Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An awkward day...

I have a warning for all my starving artist friends: You know how you think you're saving money by skipping those appointments with the dentist? Well, I'm here to tell you - You're wrong!

I had my first dental visit in years last week. I knew I should go, but money is always tight, and voice lessons and plane tickets are much sexier than fluoride treatments. I started to feel a little ache in my mouth, so I counted my pennies and went to the dentist. Remember how I thought I was saving money...

Today I had to go for my follow up appointment. My years of dental self-care was not as effective as one might think. My entire mouth was deadened to solve the problem of mini-cavities in my teeth. Everything hurt, and I couldn't drink water without drooling all day. And the price tag? Today plus last week was a 4-DIGIT-TOTAL! Over a thousand dollars in dental work, and that's for "nothing major". Eep!!!

Tonight, we're thankful for my awesome dentist, Dr. Tonisson, who understands the plight of the starving artist, and gave me a generous discount on my bill. Yes, "gave", as in, I didn't have to beg or cry.

The freezing lasted all day, which wouldn't have mattered if it hadn't been for my audition tonight. I tried doing vocal warm-ups, but I couldn't make an "oh" or an "oo". I felt like the Elephant Man. (My goodness, that sounds like a nasty comparison, but remember the way his mouth was shaped? It felt like that.) I took lots of painkillers and drank cold water til I could feel some movement in my face. I was really worried about having the dentist and the audition on the same day, but Gerald said, "You'll make it work". I don't really know what he meant by that, but nevertheless, I got through it.

I think the audition went well. I sang, "It's Unbelievable" by Jack Clark, and did a cold reading.
It's out of my hands now. I'll hear the results in a few days.

Yes, Lord.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Me and Bill - together again!

So, tonight just had a little silliness. Gaithernet (the Gaither fan club site) just had an on-line chat for its members with Bill Gaither. So me and Bill and 100 other people just chatted on-line. Very fun. I've never done a chat room before. Can't say I was really impressed. The main chat was moderated so that Bill could choose his questions, but before that, it was a free-for-all. I have no idea how you're supposed to keep track of who you're talking to?

I submitted about 20 questions - again, a reason why Mr. Gaither must have a moderator for the chat: to control crazy fans like myself. He answered two. "Will you be doing a Danny Gaither tribute project?" He's doing a project to honour many lost gospel heroes, and Danny is one of them. "Will the Toronto concert be staged in the round?" Yes! Wow. I wasn't expecting that. How on earth will they shoot it? What an undertaking! Someone asked why they do their shows in the round? He answered, "So more people can sit in the front rows." Brilliant.

Lots of dumb questions were asked. I know we're always told, "There are no dumb questions", but sometimes... For example, one person asked, "Where can I buy your book?" Hello! You have a brilliant writer and producer in front of you! Ask him about his life and his craft. You can Google the book! Anyhoo, all my snobby frustrations aside, it was a pretty cool event.

Several people were asking about adding performers to the Homecoming gang. But as Bill pointed out, every time they add a performer, they have to eliminate another one. Guess that means I won't be sitting on the stage any time soon. Unless I can find some one to lock in the bathroom before show-time. Just kidding! (sort of!)

He also mentioned the reason why he does all this: I am driven by the Message. Awesome. What more do we need?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A new experience - An old belief.

Earlier this year, I attended my first Jewish funeral. Today, we attended the unveiling of the headstone. I'd never even heard of this tradition, but apparently it's a common practice in Jewish tradition.

Visiting the cemetery, the first thing I noticed was all the rocks on the headstones. When you visit a grave, it is customary to leave a rock on the stone as a sign of your visit, so every headstone in the cemetery had piles of little stones heaped on top of them. I also noticed that there were no flowers on any of the graves. I know in Christian cemeteries, we're all about the flowers. I don't know if there is no Jewish tradition for flowers at the grave, or perhaps just this particular cemetery. The headstones had elaborate inscriptions with names in both Hebrew and English. Many stones also contained a description of the person and their accomplishments. At the exit of the cemetery, there was a water fountain that people were visiting on their way out. I think they were washing their hands?, but I wasn't able to find out what this is all about.

When we arrived at the grave, a cloth covered the headstone. The family stood behind the stone while the rabbi said some prayers, again both in Hebrew and in English. Then the family removed the cloth, and walked around to the front of the stone. The deceased was my friend's mother. How hard to watch her and her family today. Their love for their mom was powerful. The inscription on the stone was read aloud. It described her as a great mom, sister, friend, and "Superbubbie". The rabbi spoke a bit about my friend's mom, and then the family read a prayer in Hebrew.

