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Studio Tenn brings bluegrass, Saturday night gospel sings to historic Franklin church

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Smoke on the Mountain 2023

“Smoke on The Mountain” will be performed in the historic sanctuary at Franklin First United Methodist Church.

Tickets for Studio Tenn’s production of “Smoke On The Mountain,” a one-of-a-kind theatrical event being held at the historic sanctuary in Franklin First United Methodist Church, are now officially on sale. 

The show will run from March 23 to April 2, and tickets range from $45 to $80. The relatively low ticket cost is due, in part, to a sponsorship from Bethni and Trent Hemphill.

“Smoke On The Mountain” was conceived by Alan Bailey from the book by Connie Ray, and tells the hilarious and heartwarming story of a Saturday Night Gospel Sing at a country church in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1938. The show features two dozen rousing bluegrass songs played and sung by the Sanders Family, a traveling group making its return to performing after a five-year hiatus. The score features such numbers as “I’ll Fly Away,” "Rock of Ages"  and "Built on the Rock," with musical arrangements from Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick.

“This is a very special, site-specific production, with amazing performances and stories that bring a real sense of nostalgia, community and the music of the Southern church to the stage,” said Patrick Cassidy, Studio Tenn’s artistic director. “It makes so much sense to host the performances in Franklin First UMC, one of our truly historic institutions, where the church itself and our patrons are central to the show. It will be lively and fun, and certainly a memorable experience as the audience becomes our theatrical congregation.”

Franklin First UMC’s history on Fifth Avenue South in downtown Franklin dates to 1799, and has the longest-standing worshiping congregation in the city. The Sanctuary is on a site that has been in use since 1869. 

One of the show’s characters is June Sanders, who uses sign language on stage to accompany her family's musical talents. As part of a new initiative, Studio Tenn is partnering with Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (BridgesDHH) for an ASL-interpreted performance of “Smoke On The Mountain,” which will take place on March 25 at 2 p.m. and include additional ASL support for hard-of-hearing patrons. It is Studio Tenn’s intention to add an ASL-interpreted performance for each mainstage production, including the 2023-24 season that will take place in Studio Tenn’s new Turner Theatre, which will open next October in The Factory at Franklin.

Tickets for "Smoke On The Mountain" can be purchased on the Studio Tenn website or by phone at 615-541-8200. Rachel Steiner, Studio Tenn’s box office manager, can be contacted with any questions at

Group tickets for eight or more patrons can be purchased with a 25 percent discount at or by calling 615-541-8200. 

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