Free Range Asheville launches first season

HIGH ART, LOW BUDGET: The New York City-based orchestra The Knights will perform a program spanning Sufjan Stevens, João Gilberto and Ludwig van Beethoven. Tickets to the concert, produced by Free Range Asheville, are $10. Photo courtesy of The Knights

Newly formed arts and culture organization Free Range Asheville opens its inaugural season with a performance by acclaimed chamber orchestra The Knights. The collective, which will take the stage at Diana Wortham Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 23, “changed the model for how to transmit and program classical music,” says Free Range Asheville director Jeff Arnal.

The New York City-based orchestra grew out of friendship, performs on its member’s terms (as opposed to those of a union) and is built on community and do-it-yourself ideas. According to The Knights’ mission, they “seek to engage with contemporary culture through vibrant performances that honor the classical tradition and our passion for musical discovery” — an idea expressed by the group’s program that spans Sufjan Stevens, João Gilberto and Ludwig van Beethoven.

“Even though they’re aesthetically into the interpreting of old music, Beethoven’s radical,” says Arnal. This concert will mark The Knights’ first appearance in Asheville and, although it’s part of the orchestra’s current tour, will be unique to this city.

It’s also a fitting kickoff for Free Range Asheville, founded by Arnal (a composer, producer and former senior music specialist for The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage) and his partner Estelle Woodward Arnal (a choreographer and senior grant writer at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival). The couple hope to connect local practitioners with national and international artists. Their programming, currently in development, will include creative laboratories, incubators, residencies and a cultural thinker series.

While The Knights will play in an auditorium setting, other shows will take place in underused spaces and intimate living rooms, and will borrow a page from Black Mountain College artist initiatives. But all shows, regardless of venue, will be reasonably priced. “That goes back to the early punk and indie days,” Arnal says. “That’s why our tagline is ‘connecting culture with counterculture.’”

WHO: The Knights

WHERE: Diana Wortham Theatre, 2 S. Pack Square

WHERE: Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. $10. Learn more at

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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