Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving '09 in Music City

Ought Nine's Thanksgiving weekend here in Nashville was memorable & wonderful!

It began on Thanksgiving Day with breakfast at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) in East Nashville. This potluck breakfast is an annual tradition of my church. And one which I greatly appreciate!

Pastor Jay led a brief worship (or devotional time) following the breakfast. We sang three traditional hymns for Thanksgiving. These included "Now Thank we All Our God", the English translation of Nun Danket -- it's originally a Dutch hymn. Then Pastor Jay's meditation was a story from Frog & Toad. Of course, he invited any kids present to come up closer so they could see the pictures as he read. He did a terrific job reading the story!

I saw Susan Mc Bride during the breakfast, and remembered that she had posted on Facebook about regular walks in Centennial Park with friends. I asked her when did they do this; she replied that it varied. But the exchange got me considering that I go over there today and walk. It wasn't particularly ideal weather for walking: cold and a bit blustery. Nevertheless, I went and walked. I circumambulated the park's pond, Lake Watauga. Then I circumambulated The Parthenon. Then, as I continued wandering around the park I considered the buildings of Nashville, and which might be my favorite.

You know, dear reader, as I get older and consider such listings (of my fave of this or my fave of that), it get harder to firmly choose just one fave! So it is with Nashville's public buildings. Certainly the ones in the running for tops will include The Parthenon. But then there is Kirkland Hall on the Vanderbilt University campus -- it's the original main building and still the administration building, done in red brick Italianate style with a very tall clock tower. OR it could be Furman Hall on the campus near Kirkland, because that was where the Latin American Studies department was housed, along with languages, when I studied for my M.A. at Vandy. It's a grey stone edifice in typical collegiate Tudor Gothic style. OR there's the Tennessee State Capitol building -- the most beautiful of all state capitols in my book.

I came to no conclusion as to which is my Number One favorite building in Nashville. But I did go home to rest for about an hour. Then I was off to Thanksgiving dinner. I was given a ride by fellow church choir member Steve Walls, who was contributing some delicious stuffed mushrooms to the feast.

The Stuart Duncan family, members of my church, throw a dinner each Thanksgiving for anybody in the church who would like to be there. I think the also invite Stuart's musician friends. Stuart is fiddler in the Grammy-winning Nashville Bluegrass Band. Naturally then, we had music to feed the soul and for which to be thankful. Even as we had food to feed the belly and be thankful! For Dieta Duncan, Stuart's wife, is an excellent cook. She even bakes communion bread for our weekly Lord's Supper at church!

So, even tho once again I didn't get to spend this special holiday -- Pastor Jay confessed that it's his favorite -- with family, it was a sweet and memorably day anyway.

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A whole week of Music in your Face

Last week, 16-21 November, was a week very, very full of music and music artists here in Nashville. Is it any wonder it's nicknamed "Music City"?

As I related in my previous post, the week began with hearing conversations between WSM staff and Steve Wariner and then Charlie Daniels. Wednesday was the expectantly nice rehearsal for the Eastwood Christian Church choir.

But I suppose the highlight came at the end of the week and involved a live performance rather than radio listening or a singing rehearsal.

Saturday evening I went to the Nashville Symphony concert, "Tangos, and Ravel's Bolero". I was a bit late entering Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, but still heard almost all the tango selections. But I was there to experience "Bolero"! This will seem odd to any of my Lambda Chi Alpha brothers who were initiated in the 1960s of 1970s in our chapter house at 720 Deakin Avenue in Moscow, Idaho. The night I became a full-fledged Lambda Chi I got to listen to "Bolero", on a vinyl disk in poor condition, for some 14 times! But this didn't cause me to loath the 14 minute long instrumental piece (unlike my frat brothers). And much more recently I had heard a live rendition of Ravel's piece at Fiesta Texas, as part of the last new show there before I returned to Tennessee. But THAT one wasn't by a full orchestra.

