Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ray Price -- Third time's a charm

Ray Price is a country singer whom I highly esteem. He has a good voice, and did some great songs in the old-time traditional country way -- called the "shuffle", I think -- and later some great hits in the Nashville Sound that he and Chet Atkins and others developed in the Sixties. Most important, he recorded the song that's my second all-time favorite country song: "Crazy Arms".

I've been blessed twice to experience Ray Price live in concert. First in 2008 at Floore Country Store in Helotes, a formerly sleepy Texas village that morphed into a suburb of San Antonio. The second time happened last year in the Acuff Theater near the Grand Ole Opry House here in Nashville. (In both concerts he commenced with "Crazy Arms" medleyed with another of his hits.)

Well, I'd been eagerly anticipating a third encounter with Mr. Price. He was scheduled to be a guest of Eddie Stubbs on the WSM personality's show "Intimate Evening", which is done before a live audience at the Ford Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Twice Ray was scheduled, twice I acquired a ticket, and twice the show with Ray got cancelled. The second time was recently and due to snowfall.

I despaired that Ray Price would ever make it onto Eddie's show, a usually once-a-month show in which I've taken great delight since my return to Music City.

But last evening (Monday the 22d), when Eddie came on-air to start his usual evening slot on WSM, he announced that Ray would be dropping by for a visit in studio later in the evening. Believe me, dear reader, I didn't allow myself to get out of earshot of my radio!

Ray Price did indeed come on during the 8 PM hour and continued for over an hour in conversation with Eddie. He spoke of his career, of the beginnings of the "shuffle" in country music and dancing -- I need to get a definition of just what a "shuffle" is! -- and other matters related to his very long and illustrious career in country and Western music. One delightful surprise for yours truly was to discover that Ray is in the midst of releasing an album of gospel music! Eddie even played a song from it. Ray may be in his mid-eighties, but he certainly isn't slowing down much! Indeed, at one point he insisted that he has no plans to retire.

And sure en'uf, late in the interview, Eddie played "Crazy Arms". It was almost like the time I was at Floore and the first notes to sound when Ray took the stage were the opening notes for it -- I felt like I'd died and gone to Heaven! Last evening I closed my eyes, and I was back once more in the ticket center just inside the gate to the late, great Opryland Park, selling tickets to Guests from far and near, and listening over and over to a set of about a dozen country hit songs by various artists over the history of recorded music. Some of my co-workers tired of the repetitive set, but I never did. I think I loved them all -- but most of all "Crazy Arms" with its terrific steel guitar slide at the conclusion!

And here I was, listening to the recording again, and to the singer who recorded it way back in the Fifties (it was No. 1 on the country charts in 1956, bumping Elvis & "Heartbreak Hotel" out of that spot) speaking about it to Eddie. True it would have been even better, I suppose, had this all been taking place in the Ford Theater before an audience including me, so that I could SEE as well as hear it. But simply to hear these two men, both of whom I highly esteem and who esteem each other, conversing like long-time friends about the love of their lives -- country music -- well, the listening alone was sufficient!

The Lord bless Ray Price! The Lord bless Eddie Stubbs! Thank God for country music! ! !

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Emily's Ordination at Eastwood

Possibly the dearest mother-daughter duo of my sisters in Christ at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) are Margaret Nourse and her daughter Emily. For a bit of background about them, see my post of 26 December A.D. 2009.

Well, unbeknownst to me at the time (or, I may have heard it mentioned & it just didn't register) is that in addition to being an alumna (undergrad) of TCU as I am of TCU's seminary Brite, Emily is also an alumna of Vanderbilt's seminary, and eligible for ordination in the Christian Church(Disciples of Christ). Her ordination service took place at Eastwood this afternoon. The weather was so beautiful that I almost wish the service had been outdoors!

The choir rehearsed its anthem for the service, "Lord Here Am I", in our practice room in the ECC education building, then walked over to the sanctuary and donned our robes. This powerful piece, which crescendos into a grand finale, almost had me in tears, and DID have Dieta Duncan (mother of choir members Josh and Jonathan) in tears. Then we left the chancel, disrobed and took seats in the nave (auditorium). I chose to sit fairly forward on the left (pulpit) side.

