Saturday, February 26, 2011

Music, music, music!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN – It has been a grand day and a full one. A beautiful sunrise greeted us bright and early; we wanted to catch the morning bus tour of Nashville so we couldn’t waste any time. Fortunately, there was room for us on the bus, so off we went to see the sights.

There are some impressive buildings and parks in the city of music, as it’s called. The main park of Nashville has a huge map of Tennessee laid out on the ground at the entrance, and along one side are monoliths marking the centuries, standing next to a wall that records the major events of each in turn. Carillon bells at the north end of the park play well-known Tennessee tunes on the hour and half hour, and along the east side of the park are time capsules for each county that will remain buried until 2096.

Our driver, Bill Davis, told us about the various districts of Nashville; the commercial sector, the night life sector, the restaurant sector and the music business sector, and people staying for the afternoon portion of the tour would also see the homes of the country music stars, but this didn’t interest us because, except for a few really big ones, we don’t really know who they are!

We visited the Ryman Auditorium, home of the first Grand Ole Opry. The round shape, with curved pews in sloped tiers, made for near-perfect acoustics. We saw lots of spangled costumes worn by Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and others, and old videos of their performances. Val and I posed for a picture, complete with guitars and old-fashioned microphone, against the backdrop of the famous stage!

The Country Music Hall of Fame was the highlight of this tour. Everything about the building was a tribute to music, from its architecture (shaped like a bass clef, with high windows made to resemble piano keys) to its amazing design, to its huge variety of stars, their lives, their clothes and their toys. It must have been a real challenge to figure out how to provide visitors with recordings of the various stars while keeping the sounds at each display from mingling into an indistinct cacophony. They did it by focusing the music through umbrella-shaped cones, and by building padded, curved cubicles that you walked into to hear the old classics. Amazing.

Equally amazing were the beautiful dresses and suits of the stars, embellished with rhinestones and embroidery in a rainbow of colours. The Tammy Wynette display even included her shoes and wigs, plus a collection of pig figurines! We also saw Elvis Presley’s Cadillac, finished with layers of paint that contained crushed diamonds, and equipped with gold-plated door handles!

Our last stop was at the Legends Corner, a bar where guitars signed by Dolly Parton and others decorated the walls and a fledgling band in cowboy hats blasted our ears while we sipped complimentary soft drinks.

When the tour was over, we went for lunch at Caney Fork, a restaurant founded by a local outdoorsman who decorated the inside with stuffed critters of every description: bears, mountain goats, possums, turkeys and even raccoons complete with garbage cans, plus a pond in one section where real live two-foot-long catfish sashayed through the water. Our lunch included corn fritters and stew made with beef and venison!

After lunch we went out to a big grocery store in the suburbs so we could stock our empty larder. It was challenging trying to find plain stuff like fat-free ham or pita bread, which we like, but interesting to see cans of grits, displays of prawns, and miniature pineapples for sale.

Almost as soon as we got the food put away, we had to eat and head over to the main office for our bus to take us to the show at the Grand Ole Opry. Crowds of music enthusiasts streamed into the new building, built in a similar style to the Ryman Auditorium but on a larger scale. It seats 4,000 and there was nearly a full house. The show is a live radio broadcast, so it included commercial breaks, but there were more than a dozen talented performers who wowed the audience for two and half hours of foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ down home music. Vince Gill and the Doobie Brothers were the big name stars, along with many others of all ages.

It was quite a day. We will long remember Nashville, the City of Music.

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