Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wind-down to Ought Nine here

Today & tomorrow and Ought Nine will be history. No more "Ought n" years. At least for 90 years - & I don't think I'll still be around for THAT. In fact, way things are going, nobody & nothing will be around in 90 years. Unless Jesus returns, which I'm trusting He will! And, well, when He does, history itself will be "history"!

But in the meanwhile, the story (history), and the news (history in the making), and the blogs (remarking on history, at least my blog), go on. . . .

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xmas & Xmas Eve in Nashville

"In Nashville." I certainly was not planning on being in Music City for the holiday, but rather with family to the northwest in Clarksville. However, things didn't work out for this to happen. Could have seen this as a real bummer - a "bum-end" as my son remarked! But I refused to let the change in plans bring me down.

The result was a very memorable Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.

On the former day, I travelled by bus across town to my church, Eastwood Christian (Disciples) of our Christmas Eve worship. I carried my guitar and some villancicos (carols in Spanish) and Christmas sheet music with me. Just in case the Pastor wanted me to do something musical during it. He had expressed this several days ago when I still planned to go to C'ville. It turned out that no, he had the whole service arranged. But no problem! I was quite happy to simply participate in the celebration as an attendee and nothing more. Participate as one in a full house, I must add -- we were standing room only!

We had terrific music as it was! Beginning with the Pastor, Jay Hartley, on bagpipes, his son Joseph on recorder, Stuart Duncan on guitar, etc. The order of worship was a traditional "lessons (i.e., Scripture readings) and carols" format, followed by the Lord's Supper with us going forward in the central aisle, partaking by intinction (dipping a piece of the loaf into the cup and then eating it) and then acquiring a small candle (with anti-wax protector for the fingers) and proceeding up the outer aisle. With so many people, we didn't have quite en'uf candles, and in addition to lining the walls we stood all along the central aisle and packed the chancel (choir area)! The candles got lit and the artificial lights turned down as we all sang "Silent Night". After the benediction we sang "Joy to the World" to cap off this celebration of the coming of the Word of God into our world, in the flesh of the one born to a virgin and using a feed trough for his first cradle.

I had eaten little during the day, and this left plenty of room for a post-worship supper at Emily Nourse's home. Emily and her mother Margaret are members of Eastwood who used to live in Corpus Christi, Texas, and have been on cursillo-style retreats (the mom on Walk to Emmaus & the daughter on Chrysalis). Margaret's other daughter and her husband and a cousin were also at the worship and walked with us to Emily's house for the dinner. The other daughter (an alumna of San Antonio's Trinity University) and her husband had made tamales by hand earlier in the day -- and when I learned of this before the worship started, I remarked, "Oh, una tamalada! Had I known I'd have come over early and helped out!" (This despite the fact that I know nothing about how to make the traditional comida mexicana de Nochebuena y Navidad.)

While los tamales were heating up along with Spanish rice and guacamole was being made, we sipped on a delicious Spanish wine. It was neither dry nor sweet, but a combination or both, and very tasty.

After supping on this Mexican-style Christmas Eve meal, I pulled out my guitar and played a couple of villancicos and Emmaus songs while I sang los villancicos and we all sang the Emmaus songs. Then we wrapped up with "Feliz Navidad", the well-known Jose Feliciano Christmas hit. Everybody (except me, accompanying on guitar) did a dance around the dining room to this. I'd not seen this before but it was delightful to watch!

Then, when I arrived back at Mercury Court and went to the community room to check my mailbox, I saw that one other resident was there watching TV. I saw the credits for "White Christmas" and at first considered that I had just missed a broadcast of my favorite Christmas movie. (I'd forgotten that back then credits were rolled at the start of the flick, not at the end, as now.) But the fellow told me that no, it was just starting. So I "popped a seat" and watched the whole show. I found it significant that it ended about 12:30 AM on Christmas Day -- I usually do not stay up to midnight on Christmas Eve night.

Despite the uncustomary very late hour of going to bed, I awoke about my usual time and after lying there for awhile I decided to see about going to a Christmas Day service somewhere. While I lived in San Antonio I had attended worship on Christmas Day mornings at either San Fernando Cathedral or at Christ Episcopal Church. So I went to Christ Church here (also Episcopal, a cathedral of that denomination). Sure en'uf they were having a worship there, so I walked around for awhile (seeking in vain a place where I could get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate) and then returned to the historic church for worship.

