Thursday, May 28, 2009

An "Opry Moment" on Tuesday

Over the years of my listening to the Grand Ole Opry show on WSM, more than once I've heard a WSM deejay or someone else comment that such-and-such an incident on the stage of the world's oldest live radio show was "an Opry Moment". In other words, it went above and beyond the standard fare of cast members or guests coming on stage and singing for the audience in the auditorium and those listening on WSM. Some performer would say or do something very memorable or something remarkable would happen.

I've actually experienced such an "Opry Moment" at least once. I was listening to the show one Saturday evening during the 1990s -- in fact, prior to the death Opryland Park -- when Dolly Parton made one of her very rare appearances on the show, and Vince Gill joined her in singing one of her greatest hits, "I'll Always Love You" (wonder what Amy tho't about THAT).

That's a prime example -- a paragon if you will -- of an "Opry Moment".

Tuesday I heard another "Opry Moment". Riders in the Sky opened the Tuesday Nite Opry, and Bill Anderson and Steve Wariner shared a later half hour. Much as I esteem all these fellas, none of them were a part of the "Moment". A guest duo, Montgomery Gentry, concluded the line-up on this Tuesday show. They're a newer country music act than the three earlier performers, and they lean more to the country-rock flavor than I really like. Nevertheless, I do enjoy them a lot. It was a pleasure to hear them sing three or so songs.

Just as they're about to commence one (the third if I remember correctly) everyone listening hears someone hollering, "Wait up!" more than once. Then one of the duo welcomes Charlie Daniels to the stage. (Listening, I consider that he's coming from behind the curtains side-stage, but later I see an on-line video of the "Moment" Daniels is striding forward thru the audience.) After mutual greetings (the video also showed mutual hugs), the veteran Opry member tells the young duo of Eddie Montgomery (brother of country star John Michael Montgomery, who has dimples to die for) and Troy Gentry, that he's followed their careers from the beginning and appreciates all their hard work. And therefore it gives him great pleasure to announce that, “if you agree to it, on June 23rd you’re gonna be made members of the Grand Ole Opry!"

Wow! I'm star-struck by just hearing all this on the radio, and am not at all surprised to hear at once the sounds of thunderous applause from the audience present in the Grand Ole Opry House! A sort of awkward silence is broken when Daniels asks them to say something, and Troy allows how "I'm speechless" and Eddie has to be offered Daniels' hanky to wipe his teary eyes.

Once the duo compose themselves, they launch into their current hit, "One in Every Crowd" but can't resist a couple of celebratory ad-libs hollered in mid-song. "You got us!" "The Grand Ole Opry, baby!"

As announcer Eddie Stubbs wrapped up the Tuesday Nite Opry, I know that I've just witnessed another of those wonderful "Opry Moments". Is it any wonder that this show keeps going and going, the longest-running show on the airwaves?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Youth Sunday and a Graduate

At Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) this past Sunday we both observed Youth Sunday and celebrated our lone graduate. Due to the previous Sunday's lively class discussion, wonderful Anthem during Worship and other factors, I was eagerly looking forward to being there, while I rode the buses across town. I was considering how much I esteem my Nashville church family, all together and as individuals, how I'd be glad to see any and all of them this morning!.

Due to the youth leading the worship service, we choir members got the benefit of sitting in the pews among the congregation rather than up in the chancel. For the Anthem we simply went forward and got in order on the chancel steps, and sang "Stand By Me" (the Gospel song, not the pop hit). At various points during the order a pair of boys with a mike would stroll thru the congregation and single out one member to share a story of personal courage. You see, their theme was "Courage Is in Order". And this was just one sample of our youth's creativity in this order of worship!

The sermon for Youth Sunday was preached by -- you guessed it! -- the lone graduate from high school. Josh Duncan had celebrated Commencement from Goodpasture School (one of Nashville's numerous private schools) just the evening before. And when he came in to choir practice toward the end of the Sunday School hour, he blew me away with how sharp he looked! He wore a dark suit and shirt and a lime green vest and matching tie. Hadn't seen young Josh in a few weeks at either choir practice or Sunday worship (he might have been studying hard for his final finals). But his fine apparel compensated, in a way!

But as impressive as the garb might have been, his message was even more impressive! The title was "Where Is Too Far from Home?" His theme was that the Church congregation is another home for us (beside the roof we share with kinfolk closely related by blood). It's our spiritual "family", and if one like him who is fixing to go out into the world apart from the family that incubated him but should never lose touch with them, likewise with the church family. At one point Josh spoke of how we're glad to be together at church on Sundays, and then as the week progresses and we get to Fridays the eager anticipation to return "home" on the coming Sunday gets stronger. His exact words seem to express almost word-for-word what yours truly had been thinking on the bus just a couple hours earlier!

