In a perfect world, a willingness to follow the arts should not vary with the seasons, nor should uncomfortable short-term weather issues affect attendance at events. However, Knoxvillians, inhabiting coordinates barely halfway between tropical Florida and wintry New England, suffer an issue other areas don’t in the winter—unpredictability. While ever-increasingly snow and ice-free in January, the sudden onset of winter cold and precipitation can drive us into a weird state of hunkering-down that defies logic.
Oddly, that state of risk-taking tension often produces some of the most notable performances and events of the year. With the potential audience scared away by a winter snow warning, the January 2016 concert by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra turned out to be one of its most intriguing of the year, particularly since it was the audition concert for the person who was to be named the KSO next music director, Aram Demirjian.
Last January (2017), I opened a review in the Knoxville Mercury: “There simply must be a mysterious quality to the air in downtown Knoxville in January. How else can one explain the fact that, over the last several years, the January concerts of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra—with guest conductors, no less—have ended up being arguably among the most accomplished and thrilling performances of the season?”
For those unwilling to let winter discomfort and irrational fears of precipitation control them, there is an invigorating effect that cold, monochromatic days have in focusing the mind and musical soul in ways that sunny warm weather never can.
The KSO has a very full month starting on Sunday afternoon, January 7, with a Chamber Classics concert featuring the Principal Quartet and the Woodwind Quintet. That concert will be held in UT’s Powell Recital Hall at 2:30 PM. The concert will offer Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, Arthur Foote’s Nocturne and Scherzo for Flute and String Quartet, and Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat major. The Principal Quartet consists of Gordon Tsai and Edward Pulgar, violins; Kathryn Gawne, viola; and Andy Bryenton, cello. The KSO Woodwind Quintet consists of Hannah Hammel, flute; Claire Chenette, oboe; Gary Sperl, clarinet; Aaron Apaza, bassoon; and Jeffery Whaley, horn.
[Warning: UT basketball games often affect parking on campus for non-athletic events. Advance planning is wise.]
Wednesday and Thursday, January 10, 11—The second of three Concertmaster Series recitals this season, featuring KSO concertmaster William Shaub along with colleagues from the orchestra. This concert at the Knoxville Museum of Art features works by Mozart (Duo No. 1 in G Major for violin and viola), C.P.E. Bach (Trio Sonata for Two Violins and Continuo in A minor), J.S. Bach (Largo ma non tanto movement from the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor), and Kendall Briggs (Duo Concertante for Two Violins). Joining Shaub are violinists Gordon Tsai, Edward Pulgar, and Zofia Glashauser, and violist Kathryn Gawne.
Two January concerts feature music from motion picture scores performed along with the projected film: Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert (Saturday, January 13th) conducted by KSO resident conductor James Fellenbaum and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – In Concert on Saturday, January 27. Both of those concerts are at the Civic Auditorium.
The KSO in collaboration with the Carpetbag Theatre will present A Night with the Arts: A Celebration Concert in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. That concert is FREE.
The popular noontime Q-Series recital returns on Wednesday, January 31, with the Principal Quartet and the Woodwind Quintet at the Square Room on Market Square. Concerts last about 1 hour and include a buffet lunch supplied by Cafe4.
The Masterworks Series for January (Thursday and Friday, January 18 and 19) is titled “Bohemian Rhapsodies” — the concert includes Bohemian flavor by Antonín Dvořák (Symphony No. 8), Brahms, and Smetana. The PROJECT Trio (flute, cello, and double bass) are the guest artists, performing Adam Schoenberg’s Scatter and an arrangement of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the iconic work by Freddy Mercury and the rock band, Queen. I predict that more than a few Knoxvillians will be willing to trudge through Arctic conditions to catch that one.