of hotel and Knoxville Convention Center visitors who would be in town for the Bassmaster Classic, often referred to as the “Super Bowl of fishing,” scheduled downtown that same weekend. The hotel was booked solid with guests and numerous events associated with the Bassmaster Classic.

This bit of bad news caused Symphony League folks to re-think holding the event at the Marriott in any case due to the traffic and other issues the crush of 100,000 fishing enthusiasts would have on downtown. But, what other facility could accommodate the event on such short notice? Continue reading

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Art and camaraderie outside museum walls

Stephen Wicks, curator of the Knoxville Museum of Art, and Nancy Wagner, who with her husband, Charles, opened their home last week to the Knoxville Museum of Art Collectors Circle.

One of the best things about being a member of the Knoxville Museum of Art Collectors Circle is the chance to see interesting and important works and mingle with other art lovers outside the walls of the Museum itself. My husband and I have gone on several extraordinary out-of-town trips with the Collectors Circle, but there’s also a lot to do right here in Knoxville.

Last week, collectors Charles and Nancy Wagner opened their lovely Sequoyah Hills home to Collectors Circle members to socialize and mingle amongst their varied and beautiful art collection. Of particular interest to me were the works of Beauford and Joseph Delaney that the Wagners have acquired.

Several of their Beauford Delaney pieces were missing, though. They were on loan to Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum of American Art for an exhibition called “Beauford Delaney’s Metamorphosis into Freedom,” organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art. KMA’s curator, Stephen Wicks, who has held that important post for more than 25 years, is an internationally recognized expert on the Delaneys and their art. He put together that exhibit, which will run at the Hunter through May 1. Continue reading

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‘Symphony Soiree:’ a sprightly shindig!

Violinist Sean Claire with his sushi-rice salad. Clever!

One of the best of the Knoxville Symphony League‘s “Elegant Dining” fundraisers is the one every year featuring the culinary talents of the musicians themselves. Held earlier this month in the Great Hall at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral downtown, “Symphony Soiree” was a sellout with a waiting list.

In a low-key and relaxed environment, the musicians bring covered dishes they have made themselves. Members of the League supplement by providing a smorgasbord of desserts. Wine and tea flow. (Mostly wine.) After dinner, everyone sits back to enjoy a variety show of musical talent that might not be what you’ve come to expect from symphonic players.

All-in-all, it’s a recipe for a fabulous time. I think the $85 price tag is too low. Continue reading

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Wallace becomes independent real estate agency: ‘We’ve got the horsepower. We just needed to take the reins.’

Anne Williams shows her fellow agents some of the new signage for Wallace Real Estate.

The large gathering in the ballroom of the Embassy Suites hotel on Parkside Drive last Wednesday had all the markings of a highly charged political event. A large screen with the words, “The Big Reveal,” was positioned front and center. Rock music blared on the sound system. A podium outfitted in blue draping was up front. And — get this — a drone hovered overhead!

The room was charged with nervous energy as everyone waited for the company’s CEO, George Wallace, to take the stage and tell them why they had been summoned there. He first told them why they had NOT been.

“Let me first dispel some rumors,” Wallace laughed. “We are not here for me to launch my run for governor!” Big laughs. “And, no, Peyton Manning is not here! And Tony Vitello is not here! And the top producers’ lunch is not going to be held on a cruise ship!” Continue reading

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