Wow! Praise the Lord for young men like Josh Duncan, when they have a solid foundation in blood family -- the Duncans, Stuart, Dieta and three kids, are endearing to me -- and in faith family!

Fun at Play, Fun at Work

Mercury Courts, the gated community where I live on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, really IS a community, One thing that makes us a community rather than just another apartment complex (where nobody knows any of their neighbors nor interacts with them) is that occasionally the management and/or the "neighborhood association" officers will plan and conduct an event for all of us. And so last Thursday (the 14th) we had a community Fun Day, complete with picnic food, games and a "Show Us Your Talent" show! And the abundant rainfall we'd gotten thru April and so far in May cooperated. By midday we were enjoying sunshine in abundance, pleasant breezes and a supernal Spring day! This was so delightfully apt for the picnic-style lunch that was grilled and otherwise set out for everyone's eating enjoyment.

It turned out that I was the first resident to sign up for the talent show. Therefore, i got to be the first to be called to the "stage", a porch with two-story columns sort of in the midst of the complex, for the talent show equipped with a mike and a boom box for playing tape or CD accompaniment. And about two or three dozen folding chairs were set up in rows facing the porch/stage. I played my guitar and sang "Love Without End, Amen". This song was written by Aaron Barker and recorded by George strait. It's my favorite country hit of all time!

But I really wasn't the very first to do anything, just the first "official"! You see, prior to the 4 PM start time that boom box was playing CD music of various genres, and about 3:50 or so an African couple got up and began to sing along karaoke style. This spontaneous beginning to the show got plenty of applause.

"Spontaneous" was sort of the theme for "Show Your Talent". I'd only signed up to sing that one song, but I got talked into an encore, and sang "De Colores" while playing the guitar. Please know, dear reader, that I DID explain the song for the monolinguals in my audience! And later, when another resident sang a beautiful Gospel song, I got inspired to ascend the porch/stage one more time and sing "Amazing Grace" a cappella. The first time I'd ever heard this probably most-beloved of all hymns was at my first church camp, in 1969, and it was a recording by Judy Collins singing it a cappella. For forty years now I've loved that version above all others, and loved Judy Collins for singing it thus!

But I not only had fun at play, but also at work! Here's how:

My part-time job of delivering meds for Bradley Drugstore (more specifically, Bradley Extended Care) allows yours truly to enjoy this glorious Spring in the "greenest State in the Land of the Free"! My regular hours are three mid-morning hours weekdays. But I also drive deliveries occasionally on Friday evenings or Saturdays from mid-day to evening. I did both this past weekend, and enjoyed every moment of work! The weather was "perfectly Spring", or if you will, chamber-of-commerce weather. Honestly, I'm really taking to this delivery task and often taking drives out into the countryside around the developed part of Nashville/Davidson County! As I once said about another job I'd cottoned to very well, "it's almost a crime to enjoy a job this much and get paid for it!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Body of Christ -- v. 3

This is the third posting I'm making today about a personal experience of the Body of Christ that I've had in four days. Call it the third verse of a song about this key expression in the Christian walk. And actually, as I type these three postings I'm listening on-line to songs on the Solid Gospel 105 radio station! So, dear reader, as you read these you should mentally/spiritually arouse your favorite gospel songs and have these in the background!

Now, my third experience of the Body of Christ was an alumni gathering of my fraternity! And we met in the Belle Meade Country Club! You know, never in my wildest imaginings did I ever think my shadow would darken the doorstep of THAT building! And you doubtless are puzzling over how a batch of "frat rats" could qualify as a part of the Body of Christ.

Well, it "happens" that Lambda Chi Alpha, my social fraternity, is celebrating its Centennial this year. We may be a comparatively new brotherhood, but we're one of the fastest-growing and most solidly founded of all Greek organizations. And our solid foundation is the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Our teachings and Ritual were culled from these by an amazingly intelligent Brother among our Founders: John E. "Jack" Mason. One of our Centennial events was this alumni meeting at the country club in the "old-money" suburban municipality of Belle Meade last evening (Tue.).

To get there I got a ride with Bro. Travis Ross. He and I met at the other LCA alumni gathering I had attended, last year at Amerigo Italian restaurant on West End near Vandy. When he picked me up he had his new bride Julie with him (they've been married just under a year). All the way to the country club Bro. Travis fretted that he hadn't gotten a clear response as to whether the meeting was for brothers only or if wives were included. Turned out spouses were okay, for there were a handful of others.