So when it was time for the solo snare drummer to commence his steady beating of the rhythm base for "Bolero" I gave him and the entire orchestra my rapt attention. I was somewhat amused that as the piece progressed, instruments steadily entering the performance and the volume increasing, I had recollections of that night 37 years previously when I had listened to it so many times. But my mind was more fixated on the beauty of Bolero's structure; I felt like I was getting swept up into the music while it gained in power!

A side interest was watching Giancarlo Guerrero conduct the symphony. There was very little of the arm gesturing one associates with a conductor. As another patron said afterward, it was more like the conducting consisted of his head movements or body language. This is probably due to the song being built on that snare drum foundation. If the orchestra has a drummer who does his part accurately, there's little need for much gesticulation by a conductor!

Whatever. . . the Nashville Symphony did an excellent, wonderful rendition of "Bolero"! The last note had hardly faded and the applause begun before yours truly leapt to my feet for a standing ovation!

And I heard the strains of "Bolero" flowing thru my mind all the way home that night. I don't remember now, but they probably punctuated my dream before the next dawn!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Steve Wariner and Charlie Daniels on the airwaves

Early on Monday evening I was doing my usual, delivering prescription medications for Bradley Drugstore, and listening to WSM-AM 650 on the Ford Ranger's radio. Monday evenings WSM deejay Eddie Stubbs generally hi-lites songs recorded by members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. On THIS show he treated us to an in-studio live interview with Steve Wariner. Steve isn't yet a member of the Hall of Fame, but he IS on the Opry cast and quite an accomplished artist.

Earlier this year Steve produced a CD album called "CGP: My Tribute to Chet Atkins". It was the focus of conversation between Eddie and Steve. At intervals a song would be played from it. And of course Steve shared anecdotes of his years as a protegé of Chet. "CGP" is an acronym created by Chet, standing for "Certified Guitar Picker" which he attached first to himself and then to four other highly talented instrumentalists -- including Steve Wariner himself.

All of this was quite delightful to listen to as I made my deliveries. But the hi-lite HAD to have been when Eddie played "Producer's Medley" and he and Steve commented on it. The piece is an instrumental montage of hits by various artists (not all of the m considered "country") which Chet had produced. It features "The Three Bells", "Java", "Let It Be Me" and about five other songs, with Steve playing the guitar on all of them. The resulting medley is awesome! I caught myself saying, "Wow!" several times while I was listening. And when it was over, Eddie made his signature remark, "Any questions?" Whenever he says this, he's anointing the song he's just presented as being a real classic, a true diamond highly polished.

Well, the delights of radio listening of Monday evening continued on Tuesday morning. On WSM's wake-up show "Coffee Country & Cody" (AND Charlie Mattos, I might add!) Charlie Daniels was a late (final hour) in-studio Guest. He spoke with Bill about a new Christmas Album CD he's releasing. They played a couple of songs from the album, including an instrumental rendition of "The Christmas Song" (my favorite pop or secular song of the holiday).

Now, Charlie Daniels isn't a country singer I get enthusiastic about, and never has been, even tho' I like his "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and a couple other hits of his. But listening to him speak about this new Xmas album, and hearing excerpts from it really warmed me to the man! This album is a terrific project, almost up there with the Chet Atkins tribute album featured on WSM the evening before!

I tell you what, dear reader! San Antonio may have brung out the "party animal" in me with its constant festivals and celebrations of cultures and life in general. But Nashville is just about as powerfully affecting me and my deep love of song and music!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A fine football day in Nashville

Well, I finally got to do it again! Attend a Vanderbilt University Commodores football game. While I was a graduate student at the University I probably attended most home football games, and in the years before and after probably attended one or two a year. But today was my FIRST since I returned at the end of July '08.

Yesterday while contemplating what all were possible on a rare Saturday off from work, I got a wild hair and decided that I'd go to the game, stopping by the Lambda Chi Alpha house on the way. The Brothers were having a "tailgate party" on the from lawn, as were the other Greek houses nearby. The sun was bright and warm but the air wasn't hot. It was "chamber-of-commerce weather", for sure!

