The Knoxville Choral Society saved the best for last at their “Salute to Freedom” concert at the Tennessee Theatre on Saturday night. The musical selections throughout the evening contained the words of famous Americans. I thought the six movements of “We Hold These Truths” were outstanding. Composer John Purifoy incorporated speeches and writings of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The excerpt of Kennedy’s speech came from the closing paragraph of the remarks he was scheduled to deliver on November 22, 1963.
Dr. Eric Thorson, artistic director of the Knoxville Choral Society, talked about the concert in a public-affairs interview with me recently. Streaming audio of the show is available on the Choral Society’s website. We also discussed the opening piece, Randall Thompson’s “The Testament of Freedom.”
I was amazed that “We Hold These Truths” hasn’t been performed more often. Purifoy, who lives in Knoxville, wrote it for a 1985 event at the World’s Fair Park Amphitheater. The narrators that night were Edye Ellis and Alex Haley. On Saturday, the piece was narrated by Lori Tucker and Gene Patterson of WATE-TV.
My wife sings with the Choral Society. They had a rehearsal with the full orchestra on Saturday afternoon at the same time as the Tennessee Volunteers homecoming game. I dropped her off with the intention of going back home. When I saw that there were parking spaces available near the Theatre, I changed my plans and went to Market Square for lunch. Every time the Vols scored, the fireworks at the stadium could be heard, followed by non-sports fans asking “what is that?”