Friday, October 29, 2010

Lovely Anthem this Sunday: "The Apple Tree"

This Sunday, 31 October, we in the choir at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will sing an Anthem titled The Apple Tree. The song fascinates me. I like to sing it & it's not difficult to sing.

But what fascinates me most is that the lyrics go back a long time and their theme. Jesus our Lord is compared to an apple tree!

Quite a contrast to the popular supposition that the forbidden fruit tree in Eden was an apple tree. Despite Scripture never giving what fruit it was (or if it was even any fruit now found on this Earth), so many, many times I've heard or read about Eve starting trouble by "eating the apple". This is just one of many items that popular culture has wrong about things in the Bible. (Another is that Jesus had long hair or anything else in appearance that set him off from his disciples.)

So it's refreshing to sing of the apple tree in a positive spiritual context. With joy I look forward to singing it this Sunday! Here are the lyrics, as found in a New England hymnal of the late 1700s:

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A terrific Thur. p.m. "Station Inn Session"

Late yesterday afternoon I tool a break from job searching and so on, to take in some live music -- not a difficult thing to do here in Music City USA. I hied myself down to the Station Inn. I've mentioned this little "dive" (outside appearance) near downtown in several posts, a couple of which have it or the live music within as main topic.

Radio station WSM-AM 650 hosted its fairly new show "Station Inn Sessions" with Mike Terry as deejay-emcee. Upon my entering, he smiled as he caught sight of me. It was good to see one of my WSM buddies again, as I hadn't been to a "Station In Session" in some months. (There's usually one monthly, but recently some months didn't include a live radio session at Station Inn.

However, THIS session was worth the wait and effort to be there! You see, dear reader, featured artists were Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. This Bluegrass band had been guests of Eddie Stubbs on his "Intimate Evening" show a few months ago, in the Country Music Hall of Fame souvenir store. (The usual venue for Stubbs' show, Ford Theater at opposite end of the building, still wasn't completely repaired from May's Great Flood. Despite the literally "intimate" setting in the store, Doyle and his group provided a quite delightful evening of live Bluegrass - including a superb a cappella Gospel number (see my posting of 13 July for more).

Well, this evening at Station Inn they performed in just as intimate a setting. And they gave us just as delightful a concert! Perhaps even MORE delightful. Doyle et al. certainly had the crowd stirred up. But then again the audience at these Sessions typically IS "stirred up" - not solely due to Mike Terry urging applause and other noise!

The only regrettable feature is that this concert only lasted an hour, not counting Mike's interview with Doyle Lawson for about half an hour or so before start of the live music at six. During "Intimate evening" the show went two hours. But then again, Eddie Stubbs conducts much more interviewing and much less live music. So probably we heard more last evening of live pickin' and singin' that "high lonesome sound" than did the crowd at Eddie's show!

About midway or so thru the hour the six fellows put down their instruments and some of them sang a cappella another Bluegrass-style Gospel song (not the "Zion Medley" of the earlier show). Then picked up the instruments and did another Gospel number, plus a couple more standard (not Gospel) Bluegrass offerings. They ended one with little more than five minutes left 'til seven (start time of "Opry Country Classics" on WSM). This one was so rousing that we gave them a standing ovation. Then with Mike's egging we made noise for an encore. Mike requested "Blue Train". This apparently is an Old Bleugrass standard. But let me tell you, when the tenor stretched up toward the stratosphere on the stretch-out of the words "blue train", it was awesome! I can't say it was ear-piercing, but as they held out that high note I could imagine somebody listening onsome old-time radio, the big floor-standing kind with lots of glass tubes in the innards -- and this extended not breaking the glass!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Big Band and Big Birthday!

Yours truly has TWO items to share as this Fifth of October in the Year of Our Lord 2010 draws to an end. I'll try to Keep It Short & Simple!

First, to "Tunes Amid Tomes". If you've read this blog from near my commencement of it, you'll recognize that I'm referring to the "summer" concerts in the courtyard at the Nashville Public Library downtown. The finale for 2010 was this noon today, and featured Radio Daze, a Big Band Music group who call Music City "home". And they were TERRIFIC!

