Day 8: As we drove in to the church this morning, we got to see in daylight the huge mansions that lined the streets of Brentwood. So huge and stately. Some of the kids actually stayed in those mansions last night! The neighbors include Carrie Underwood, Allen Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Dolly Parton, Hayley Williams and Ke$ha (if you don’t know who these people are, ask your kids). Some of the kids were taken out for frozen yogurt at a place frequented by Taylor Swift. Not too shabby.
Today we had the whole day to tour Nashville, with no evening concert. It was such a great day, I’m sure words won’t be able to capture the feelings. We started with a tour of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, an exact replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon built for the 1897 World’s Fair. Now you may wonder why Nashville would spend 10 years to build a replica of Parthenon for the World’s Fair. A little known fact . . . before it was called Music City, Nashville was known as Athens of the South because of all the institutes of higher learning and cultural events. Inside was an enormous statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. She was quite a sight to see, in all her 24’ gilded gold beauty. In the statue, Athena is holding a smaller statue of Laurel, the goddess of victory. Every little detail of the statue is rich with symbolism. It was surprising to see how much the kids know about Greek mythology.
After the Parthenon, we went to the Upper Room Chapel. This is the worldwide headquarters for Upper Room Ministries, which publishes the Upper Room daily devotional and other Christian literature. The focal point of this beautiful chapel is a two-story high stained glass window portraying the events of Pentecost and the growth of Christianity. At the front of the chapel is a large wood carving patterned after Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. Walt had the kids just stand wherever they had been sitting in the pews and sing “scatter shift” style, facing the wood carving. The choir sang Come Unto Me and If Ye Love Me Keep My Commands. It was very moving and spiritual. They have never sounded better - the chaperones were moved to tears. Something very serendipitous happened at this chapel. On page 15 in the current edition of The Upper Room is a reflection written by Sue Constantanides several years ago, when her son was recovering from a nearly fatal staff infection. This reflection was based on Psalm 23:4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou are with me. After the choir sang, Walt pulled a copy of The Upper Room from the pew and asked Sue to come forward and read the devotional she had written. It is a reflection about the night the doctor told them the infection might reach Tim’s brain, in which case he would not make it through the night. “I had never felt so alone or so helpless. My heart cried out to God. I willed God to speak to me. Gradually, peace and resolve came over me. Alone in the darkness, I trusted that no matter what happened, God would see me through it. I sat by the bed all night long, knowing that God was beside us.” There were not many dry eyes in the house.
We collected our emotions and re-boarded the buses for a short drive to downtown Nashville. We had a blast checking out the local stores and restaurants. Next we toured the Ryman Auditorium, which is the original Grand Ole Opry. Stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West and Bob Hope performed here in the 1940’s. Because of it amazing acoustics (second only to the Mormon Tabernacle) it soon became the South’s premier performance hall and was heralded as the Mother Church of Country Music. Minnie Pearl was queen of this stage, and all the great artists have performed here - Hank Williams, Patsy Kline, Ricky Skaggs, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Tammy Wynette . . . the Jonas Brothers. And yes, Walt talked them into allowing us to climb up on stage to sing He Never Failed Me Yet. Your child has indeed sung at the Grand Ole Opry. And the audience (i.e. chaperones) went wild!
We had an early dinner at Maggiano’s, where they accommodated us with a nice buffet in a lovely room. It was a nice opportunity to just mix and mingle. With big band music playing in the background, it didn’t take long for a bit of dancing to begin. Cameron and Becca Grimes showed us how it is really done, with a couple of foxtrot and waltz numbers. Soon, Cameron was giving foxtrot lessons to the bolder guys. He also taught a few moves to Emily Rice, who in turn gave instruction to a few others. Before long we had to move the tables back to make room for a dance floor. Walt facilitated. He would pull a guy onto the floor, dance with him for a bit then select a dance partner. Dan Krotz donned the famous red tour director jacket and did his excellent Walt Edmonds impression, concluding by pulling Peggy onto the dance floor. We were having such a great time we didn’t want it to end. But the restaurant had another party coming, so they shooed us out the door. If we had told you the group would be ballroom dancing in Nashville on tour, would you have believed it? We’re finding the spontaneous activities that just sort of evolve are the most fun!
We ended this enchanted evening with a tour through Cheekwood Gardens. This summer the botanical gardens are featuring an exhibit of blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, an internationally renowned artist. As the sun set and the thunder rumbled, we walked the lush grounds and took lot of pictures. The gardens were beautifully manicured, providing a wonderful backdrop for the stunning vivid colors of the glass sculptures. The rain held off and we were able to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
Haven’t we been so very cultured today? Museums, chapels, opry, ballroom dancing and botanical gardens. Any illusions that we were becoming high society were quickly shattered back at the hotel. The commotion of check-in, the antics in the pool, a quick run over to Sonic for milkshakes and the usual horseplay up and down the hotel corridors assured us we’ve got normal red-blooded teens on board. And we love them in all of their modes!
Click Here for Pictures of Day 8