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Tessa Lark And The KSO Perform Michael Schachter's "The Cycle Of Life" At Big Ears


Melony Dodson talks with violinist, Tessa Lark about Michael Schachter's "The Cycle of Life"

When Aram Demirjian, music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO), first saw Richard Jolley's sculpture Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, he immediately thought that it was "begging" to be set as a piece of music. He commissioned his friend and composer, Michael Schachter, to take on the monumental task of taking Richard Jolley's massive work and transforming it into a piece of music. Schachter decided on the form of a seven-movement violin concerto: a movement for each panel of Jolley's work.

Both the sculpture and the music composition reflect upon the cycle of life. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is the experience of our own lives? The seven movements take us on a journey and are:

I. Primordial
II. Emergence
III. Flight
IV. Desire
V. Tree of Life
VI. Contemplation
VII. Sky

You can see photos of the sculpture, as well as a brief description of each panel here: https://knoxart.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Jolley-Exhibit-Brochure.pdf
The sculpture is also on display in the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall in the Knoxville Museum of Art, which is free to visit.

The premiere of The Cycle of Life was set to take place in the Spring of 2020, but it was not too be. Schachter found the pandemic immensely impactful on his thinking about the piece. It is, after all, a work about life and death. During the shutdown, he rewrote it, from the ground up. He wanted something less polished and more raw. Less head and more heart. You can read the composer's program notes here: https://www.michaelschachter.com/music/violin-concerto-cycle-of-life/

Cycle of Life finally received its premiere in April of 2022, with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and violinist, Tessa Lark as soloist. Big Ears audiences are in for a treat to hear this work that is unique to Knoxville, having been commissioned by the KSO and inspired by a work of art created by a Knoxville-based artist. Yet, the theme is universal. All of us grapple with the question of "what is the meaning of life?" at some point in our lives.

Learn more about the brilliant violinist, Tessa Lark, here: https://www.tessalark.com/about-tessa

This performance will be given on Sunday, April 2nd, at 7pm in the beautiful Bijou Theatre. More information about this Big Ears Festival performance here: https://bigearsfestival.org/event/michael-schachters-cycle-of-life/

Melony calls the beautiful mountains of Boone, N.C., home, although she was born near Greensboro, N.C. There’s just something about those Blue Ridge Mountains that got in her blood and never left after she moved there to attend Appalachian State University (ASU). While at ASU, she majored in piano performance and music therapy and began to cultivate a love for accompanying and for collaborating with other musicians. This soon led her to earn a master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of Tennessee, which she attended from 2006-2008.
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