Football Saturdays on the Vandy Greek Row are certainly different from what they were on the Idaho Greek Row! For one thing, most of the LCA Brothers (and other "frat rats") were wearing dress shirts and neckties; some also sported blazers or suit coats. However, a few of these with shirts and ties also sported Bermuda-type shorts and/or sandals! Strange.

Also, they had a couple of games going on: a bean toss and a game involving knocking empty beer cans off poles with a Frisbee. One of the Actives (undergraduate Brothers) talked me into a challenge at "beer bat" (I think it was called). This involved taking a slim hollow plastic bat with the large end removed, filling it with a can's worth of beer, chugging it, then dancing in a circle in the same spot (to the count of five, if I remember correctly), then trying to bat an empty beer can. Well, the dancing in a circle almost did me onto the ground -- whew! such dizziness! -- but I stayed upright and then actually hit the can tossed at me. This really seemed to please the Actives!

Nobody seemed anxious to head over to the stadium, Dudley Field, even after the game had been under way for a quarter hour, so I excused myself and walked on over. When I inquired at the nearest gate about whether there were tickets available for sale, one of the ticket-takers offered me an extra that an earlier attendee had given him. So I got in for free!

Just after I got into the bleachers the Commodores kicked a field goal (I could have caught the football had I made a little effort to move a very short distance and get my hands up but just didn't feel like it), to trail 3 to 7. On their next drive they added another field goal, and with little over two minutes left before the half scored a touchdown, to lead 13 to 10!

Halftime activities included an "appearance" by "The Beatles" for about a verse and chorus from one of their smash hits of the Sixties, and recognition of band seniors who had just played their final halftime show. Later in the second half, a champion bowler from VU was recognized, too.

But the Kentucky Wildcats pretty much controlled the second half, and beat my 'Dores 24-13. Even with the final score, I still felt good about being there at the game. I mean, the weather was so perfectly football-type weather. And participating in the Lambda Chi Alpha "tailgate party" had been such a fun prelude!

All in all, a fine football Saturday here in the "Athens of the South"!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nashville's Walk of Fame

Across the street (Demonbreun St.) from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum -- also across the street (Fourth Ave. S.) from the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall -- is the Walk of Fame Park. On the sidewalks of this park are stars which represent well-known folk -- many but not all of them country music artists -- who have been significant to Nashville.

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) the third induction of new stars into this Walk since I moved here. It was also the third time I've attended, and the FIRST induction with "chamber-of-commerce weather"! Indeed, last November I went to my first induction only because Martina McBride and Randy Travis were among the five being inducted.

This time around the inductees were Dolly Parton. Charlie Daniels, the late Ernest Tubb, the late Tootsie Bess and Kid Rock. The last-named was controversial, but at least we got him over with & outta the way first. The last inductee (first on my list) was introduced by the Governor himself, Phil Bredesen. Seems Hizzoner and Dolly have done some photo shoots together for some ad, which involved our Governor "cutting the rug". I think I'd like to see this!

It was fun to be there for the induction ceremony, with Bill Cody hosting and various folks introducing each inductee before the inductee (or a family member for the deceased) spoke.When E.T. was introduced by Little Jimmie Dickens and his star accepted by his son E.T. Jr., I remembered how E.T. was the one of the so-called "Four Pillars of the Opry" with whom I was familiar before I attended my first Opry show back in the early Eighties. I can still remember that evening, when my Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers (who were at Opryland Hotel for our General Assembly) and wives or girl friends sat there and enjoyed the oldest live radio show. I remember that when E.T. had other artists performing during his half hour of the show he'd gesture with his outstretched hand for the audience to applaud and applaud louder for the stars. Probably E.T.'s biggest enduring contribution to Nashville is the Ernest Tubb Record Shop -- the original on lower Broadway near the Ryman (and near the Walk of Fame) and a branch out in Music Valley.

Probably about that time I first learned about Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and its role as a sort of "green room" for the Ryman Auditorium across the alley during those years that the Grand Ole Opry played in the Ryman. And since I moved here in '08 I've learned how many a singer or songwriter sort of got a first step up thanks to the honky-tonk and its owner Tootsie Bess. So her influence on the music-life of Music City is quite evident!