Amy Cates, who attended Vanderbilt Divinity School with Emily, preached the ordination sermon. She commenced by relating how the Nourses had earlier lived in the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi but that Emily in answering God's call had to move inland and go to TCU -- at which point she made the TCU hand sign, which is the right hand with index and middle fingers crooked like claws. To which I automatically responded in like manner -- even tho' that sign got created AFTER my years at TCU's Brite!

Representatives of several groups spoke confirmations of Emily's ordination and/or gave her gifts. There were about five from the Nourse's former church in Corpus, Central Christian (Disciples). Others represented our Eastwood church family as well as the Serenity Sisters Sunday School class -- for which Emily recruited participants! -- and the regional church (Christian Church (DC) in Tennessee). Among the gifts presented during the service were a black academic robe, a very colorful stole and a copy of the Chalice Hymnal of the CC(DC).

At the laying on of hands Regional Minister Glenn Stewart first called for the congregation's Elders, then all ordained persons to step forward. While two placed their hands directly on the kneeling Emily, we others put one hand on the shoulder of the person standing beside us. Also, Dr. Stewart called on the laity left in the pews (and we had a good-size crowd!) to hold hands and for the nearest of us Elders-ordained to take the hand of the nearest. For me this meant Michael Lehman, our Associate Pastor and recent graduate of the Vandy D School; he's next in line to be ordained in Eastwood.

This move by Dr. Stewart really impressed me, because it symbolically involved everybody present in the laying on of hands! Indeed, as I experienced all of the ordination service I kept thinking forward to Michael's ordination service (as surely he was, too) and back to my own service in February A.D. 1989 in the United church of Moscow, in Moscow, Idaho. Mine was quite different in details even if similar in the basic outline. But I'd have loved to have gone back and included that anthem "Lord Here Am I" along with Gold City's recent Southern Gospel hit "Preach the Word". And especially I'd have wanted that means that Dr. Stewart provided of involving everybody in the laying on of hands!

I wouldn't change the gifts, tho'. No robe or stole were given me, since at the time a smaller percentage of Disciples clergy used those "high-church" vestments -- most wore suits and ties. And I've continued to uphold the original Restoration Movement's tenet of not making much distinction or separation of church people into laity and clergy. I eschew the title "Reverend" and consider myself to be no more or less "reverend" than ANY disciple of Jesus. Neither did I receive a hymnal, which I would not have minded at all, especially considering how my love of music, always strong, has grown over the years. What I DO remember receiving at my ordination was a Jerusalem Bible.

Well, that's plenty of THAT aside. After the Lord's Supper, at which Emily presided, and a closing song we adjourned to go to the fellowship hall for the reception. As the crowd moved out I was surprised to see Rusty Lawrence, director of Urban Housing Solutions (offices in Mercury Courts, one of the UHS properties)! And I gave a hearty welcome to all the Texans from Central Christian in Corpus.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a good attendance for this Saturday afternoon worship and ordination service. This was evidenced among other ways, in that at least a dozen of the men sported neckties. But when all these folks got into the fellowship hall, it was almost too small! There did appear to be sufficient food for everybody, fortunately. After several photos were taken of Emily alone or with various groupings, I suggested to her that we ought to get a group photo of all those present who had gone to TCU or Vandy D School or another Disciples-related institution. She considered it a good idea, and so had me get the attention of the crowd and call for this photo to be taken. It's now on my Facebook photo album, and I cropped it to be my current FB profile shot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No threes, but three doubles

This past weekend, Friday evening the 12th thru Sunday the 14th Valentine Day and on into Monday the 15th Presidents Day, passed in rather unexpected fashion for yours truly. I was actually hoping to spend part of it out of town, since it was Presidents weekend. But the opportunity never arose, and spent all of it here in Music City.

Saturday the 13th likewise did not go as planned or anticipated. On my new job with SecureWatch ADT it was my first Saturday, and my goal was to get contracts completed for three home security systems. Much to my shock on a cold, blustery day that should have encouraged folks to stay home, at least half of the doors I knocked on I didn't get any response. Not even a barking dog!

