Pairing food and drink with music has always been an important and fun metaphor for me. Since the creation of The Higdon cocktail, a drinkable metaphor offering a new way approach Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, many people have been asking: will there be a Stephenson cocktail.

The concerto by Jim Stephenson, Tributes, could have a cocktail created for it, but I wanted to go a different route this time around. And this idea came from sitting in a restaurant in Chicago with my collaborative pianist, Tim Hinck, who flew up to perform a sneak peek/dry run with me for a crowd of about 45 in my neighbor’s condo.

While Tim and I performed this work, our audience of friends, neighbors, Chattanooga Symphony patrons, and the composer of the work all enjoyed glasses of wine. Between each movement, we’d share our favorite parts of the movement, and Jim would share some inside knowledge on the creation of the work. It was an enchanting evening of sharing music, food, friendship, and wine.

The following night at a wine bar restaurant, Tim and I were discussing the work again when the waiter came to the table with a wine list. Tim, a passionate wine lover who is also working on his level two sommelier exam, began sharing his own takes on many of the wines and zeroed in on one in particular: smoky, tobacco, dark, rich…many of the same adjectives we had just described one of the movements in Tributes.


One of the many cool aspects of Tributes is how the 2nd movement came to fruition. Jim Stephenson shared this story at our preview party. It turns out that the 2nd movement is based off a Louis Armstrong scat, Hotter Than That! Jim borrowed Armstrong’s improvised solo and transformed it into the solo violin part….but significantly slower.

The result created a haunting and evocative nod to a 1920’s nightclub. Not the hopping nightclub sounds of Louis Armstrong, but a smoky more mysterious Cabaret style night club. And that’s how wordplay turned a smoky Cabaret into a smoky Cabernet.

To help usher in the March 2nd performance of Chattanooga Symphony’s Masterworks performance of Jim Stephenson’s Tributes Violin Concerto, Tim and I will be presenting two evenings of multi-sensory explorations. We’ll be pairing four exquisite wines with four works for violin and piano, one of which will be the 2nd movement from Tributes. Check out this link to find out more about the concerto sneak peek and pairings!

We are excited to see if the tasting notes and musical notes that came to us will be like what everyone else experiences on these two evenings! Along with sampling wines and music, we’ll be handing out discount vouchers for the March 2nd performance. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter with #TributesTasting! Cheers!


About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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