When Thomas Tallant, Mark Kiser, and Kevin Lay began playing early music—music from the medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque eras, performed on period instruments in period styles—together in 1991, they had no idea that their jam sessions would quickly evolve into Knoxville's longest-lasting professional early music group.
"We didn't think too much about the future," says Tallant, who is still a member. "And then we just started getting more serious and enjoying each other's company—we all got along really well. Once we pulled in a singer and realized we had a full group, we started working on the music, and the next thing you know we had a group. It didn't take long. It just took a few months for us to decide we had something we wanted to keep going with. We started working up music, mostly from the Renaissance period, and we got together enough music to start performing."
More than 20 players have passed through Knoxville Early Music Project since then. The group performs around the Southeast and at least a few times a year in Knoxville. KEMP celebrates its 20th anniversary this month with a special performance and reception at St. John's Cathedral downtown on Friday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. The current lineup—Tallant, J. Ashley Burrel, Maria Rist, and Matt Sharp—will be joined by former members for the concert, which will consist primarily of Christmas music. Admission is $15 ($7 for children 12 and under).