Friday, May 7, 2010
Will the circle be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waitin’ in the sky, Lord, in the sky…
They don’t call Nashville “Music City USA” for nothing. Music is the lifeblood of this beautiful jewel of the Smoky Mountains, the one that sits astride the mighty Cumberland River. It’s never silent in Nashville, because even the wind through the trees is musical. The music never stops.
It’s not just country music either. Nashville is absolutely the undisputed country music capital of the world, but all are welcome. Nashville has a fantastic classical music scene, and they play both bluegrass and the blues down in The District.
The mighty Cumberland overran its banks last week, and so did Old Hickory Lake. The flood was the worst the area has seen since the Civil War. People died. Homes were destroyed. This was a true act of nature; there were no faulty levees or the Army Corps of Engineers to blame, simply a freak act of God, wrought upon a musical city in the mountains. It seems incomprehensible that the music could be silenced, but for a brief moment, it looked possible.
The waters are receding, and the people are picking themselves up by their quiet pride and their bootstraps, as Tennesseans tend to do. The heartache will not fade for a long time. The music is quieter than normal right now, but the city’s heart still beats, like a timpani struck ever so gently.
Symphony Hall itself was spared. But it took 18 feet of water into its basement, destroying rehearsal space, the console for its organ, and two hand-built, hand-selected Steinway grand concert pianos, along with countless other instruments. The amount of structural damage is unknown as yet.
The Country Music Hall of Fame took on water in its basement, losing hardwood floors and ceiling tiles, and its theatre flooded over the stage and up to the third row. The main rotunda and the artifacts were guarded during the flood by a dedicated team of curators, who managed to save just about everything.
The Grand Ole Opry House, home of the Grand Ole Opry, was flooded through the backstage and loading areas, and the auditorium filled with water. The entire performance/stage area, along with about 3/4 of the main floor was underwater. The Opry House sits at the edge of the Cumberland, next to the Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall, both of which sustained severe damage and high water flooding. All three facilities are closed until further notice.
BB King’s is closed. Many businesses are unsure of their re-opening strategy. Fear of mold and loss of housing are real threats to the livelihood of Nashvillians, musical or not.
Those who did not experience loss have opened their doors and hearts to the displaced. The Station Inn survived unscathed, and its website exhorts folks to “pitch in and help if and when you can.” The Bluebird Cafe, a haven for up and coming songwriters, closed for two days but is now re-opened, and the music plays.
The orchestra is playing a concert tonight for free, outside Nashville’s City Hall. The music will play on.
The Hall of Fame is drying out, and plans to reopen soon. The music will play on.
The Ryman Auditorium, 119 years old, stands strong and dry on Fifth Avenue. The Opry will move back to the Mother Church of Country Music, its historic home, until further notice. The Opry will be broadcast as usual this weekend (tonight and Saturday) on WSM 650 AM. The music will play on.
And this Sunday, in churches across Davidson, and Williamson, and Sumner, and Robertson, and Cheatham and Rutherford Counties, choirs will sing and prayers will raise that the damage wasn’t worse, and that Nashville will survive. The music will be heard.
In the face of chaos, there are moments of optimism in Nashville. Of all places, when the country has bigger fish to fry and a failed terrorist bomb in Times Square is a far sexier story, Nashville is taking care of its own. Somehow, I would expect nothing less. Let the music play on, and be heard.