And of the homes where a person actually came to the door, one seemed interested but then revealed that he wasn't the "man of the house" (who wouldn't be home 'til after six) and another invited me in and let me give some of my presentation, only to stop me with that he was on fixed income and couldn't afford it. The result of all my efforts thru this cold day was zilch. Zip. Nada.

So much for my goal of three contracts and resulting commission.

However, making up for the vanity of work, I got blessed by a double double Saturday evening and another double Sunday evening! Let me explain, dear reader.

At one point on Thursday or Friday while my team's van was on Gallatin Avenue and passed by Eastland Baptist Church. The church sign announced that on Saturday the 13th Gold City would be in concert. With excitement I told the team where I wanted to be on Saturday evening. Then I explained that Gold City is one of the best gospel quartets in the ministry of Southern Gospel music.

Therefore, when we knocked off our work on Saturday -- nobody on the team got a contract, not even team leader Margaret -- I got dropped off at the church. Just going into the facility was a pleasure. It is an old, historic building, on a foursquare and two-level plan, with a marble column at each of the four inside corners. I chose to sit on the left not far from the platform.

The evening's program commenced with a male trio I'd not heard of before: Southern Salvation. One of their songs is presently on the charts for Southern Gospel music. Another one proclaims that the BEST thing about getting to Heaven will be meeting Jesus. To which I say a very hearty and heart-felt "Amen!"

Then it was Gold City's turn. These guys were my other SG concert performers since my return to Nashville -- see my posting of Thursday, July 2, 2009.

But wait! There had been personnel changes in the quartet, changes that provoked a mixture of amazement and delight in yours truly. First, Tim Riley, who had retired a few years ago after singing bass almost from the group's 1980 beginnings, is back with the quartet. It's my understand that back then Tim was also the manager or some sort of leader of the group. Whether he is again I don't know, but it certainly was a rich blessing to hear Tim singing bass again with Gold City!

The other addition was just as much a delight. Despite the decade since I'd last seen him, I recognized Josh Cobb as he sang tenor. Josh was the original tenor in the new quartet Legacy Five that began ten years ago. I was at their debut concert in Marietta, Georgia, having driven from Clarksville, Tennessee, for the historic event. Scott Fowler and Roger Bennett, formerly of the incomparable Cathedral Quartet, had started the new quartet to carry on the music ministry in the Cathedrals style after Glen Payne and George Younce retired the Cats. As I told Josh after the concert, I clearly remember the setting in which I first heard Legacy Five on the radio. A few months after the debut concert I was driving in Clarksville and had Solid Gospel 105 on the radio. As I turned a corner opposite my church of the time (St. Bethlehem Christian, on Dunbar Cave Rd.) I heard Josh's clear and distinctive tenor coming over the airwaves. Knowing this was my first L5 song to hear on the radio, I pulled onto the shoulder of Dunbar Cave Rd. and got blessed as Josh was featured in the powerful song "I Stand Redeemed"! And here he is, singing tenor again after several years hiatus! Praise God!

Gold City started out by singing a cappella an abbreviated version of their 1991 hit "One Scarred Hand". This majestic praise song was followed by the rousing "When I Get Carried Away". They sang more recent hits such as "What Children Believe" and "I'm Rich". This last song is one I can really get into, as I did one evening on a street corner waiting for a bus, when a street preacher had it sounding out of his loudspeaker behind me. The final verse (which Gold City repeats) contains the words "He's building me a mansion beyond compare; HALLELUJAH! I'm a millionaire!"

So, even tho' they didn't sing another recent hit that I really like, "Preach the Word" (if I could go back and re-do my ordination service, this would be in it) nor their signature hit "Midnight Cry", the concert there in Eastland Baptist served very much as a blessing. Particularly with the double return of Tim and Josh to Southern Gospel singing ministry!

But the weekend wasn't over. Not by any means! The next morning at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples), Bob Frech offered me a ticket to the evening women's basketball game at Vanderbilt. But I put the invitation on hold while I phoned Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) to inquire about the Second Sunday evening program. I was told that yes, it was "on" and would include the return of potter Helen. So I told Bob, "Thanks but no thanks".

