A benefit of living in Nashville and attending church in "Music City" -- a blessing, truly -- is that one encounters very talented musicians and singers all over the place. Including in the church one attends.
When my family and I belonged to Donelson Christian Church (Disciples) from about 1986-91, we became good friends with David and Melody Johnson. Occasionally the couple would do some special gospel song in bluegrass style during worship, she on upright bass and he on banjo or other instrument. They also performed at the Station Inn one night and I went to hear them in that well-known venue for traditional music.
Then, when I began attending and eventually joined Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) after my move back to Nashville at the end of last July there came a Sunday when a certain Stewart (spelled thus, I tho't) Duncan did a splendid solo on the fiddle. And my silent response to this was that this was great, it was just like the Johnsons back at DCC!
For one thing, his name is Stuart. He and his wife Dieta (rhymes with Nita) Duncan are active at ECC. He played more wonderful musical offerings at church, and they even invited members who had no other plans for Thanksgiving to have dinner at their home!
And then I read his name in association with an upcoming Christmas show to be performed in the venerable Ryman Auditorium. Well, Dieta got me tickets for it and I went with another ECC member last night to see "Behold the Lamb of God". Andrew Peterson created the concert and conducted the ensemble. And what an ensemble of singer-musicians! One of the pianists was Michael Card; I've known of him for years. His name alone interested me in the concert, even before I found out a certain fellow ECC church member would participate in this concert.
Speaking of whom, my companion to the concert mentioned that Stuart Duncan has won Grammies for his talent with the fiddle. (Later I found out that more correctly his band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, won them.) And indeed, whenever Stuart was out on stage sawin' away I felt my ears were blessed. My active memory-imagination kept bringing up fiddlers of my past: the fiddler on the roof, the fiddler in "A Homestead Album", a musical I was in in Crossville, Tennessee, the fiddler in Vince Gill's music video "Go Rest High on That Mountain", etc.
"Behold the Lamb of God" had a fantastic format. Before the intermission it was an Opry-style presentation of each performer in turn, doing a song or two. Some of these seemed to be setting the stage for the actual concert that would take place after intermission. Stuart's featured portion actually involved a young lady accompanying on mandolin, and was beautiful (as most bluegrass is). Shortly afterward there was a pianist (not Michael Card) whose playing while singing resembled Carole King's. A guitarist sort of broke from the tenor of the presentations to perform his own composition, a parody of "the perfect" country song. Now, dear reader, I who loathed the genre as a boy am now a die-hard fan of country music, and the more traditional the better. However, even I found the parody to be hilarious, and right on target (regarding stereotypical country song lyrics and arrangement)! I was almost falling out of my Ryman pew laughing! Later, Michael Card sat at the piano and not only played and sang a couple of his contemporary Christian songs, but invited us the audience to sing along on the chorus of the last song.
But the "magic moments" (to use the world's vocabulary) or "heavenly blessings" (for Christian vocab.) of pre-intermission were overshadowed in the actual BtLoG concert that followed. Most of the songs were by Andrew Peterson, and with minimal narrative between they gave a "jet tour" of Old Testament prophecies and events that foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, God's anointed Savior for His people. One song was a delightful take-off on all the "begats" that commence the Gospel according to Matthew. Otherwise, the singing and music reverently led up to the climax of Jesus' birth and the title song. The song "Behold the Lamb of God" is very moving, indeed, Dieta later told me that even after nine years of experiencing the concert she still wept Thu. nite during this profound song.
As for me, I considered, "How could anyone listen to this and go away not falling in love with Jesus?"
Neither the "ghosts" of the Ryman Auditorium -- evangelist Sam Jones for whom it was build, Captain Ryman who build it for this Billy Graham of the late 1800s, and such Opry stars as Hank Williams, Jim Reeves and Minnie Pearl -- nor the Christmas garlands nor the light show choreographed to the music succeeded in distracting me from the holy experience of BtLoG. My ECC companion likewise was blessed to share in this unforgettable concert. We both went away feeling very blessed to have been there for it.