Charlie Daniels and Dolly Parton both came from elsewhere to Nashville, to make a name in Country music, and have lived near the city and contributed to it in many ways. Therefore, as they received their stars they got much applause. And lots of the audience wanted to get photos or autographs from them; I doubt few succeeded, but I didn't stick around to see.

You see, this being the Second Sunday of the month I wanted to go to Vine Street Christian Church for its monthly Second Sunday evening program. This is a potluck supper at five, followed by an alternative worship. This time for worship we didn't even go to the sanctuary upstairs above the fellowship hall. Rather, KK Wiseman, who leads these Second Sunday worships, took us into the adjacent kitchen. There the bulk of the service involved taking the raw ingredients for making bread, mixing them, kneading them and baking the resultant loaf. During the process, KK repeatedly read verses from the fourth chapter of Philippians; she also drew out lessons from the process. And once the bread was baked, we had the Lord's Supper, which is always an element in these Second Sunday evening alternative worship services. I felt blessed, and that I'd really learned something!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hooray, Saints! Hooray, Titans!

No, this isn't about TWO teams in the NFL. "Saints" carries a very different meaning here.

You see, Sunday was the First of November, and thus was All Saints Day in the liturgical calendar. At Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) worship on the Sunday nearest 1 November is altered to allow for recognition of congregational members who have died in the past year. Members' family and friends are also recognized. This is done by placing a stand at the front of the sanctuary, and after the sermon a few words are said and then as each deceased member's name is read a white ribbon with a bell on the end is carried from the main door down the center aisle and Hung on the stand. One additional ribbon with bell is hung while individuals call out names of significant others who have died in the past year.

The choir sings a powerful song titled "Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort", rather British song arranged by Mack Wilberg. This year we also sang a second anthem just before the ribbon ceremony, "Heaven's Choir" by Pepper Choplin. Our choir director, Julie Duemler, had recently been introduced to this new piece and shared it with us at rehearsal a few weeks ago. We all liked it but didn't want to give up the other anthem, so we sang two!

After Worship I rode the bus across town to the Green Hills neighborhood along Hillsboro Pike. I often go to the Kroger there for Sunday dinner, but that had to wait for two other activities nearby. One was paying my cellphone bill at a Verizon store on Hillsboro. The other was the grand opening of a new piano store by ECC(DC) member Grand Houston. Grant had actually stood beside me in the choir as we sang earlier during Worship, but then had hastened to his new store to ready for the opening festivity. When I entered I saw three men there: Grant, another fellow choir member Steve Walls and a third man new to me (but apparently an old friend of Grant's). Several people came in afterward, including Pastor Jay Hartley and his family. I was impressed that Grant had one of the pianos playing, not with somebody's fingers tickling the ivories but from an i-pod. Grant even took the i-pod from that grand piano over to two upright pianos, connected them both and got both to play simultaneously!

After hanging out at the new piano store about three quarters of an hour I went on over to the Green Hills Kroger for a full meal -- Grant provided snacks like cheese, crackers and small fruits along with champagne, but "I live to eat" as somebody might say. Having purchased my usual salad bar meal and a Sierra Mist, I sat down in the small eating area. It has two large TV screens, which were on to an NFL game.

A few minutes after I sat down and began eating one of the store employees came over as if to change channels. I'm not a wild fan of either team in the game being showed, but I feared he'd put on car racing or something else boring instead, so I asked him not to change the one screen I was watching. But he did -- to the Titans' game! This was just starting, and was being broadcast from here in Nashville. It's always nice to see the landmarks of Music City on the TV screen during a Titans home game, and this was no different. Plus, the up to this date winless NFL team started out looking really good. The offense scored a field goal as I watched, and the defense seemed to be handling the visiting Jacksonville offense well. So I left happy in the knowledge that the Titans just might snap their season-opening losing streak.

And so it was. I found out later that the Titans won 30-13. Hooray, Titans! Perhaps the saints we remembered this Sunday the First of November were looking down with favor upon Nashville's hometown team! in which case: Hooray, Saints!