You see, dear reader, I wasn't about to miss a second experience of Helen and her pot-throwing at the Second Sunday evening worship at Vine St. We commenced as always with a fellowship dinner in the downstairs fellowship hall. Then we went upstairs to the sanctuary, where Helen had spread a tarp and set up her potter's wheel. While she worked the clay she would comment about the process. Then K.K. Wiseman would give spiritual significance to it, and would make the passage from Jeremiah about the potter's workshop come alive for us! (Read Jer. 18:1-8.) And K.K. tied it all very nicely into the traditional church season of Lent, which begins Wednesday the Seventeenth with Ash Wednesday. And as with Helen's first appearance at Second Sunday, each of us got to leave with a small ceramic figurine as a memento and reminder of the experience and its lessons.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

E.T.'s birthday

This morning on "Coffee Country & Cody" AND Charlie, the weekday wake-up show on WSM-AM 650, Bill Cody told how today is the birthday of Ernest Tubb. Then his "Cody Classic Song of the Day" (aired weekdays about 6:55 AM) was one of E.T.'s hit country songs. I appreciated this, because I honor E.T. Not because I'm a great fan of his; I like his "Waltz across Texas" and "Walking the Floor", for sure, but I find his voice isn't all that pleasant for the listening ear.

However, long before I found out about the Grand Ole Opry, I knew the name Ernest Tubb. Then, once I became a fan of country music and the Opry, I got to attend the show for the first time, during a convention of my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, at Opryland Hotel. The year was around 1982. This was when the hotel was fairly new and before the first of many expansions - it was still just a "mom & pop" business then, that happened to be next to a theme park and also the world's largest radio studio.

I cannot say that the other three "Pillars of the Opry" made much of an impression on me. Not Roy Acuff, nor Minnie Pearl ('tho later I became a great fan) nor Bill Monroe (I don't even remember that he & his Bluegrass Boys were on that evening. But E.T. made quite an impression. Perhaps because his was the name among the "Four Pillars" I had known before I was even aware of the Opry's existence. What then inscribed itself indelibly in my memory is how when other artists were on stage performing during E.T.'s part of the show, he as host would gesture with his right hand to raise the applause of the audience. That gesture really impressed me!

Years later another fact about E.T. caught my attention. It was that early in his life he moved to San Antonio and was a deejay on station WOAI. Listening to the records of other artists that he sent out over the airwaves, E.T. decided that he could sing as well as they could. And so a singing career got launched -- and not the only one that came out of a deejay of a San Antonio radio station (the late Charlie Walker of the Opry was one of the other S.A. radio deejays-turned-singer). Finding out that somebody I admire has direct connection with that city in Texas always deepens my admiration!

And so, I'm thankful that Bill Cody called our attention to Ernest Tubb's birthday (9 February A.D. 1914) and honored his memory by playing an E.T. song as his classic for the day!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Freebie", Lee, Leslie - the CMHoFaM

Well! I just came from a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHoFaM). Today was the Ford-sponsored free-admission Saturday, snow-delayed from last Saturday.

This "freebie" day resulted in even greater pleasure and even happier memories than did last year's "freebie" day!

Upon arrival I passed thru the spacious lobby and by The "Ambassador of Music City" David Andersen, who was entertaining us on his electric guitar. I went up the elevator to the top floor and the start of the museum tour. First I viewed the special (limited-time) Brenda Lee exhibit. It's called "Dynamite" because Ms. Lee is nicknamed, among other things "Little Miss Dynamite". She's very short and small, and of course she was one of the first child singing stars. I was impressed to discover that her musical and singing start was in country music; I'd always considered that her start was in pop-rock and later she moved into country. But the special exhibit indicated that no, at that point in her life she was actually returning to her country roots!

