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Tennessee Theatre ‘Pass the Mic’ series to present Black Opry Revue in May
Black Opry Revue is coming to Knoxville as part of the Tennessee Theatre’s series “Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change.”
The event, which takes place on Sunday, May 7, at 7 p.m., will feature the artists Sunny War, Chris Pierce, Buffalo Nichols, Adia Victoria and a special set from War & Pierce.
The Black Opry, which was created in 2021, is a home for Black artists and fans of country, blues, folk and Americana music. It was formed as a response to Black artists and fans often being overlooked and disregarded by the country music industry. Previously featured artists included Allison Russell, Jett Holden, Tylar Bryant, Autumn Nicholas, Roberta Lea and Frankie Staton, founder of the Black Country Music Association in 1995.
“We are honored to once again present The Black Opry at the Tennessee Theatre,” said Becky Hancock, executive director of the Tennessee Theatre. “This show celebrates and amplifies Black musicians who want to showcase the diversity in sound and stories of Americana music.”
The artists includes those deeply rooted in country music and up-and-coming performers and represent a diverse range of country, blues, folk and traditional roots music.
- Sunny War – A singer songwriter from Nashville, Sunny War enlivens traditional folk and blues by freshening her musical attack and writing lyrics that reflect 21st century concerns. She uses both her music and her free time to uplift communities and sets a shining example for what it means to be an artist that makes a difference. Her first album, “Worthless,” arrived in 2014, and War continued to gain attention over the next few years as she built a devoted following that crested with the release of 2018’s “With the Sun.” Her current album, “Anarchist Gospel,” represents resilience and perseverance.
- Chris Pierce – A songwriter and performer who has amazed audiences around the country, Chris Pierce gained national prominence with “We Can Always Come Back To This.” His co-written hit aired on three episodes of the No. 1 NBC primetime series, “This Is Us,” then went to No. 1 on the Billboard Blues chart. Pierce has done worldwide headlining tours and has performed with artists B.B. King, Seal, Al Green, Colbie Caillat and Allison Russell.
- Buffalo Nichols – Born in Houston and raised in Milwaukee’s predominantly Black North end, Buffalo Nichols was fascinated by the guitar as a young man, which provided him an outlet for self-expression and discovery in isolation. Stints in college and the workforce led him overseas, where the appreciation of African American folkways lit a renewed spark in Nichols. It was the bustling of jazz in places like the working-class areas of Ukraine, or in Berlin cafes where expatriate Black Americans routinely treated fans to an enchanting evening of blues, that helped him find the link between blues music of the past and present.
- Adia Victoria – A South Carolina native who now makes her home in Nashville, Adia Victoria is a singer songwriter and poet that incorporates elements of rock, blues, punk rock and country music into her “gothic blues” style. Stories of the South find their way into her music that result in freshly innovative work and the rich legacy of Black Southern storytelling.
In addition to the concert on May 7, the theatre will host Black Opry Revue artist Chris Pierce of War & Pierce for an educational outreach session on Monday, May 8, at 10 a.m. During this time, Pierce will perform his music, speak to student groups about his experience in the country music industry and discuss overcoming adversity. This free opportunity is open to middle and high school groups across the region, and registration must be made in advance. For questions and information on registration, please contact Mary Adkins, director of education and outreach, at 865-684-1200.
Tennessee Theatre’s “Pass the Mic” series, which launched in 2022, is an immersive arts series that provides a stage for artists from marginalized and underserved communities to share their art with a broader East Tennessee audience. In addition to presenting regional talent through concerts, each event incorporates other art forms through visual art displays, discussions and panels focusing on issues that are important to the performing artists, educational opportunities, engaging the community and providing a space for audiences and artists to better understand one another. Following the Black Opry Revue performance on May 7, the theatre will announce event dates and additional artists as part of the series.
“It is our hope to provide opportunities for new communities to experience the Tennessee Theatre and provide a stage for artists to share their craft,” Hancock said. “As a Southern venue that was segregated for the first 35 years of its existence, the Tennessee Theatre of today has a strong desire to partner with and feature artists of color and those from other marginalized communities, especially those that may experience systemic obstacles to greater commercial success, to demonstrate that it is truly a venue for all people.”
After the events and concerts take place in person, Tennessee Theatre has partnered with Big Slate Media to produce a virtual product that will be distributed via podcast and video to increase the accessibility of the theatre to more people and remove barriers to participation for the audience. As another facet of the initiative, community members will have opportunities to connect and interact through educational programs, such as masterclasses and workshops, and complementary partnerships with nonprofits.
For more information, visit tennesseetheatre.com and follow Tennessee Theatre on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.
About the Tennessee Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace. The Tennessee Theatre is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Theatre is the region’s leading performing arts facility with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to the Knoxville area. The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation is a nonprofit organization tasked with maintaining and preserving the historic theatre and ensuring diverse arts and cultural entertainment remains in downtown Knoxville. For more information, visit www.tennesseetheatre.com.