Rule # 28 – An author must continue to learn - and I'm still learning.
Well, folks, if the Ryman Auditorium is the Mother Church of Country Music, the newer Grand Ole’ Opry House is the National Basilica.
After spending the day at the Ryman Auditorium, we headed over just outside the city limits to Opryland, USA. The land site is home to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the new Grand Ole’ Opry House and Opry Mills Mall all in one place. The mall is on land where the Opryland Amusement Park used to stand. The amusement park closed for good on December 31, 1997. The Opryland Hotel is a visitor destination of its own. I’ll tackle that tour another time.
But enough talk about the other buildings on the Opryland site. Let’s look at the Grand Ole’ Opry House and the fantastic concert we saw live and in person.
Parking is easy at 2804 Opryland Dr. It is a short walk to the main plaza where you are greeted by some over-sized guitars. There’s plenty of picture taking that goes on at the plaza, so be careful where you walk. Lots of folks get their pictures photo-bombed by accident (we think).
|Welcome to the Grad Ole' Opry House!|
The structure of the new Opry House is imposing, like a massive church would be. We walk in… and onto a red carpet. There are shops inside the Opry House. We could even get ourselves an adult beverage before the show if we wanted. The Opry can be toured during the daytime, but we didn’t get a chance to tour the backstage area. We arrive in plenty of time to find our seats in the balcony.
|Opry House from Opry Plaza|
Now comparing the layout between the new Opry House and the old Ryman… well, they are similar. Both have a proscenium stage, both have a center microphone area, both have a wide balcony seating area, and both have seats set up like church pews. But the new Opry House boasts three closed circuit screens set up high on the wall – one on the stage and two on the wing sides. The only television cameras are the few that are directly on the stage. No matter where you sit in the new Opry House, you have a great view of the concert.
|Balcony seating in the new Opry House - rows of pews|
The night we visited was a WSM Grand Ole’ Opry show night, broadcast on Sirius XM radio. And, yes ma’m, the program host had a place stage right with his own microphone and spot light. Cameras were on him as he chatted up a storm between acts. He and Ricky Skaggs had some fun after his Kentucky Thunder played center stage.
|Look to the far left of the stage to see the Opry program host|
Remember how I told you about the Ryman curse? Well, you would think that moving to the new Opry House the curse would disappear. The curse itself is gone, I’m sure, but I wonder if some of the Opry cast member got that memo. See, the stage at the new Opry has a dark wood floor. Right at center stage – right where the lead singer’s microphone is – sets a big circle of lighter Ryman Auditorium wood. That’s right, folks. The curse of the Ryman could have come to the new Opry with the stage boards. It was funny to see some of the lead singers walk around the circle and sing at other mikes. Then there were the daring Diamond Rio guys who snuck into the center circle any chance they got – tempting fate.
|Diamond Rio members got their eyes on the center circle|
We had a chance to see two young country up-and-comers make their Opry debut. They both stood center stage, in the circle, and wowed the audience with their songs. Diamond Rio had us standing and clapping along with their music. When Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder performed, folks were dancing in the aisle. Sam Palladio, from the TV show “Nashville”, performed with his folks backstage rooting him on. Most of these singers are not just a bunch of pretty faces either. Boy, they can sing!
|Sam Palladio on the big screen|
One of the funnier moments in the concert was “Whispering” Bill Anderson and his songs. He has a great sense of humor and puts in all to music. He also shared some of his “almost” songs, like “The Only Good Years of our Marriage were the Tires on our Car”. Check out his “Wherever She Is” number, done just like we saw it at the Opry. Guess this fellow has had himself some love troubles. He can make you laugh about it, though.
Josh Turner provided us with some great music and the most poignant moment I’ve seen anywhere. Josh told the audience that he was contacted by the parents of an autistic fellow who only communicates through music. Josh Turner’s music reaches this fellow the most. Then, Josh brought him on stage and started a duet with him. It ended up being a solo, since the autistic fellow started belting out Josh’s song full volume and on key. Josh just stood back and smiled big. The rest of us were teary eyed or flat out crying. It was one of those moments you remember all your life. That fellow was so excited to be on stage with his idol.
|Josh Turner and his band|
|Josh Turner and his special guest|
Come to find out after we were finished at the Opry, that my late grandfather listened to the original Grand Ole’ Opry radio program way back in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Every Sunday evening he sat by the big Philco (it did get smaller as the years went on) and listened to his show. My aunt said he did this all by himself, since no one else really enjoyed the show the way he did. Now she wishes she talked to him more about it. I wish she did, too, since I didn’t even know he liked country music.