Johnson City Press: Date night with "Fire and Fury"
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Date night with "Fire and Fury"

W. Kenneth Medley II • Feb 11, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Many in the region may have heard grumbles of, “there is nothing to do here,” about Northeast Tennessee. This may be true for some, but I have found quite the opposite of this mountain haven.

Any given night offers movies, theater and music for consumption by an eager audience member. There are craft breweries with samplings and outdoor events galore. Once in a while a world talent makes their way through the sometimes-sleepy hollers of the region.

This was the case Saturday as premier artist Chee-Yun Kim was the feature guest of the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of “Fire and Fury.” Conductor Robert Seebacher was the inspiration for the title and through his acquaintance with Chee-Yun, was able to secure the artist for her second performance with the JCSO.

As any one will tell you a night at the symphony begins at home. Outfits are chosen, babysitters called and instructed, children asked to be on their best behavior. The commonality of any date night away from children looks and sounds much like this. The air was crisp and cold this evening and the drive short.

Arriving at Milligan College Campus one realizes there is not hope of parking near Seeger Chapel. Kaylani’s, my date and fiancé, immediate regret was that she did not bring a jacket. It was cold and the walk far.

Entering the chapel there was a small amount of confusion. It was show time and people were still wandering the foyer. Apparently there was a foul up with the programs and none available. The chapel was half full and there was plenty of space to choose a seat.

Kaylani and I were in the second row and very happy with our choice of seats. Seebacher came to the stage and gave a quick introduction/history of the music selections for the evening. He says the first piece will be “Lights” by Jennifer Higdon.

“We don’t just play old dead white-guy music,” Seebacher says, to laughs from the audience.

The night progressed quickly. More quickly than I had expected. Seebacher left the stage almost immediately following his introduction and returned with Chee-Yun. Audience members, myself included, were not ready for what was about to happen.

One can read about a performer’s excellence, sample digital copies of music and watch all the YouTube videos of an artist perform they wish. This still is not enough to prepare for the live version. Often something is lost in translation when a medium is placed between artist and listener. Classical music sampled on a recording is one such genre that must be witnessed in person to be truly appreciated.

The notes poured from Chee-Yun’s violin as emotions pour from a soul. One cannot witness this miracle of art when consuming a recording. It is something that can only be witnessed first hand.

Kaylani and I sat in awe, arms length from the artist. An artist who has dedicated a lifetime to becoming the performer she is, and will be. The audience is gifted with flawless transitions and range that even if one knows nothing of classical music the physicality of the performance is enough to empress.

Chee-Yun’s violin has a story of its own and is rumored to be hundreds of years old. There is even a rumor that it was once buried with a former owner for decades. Only to be purchased in a pawnshop by the performer on stage. This history gives one a sense of transcending time.

After the awe-inspiring performance, that seemed to end all to quick, Chee-Yun was awarded with a much-deserved standing ovation. Applause roared from the audience for a solid minute as she took a bow and was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

“Bravo,” “Hooray,” and whistles were all heard for a period seemingly as long as the concert. Chee-Yun left the stage momentarily, returned for a couple more bows and then presented an encore. The encore presentation was a rendition of what she said was one of her favorite songs, “Yesterday” by the Beatles.

The night was capped off with Kaylani and I speaking with Chee-Yun briefly after the concert. Audience members lined up to purchase CDs and have them autographed with a personal sentiment.

Chee-Yun said her flight was delayed again. She did get to rehearse with the orchestra this time and said she enjoyed her performance in the mountains. This was her second time playing with the JCSO. Personally, I hope that she will be back again soon. Kaylani and I will need another reason to get away from the boys.

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