The letter O is for Opry...as in Grand Old Opry. You all didn't think I could do the whole A to Z Challenge without saying something about country music, now did you?
Of course not!
I have been to Nashville twice and am going again in less than 2 months. It will be my third time attending the 4 day CMA Music Festival. It's such a awesome experience!! For those who have never been to downtown Nashville, the Ryman Auditorium is right in the middle of the honkytonk bar area, just a block off Broadway. It is the original home to the Grand Old Opry, which started out as a live radio show/concert for country music. It was where true country music was broadcast from, and that radio show became one of the first "syndicated" programs on radio - and it was THE show/concert to listen to each week if you were a country music fan. It aired throughout the south.
Many country music singers and musicians played at the honkytonks just around the corner on Broadway - and when they were invited to perform up on the Ryman Auditorium stage for the Opry show they knew they had "arrived" and it was going to make them into a star!
Few places have the history of the Opry. Perhaps the Lincoln Center for opera, and Carnegie Hall for classical music can be put into the same category.
The Ryman Auditorium was built as a church - with pews and beautiful stained glass windows. When it became the home of the Opry it retained the church aspects and it felt like the singers were "back home" performing at their own churches. So many of them got their start singing in home church choirs!
A few years back the Grand Old Opry organization built a new, bigger theatre out on the edge of Nashville. It's beautiful, has more parking, etc. Even a huge Opryland hotel was build next door. But, a round piece of the old Ryman Auditorium wooden stage floor was carefully removed and put down on the new stage and it was placed right where the singers stand to perform.
Both the Ryman and the new Grand Old Opry continue to have concerts in them. The radio show comes out of the new Opry house each week now. But, instead of closing down the original home it remains open, is still alive with music, maintained, and a showcase to the past.
If you are planning a trip to Nashville, and you love country music, the Grand Old Opry is a must! Visit both the Ryman and the new Grand Old Opry house. Take the tours - see behind the scenes, see the members' names on the wall, and their mailboxes (each inductee has one), walk on the stage! It's a pretty cool experience!