Friday, March 5, 2010

Baroque of an evening, Bluegrass next morning

Only in Nashville, a.k.a. Music City USA!

Thursday evening (i.e., last evening) I attended my first concert of A.D. 2010 in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. This concert offering was "Bach's Masterpiece". Since Baroque music is one of the historic styles I really like, and Johann Sebastian Bach is my favorite Baroque or Classical composer, I had a strong desire to experience this concert. And I was not at all disappointed!

"Bach's Masterpiece" is his Mass in B Minor. It's rather odd that a German Lutheran composer would be interested in composing musical settings for the Latin Mass of the Catholic Church, but such is the case here. The printed program for the concert -- "In Concert" is actually a magazine that covers all Nashville Symphony concerts scheduled for a given month -- revealed that Bach worked on this monumental work of art (the score is some 180 pages long) in stages over the latter part of his career. And Bach never got to hear it performed. Indeed, it wasn't done until well into the 1800s, at which century it also received its name.

"Mass in B Minor" is something of a misnomer, according to the program; the central key chord is actually D (Major). What the musical score presents is the "Ordinary" parts of the Mass; that is, those portions which are always present in the ritual, all thru the year. Such as the "Kyrie Eleison" or the "Credo"; the former starts out the music in B Minor (hence, probably that latter-added name), and is actually the only part of the Mass in Greek rather than Latin. The Nashville Chorus plus a four-some of the four parts (soprano, etc.) sang along with the orchestra's musical rendition. Helmut Rilling, born in Deutschland, conducted voices and instruments. How appropriate is THAT, that a Deutsch conductor lead a work from a Deutsch composer -- possibly the greatest composer who ever lived!

Yep, I'm about as much a fan of J.S. Bach as I am of George Strait!

A couple of times during the evening I overheard others in the audience remark about not being able to follow the Latin lyrics. Neither do I know the dead language, but I'm quite familiar with Latin's daughter español (e também com outra filha, portugués), and I've attended Mass in Catholic churches sufficient times to be familiar with those "Ordinary" portions for sure. I could follow along fairly easily. Also could enjoy and appreciate the various tones and nuances Bach put into this work. Mass elements presenting solemn or even somber themes (such as our sin, or Jesus' atonement for us on the cross) sounded solemn, slow, even heavy. Portions with joyful language of praise or celebrating God's goodness sounded up-tempo and uplifting. Plus, Bach having worked in stages, finishing it all in his final year or so, it's a summation of his earlier compositions and musical styles which influenced him or European music's development. The program told that there were also elements of the just-emerging true Classical style in the work. ("Classical music" in general usage covers genres from Baroque or earlier to Romantic or later, but the strict term is for that European music composed and performed in the later 1700s, between Baroque and Romantic.)

And do you know, dear reader, there were certain praise portions of the Mass that the master composer put me in a heart-felt mood of praise and worship of the Heavenly Master who inspired Bach's creativity!

Overall, it was a very musically lovely evening! And then, having gone home and to bed for the night, I arose early this morning (Friday) to go back downtown, to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, for another session of WSM-AM 650's "Coffee Country and Cody" wake-up show, in the Ford Theater. Keep in mind that the CMHoFaM is cater-corner across the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Demonbreun Street from the Schermerhorn, where I'd been the evening before.

This morning the show featured added excitement. The staff had several newly-made WSM coffee cups, courtesy of Brentwood Jewelry (which advertises on the station), with three packets of instant coffee from Starbuck, to give away. The first question offered was about something I remembered had come up the day before; Bill had announced that it was the anniversary of the marriage of George and Nancy Jones, in Jasper, Texas. The question was where they went for the reception, and I remembered at once that the answer was Burger King. So I won the first cup given away! Yippee!

Well, Bill Cody hosted another stellar set of Guests, who more than made up for the absence of Bill's sidekick Charlie Mattos (away in Georgia to cover the Vanderbilt women at the SEC Women's Basketball tourney). First "on stage" was songwriter Roger Murrah, a 2005 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The long list of his songs, become hits for Country singers includes "Don't Rock the Jukebox" (Alan Jackson), "Ozark Mountain Jubilee" (Oak Ridge Boys), "High Cotton" (Alabama) and "Life's Highway" (Steve Wariner) for starts.

Played near the end of Murrah's session with Bill was the recording of Sammy Kershaw's hit, "National Working Woman's Holiday". Nice segue, since Kershaw was next up. I've always liked Sammy and his songs, and listening to him speak with Bill was hence a great delight. I'd have loved it if the staff had played his hit "Vidalia"; don't know if it's also a Murrah song but it's my favorite Kershaw hit and one of my favorite country-music videos. Well, it wasn't played, even tho' others in the audience besides me suggested playing it.

The staff DID play "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer", and that one has personal significance too. When it was a hit heard often on the country-music airwaves we Grahams were living in a trailer in Devine, Texas. I took pleasure in slightly altering the chorus' lyrics to fit our home:

. She is the queen of my single wide trailer
. with the leveller (sp?) blinds and the pinewood porch. . . .

After his session I mentioned this alteration to Sammy and why, but only after commending him for insisting in reply to a Bill Cody question, that he NEVER changes lyrics on a song pitched to him by a songwriter. He has too much respect for their labor to do so. He also had respect for his listeners this morning, because he left autographed copies of his new song "Better Than I Used to Be". That one is a very, very good song! Love its lyrics!

Final Guests were Del McCoury and the Del McCoury Band. Having never seen these guys but nattily attired in suits and ties, I was a bit disappointed that they appeared sans suit and sans tie. However, it didn't affect the sound of their live bluegrass performance. They commenced with a good portion from a song as sound check, before performing a couple songs off their most recent album. In between, there was much humorous banter between Bill and Del.

So it was that I enjoyed Baroque/Classical music live Thursday evening and Bluegrass/Country music the very next morning. Only in Nashville, Tennessee, can such happen of a fellow of the eclectic musical tastes of yours truly! I think I love this town!

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