Then I began the tour of the regular permanent exhibits, which of course commence with the origins of what we call "country" music" in the 1920s. To the left are display cases of artifacts, most of them instruments or costume pieces of the stars of what was first known as "hillbilly music". On the right, over a clear glass wall-railing and across the drop down to the next floor, are four screens, each of which has a couple of brief picture shows about this or that aspect of the history of the music. The second screen, for example had clips from the singing cowboys. My eyes misted up while I watched the performance of the Sons of the Pioneers along with Roy Rogers, my boyhood hero.

Then it was time to go down to the ground floor and the Ford Theater, for the Songwriter Session with Leslie Satcher. Leslie had been a guest on "Coffee Country and Cody" of WSM-AM 650 some months back. I'd been charmed then, and was even more charmed this time around. Among Leslie's songwriting credits is George Strait's great song and recent hit that sounds so autobiographical, "Troubadour" -- for it alone I would honor her! The first song she sang was one that became a hit for Martina McBride, "When God-fearin' Women Get the Blues". She talked about how she met Naomi Judd, who was one who helped her significantly, thru their mutual membership in Christ Church (Pentecostal) in southern Davidson County (metro Nashville).

After I left the songwriter session I got in line for the musical petting zoo on the opposite side of the museum lobby. I really wanted to "pet" a pedal steel guitar. It turned out that none was there; the closest thing was an electrified Dobro guitar. But then both instruments are played while sliding a metal pipe along strings, and the resulting sounds are very similar: the "twang" in country music. After "petting" the Dobro for several minutes, and asking the volunteer docent questions about it (like tuning as compared to a regular guitar), I moved on to other nstruments in the petting zoo. I tried the banjo, mandolin -- and an instrument I had played in grade school in the Sixties: the autoharp!

I wrapped up my "freebie" visit to the CMHoFaM with a walk into the Hall of Fame itself. One of the first plaques I stopped to read carefully was that hero from my early boyhood: Roy Rogers. My head threatened to leak again, as I contemplated memory of hours of sitting on the living room floor eyes glued to Roy's TV show, and the great role model he remained all thru his long, full life. I'm glad for Roy that he's with the Lord now, but I miss him!

Just before I finished circumambulating the round Hall I came to the plaque of a much more recent inductee, the REAL cowboy from Texas, with the smoothest voice in country music and among the smoothest who still sings in ANY genre. I'm referring to George Strait! I smiled as I read the Strait man's plaque, then I tipped my hat to him and exited. On my way down the ramp descending to the lobby and main entrance, I could first hear, then see, David Andersen still bending the strings on his electric guitar.

Wow! what a joyful afternoon in one of Music City's greatest attractions! And all for free, too! Thanks, Ford Foundation, for enabling this great day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Busloads of barking baboons

Yours truly hasn't posted much on this blog about the local city bus company, Nashville MTA. I've deliberately refrained, for fear that I would stoop to ugly or even obscene language. You see, dear reader, compared to the service I experienced riding San Antonio's MTA, VÍA, that of this city IS obscene!

To paraphrase something I read in "You are so Nashville if. . ." about the late Starwood Amphitheater, I could say, "Nashville MTA, dear Nashville MTA, how do we hate thee? Let me count the ways." First, we hate the confusing-to-read, lacking-in-info and inaccurate pocket schedules. We hate the weird schedule intervals that make no sense. We hate bus drivers speeding from time point to time point so they can take a break due to arriving early. We hate overcrowded buses.

Get the picture?

Another great difference between Nashville MTA and VÍA has to do with demographics, in part. In San Antonio, where the majority are Hispanics, so are bus riders -- but not remarkably more than their share of the general population. And I enjoyed overhearing conversations in Spanish or even code-switching, between two fellow passengers. Sometimes I'd even join in the chatting. But here I seldom hear Spanish, despite the remarkable growth in the local Hispanic community. More likely the non-English I hear on the bus is Arabic or another language of the Islamic part of the Old World. (This is due to the immigration of numerous people from there, to work in hotels.)

Here in Nashville the majority now has changed from Anglo (or white) to Afro-American. And the vast majority of MTA riders as well as drivers are Afro-American. I usually don't mind this, even tho' I cannot relate to their culture like I can to lo chicano. However, conversations I overhear, often spoken at loud volume audible all over the crowded bus, tend to revolve around prison time served, paroles, crimes committed -- or sex -- or sports.

