Bluegrass, pianos, dance and Mark Twain: Clayton Center unveils 2013-14 concert season
By Steve Wildsmith |email@example.com
He’s been a part of projects that have garnered 14 Grammy Awards, seven Country Music Association trophies and 12 International Bluegrass Music Association wins — either on his own or with bands in which he’s played over his long and illustrious career — and in September, Ricky Skaggs is coming to the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus.
Tickets for the Clayton Center’s 2013-14 season go on sale Monday, and former Executive Director Robert Hutchens, who retired in May, feels the acts on the schedule for the coming year represent the goals he and others have had since the center was in its conceptual stage.
“In a way, I think it reflects that we’ve listened to people who say, ‘Know your market, and give the people what they want,’” Hutchens told The Daily Times last week. “This coming season, we have not just bluegrass and Elvis’s music but (pianist) Emile Pandolfi, because he’s been asked for as well. I think it circles back to the first season in that we have all of these offerings that cover a broad spectrum of entertainment.”
The full season includes:
• Sept. 7: Ricky Skaggs, who first rose to fame as a member of J.D. Crowe and the New South and Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band in the 1970s before transitioning to country and bluegrass success, primarily with his band Kentucky Thunder.
“I suppose as far as this very specific part of the state is concerned, bluegrass is our most indigenous music of widespread renown,” Hutchens said. “There’s also the conventional wisdom among people who present concerts up and down the Tennessee Valley that you’ve got to have bluegrass; it’s just a given, and it’s appropriate, not only because of its popularity but because of its roots and connection to the area. Over the years, we’ve tried to bring in exciting names connected with bluegrass (Ralph Stanley, Dailey & Vincent), as well as people with a lot of respect in the field.”
• Sept. 27: Chris Hennessee, an up-and-coming country artist as well as a graduate of Maryville College who will perform on Homecoming weekend.
“He was suggested by someone on campus as being very talented and one of our own, so it seemed appropriate to bring him,” Hutchens said.
• Nov. 2: Emile Pandolfi, a pianist best known for his rendition of show tunes.
“Before the center even opened, people came to me and said, ‘You’ve got to get him; he’s so wonderful and does such a great show,’” Hutchens said.
Dec. 6: “3 Redneck Tenors — a Christmas Spec-tac-yule-ar,” an encore appearance by three good ol’ boys who happen to have voices that have landed them on Broadway and in classical opera performances. The group debuted at the Clayton Center last February, and bringing them back for the holidays is an added bonus, according to Hutchens.
“People have always asked why we’ve never done a Christmas show, but we usually don’t try to schedule anything because the calendar is filled by all of our wonderful Maryville College groups presenting their own holiday performances,” he said. “These guys were so well-received, and because it’s a different show, I think it will go over well.”
• Jan. 25, 2014: Travis LeDoyt, an Elvis tribute artist who appears as “The King” in his prime.
“Travis is very careful to say he’s not an impersonator; he’s a tribute artist, which means he devotes an entire program to singing the songs by a performer in the same style and very much like the performer sounds,” he said. “He makes a point of saying, ‘I’m not trying to be Elvis; this is a tribute to him from me,’ and he’s an excellent musician. He looks and he sounds more like Elvis than most of the Elvis impersonators I’ve ever seen, but he doesn’t talk to the audience like he’s Elvis; he does it like he’s talking about Elvis and their shared enthusiasm.”
• March 8, 2014: Acclaimed actor Hal Holbrook will present his long-running one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” It’s the actor’s 59th year of playing the esteemed American author and humorist, and he’s taken it around the world over the years.
“When the center was being promoted, Hal was one of the performances given as an example as the kinds of things the Clayton Center would be able to offer,” Hutchens said. “I’ve had a contract and rider for this show since 2008, and we’ve been waiting for the right time to bring him.”
• March 22, 2014: “Ailey II,” a troupe of young dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Ailey was a pioneer of modern dance, and in bringing Ailey II to the Clayton Center, Hutchens consulted with local Appalachian Ballet Company Director Amy Morton Vaughn.
“Alvin Ailey was one of the most famous names in modern dance, and while this might venture off the safer path perhaps, I want us to keep trying to do as wide a spectrum of things as we can,” Hutchens said.
• April 11, 2014: Diamond Rio, a country group that debuted in 1991 with the No. 1 country single “Meet in the Middle” and went on to win the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year award four times. The band’s other No. 1 singles include “How Your Love Makes Me Feel,” “One More Day,” “Beautiful Mess” and “I Believe.”
• May 2, 2014: Comedian Jon Reep, winner of season five of “Last Comic Standing.”
“I watched that whole season, and I was rooting for him from the beginning,” Hutchens said. “He’s down home, but I think he’s got real quality to his material. It’s very human, and he talks about his family.”
Those wishing to purchase tickets — which go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday at the Clayton Center box office — have the option of buying a four-show pass or a season ticket to all eight shows. (The Chris Hennessee performance is a bonus show; it can be added to either package for a discounted price.) Prices range from $155 to $260. On-sale dates for tickets for individual performances will be announced at a later time.
Next year, new General Manager Blake Smith will shepherd the booking process for the 2014-15 season; Hutchens remains on board at the facility to help with the various summer festivals he has booked, and he feels good about the parting season he helped to put together, he added.
“I’m proud of it,” he said.