When he wasn't fretting over this logistical issue, Bro. Travis and yours truly got better acquainted. When he e-mailed me to set up going together to the meeting, he'd apologized for the lateness of his message, as he'd been involved with graduation. I asked whose graduation. Well, it was his -- as an M.Div. recipient at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School! And it turns out that he and I share also a great interest in the religious history of the American West. But I'd rank our being Brothers in the Bond of Lambda Chi Alpha as our highest commonality.

And then shortly I was in a room full of fellow Brothers. Most were alumni residing in or near Nashville, but we had a couple of undergraduate Brothers (we call them "actives") from Western Kentucky University in nearby Bowling Green. And we had a handful of fraternity officials from our headquarters in Indianapolis. One of the first men I shook hands with introduced himself as George Spasyk. Wow! talk about feeling the hairs on my neck rise ("goose-bumps"). Talk about not wanting to ever wash that hand again! Bro. Spasyk is one of three leaders of LCA whose name remains prominent in my memory since my days of associate membership and learning about LCA prior to being initiated. (The others are Lewis Plourd and George Dirghalli.)

The meeting lasted about two hours. First hour consisted of mingling and chatting while feasting on a buffet of classy finger foods. Favorites of mine were some good-size shrimp with a scrumptious cocktail sauce, and rib of lamb with its own distinctive sauce. Did I say "classy" food? Perhaps the better word might be "high-class" or "upper-class". But let's don't go there!

Then we had some short speeches by the Brothers from HQ, and three very brief videos. Two of the videos were excerpts from our General Assembly in Phoenix last summer, which had commenced the 17-month-long Centennial Year. (Hm-m-m, that a lo-o-ong party; are you sure our HQ isn't in San Antonio?) The first video showed Bro. Dirghalli, who now sports a beard, white like his hair, which he didn't have back in the 1970s. He's an Episcopal clergyman, and I wasn't surprised that he made reference in the brief excerpt to our firm spiritual foundation and the centrality of our Ritual to what it means to be Lambda Chi Alpha. The third brief video was a pep talk about the whole Centennial celebration; indeed, it was an enthusiastic celebration of 100 years of Brotherhood!

But I think the best feature of the evening was the featured speaker, Bro. Spasyk. I keep marvelling that I actually met, talked one-on-one with, and listened less than ten feet away from him, one of the pillars of our Brotherhood! And his speech caused me to feel even deeper brother affection for the 85-year-old gentleman. (I wonder if he'd allow me to call him "Dad"?) He even made a direct connection for me personally when he spoke of the General Assembly of A.D. 1982, right here in Nashville, at the then-new and still-then-small Opryland Hotel. You see, I was at that Assembly (and thus may have met him there). He included description of the Saturday evening of that gathering, when LCA "took over" the Grand Ole Opry House and experienced the world's oldest radio show! That event, BTW, was the first time yours truly had been at the Opry. Gosh, what memories Bro. Spasyk awoke for me!

There was another speaker, Bro. Mark Bauer from HQ I think, who evoked memories that about caused my head to leak. He quoted two sentences from our Ritual, which when I first heard them quietly spoken into my ear during my 1972 initiation, had interpreted them to signify that I was about to lose my beloved "Big Brother" Bob Brannan. Honestly, I don't think any quote of ANY two sentences from our Ritual would leave me unaffected, but this particular quote had that especially deep affect on my because of how I'd interpreted them that night those many years ago!

After the meeting broke up and Bro. Travis and his wife were driving me home, he and I continued to share stories of our experiences as Actives -- he at Wabash College (an all-male school in Indiana) and me at the University of Idaho. It's so good to become acquainted with a Brother like Travis, right here in Nashville -- and with Vandy and clergy-education connections, too! And a heart-felt interest in church history! Too bad that soon the Ross couple will be moving to Reno so that he can continue education (on yet another degree) at the University of Nevada. But I'm glad I got to know this Brother in the Bond before he will leave!

The Body of Christ -- v. 2

Saturday, after the great blessing of being at a monthly gathering of my Emmaus buddies in delightful Bell Buckle, Tennessee, I slept well. And Sunday as usual I arose, had my quiet time of devotion and prayer, and prepared for a Sunday at church.