The show commenced with a young businessman (i.e, he was dressed in suit & tie) singing a solo of "Witchcraft". It's been decades since I'd heard this as a hit on the radio, but durned if he -- Mac McClenathan -- didn't sound like Ol' Blue Eyes himself! Mac later sang a couple of other Sinatra classics, one of which was meant to be the finale. But we liked him so much that we hollered for an encore. He obliged by singing "Mac the Knife."

In between, we got treated to women's trio, duet and solo singing, a quartet, and plenty of instrumental music. You know, dear reader, as I've stated before I consider myself eclectic in musical taste. Yet, as with Jazz, I have no Big Band recordings nor do I listen to the genre on the airwaves. But like Jazz, get me to a live performance, and my ears get decidedly blessed!

Oh, and Radio Daze don't just perform classic Big Band stuff like Sinatra. They also take hit songs of other genres and adapt them beautifully to the Big Band style. Thus we got treated to the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy" (and durned if she didn't sound like Cline!) and the ABBA hit "Dancing Queen".

Early in the concert, the emcee for the group while introducing the members, remarked that Mac McClenathan was "overdressed" (because he was on lunch break from his downtown job) -- all the other men wore white or light polo shirts. However, the women of Radio Daze were nicely and colorfully dressed, so my estimation was that the other men were under-dressed! As if th confirm my opinion, when it came time for the final door-prize drawing, the woman in charge of it said that she had a request from her staff present (all or mostly women), "that the handsome man who sings Sinatra draw the winner!"

Guys, there's just something about a man dressed up in suit & tie that attracts the women!

Okay, the second matter is the Big Birthday. . . .

Exactly eighty-five years ago on this very date at somewhat earlier than this very hour of the evening, the airwaves over Nashville cracled to life as a new radio station was born. The station, created by National Life and Accident Insurance (headquartered in the Tenn. capital city) as a promotional and publicity tool, wasn't the first here, but the older stations didn't last. Therefore, it's become one of the oldest radio stations in these United States that still carries the same call letters at the same AM frequency. And of course, this "the Air Castle of the South" broadcasts the longest continuously performing live radio show in history!

So. . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WSM - AM 650 ! ! !

Monday, October 4, 2010

Opry applauds the "Spirit of Nashville"

Five months ago to the day Nashville (and much of the State plus adjoining regions) suffered the start of the Great Flood, and numerous major important and historic buildings got flooded. One victim was the Grand Ole Opry House, home of the show since 1974. Now, five months later to the day the Opry family celebrates the "Spirit of Nashville" with various public events.

Dear reader, yours truly was looking forward to today as much as -- even more than, actually -- the return of the beloved radio show. The Opry returned to its permanent home this past Tuesday with a fabulous and historic performance, as I reported previously. Listening on WSM-AM 650 gave me great pleasure; however, I itched to SEE the place where I'd spent many an evening enjoying "the show that made Country Music famous" and many a day guiding tourists thru the venerable House.

So I spoke to a neighbor with a vehicle about the freebie events out there, and late in the morning we go there. The line for the free tours is long -- easily the length of a football field or two. But thank the Lord, the weather continues its string of glorious autumn days. And touring the entire Grand Ole Opry House, including backstage and on stage, is well worth the wait!

Even before we enter, I notice differences, such as the glass-wall entrance to the Opry Shop to the right and a matching glass-wall for tickets to the left. These didn't exist when I worked at Opryland, but had taken the place of two "kiosks" (booths) nearer the main doors to the House. Inside, things also appear different, but I'm unsure that this is as much remodeling as it is my faulty memory. Once the line processes to the left of the stage and on backstage, I feel at home. Back there had been an area with some chairs and long tables, where employees and cast could have a bite to eat while sitting and chatting. Many a Friday or Saturday evening I would skip the employee cafeteria inside Opryland Park, going instead to the Opry House, buying a hot dog or other food and a drink and sitting in this area.

Today there is only one table set up, but I remember at once the podium and the wall telephone I see in the area. Further back is the artists' entrance, where a guide tells us about it and the process of the stars entering the venue. Nearby is the post-office style mailboxes for the cast members to receive fan mail.