Which leads me to the topic here. On Sunday last, day of the NFL Pro Bowl, twice I was on buses leaving the downtown depot for East Nashville, and several African men were sitting in the back, higher portion of the bus. Somebody would bring up the Pro Bowl, somebody else would ask what time it kicked off, and away they'd go talking about pro football. From the day's bowl to next Sunday's Super Bowl to the Titans to previous Super Bowls. . . and getting louder and loud as their enthusiasm waxed. Shortly they all sound like a pack of barking baboons!

As I say, this occurred twice. I began to wonder if this sort of enthusiasm will continue all thru the week between the two NFL bowls. Well, that got affirmed last evening, when it happened again. Only this time a mere pair of speakers were involved in the chatting, and it didn't start with the Pro Bowl, I don't think. But once again these two covered the range of sub-topics under general topic of NFL. And the got louder and louder in their enthusiasm. And eventually just the two of them were sounding like another pack of barking baboons!

No, Nashville is definitely NOT San Antonio! Go Spurs go! Y también, ¡arriba lo chicano!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Music of Music City

I haven't done a verse of "The Music of Music City" in awhile. That is, I haven't posted specifically with what makes Nashville "Music City" in mind. I could have done that with either of my two recent postings that were set in the Station Inn. Why I didn't think of it I don't know. . . .

But regarding what I experienced here yesterday I simply cannot avoid it! TWO -- not one but TWO -- doses of the music of Nashville!

Sunday morning I made my way thru the snow that had fallen to about four inches on Nashville. Snow that, by the way, had cancelled a free-admission Saturday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Bummer! But Pastor Jay had sent out e-mail that Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) would be having church -- even if it were just his wife Dawn playing piano and he preaching to the pew cushions. LOL

The Hartleys and yours truly were not the only ones to show up, praise God! The folks we needed most to sing the anthem for Worship were there, too. Scott Hallgren played piano, Associate Pastor Michael Lehman electric bass guitar and Jonell Mosser sang the solo portion of Ken Medema's inspired and inspiring "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying". I had sung this in the choir back at Alamo Heights Christian in San Antonio and knew at once when choir director Julie Duemler presented it to us at ECC, that the solo portion was perfect for Jonell and Jonell for it! The mere rehearsing of it last Wednesday had pumped me up to sing the choral part and be blessed by the whole piece. Had we had to cancel, believe me dear reader, it would have bee much more crushing than the Hall of Fame being closed on Saturday. Seriously, much worse a casualty of the snowstorm.

All in all, we had over 50 in attendance, not counting choir (I think). And we even had a couple women to sing alto who hadn't practiced and hadn't been part of anthem singing in awhile. But I know we all did fine! I know without a doubt that the Spirit moved in us -- and particularly Jonell -- as we sang!

The second note, or chord , or measure, whatever, of Sunday's verse (or episode) of "The Music of Music City" was attending a concert of "The Creation", composed by Joseph Haydn. The ECC choir had actually sung Movement #13 "The Heavens Are Telling. . ." a couple Sundays ago as the anthem, and Dawn had announced to us in choir that this concert was going to happen. Somehow I missed that the Nashville Symphony (or a good portion of it) would be involved until she appeared in the parsonage, ready to drive me there, dressed in a long black gown (like women orchestra members wear) and carrying her bassoon (in its case). Well, that made going to First Presbyterian Church south of Nashville in suburban Oak Hill all the better!

The audience barely outnumbered the symphony and choir combined. I suppose the low attendance couldn't be helped, since secondary and neighborhood streets and even some of the major thorofares were still coated snow packed down into ice. But "The Creation" was a masterful example of classical music from one of the great composers of that genre, and symphony and First Presbyterian's choir did it well. I'm glad I was able to go! Thank you, Dawn!

So, morning and evening yesterday, Sunday, were memorable experiences of the Music that makes Nashville "Music City"! One a spirited, jazzy church choir anthem, the other a classical concert in a church. Neither of them country music. But I trust that I made it clear to you long ago that country music is far from all there is to why this city is "Music City"!