In August, there was a kerfuffle in Tennessee. The director of the Pride Center at UT–Knoxville said that everyone should really learn new pronouns: “ze/zir/zirs,” “xe/xem/xyr,” and other such exotica. This was a way to make the campus “welcoming and inclusive for all.”
I was half tempted to title my column “Knoxville: Summer of 2015.” In my head was one of the most famous pieces for soprano and orchestra, and not just in the American repertoire: Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. It sets the preamble to James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family.
It’s hard to find 15 minutes in a busy day — but when you have it, I give you Leontyne Price in Knoxville. Barber loved her, and, of course, wrote for her. But he wrote Knoxville for Eleanor Steber, the pride of Wheeling, West Virginia. To listen to Steber, in the same work, go here.
Okay, back to pronouns …