This concluded the formal part of the ceremony. We were all invited to lay a rock on the grave as a sign of our visit. Lots of hugs and tears and catching up flowed through the crowd. The family had laid small toys around the grave to symbolize this Superbubbie's connection to her grandchildren. It was beautiful and moving.

I still don't know how we deal with grief. My own experience was so overwhelming, and I know my family was my life-line. I know that in the long run, this family will be okay, but I also know how difficult days like today can be. They are all in my prayers tonight.

Attending the funeral and today's ceremony really brought something home for me as well: I need to believe in an afterlife. I need to know that I'm going somewhere greater after this world. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with any aspect of the Jewish faith. I'm actually a strong believer in interfaith worship and study. But the afterlife...

What if there really is no afterlife? What if we get to the other side and there's nothing there? Well, if that's the case, I guess I'll deal with it then. But today, in this world, I need to believe that there is an afterlife. I need - not want, but need - to believe that this world is not the be all and end all. I need to believe that when my soul leaves this place, I will join Steve and Nana and all those gone before me. I need to know that God is waiting for me on the other side. Perhaps, like the critics say, the afterlife is something we make up to comfort ourselves. Perhaps. But isn't life easier with that belief? Isn't death and grieving easier when we know that our loved ones are not simply resting, but they are living! Living in an eternal party with no pain, no tears, no death. Living eternally with God and music and love. How awesome is that?

I will never criticize someone else's spiritual beliefs. I guess this experience just helped to re-confirm my own.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A jazzy day.

Today was great! Esther and I went to the Distillery District to hear George Grosman play, and he invited us to join in!

The Distillery is absolutely my favourite part of Toronto. Actually, it feels nothing like Toronto, and maybe that's why it's so good. Old brick warehouses and cobbled roads. Artists and artisans selling their wares outside. Beautiful galleries and shops open to the public. The lovely and delicious Balzac's cafe. And lots of live music.

George was doing a solo gig on the patio of the Boilerhouse. He asked us yesterday if we would want to join him for a few songs. Definitely. I came prepared with my favourite song - Falling in Love Again - made famous by the gorgeous Marlene Dietrich. George had never played it, but he improvised beautifully. I just love that song! And it's been so long since I've sung it. So great to return to a well-loved song. My voice knew exactly how to wrap around the notes, and the text was deeper than ever. Next we did the Cole Porter classic - I Love Paris. What a great tune. So simple, yet so awesome. We took it uptempo, and it really rocked. We took it all the way through three times. So great. I used to be terrified of jazz. I was always afraid I wouldn't know when to come back in. But I've really worked hard with the big band stuff this year, and it's showing in my confidence. It all felt really great.

Mind you, I'm not a proper jazz singer or a great improviser. And this is not false modesty. I've heard great jazz singers, and I'm just not that. But I do love a great song, and I love the camaraderie of jazz. I love the creativity and the spontaneous songwriting that occurs in its performance.

The rains came, and we headed indoors. There, we joined up with Chris Whitely on horns, and Richard Whiteman on piano- both outstanding players. And they invited us to sing as well! Lucky day! I did a song for Gerald - On the Street Where You Live. He's always wanting me to do that song uptempo and swinging, so that's what I did. I did feel a little nervous - I'm naturally such a ballad singer - but I jumped in and had fun. I'm just hoping my nerves didn't show! But I definitely held my own, and I really had a good time. Since I'm still pretty new to the genre, those are pretty good goals to attain.

It was great to hear Esther too. I'm such a fan of her voice. She's making plans for a cd, and I'm first in line to buy one.

Tonight is more planning stuff. I'm still reworking my website. I'm nagging Hilary with updates and new photos daily. Yesterday was all about putting together my songwriters package for Nashville. It was a lot of work, but now that I have it done, it's ready to go out to lots of people.

And now, to book more gigs!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A good day.

Why do I get so nervous? You'd think at this point, I'd be all cool and relaxed, but I still get that nervous ache every time I take on a new project. I was so scared of the recording today, but everything was fine. Actually, more than fine. It was really great.

We did three songs:
1. My Father's Arms.
2. One Sure Step.
3. The Stable Bare.

Ger played guitar and I sang. All the takes were live, which was great. We were able to play off each other, and really enjoy our chemistry. Pretty much everything was done in one take. On One Sure Step, we did 2 takes and took the second. No edits in anything. Alan did a great job of making it sound warm and natural. I'm really happy with the results. I'm going to add the songs to my site. It's a tedious process - changing my site from being a musical catch-all to being a site representative of a musical ministry. The acting stuff will stay the same, but the music is all changing. I want people to be able to hear my songs on the website so they have a real sense of who I am and what I want to say.