When I arrived at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) I retrieved my white ceramic Vanderbilt Alumni mug and poured a cup of coffee. The weather continuing to be delightfully Spring in its fullness, I strolled outside to sip, as I greeted others arriving for Sunday School. My class, which meets in Patty's Room, had a terrific discussion of the lectionary readings for the day. Seems we always have great discussions in this class. We have some good thinkers, some great hearts and some who are both!

Worship was awesome! I noticed that most attenders were dressed up, almost like this was Resurrection Day again. Two pre-teen boys even wore colorful dress shirts and colorful striped neckties. The choir sang a very worshipful anthem, "Always by My Side", which has connection with Fort Worth (where I lived from 1976-1979). Pastor Jay's sermon was as thoughtful and enlightening as his messages usually are, and Steven Gower, our Vanderbilt D-School intern who was here for his final Sunday, did a touching communion meditation.

And to top it all off, two folks joined the church officially as members. Beverly Nelson had started attending sometime last year, and was in the above-mentioned Sunday School class. Bruce Cate started coming to choir practice and singing tenor a few months ago. They both already were feeling like members of ECC(DC), so today just made it "official"!

The Body of Christ -- v. 1

Well, it's been awhile since I posted on my Music City blog. I've been busy and I had a full weekend, which I'd gladly have shared here on Monday if I'd had time. BUT THEN came last evening (Tue.). And thinking back on what's been going on in the past four or five days I concluded that I had experienced the Body of Christ in three wide-ranging manners! And so I'm posting three postings -- call them three verses -- one for each!

If you, dear reader, are unfamiliar with the concept of "Body of Christ", in a nutshell it's a metaphorical expression for the spiritual Church (contrasted with the visible, institutional church). In fact, one of the fifteen Talks in the "short course in Christianity" that make up the frame on which is hung the three-day weekend retreat variously called Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus or Kairos Weekend. It presents disciples of Jesus as being His body on this earth (while the risen body is at the right hand of Abba). Whenever I get a strong sense of the spiritual presence of our Savior & Lord during any gathering of people in His blessed name, I take it as an experience of what "Body of Christ" means!

If you've read my San Antonio blog you will know that I had such experiences frequently when attending Emmaus events (and when attending events of the prison version, Kairos). So far here in Nashville I've been unable to locate a weekly Reunion group to join, and I'd attended only one monthly gathering of the local Emmaus community (the Nashville Emmaus Community).

Until Saturday evening! Late last week I was able to arrange to get a ride with the Nashville Emmaus Lay Director Peter Cassidy and his wife Gwen. This particular monthly gathering was done jointly with the Highland Rim Emmaus Community, and was held southeast of Nashville, in the tiny village of Bell Buckle. Once we left IH-24 and traveled the several miles westward and northward to the village, we were treated to very pleasant vistas of rural Tennessee. Lots of farm, pastures, groves, cattle, and well-kept farmhouses and outbuildings. And the village itself was delightful, with most houses being the wonderful Victorian style popular a little over a century ago.

The Methodist Church itself is a red brick structure, but with grey stone (or textured concrete) round-top monumental tablets of the Ten commandments filling much of the wall facing the street. A major addition from the back of the church and not visible from the street included a fellowship hall and kitchen (and classrooms). This hall served as the location of our dinner. As with Emmaus gatherings back in texas, here there was plenty of food. Plenty!

We were early arriving at the church, so in addition to introducing myself to those already present, I explored the facility. The sanctuary, which dates back to the 1890s and is on the National Register, features pews in a semicircular arrangement. Behind them was a very old and atmospheric pipe organ. The sign next to the instrument revealed that the organ was built in 1890 and in 1932 was moved from West End UMC in Nashville to this little country church! Wow! a demonstration of the Body of Christ over the miles!

Into this delightfully "old-fashioned" setting ("old-fashioned" is not a pejorative to yours truly but rather a term of honor) the rest of the almost 100 attendees entered for the Emmaus worship. I was somewhat surprised that we used neither the "purple book" with its Emmaus order of worship nor the "Songs" book of Johann Anderson. But the general structure of the worship was definitely Emmaus! We began with several praise songs, lyrics of which were projected on a screen. There were several brief testimonies about "fourth-day" experiences (which isn't exactly a standard feature of monthly gatherings) and the host church's pastor gave the Fourth-Day Talk. She spoke of the recent passing of a pillar of the church and or Bell Buckle, and presented an uplifting testimony to the significance of the deceased pillar's impact (the church was apparently standing-room only for the funeral). There was a request from an Afro-American brother who will be Lay Director for a Men's Walk the Highland Rim Community will conduct in October. (I'll have to pray for guidance about whether I should be on the Team.)