As we proceed past the mail area I see on the other side of the hall a new item. It's a section of wall covered with 3-by-5 (more or less) brass plates, each with the name of a cast member. All the cast thru the show's history is there! The plates are set in the order of their induction.

Further along we pass into the dressing room area. News items had informed that there are 18 refurbished rooms -- and that each has a theme. Also the backstage area was reported to have lost the earlier appearance of being "antiseptic", "hospital-like", like a high-school hallway (with metal lockers)" or "plain".

The news reports and comments are "spot-on"! I really, really like the "new" or post-Flood backstage look. The high-school metal lockers are replaced with beautiful wooden ones. Each dressing room looks much more inviting -- "homey" if you will. Number One is still tagged as "Roy's Room" because when the Grand Ole Opry House first opened in 1974, the "King of Country Music" the late Roy Acuff claimed it as his permanent dressing room. I remember that Porter Waggoner claimed the room on the direct opposite end of the "Green Room", and one or two others also got claimed. But generally the cast learned which dressing room was theirs for the evening when they came in the building at the artists' entrance.

Speaking of the "Green Room", I remember that back when I guided the tours I explained that it's a standard term for the room backstage of any theater where performers gather to await their turn on-stage. And that not many really are a green color. Oddly, the first "new" temporary home the show had post-flood was right across Briley Parkway (and up a hill) in the sanctuary of Two Rivers Baptist Church. And I remember Mike Terry, while he did the "Opry Warm-Up" on WSM, commented that the church classroom or whatever was serving as the show's "Green Room" really was green!

Well the "new" room here is quite different from the one in my memory. It's filled with plush funiture (more so than the old one) and looks as "homey" and inviting as the dressing rooms which surround it. I do miss the mural that was on the old room's wall. It was a cartoonish yet charming depiction fo the stage during the "organized chaos" that is an Opry show being performed. Stage hands hustled back and forth with equipment and folks were engaged in chatting or tuning instruments -- and it was difficult (if I remember the mural correctly) to pick out WHO in the hodge-podge was THE performer of the moment! I wish they had saved it, but I don't know but what the mural was gone before the water invaded the place.

Speaking of water, should anybody touring tor working in the backstage area forget that a flood happened here, they woun't have to look far for sobering reminders. At the artists' entrance, the guide pointed out how the concrete support pillars were a light grey up to about four feet, and noticeably darker from there on up; it's the water line from the flood. And in the "Green Room" itself a discreet chair-back protector stripe is set at the water line there!

Well, then it's time to go out on the stage, and more memories flood my mind (no pun intended). How many times did I stand here at the right edge of the stage (as one looks out at the audience) by or even behind the rear curtains, viewing a performance going on center stage? How many tour groups did I lead out onto center stage to stand around the famous six-foot circle of wood from the Ryman stage? And once I'd made my remarks about the circle, I'd lead the groups in singing the chorus of "Your Are My Sunshine" -- then conclude that "Now y'all can go home and tell your family and neighbors that you sang on the grand Ole Opry!"

The most remarkable thing about the Ryman circle is: it was removed immediately following the Great Flood, carefully cleaned and restored, and returned to the stage just a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, the rest of the stage's surface got scrapped and replaced with new and darker wood. "New" means that "they sure don't build things like they used to" -- with the older than a century Ryman wood surviving while the 1974 floor gets ruined! "Darker" means that now the Ryman circle is more noticeable that it was pre-flood!

Well, I have a photo taken of me standing in the circle, and take a few more photos of the stage area. Then my neighbor and I walk up thru the audience seating, to the Opry Shop near the front doors. Most of what I see in there seems to be identical merchandise to what I'd seen in the new Opry Originals store downtown after it opened. This store also has a big-screen showing video excerpts of performances. And I sing along on a few of the songs, and get "captured" by a Country Music history book for sale!

Once I untangle myself from these enticements and find my neighbor, we mosey on outdoors to the Opry Plaza. Live music is being played out here, and we find a couple of seats and enjoy the music for a good while. We also enjoy the absolutely perfect "chamber-of-commerce" weather!

dear reader, one couldn't ask for a better day for welcoming the world's oldest live radio show back to her permanent home! So "Welcome back home, Opry!"