Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where I Was on April 31st

To anyone who may not be aware, I perform with a local swing jazz group called the Johnson Swingtet. It’s a little sidetrip I decided to take a few years ago to broaden my musical horizon. The group is generally comprised of two guitars, cello, mandolin and harmonica, and is dedicated to the gypsy jazz tradition of Django Reinhardt and Stefan Grappelli with a smattering of Western Swing and Samba. This past Sunday night we were playing at Sapphire on Gay St., when between songs folks at the bar let out a big ol’ cheer (but definitely not AFTER a song, especially considering the fortitude of the cheering! lol). We played on, temporarily oblivious to the fact that Osama bin Laden had just been shot.

Meanwhile, back in 2001, I was an orchestra committee member and took part in the contract negotiations after the 2000-2001 season. The negotiations with Mark Hanson, in his sophomore year as General Manager, had reached an agreement without much gnashing of teeth. Just a couple small items needed to be ironed out, and we were settling in to a 9:00-ish meeting when Emily (Robertson) Vestal came rushing into the conference room saying that the World Trade Center had just been hit. Although I had never spoken to Emily, who had just joined the KSO staff as assistant stage manager and now works at Carnegie Hall, it was clear that she was not used to speaking so forcefully.

We finished up the meeting, aware that what we had spent months negotiating might have just gone up in flames also, but we were cautiously optimistic and posterity has long since allayed our fears. That week was to be the Gala concert, but the schedule was reconfigured to include an “emergency” concert on the Civic Auditorium lawn. People were shaken; loud noises from the parking garage made people jerk their heads around to see if they needed to run from something. The “C” garage had a loose expansion joint that has since been fixed, but in those days when driven over, it sounded as if Thor himself were hammering on the whole structure.

On Friday night the 14th, the Gala concert at the Civic Auditorium, featuring pianist Alexander Toradze playing a Rachmaninov concerto and concluding with Scheherazade, went on as planned, although as I recall there was some doubt as to whether Mr. Toradze would make a single rehearsal due to travel restrictions. Indeed, he had to be driven down from Bloomington, Indiana. My memory is fuzzy about this, but I believe this concert also included the dedication of the statue of Rachmaninov that now stands in World’s fair Park, commemorating his last performance here in 1943. Maybe someone out there can ascertain whether this is true, but regardless of when it happened, there is a bit of business to take care of. A forum on includes a post by some bloke who is miffed that Rachmaninov’s last performance occurred in Knoxville. To wit...

....Somehow I feel a final performance there was not appropriate for
such a great artist....from St. Petersburg and other world capitals to Knoxville. Sad, but such is life!

Maybe one of you can tell this person where to go.

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