New Details Announced for the Big Ears Sponsored “Our Common Nature” Event

Yo Yo Ma (via video), Big Ears Announcement Party, Mill and Mine, Knoxville, January 2023
Yo Yo Ma (via video), Big Ears Announcement Party, Mill and Mine, Knoxville, January 2023

Just over a week from now a special three concert series comes to Knoxville via a collaboration between Big Ears and Yo-Yo Ma. Chris Thile performs at the Bijou on Thursday night and Rhiannon Giddens (who just won a Pulitzer Prize for her opera “Omar”)performs at the Bijou on Saturday night. Between the two, on Friday night May 26, is the centerpiece of the series, Our Common Nature: An Appalachian Celebration with Yo-Yo Ma & Friends at World’s Fair Park.

The Friday event happens across both lawns on the World’s Fair Park, with all the events on the north, Festival Lawn, free and open to the public. Starting at 5:00 pm, food vendors will be available there and a host of activities will take place, including a free live simulcast of the paid Yo-yo Ma performance on the south Performance Lawn. Here’s what you can expect on the north lawn:

North Festival Lawn Schedule

5:00-5:30 p.m. Evie Andrus Music

5:30-6 p.m. Storytelling with Kelle Jolly

6:00-6:30 p.m. Community parade featuring Cattywampus Puppet Council & the Knoxville Honkers & Bangers

6:30-6:45 p.m. Drums Up, Guns Down & the Kuumba Watoto Dancers

6:45-7:15 p.m. Raven Rock Dancers (leading participatory Cherokee dance)

7:15-8:00 p.m. Rica Chicha

8:00-10:00 p.m. Yo-Yo Ma & Friends Live Simulcast

Rica Chicha, Big Ears Announcement Party, Mill and Mine, Knoxville, January 2023

Other partners on the north lawn include:

  • Cattywampus Puppet Council will be offering an art-making tent geared for all ages! They’ll have templates and supplies for creating simple masks, wings, and flower hats based on flora and fauna native to Southern Appalachia. There will be a special moment during the Yo-Yo Ma & Friends concert to wear these so come make yourself a costume for the show! You can also join Cattywampus and local brass band the Knoxville Honkers & Bangers in a participatory community arts Parade kicking off at 6 p.m. from the L&N STEM Academy parking lot. 
  • Ijams Nature Center will be leading on-site nature-based activities for all ages to engage in and will even be bringing some live animals intodruce to attendees!
  • Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont will be leading on-site nature-based activities for all ages to engage in.
  • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be sharing information about many current projects including their work to rename public land sites, Tsalagi language revitalization, and much more. You can also join EBCI’s Raven Rock Dancers for participatory dance from 6:45-7:15 p.m. on the Community Village Stage!
  • Knox Asian Festival will be offering a variety of activities at their table including Japanese banjo, martial arts, origami, green tea serving, and more!
  • Knox Pride will be offering a craft activity and sharing information about their work in the community.
  • Children’s Diversity & Justice Library will be bringing a pop-up library and cozy reading tent for folks of all ages to enjoy!
  • Native Plant Rescue Squad will be offering native plants for sale, leading activities, and even sharing some free oak trees for folks to take home!
  • HoLa Hora Latina will be sharing information about their upcoming Hola Fest and more!
  • Drums Up, Guns Down will be offering drumming in their tent and also sharing information about their upcoming summer programming including Kuumba Camp and the Kuumba Festival. You can catch their performance alongside the Kuumba Watoto Dancers from 6:30-6:45 p.m. on the Community Village Stage!
  • Rooted East will be offering a variety of gardening-related activities and sharing information about their upcoming workshops and events.

Food vendors for the north lawn include:

  • Enjoy Latin Food
  • Alebrijes Mexican Cuisine
  • LB & S Snoballs
  • Mario’s Pizza Cones
  • Southern Flo’s

South Performance Lawn

Chris Thile with the The Punch Brothers, Bijou Theatre, Knoxville, December 2015

Gates open at 7:00 pm for those holding tickets to the concert with Yo-yo Ma and Friends. Tickets which have been purchased prior to this Friday will be delivered that day via email. All tickets purchased after this Friday will be delivered via email upon purchase. Tickets to this show (as well as Chris Thile and Rhiannon Giddens) are available here. Camp and lawn chairs, as well as blankets are allowed for this event.

The event isn’t as simple (and spectacular) as a Yo-yo Ma concert. This is a continuation of his Our Common Nature effort, this time with an Appalachian focus. The intent is to bring “cultural experiences that lift the myriad voices of Appalachia – Indigenous, European, Latinx, Black, and beyond – and gather local artists, scientists, leaders, and community members in an exploration of our common future, with nature as our guide.”

Rhiannon Giddens, Big Ears, Bijou Theatre, Knoxville, March 2015

To that end, he will be joined by guests including Rhiannon Giddens, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Amythyst Kiah, and many more. “Regional guests will include musician and African American cultural preservationist Justin Robinson, Tuscarora singer and teacher Jennifer Kreisberg, Cherokee flutist Jarrett Wildcatt, seventh-generation North Carolina balladeer Sheila Kay Adams, Cherokee teacher and scholar Tom Belt, and square dance caller Phil Jamison.

Food available on the South Performance Lawn will include food vendors curated by Real Good Kitchen, “including Mama Bear Sweet Treats, Tap’s Tacos, Mama Lana’s
Kitchen, It’s Co, Pastabilities, Irvey’s Ice Cream, and Nadas Empanadas.”

It’s a lot to take in and you may feel a need to choose. Me? I’ve purchased tickets for every show starting on Thursday. I hope to see you there. In the meantime, don’t forget the Southern Skies Music Festival this weekend featuring St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Grace Potter, the Dirty Guv’nahs and many more bands over a full two-day schedule. You can grab tickets to that here. I’ll hope to see you there, as well.

We’re really lucky right now, Knoxville. Ride the wave.