Monday, August 16, 2010

A wonderful weekend of marvellous music

Sometime in A.D. 2009 I discovered that Rhonda Vincent had recorded Stuart Hamblen's Gospel song "Until Then", which I'd heard recordings of by Jeff & Sheri Easter and others, and which I'd learned to play on guitar. You will know if you regularly this blog, dear reader, that yours truly is fond of Rhonda Vincent's singing. Therefore, at some point in Ought Nine I e-mailed a request that Les Butler play her recording of "Until Then" on his Solid Gospel 105 radio show "Front Porch Fellowship".

And Saturday afternoon I got blessed in listening as finally Les honored my request! It took so long because at first he did not even have it available -- turns out she covered it early in her singing career. And then it arrived by mail, and Les even gave me a "heads up" over the airwaves a week earlier! Well, let me tell you, Rhonda singing "Until Then" was well worth the wait! I really liked Jeff & Sheri's recording (featuring Sheri & her beautiful alto voice), but Rhonda was even better. And I really got into the accompaniment, which sort of to my surprise included pedal steel guitar (I'm pretty sure it wasn't Dobro I was hearing, because I can fairly well distinguish the two sounds). Steel is not a standard instrument of bluegrass; nevertheless, it's my favorite instrument to listen to of all instruments.

That evening (Saturday the 14th)my listening pleasure continued with the Grand Ole Opry show, on radio WSM-AM 650 "The Legend". The world's oldest live radio show has continued its post-flood nomadic progress while its home, the Opry House in Donelson, is repaired from flood damage. On Friday, 6 August, for example, the Opry was performed and broadcast from War Memorial Auditorium. (War Memorial, near the State Capitol and across Seventh Ave. from former site of National Life and Accident Insurance headquarters where WSM and the Opry were born, was the Opry's home for some years over six decades ago. The Tuesday evening after the flood crested, the Tuesday Night Opry took place there.

Most other post-flood Opry shows had been in its most famous former home (many folk erroneously think its first home) venerable Ryman Auditorium just off Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues North. This offered to an unanticipated little treat for me. Most evenings I'll be riding homeward on the MTA bus (route #15) that departs Music City Central (MTA's downtown depot) at 9:15pm -- right when the Opry shows are concluding on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Hence, the bus will be southbound on Fourth Avenue while the audience is exiting the Ryman. It's delightful to see all these folk whom I know had attended a great country music show, while I'd listened on the radio.

Now Saturday (yesterday) was different, in that a couple who also work for Goody Wagons gave me a ride home. Therefore I didn't pass the historic auditorium as usual. But after I arrived at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Sunday morning and greeted Pastor Jay by wishing him and wife Dawn a happy anniversary, he informed me that the Hartleys had celebrated it on its eve by their first attendance at the Grand Ole Opry! I was so happy for them, that they'd gone!

You see, dear reader, the line-up of performers for Saturday show was even better than usual. Young Country Music star Mark Wills guested, singing his first hit, "Don't Laugh at Me." Crystal Gayle, sister of the Opry's Loretta Lynn but not herself a member, was another guest artist. Among the songs she sang was my favorite of hers, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue". The Whites hosted the second half hour andVince Gill the final. Dailey & Vincent were guests on that concluding segment of the show. One of their performances was a humorous version of "Daddy Sang Bass", which had me chuckling loudly.

Sunday morning at Eastwood CC(DC) gave me both a surprise and a much-anticipated treat. When I greeted Pastor Jay (Hartley) with a "Happy anniversary" for he and wife Dawn, he informed me that on its eve he and she pre-celebrated by attending the Grand Ole Opry, their first time. So they saw as well as heard that show which gave me so much listening pleasure the previous evening! Jay waxed enthusiastic, praising especially Mark Wills singing "Don't Laugh at Me", and Dailey & Vincent's performance. I really like it when folks I know who've lived for years or all their lives in Nashville get around to going to the Opry and have a good experience!

Then finally I was part of the much-anticipated return of the choir from our Summer break. We sang a very awesome and beautiful anthem, "Come Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus", lyrics of which are from Hebrews 12:2 (in today's lectionary readings and one of my favorite verses of scripture, particularly in the New American Standard version. Instrumental accompaniment came from Marie Wiggins on piano, Nashville Symphony bassoonist and pastor's wife Dawn Hartley, and two young guest clarinetists. We sounded marvellous, if I do say so myself!

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