Sorry for the reticence, folks. It’s the end of a semester, it’s Christmas, and I’m a musician. It feels like December 1st was just one long day that ended Saturday at the end of the Nutcracker at Maryville’s Clayton Center for the Arts. I have somehow managed to not schedule anything for a full 24 hours, and I’ll take a look back at what we can now call “early December,” but first let me say that the week ahead promises four Clayton Holiday Concerts! Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3, at the Civic Auditorium. This 29th annual offering will showcase music of Appalachia with special guest Paul Brewster, the guitar-playin’ “high lonesome” tenor in Ricky Skaggs legendary Kentucky Thunder, headlining. Also contributing will be the Knoxville Choral Society, GO! Contemporary Dance Works and the Knoxville Banjo Orchestra (and well, duhh, Santa Claus!!) under the direction of Maestro James Fellenbaum.
Our Nutcracker ballet alliance with the Appalachian Ballet Company continued its 42-year tradition with performances Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Clayton Center at Maryville College, and last weekend at the Civic Auditorium. It represented a turning point for the ABC, as dancer Mika Yoshida gave her farewell after a 32-year dancing career, this time as the Dew Drop Fairy in Waltz of the Flowers. It was also announced that KSO bass trombonist Brad MacDougall (whose MacDougall Brothers Construction Co. is a supporter of the Ballet), finally took in a performance of the Nutcracker after twenty years of playing it in the orchestra pit! It is amazing how close to the action we are in the pit, and yet how far.
There were some “runouts” in the past couple of weeks. According to Johanna Fiedler, her father Arthur coined the term when the Boston Pops would literally “run out” to Worcester, Manchester, Portland, etc. Our running took us to Lincoln Memorial University, Dandridge, and Athens, with Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz leading the orchestra and Associate Concertmaster Gordon Tsai soloing with Vivaldi’s Winter from The Four Seasons. In Athens we performed in the afternoon for middle-schoolers on a day as warm as any day in April, then performed holiday music at the Athens City Middle School with renowned local guests Rusty Paterson, Mike Simmons and Tim Frazier, aka the Three Tenors of Athens. There was some good R&R in the area during our down time, and the food offerings have shown steady improvement through the years of our travels there.
Speaking of food, the Q Series continues to bring in a capacity crowd at the Square Room on Market Square. It is always gratifying when, as musicians, we compete with beautiful weather and win! Outdoor tables all along Market square were full Tuesday. It seems the past 8 or 9 days have been balmy, even during the Three Days of Rain. The Principal String Quartet played a preview of our upcoming (January 10, 2:30) Chamber Classics concert of works by Schubert, Prokofiev and Brahms, and the Principal Woodwind Quintet performed a beautiful work by Paquito D’Rivera entitled Aires Tropicales. The next Q Series offering will be January 27.