After a beautiful ride through lovely, rolling Kentucky hills and bluegrass cut short for winter, elegant horse farms barns with glassed-in, octagonal cupolas (we were only an hour or so from Churchill Downs, after all), and lots of bourbon distilleries (one designed like a castle), we arrived in Monteagle, Tennessee and checked in at the aptly-named Smokehouse Inn.
It’s a hotel and restaurant with a huge gift shop featuring room upon room with an endless selection of barbeque sauces, jams, home-made fudge, historic memorabilia and more. A fun place. You wouldn’t mistake it for the Ritz, but fun.
The second stop on our tour was in nearby Sewanee, Tennessee, home of the grand old University of the South, the venerable Sewanee Review, a fine literary quarterly, and a dynamic, growing music program (especially in the summer, when two full student orchestras are in residence ). The campus is all stone (quarried locally) and stained glass. The University of the South made the front pages several years ago when its administration made the decision to cut its tuition fees by 10% and to guarantee every student that their senior tuition rate would not exceed that of their freshman year.
The concert that night was in Guerry Auditorium, with an enthusiastic audience made up students, faculty and other members of the community. In fact the audience became warmer and warmer as the night progressed, and it seemed like they were not going to let Nadja and the orchestra leave the stage, calling her back for bow after bow. The hall featured a clear, resonant acoustic, with a large seating space downstairs and a small balcony. Nadja, who had performed in the hall two years previously, joked with the audience throughout. She said, “Tennessee sure is different from San Francisco!” during her introduction, producing a huge laugh, and putting them at their ease.
After two concerts, the orchestra is clearly back into the swing of touring, and the sound is rich and blooming. It’s a challenge performing in a different concert hall every night — but a good challenge.
Yesterday, the ensemble embarked upon an all-day bus ride through Tennessee, then Georgia (passing through Atlanta) and up into lovely Greenville, South Carolina. Principal Violist Anna Kruger’s mom, who lives outside Atlanta (and once played flute and piccolo in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), has joined the tour group for a day or so.
Today, the Orchestra enjoys a free day in Greenville, with a concert at The Peace Center tomorrow evening.