The rest of the day was a quiet one, of riding around on the bus, talking to family over my cell phone and listening to Handle's "Messiah" on my CD player. Late in the afternoon I opened my few presents; they were all nice and much appreciated. After listening to the Friday Nite Opry on WSM-AM 650 I turned in for the night - at a much earlier, more normal hour than the previous night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Sun. - 4th Advent Sun.

This past Sunday was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, for those Christians who use the church calendar (or "liturgical calendar"). Being the Sunday before Christmas eve and Day, some also refer to it as "Christmas Sunday.

Either way, it was a wonderful Sunday for yours truly. Wonder weekend all around, as I got to spend Friday evening & much of Saturday with family, in Clarksville & on the road to the Nashville International Airport (BNA). The latter was because son David & his wife Allison (and grandchild to be born in April) were to catch a plane to Lincoln to spend the actual holidays with her family (we TN Grahams had our turn last year). The late afternoon was spent at church, in "dress" rehearsal of choir's music for the special Sunday.

So, as you can guess, dear reader, the beauty of Sunday commenced at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). All the extra songs sung were simply glorious! These included opening with choir director Julie Duemler singing a series of recitatives from "Messiah" (Handel's), leading into the whole choir singing "Glory to God" from the same. (Lyrics for all these sections of "Messiah" are Luke 2:8-14.) Later in the service we sang a special arrangement of "Silent Night", which I had reported on in an earlier post.

After this awesome Worship -- a spiritual feast indeed! -- we adjourned to the Fellowship Hall for dinner. Here was more food, this time of the material kind. Earlier, I had learned about Buche de Noel, a French pastry of Christmas-time. Dieta Duncan, who had via Facebook taught me what this is, gave me advance warning the evening before (at rehearsal) to go to the dessert table first (rather than the main food table). There was indeed a Buche de Noel made by her, resembling in appearance a Yule log. So I cut me a slice, selected a seat at a table and set it down there before getting in the main food line. The French pastry Yule log turned out to be "heavenly", as I told Dieta.

Santa Clause also paid us a visit, for the enjoyment of the many kids of ECC(DC). And even I got a present of sorts, for Bob Frech told me he had a spare ticket for the Vanderbilt women's basketball game later that afternoon at VU's Memorial Gym. So the enjoyment of the day continued, transferred to a different locale in Music City. The women were hosting the women's basketball team from Tennessee State University. The ladies from across town proved to be no challenge to Vandy's gals, as the latter never trailed and led 52-20 at halftime. I greeted Charlie Mattos, who in addition to being Bill Cody's sidekick on WSM's weekday morning show is broadcast announcer for the VU women. I showed him my Christmas tie, which he enjoyed a lot.

Final score was VU 84, TSU 47. Since the VU team had scored over 75 points, we all (I was with Bob and three other Frech family members) turned in our tickets to the Taco Bell just down West End toward downtown, to receive free hard tacos of the beef variety. Not my preferred type of taco (soft chicken is that), but still - free!

Later, after spending a little time in the Vanderbilt Library, I went to First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville. Earlier in the week I'd read on a half size flyer that the church would host a Fourth Sunday (Xmas Sun.) evening program of music involving a very large choir and a somewhat small orchestra (both of these being church members?). It was a delightful service, which included a couple excerpts from "Messiah" (one being of course "Hallelujah!") some new Christmas music and familiar old carols, which we the congregation were encouraged to sing along. And afterward there was fellowship and food downstairs in First Baptist's fellowship hall. The food included a treat I hadn't seen in years: cannolis! Shall we call these pastry delights a smaller Italian answer to the French Buche de Noel? Yum, yum!

And so a thor'oly delightful Sunday was, you might say, sandwiched between two church services full of music, followed by delicious food. San Antonio may know how to throw a party at the drop of a hat for any reason, but Nashville itself -- the Buckle of the Bible Belt -- knows how to celebrate this most special time of the year! And yours truly appreciates both the food and the music (food for the soul)!

