As Morristown prepares to celebrate the up-and-coming star of its park system, Heritage Park, it will do so with an up-and-coming star in East Tennessee.
Chris Blue will be the headliner of A Salute to Heritage Park, a grand opening celebration set for Nov. 16.
Blue, a multi-faceted entertainer from Knoxville, rose to national prominence on the television show “The Voice.”
Blue, one of the last contestants selected in seasion 12 in 2017, was picked by coach Alicia Keys and won the season.
His rendition of Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” and “Take Me To The King” proved show-stopping, while a duet with Keys on “Diamonds and Pearls” brought the house down.
Just before performing “Love and Happiness,” the iconic singer shared some invaluable wisdom with her team member.
He recalls, “Alicia looked at me and said, ‘Make sure you focus on being in the moment. Don’t try to do anything; be it. That’s the natural order. We’re human ‘beings’ not ‘do-ings’.’ That stuck with me ever since. Now, when I get out there, I lose myself in that moment.”
But Blue’s performing life didn’t begin on NBC.
The youngest of seven children born among very humble beginnings in Polk County, Florida, he devoted his entire life to music. He went from the Blue Family at 5-years-old to the Blue Brothers, moving to Knoxville with his family when he was 10, and to a burgeoning solo career by the age of 20, sharing the stage with everyone from Kirk Franklin and Kevin Kyle Walker to Fred Hammond and Mary Mary as well as performing across the U.S., Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and the UK.
Following his victory, Chris inked a deal with Republic Records and immediately entered the studio to commence work on what would become his forthcoming full-length debut for the label. Drawing on influences as diverse as Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Shania Twain, Chris Brown, The Canton Spirituals, and Bishop T.D. Jakes, he artfully unites Motown, pop, and soul into a sound of his own.
“I always want my music to bridge the gap,” he exclaims. “I’m a young guy, but I’m an old soul. I want to reach everyone that I possibly can. It brings the old and the new together. Call it ‘Poptown’ instead of Motown,” he laughs.
Within that collage of styles, his beliefs remain central.
“My faith is not important; it’s essential,” he goes on. “It’s who I am. It’s the foundation of where I come from. The energy you feel, the message you hear, and the light you see comes from my faith regardless of the genre.”
That honesty builds a lasting connection for Chris Blue. “To me, the most important thing is the response,” he leaves off. “In actuality, I’m the hope dealing business. I want to give the world hope. I want people to walk away with hope in their relationships, their loved ones, and themselves. I want them to be inspired.”
A Salute to Heritage Park Grand Opening Celebration and will include national and local entertainment, recognition of Morristown College alumni, food trucks and local restaurant fare, tethered balloon rides, the annual Arts in the Park event and inflatables for the children.
The Salute to Heritage Park Grand Opening Celebration will conclude with fireworks, and entry to the event is free.
“I know there are a lot of people here very excited we’ve reached this stage of introducing Heritage Park to Morristown,” said Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney. “The opening celebration is going to be a full day of activities we believe will create a lot of nice memories for our citizens, both now and for the future.”
In addition to Blue, another Knoxville-based singer who appeared on “The Voice,” Emily Ann Roberts, a country music artist, will be performing at the event. Starstruck Records signed Roberts after she left “The Voice.”
Stuart Clawson, who grew up in Georgia but is now writing and recording music and playing clubs in Nashville, will also appear at the salute to Heritage Park. Clawson grew up in Thomasville, Georgia before moving to Tennessee five years ago. He plays original songs, along with covers from modern and classic country artists.
Rounding out the lineup will be Further Born, a Morristown band who gained more notoriety after starring in the Encore Theatrical Company’s production of Rock of Ages. Guitarist Mitch Smith and vocalist Chris Morelock began their collaboration at the production, and since have been co-writing and performing music.
The other members of Further Born are bassist Rodney Tomlinson and drummer Derrick Blankenship.
South Marketing Group, a Morristown company owned by Leigh Sempkowski, booked the artists.
“We’re excited to partner with the city of Morristown and businesses in our community to bring citizens of Morristown and the surrounding area a free event the whole family can enjoy,” Sempkowski said.
A Salute to Heritage Park Grand Opening Celebration kicks off at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16 with the presentation of colors and honoring of U.S. military veterans. The ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce will occur at 10:30 a.m.
This will be followed by recognition of Morristown College alumni, and possibly others throughout the day, according to Sempkowski, who says entertainment is scheduled to begin around 11:30 a.m. The performances will be staged at the colonnades on the west side of the park.
Attendees can bring their own chairs or blankets. The parking plan will be announced at a later date. There will be no public access to Heritage Park before Nov. 16.