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.) Continue reading

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Opera airs anguish and artistry of Beauford Delaney

Brandon Gibson as artist Beauford Delaney brandishes the paint brush the artist used to keep at bay the schizophrenic voices that tormented him.

The season of Beauford Delaney continues in Knoxville, this time with a gripping locally produced opera performed by the Marble City Opera last Friday and Saturday to a full house at Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

The one-hour world premiere tells the story of Knoxville artist Delaney’s gradual descent into madness toward the end of his life while he lived in Paris and was committed to St. Anne’s Hospital for the Insane. Local bass baritone Brandon Gibson, playing Delaney, left it all on the stage as he seemed to literally inhabit the role of the troubled painter. I almost leapt from my seat to confront the cruel “voices” — played by singers Regan Bisch, Joshua Allen and Breyon Ewing — who tormented the main character throughout the hour.

Huge projections brought the feeling of Delaney’s colorful paintings to the stage. Director Kathryn Frady explained the opera’s title — “ShadowLight” — to the audience prior to the performance. Continue reading

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Witnessing ‘the cleaning ballet’

Chef Joseph Lenn, right, hangs a just washed pot while Thales Craig-Bettis cleans the chimney at J.C. Holdway after dinner service recently.

“It’s the most amazing thing,” raved my friend Gay Lyons. “You’ve just got to see it!”

My friend Laura Cole was incredulous, as well. “You mean you’ve never seen it?” she asked.

What the heck were they talking about? Gay explained. “It’s when Chef Joseph Lenn and his kitchen team at J.C. Holdway clean the restaurant kitchen at the end of each night. It’s unbelievable — it’s like watching an elaborate dance. I call it ‘the cleaning ballet.’ ”

Well, now I’ve seen it. And it is pretty amazing.

My opportunity happened when Laura attended a Women’s Fund event and bought a dinner at J.C. Holdway’s chef’s counter for six guests. She asked Chef Lenn if the dinner could be at the end of the evening — and if the guests could please watch “the cleaning ballet.” And, lucky me — I got to be one of the guests!

But, first, we were served dinner from the eatery’s awesome tasting menu. Continue reading

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‘Scarves are always in style’

Rene Mackley spent a fun evening last week teaching many ways to tie scarves.

That’s what Rene Mackley told a  lucky group of women last week. They were the beneficiaries of Jeannie Dulaney purchasing an auction item entitling six folks to have wine, appetizers and a lesson in scarf tying at Linda’s Hallmark in Farragut. The auction was held to benefit the University of Tennessee College of Nursing.

Using the participants as models, Rene demonstrated how to tie long, square and rectangular scarves in various stylish ways, and she encouraged the women to wear them often. “When you wear a scarf, people always comment on it,” she noted.

One good suggestion: Hang your scarves in your closet around the outfit with which you plan to wear it. “If you stick your scarves in a drawer, you’ll forget about them,” she cautioned.

In addition to the scarf learnings, the other two highlights of the evening were the appetizer made from Captain Rodney’s Original Boucan Glaze, which Linda’s Hallmark sells, and the “wine tour” of the store. The wine — and the 20 percent discount offered to the workshop participants — made for some robust shopping!

Continue reading

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Cuisine to crave! (Don’t read this if you are hungry.)

Blackberry Farm’s co-founder Kreis Beall, left, greets Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon at a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Sunday night. It was an awesome evening.

I may already have had my best meal of 2020 — and it’s only February!

You can’t beat the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s annual trek to Blackberry Farm for what many think is the best fundraiser of the year. That occurred this past Sunday and it was, as usual, excellent. I have enjoyed a lot of great meals at Blackberry Farm. But I think this topped them all. Maybe it was because Kreis Beall, the founder of the posh resort, was in the house.

“Nah,” Beall said, brushing off the suggestion. “I’ve been retired two years. They don’t even know me.” Hmm. I’m not so sure about that. Especially with her new book getting rave reviews. (If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, head to Union Ave Books downtown and grab one.)

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian took the opportunity to remind everyone that the Knoxville Symphony does so much more than just perform on the stages of the Tennessee and Bijou theaters and the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Continue reading

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‘The most important artist Knoxville ever produced’

Beauford Delaney painted this self-portrait in 1970 while visiting James Baldwin’s villa in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a medieval town in the south of France. Delaney was thought to have been in a psychological crisis at the time.

We are in full-on Beauford Delaney season here in Knoxville. And that’s a good thing. Because, according to David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, the late Delaney is “by any standard, the most important artist Knoxville ever produced.”

