Players dazzle with diverse culinary, musical talents

Principal violinist Mary Ann Fee Fennell arrived with a fantastic chicken and rice dish.

When the Knoxville Symphony performs at one of our beautiful downtown theaters, the musicians seem to effortlessly harmonize and form one cohesive voice. But, actually, the Knoxville Symphony is a very diverse group of individuals. The members hail from nine countries and from states all over America.

That’s why the event called “Symphony Soiree” is so much fun. During this casual fundraiser — which was held earlier this week — the participating musicians bring a covered dish — with many offerings reflecting their ethnic heritages — to a dinner at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. And then they play a wide variety of music that they personally love — not necessarily in the classical repertoire.

The evening is part of the Knoxville Symphony League’s highly successful series of events called “Elegant Dining.” To me, it is one of the best ones. Tuesday’s affair was a sell-out at $50 per person and 50 guests in attendance. Read on to see — and hear — the highlights! (There’s even a great recipe.)

The sell-out crowd at St. John’s.

This garlic shrimp and white bean dish was out of this world. It was contributed by Mary and Edward Pulgar, both of whom are violinists in the KSO.

Violinist Sean Claire adding dressing to a delicious salad he brought.

Not sure who brought the ricotta lasagna, but it sure was good.

Debbie Dalton, left, and Barbara Furlong were checking guests in on behalf of the Symphony League.

Baked ziti was a hit.

Lewis and Erma Brewer were having fun.

His tie was very appropriate for the occasion!

Cellist Stacy Nickell contributed taco casserole. Yum.

It’s always good to see Frank and Jane Venable. They are at all the best Symphony League events.

Bill Pierce, who plays the viola in the symphony, brought Slovak style beef soup. Guests could add as much of various elements as they desired.

Focaccia was a complement to everything!

My friend Gay Lyons was my date for the evening. We had fun.

Dutch boterkoek was one of the dessert offerings.

And rugelach.

Welsh shortbread.

Dig in!

Bill Rotmeyer did!

Another great tie! This one on Stewart Anderson.

Gay and I sat with, from left, Nancy and James Farris and Rena McAlister.

More fun folks. From left, Debbie Emery, Cathy Briscoe-Graves and Robin Smith.

I thought the special napkins were a nice touch. And the pinot grigio, of course!

The centerpieces, arranged by Kathy Lasater, were pretty.

The Symphony League’s Audrey Duncan was the evening’s emcee.

Trombonist Josh Walker and his son, Matthew, performed, “Ave Maria.”

Bob Adamcik played some ragtime on his “pit” xylophone.

Kyle Venlet and Rachel Loseke played an Appalachian waltz.

And, Bill Pierce’s rendition of “The Potato Song” is a tradition at Symphony Soirees held throughout the years! (He usually plays the viola.)

Bill Pierce playing the guitar for a change.

Sam Chen played tenor tuba accompanied by Emi Kagawa.

The Inner Voices string quartet performed “Blueprint” by Caroline Shaw. The quartet consists of Ruth Bacon, Sarah Ringer, Christy Graffeo and Jeanine Wilkerson.

We were blown away by Ayca Yaman‘s vocal performance. We usually see her playing oboe in the Knoxville Symphony.


And here’s that recipe I promised. Of all the delicious food we enjoyed, both Gay and I decided Sean Claire’s Lemon Pepper Chicken was the “best bite” of the night. Although he said he didn’t use a recipe to make it, he was nice enough to go home and write down the directions and send it to us. Wife Stacy was helpful in this recipe development, we hear. Here you go:

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Capers in White Wine Reduction

Six boneless chicken breasts or 12 boneless thighs (3 to 4 lbs. total)

Lemon pepper

2 lemons for juice and zest

1/2-cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2-cup white wine

4 Tbsp capers

4 Tbsp safflower oil (or other cooking oil)

1 Tbsp butter

Lemon zest

Wash the lemons, zest and juice them, setting zest aside. Combine the lemon juice with the wine and set aside.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken, lay out on a plate or tray, sprinkle heavily with lemon pepper. Heat a skillet or high-sided frying pan on high heat with oil and butter. Place peppered side of chicken down, sprinkle again heavily with lemon pepper. Sear on each side 2-3 minutes, or until browned.

Pour the wine and lemon juice mixture over chicken, let stay on high heat (maybe 1-2 minutes) until it is happily bubbling, then turn heat to low, cover the pan, let simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Uncover the pan, keeping the heat at low, remove and slice each piece of chicken and return to pan. Add the capers and let cook uncovered until the liquid reduces and begins to thicken. (You may have to turn up the heat slightly.) This should take about 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, sprinkle the lemon zest over the top and serve!





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