All in all, this jaunt out into the country to where the Nashville Basin and the Highland Rim merge in lovely farmland and a lovely village for a sharing in the Body of Christ as expressed in the renewal movement known as Emmaus, was was wonderful blessing. And the first verse of a melodious, extended expression of that mystical-spiritual body. Praise be to our Lord!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fifteen years of C.C.C. -- v. 2

This lover of music and constant listener to music stations on the radio has become quite a fan over the years, of not only singers but also the radio deejays who spin their songs over the airwaves. E.g., if you go to my "Glen Alan's San Antonio" blogspot, you'll read more than one post that mentions my good friend of the San Antonio airwaves, deejay Jerry King of KKYX-AM 680. Jerry was inducted into the Country Deejay Hall of Fame in A.D. 2002, shortly after I moved to his city. That particular Hall of Fame is in Nashville; originally inside the Magnolia Lobby of Opryland Hotel it's been moved to the Convention Center across from Ryman Auditorium.

AND THEN. . . around the time I moved to Nashville last year, WSM-AM 650 deejay Bill Cody also achieved this honor. I've actually listened to Cody about as long as I've listened to the afore-mentioned deejay (King). You see, he used to be "Buffalo Bill" Cody on KKYX. He moved to the "Air Castle of the South" (WSM) in 1994, only a few months before our move from Devine, Texas, to Clarksville, Tennessee.

Do the math, dear reader. Bill's been the weekday morning deejay on WSM fifteen years. His show's called "Coffee, Country & Cody". I don't remember that he had a partner ("sidekick") at the start, but when I began listening again to WSM last year I found he had a terrific sidekick (partner): Charlie Mattos, who's called the token Yankee of the station's staff (raised in Rhode Island). Charlie and Bill are wonderful and often amusing to listen to, as they banter about songs they're playing or the latest news (Charlie handles the sports news for the station).

The actual anniversary of "Coffee, Country & Cody" -- and Charlie -- is 25 April. But that being on Saturday in '09 they did the major celebrating the day before, Friday the 24th. And I guess the partying was too good to limit to one day. (San Antonio's had its effect on Cody, as it has on yours truly!) So. . . they had an additional celebration, open to the public, on Friday the First of May. And this one was not in the WSM studio at Opryland Hotel but rather in the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Because of my esteem for both Bill and Charlie I made sure to attend this event.

It was announced on WSM that doors would open at 7 AM (the show signs on an hour and a half earlier). But when I arrived about quarter 'til I was let in at once. I was delighted to enter the theater and see honoree Bill in a brown dress shirt and necktie sitting up front. (There's no actual stage built into this theater, just some level floor space in front of the sloped seating, with a table with mikes, and a high stool with a standing mike.) Charlie was dressed casually in polo shirt.

Now, some time back I had actually gotten to introduce myself to Bill when I was out Opryland Hotel way to pick up a prize I'd won on WSM. But today was my chance to also introduce myself to the "Token Yankee" Charlie. At a moment when I wouldn't be intrusive to the broadcast and Charlie was away from the mike anyway, I hollered to him, "Hey, Charlie! It's your Portuguese-speaking listener!" And he remembered our conversation, which was briefly in Portuguese, of a few weeks earlier! Plus, he saluted me in Portuguese.

I was in the third row up, and an older couple in the front row just below me got to talking to Bill. In his part of the conversation he mentioned KKYX. So when the conversation concluded I thanked him for mentioning the San Antonio station. At once he knew it was I, because as he shaded his eyes from the glare of the lights he quipped, "Is that my friend from Texas?" Then he explained that the older couple was from Pearsall, where George Strait was raised. And he told the still small audience about how I had listened to him in Texas, and then followed him to Nashville. He remarked, "You've got to stop following me around!"

A couple of guest artists had been scheduled to appear to entertain Bill and us in honor of the Fifteenth. The first to show up was the Opry's George Hamilton IV. About 7:15 he came out from the "green room" carrying an acoustic guitar and sat on the high stool with the mike. Bill and he carried on a conversation, and a song was promised. But alas! to get to work on time on the MTA I had to leave before George set fingers to the guitar strings. However, as I went to work and thru my delivery driving for Bradley Health Services I listened to the show 'til it signed off at ten. I even got to hear the concluding measures of George's song played live there in the Ford Theater.

It sure is nice to get to be part of such a milestone celebration for one of the several deejays I esteem! i wish Bill Cody the best, and many more years of "Coffee, Country & Cody" on WSM!