Merry Christmas to you, dear reader.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nashville Emmaus Xmas Party

First, before going into the Emmaus community's monthly gathering/annual party, I wish to affirm something. Xmas. This is shorthand for "Christmas", of course. Some unknowing folks of the Christian faith object to it, on same grounds as their opposition to the greeting "Happy holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" or otherwise taking Christ out of Christmas. I disagree. You see, in Greek, the original New Testament language, the letter "X" (called "chi") is the initial for the word xpistos ("KRIS-tos") or Christ, the "anointed one" or 'messiah". Indeed, in early Christian art a common symbol was Chi-Rho, that is, the "X" combined with the "P" (called "rho"), the first two letters of the Greek title! So dear reader, use of Xmas isn't eliminating Christ from Christmas but rather emphasizing Him!

Now that this affirmation is out of the way, to the party!

The Nashville Emmaus Community, like all Emmaus communities or fourth-day groups, has a monthly gathering. The one in December is held at The Upper Room headquarters (aka the UMC Board of Discipleship building) and is a Christmas or Xmas fellowship as well as worship gathering.

Saturday evening was the gathering for Ought Nine. I was there, along with my guitar. We started out in a fellowship or meeting hall downstairs, with lots of potluck food and a guitarist (not yours truly!) picking carols to provide background music as we dined and chatted around tables decorated in the spirit of Christmas and that of Emmaus.

Then we adjourned upstairs to The Upper Room Chapel for worship. We two guitarists led the congregation in singing two well-known and beloved carols, and then we went into worship according to one of the Methodist orders (which is basis for the Emmaus worship order found in the "purple book"). But this time we sang the "Sanctus" and the "Lord's Prayer" while we two guitarists played. This was a neat addition; I loved it! And while folks were coming forward during the Lord's Supper to receive the elements by intinction (i.e., taking a piece of the loaf and dipping it in the cup and partaking), we played as series of more carols. The entire service was very moving and season-appropriate!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Saturday evening session at Station Inn

The Station Inn is a well-known name here in Music City a.k.a. Nashville, for live acoustic music, particularly of the bluegrass genre or the Americana Music genre. It doesn't look like much from the outside -- kinda could fit on the stage of the Ryman or of the Grand Ole Opry House? -- and not much more impressive inside. I.e., it's very intimate. But I've been there a few times, including back around 1990. Found it to be a likable place to go for live music!

Well, I was there Saturday nite, after work. You see, dear reader, the Nashville Bluegrass Band was performing one of their rare concerts in their namesake city! I'd wanted to experience these guys live in concert ever since I got acquainted with their fiddler, Stuart Duncan, who with his family are active and cherished members of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) - my church. Stuart's wife Dieta had informed me of the NBB concert at Station Inn, and I was most grateful. It was a terrific performance, as the group lived up to their Grammy-earning talents. Stuart especially impressed me on the final number before they took a break. His sawing on the fiddle with the bow was so vigorous and enthusiastic and crowd-enthusing, that afterward I asked if he needed some ice cubes to cool down the bow!

Best of all, when I entered the building and mentioned to the hostess why I was there (the church membership connection) she informed me that several ECC(DC) members were present. And not just Duncans! Steve Walls and his son Nathan were among those ECC folk also present. I sat at a table next to Steve and swapped occasional comments with my buddy. This commentary and story-swapping continued as he drove me home after the end of the concert.

What a delightful evening of music in Music City! And experienced along with fellow shurch members, in "The Buckle of the Bible Belt"!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

Last evening (Wed. the Second) choir rehearsal at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) was of course all Advent-Christmas carols and hymns we'll be singing the next few Sundays. we finished up with an awesome rendition of "Silent Night". It starts out unison singing of first verse, then repeats it in the original Deutsch (German), then wraps up with the final verse (in English) with a soprano descant. According to the score this last verse can be sung with the congregation accompanying on the melody.

Now, three times in the past week or so on the radio I've heard reference to "Silent Night" and how it got composed and sung the very first time. In brief, in the 1800s for the Christmas (Eve) worship at the church in Obendorf, Austria, a mouse had rendered the church organ inoperable. So Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr composed the carol and introduced it to the congregation using guitar as accompaniment.

This history of "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) charms and moves yours truly, especially the detail about guitar accompaniment (me being a guitar picker from way back). So I feel that I've been blessed thrice over the airwaves -- and Xmas isn't even for three more weeks!

Perhaps this is an explanation for why, as we rehearsed the carol last evening, I truly felt transported up to Heaven! Into the very presence of Abba! Right there with He whose birth on a silent night ('til the angels came to the shepherds!) is lauded in this carol!

Thank You, Lord!