Monday, July 6, 2009

Independence Day Ought Nine, in Nashville

For yours truly the celebration of Independence Day actually began the evening of Wednesday the First of July -- see my previous posting. And it continued the very next morning, on "Coffee, Country & Cody" on WSM-AM 650. Bill Cody chose as his "Cody Classic Song of the Day" one by Moe Bandy, "Americana". It's my favorite Bandy song; I've enjoyed and been touched by it from the first time I heard several years ago. Then the show ended at ten with the climactic song off the "This Is My America" project (which all together is three CDs long): Billy Dean singing, with Nashville Symphony and Fisk Jubilee Singers backing him, "Wave On, Old Glory, Wave On" -- what a way to start celebrating the holiday! And it wasn't even the Fourth yet!

Then came the actual holiday, falling on a Saturday in this Year of Our Lord A.D. 2009. The Tennessean printed that in addition to the "headline" show to take place late in the day at Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville, with country-rock star Wynonna, the Symphony & the biggest area fireworks show, many other festivities would be celebrated, including "In God We Trust" with a choir and other performers in the amphitheater of Bicentennial Mall north of Capitol Hill. And that event, so the paper said, would begin at three in the afternoon. So I chose to go there first and then later to the BIG festivity at the river.

However, plans got changed by unexpected happenings. For one, the local mass transit bus company, Nashville MTA, was very confusing about its schedule for the days around the holiday, and as usual the buses didn't run even in sync with what schedule was finally put out. And then word spread among passengers that former star quarterback for the NFL Titans, Steve McNair, and a woman had been shot dead in downtown Nashville.

Why is it that so often for me Independence Day is a holiday whose joyful festivities get darkened by a death that touches me closely? More on this question later.

Anyhow. . . when I finally got to the amphitheater north of our Capitol after four in the afternoon, I found only a handful of folk, a handful of additional vacant lawn chairs, and one man singing in the stage area. Inquiring at a booth set up behind the seating area, I was told that the actual show would begin in the amphitheater at seven that evening, and the man singing was only rehearsing. However, I was also told that there would be some festivities, including a re-enactment, in the food court of the adjacent Farmers Market. So I hied myself over there, and indeed got quite entertained by such groups as a female dance group (dancing in solo, trio and quintet formations) and a great bluegrass quintet. A man impersonating Thomas Jefferson spoke briefly, and I also saw an Abe Lincoln and a woman dressed colonial style -- was she impersonating Betsy Ross or Martha Washington?

Then the emcee announced that because it was quickly fixing to rain outside, the performances scheduled for outdoors would be moved into the Farmers Market Food Court. He mentioned that it would take a little setting up and adjusting, since the featured choir, the Nashville Choir, was quite large (a few hundred voices). So there was a break while this set-up was done, and then the moved-in outdoor performances began.

As did the downpour. Probably due to the threat of rain and continuing rain the BIG show at the river got shortened, and the fireworks went off well before their scheduled time. I think the booms and flashes caught even the "In God We Trust" organizers off guard. But still, we had a very patriotic songfest. Some numbers were done by the entire choir, some by individuals or small groups either by themselves or backed by the main choir. And we got a few more words of wisdom and historical perspective from Mr. J, as well as from Honest Abe himself. He pointed out that several times during his administration in one of our nation's darkest hours he'd called for a nation-wide day of prayer (and fasting) -- which originated the concept of a National Day of Prayer, observed every First Thursday of May. He also read excerpts from his famous Gettysburg Address.

As at Tusculum Hills Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, we military veterans got honored at a certain point of the program. And as during that earlier event, I was quite touched when we vets all stood and were applauded. (I feel embarrassed at such accolades, since I served in peacetime.) I was even more touched when one of the last songs of the evening was "God Bless America". In my memory's eye I again saw the "Lone Star Spectacular" show at Fiesta Texas theme park, where the penultimate song is this very song, sung twice (but it's not Kate Smith's famous recording).

Somehow I managed to keep my mind off the dark local news of earlier in the day. For the most part; it did creep into my thinking a couple of times, and prompted memories of other tragic Fourths of years past. But, thank God, this didn't happen much or dominantly!

Still, this was a different Independence Day here in Nashville, from the one I'd anticipated. Different, but I've learned, dear reader, the wisdom of "Going with the flow"!

Oh, and I did have one final act of observing the holiday. My San Antonio best friend, Joe Tovar, had given me a necktie with an "Old Glory" motif, and I wore it on Sunday the Fifth, the day following and the Sunday nearest the holiday. It still graced my neck when I attended evening worship at Tusculum Hills church, where I'd gone for the Wednesday God-&-Country type program ending in the Gold city concert. A gentleman in the pew in front of me complimented me on the tie, so he walked out with it, not me.

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