The museum was packed last week for the preview party for the opening of the exhibit “Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door,” a reference to something the writer Baldwin once said when visiting Delaney’s Greenwich Village studio.

Delaney was born in Knoxville in 1901, the eighth of 10 siblings. He lived at 815 E. Vine Ave., in East Knoxville with his parents, Delia Johnson Delaney and the Rev. John Samuel Delaney. “He was not just born in Knoxville,” Butler writes in the foreword to the catalogue for the exhibit. “He was, to a large degree, formed here, as a person and as an artist.” Continue reading

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Kreis Beall’s book: bright, brave and brutally honest

Kreis Beall speaking last Wednesday at the launch party at Cherokee Country Club for “The Great Blue Hills of God.”

I don’t know what I expected. But it wasn’t this.

Kreis Beall, who founded tony Blackberry Farm with her ex-husband, Sandy Beall, back in 1976 as a six-room country inn, has taken an unflinching look back at her life in the just-released memoir, “The Great Blue Hills of God.”

She puts it all in the book: the cataclysmic fire that destroyed the Alabama home she and her family cherished; an accident and resulting brain injury that left her 70 percent deaf and depressed; the cheating of her husband with a much younger woman and the heart-crushing divorce after 36 years of marriage; and the devastating death in a skiing accident of her son, Sam, who at the time was the 39-year-old proprietor of Blackberry Farm.

The book, though not overly preachy, is the story of a soul journey and of Beall’s ultimate reaching out for and acceptance of God. Continue reading

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Best restaurant dinner in Knoxville — for one night!

Proprietor Holly Hambright and my husband, Alan Carmichael. This was at the end of the night and I’m thinking that’s not coffee in that coffee cup!

I know you only think of Holly’s Gourmets Market in Bearden as a breakfast and lunch place. Because that’s what it usually is. But last  Thursday night, proprietor Holly Hambright pulled out all the stops when she invited a room full of friends and event planners to dinner to sample her new catering menu items.

All I can say is, “Wow!”

I told Alan that all our restaurant friends would be offended if I said Holly had the best restaurant dinner. But he said, “Well, I think they’ll understand — it WAS for one night only!” So, look at this dinner and see if you don’t agree.

Lisa Lawson, catering director, told everyone that the evening also was intended to show how handy Holly’s Gourmets Market is as an event space. It can hold around 200 folks for a sit-down or reception-type event. So, event planners, keep that in mind. Continue reading

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The temptations of tiny tiki Tern Club

Architect Brian Pittman of Johnson Architecture enjoying a Mai Tai at Tern Club. “The best one I’ve ever had,” he raved.

I’ve wanted to visit the new tiki bar on the 100 block of Gay Street since it opened in November. The other day, while meeting with our clients over at Johnson Architecture, CEO Daryl Johnson casually mentioned that his firm had worked on the place. I asked if he’d go with me to have a drink there to show me the firm’s handiwork.

Well, that turned into a Johnson Architecture happy hour this past Wednesday night! My colleague Scott Bird and I were lucky enough to be included.

Called the Tern Club, the little place is a delight. You almost can’t help smiling when you are in there. It seats only 40 and is the culmination of a dream for its owners, Jocelyn Morin and Ryan Shanley. (Click here for a News Sentinel story about its opening.)

Johnson Architecture’s Brian Pittman and Eric Bowen worked on the project.”The owners knew what they wanted,” Pittman said. “They were lighthearted, excited and young. And they had a dream.”

The biggest challenge, he said, was figuring out how to get 40 seats into the tiny space. “Believe me, it was not easy!” he laughed. Continue reading

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Next Symphony season: new, American & diverse!

Knoxville Symphony Music Director Aram Demirjian announcing the next classical season during a reception at the Emporium Center last night.

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Aram Demirjian announced the 2020-2021 classical music schedule to season ticket holders last night — and boy is it a doozy.

“Next season is the clearest realization of what I envisioned the Knoxville Symphony would be doing when I started as music director,” the young maestro said during an interview after the announcement. “It’s collaborative. It’s artistically ambitious. And it’s extremely fresh in terms of what we are programming, while still maintaining the romantic symphonic repertoire that lies at the core of what orchestras do.”

Demirjian assumed the helm of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in June 2016.

A look at the upcoming Masterworks and Chamber seasons — the Pops schedule  will be announced later — shows:

  • 25 percent of the pieces are by living composers.
  • 20 percent are written by women or members of underrepresented racial, ethnic or cultural heritage.
  • 32 percent of the pieces programmed are from outside the “traditional canon.”
  • 38 percent are by American composers.

Continue reading

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