I really never thought I'd write songs. If you'd asked me five years ago, I would have laughed and politely told you that I would never write my own material. I just honestly didn't believe I had any songs in me. But now, I find that to be shockingly wrong, and I'm so excited by the possibilities.

I'm looking into a Christian songwriting conference called Write for Jesus. Looks very exciting. Hopefully, I'll book another commercial to pay for my plane ticket.

Speaking of commercials, I finally saw my Global Television commercial tonight! Quick and funny. That was the gig that bought my ticket to Nashville. An answer to a prayer.

I'm sending my cd off to Nashville in the morning. The prayers have begun...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Singing and studios and stuff...

Lots of prayers being said tonight. We're in the studio tomorrow to record four of my songs. Yes, my songs. Crazy that anyone would take any interest in any thing I've written. But that is the craziness of the artistic life, I suppose. I do things that I think should interest everyone, and only my parents come. Then I do these little songs, and congregations start singing along. Funny how this all works. I try not to think too hard about it. Don't want to make myself dizzy with analyzing the way art works. That's not really important. But sometimes, it's worth standing up, dusting the glitter off your head, and going, "So, this is what's come of all this."

Tomorrow will be me on vocals, Gerald on guitar, and his friend, Alan, who will be our engineer. We'll do four songs, all in live takes. They will be simple and clean. I'll have them put on a disc, and I'll send them off to Nashville. There will also be a copy of IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL, and a red folder with song lyrics, etc, in it. Many prayers will be said over the package, and then it will be thrown in the mail, and many more prayers will be said til I hear some results.

I'm nervous about tomorrow. Gerald has been away, and we've had very little rehearsal time. We've barely seen each other all summer, and our only music time was singing at the AIDS Vigil in Pride Week. It's hard pulling stuff together so quickly. I'm hoping we both get a good night's sleep so we can be at the top of our game when we get in the room together. There's also a time pressure cause Ger's leaving again tomorrow evening. I think I'm feeling more prayers coming on...

As the song says, we'll take it "one sure step at a time".

And lots of prayers.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A rough day for puppies...

Today started early with thunder. Crazy insane thunder that sounded like a building exploding in the backyard. I was so frightened, I nearly called 911. Fortunately, I woke up quickly enough to realize that what I heard only came from the sky and not from the herb garden. The puppies freaked out. Desi was barking and whining. Sebastian was shaking and trying to hide under the bed. Two hours later, we crept downstairs for breakfast.

We hit a little quiet time in the morning. I was going to go out for some errands, but my instincts said to stay home. Smart little instincts. This afternoon, we had a thunder storm. And I mean a stoooorm. Pitch black at three in the afternoon. Thunder and lightening all on top of each other. And then, the climax - a power failure. Ninety minutes of pitch black in the middle of the afternoon. Right during Dr. Phil! Needless to say, the puppies were not happy. Desi followed me around when the thunder was going on, but once the electricity was out, he had to be touching me. Sebastian was a furry little basket case. Cabot was in his cage, feathers all puffed up, and no singing or squawking {I have no idea how to spell squawking! Thank you, spell check.} or anything. Sebastian and Desi and I curled up on the couch. I lit candles and watched the storm. Desi sat close and shut his eyes. Sebbyloo lay in my lap, covered in a blanket, shaking. I felt so sorry for them. They were so scared, and I felt like I could provide such little comfort for them. From their point of view, the world was falling apart, and I'm just sitting there, not fixing it. Poor little babies. Eventually, the lights came on, but the thunder has been rumbling ever since. Desi is fine, but Little One is still under the couch. He hasn't eaten any treats or gone outside. Poor little baby. I hate seeing him like this.

Most of the rest of today was spent in quiet work, and tonight I watched the Gaithers on TV. They are now MY homecoming friends. Look, there's Aunt Faye. Oh, that's my friend, Ben. heeheehee! Silly geeky me! But I love it. At one point, I recognized Brock Speer, sitting next to Aunt Faye. My heart skipped a beat and I started to cry. I've never met him, and yet I feel so connected to him. I wanted him to sing a solo so I could hear him, but that didn't happen.

I'm so honoured and humbled by the scholarship. Brock clearly meant so much to his family. When I got the award, they all sang his praises and told me what an wonderful, awesome, kind, sweet man he was. I want them to be proud that they gave the scholarship to me. I want to honour this man. I don't know how exactly. I guess, right now, I'll just keep following this path that God has lead me to. {I know, Mom. Dangling my prepositions.} I have stopped saying, "Please, God" in my prayers. I am trying to say, "Yes, God."

Whatever it is - Yes, God.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

In the circuit...

I'm (un)officially back to work. It's official cause I'm working every day. It's unofficial cause I'm not getting paid for anything right now. Why is August always so slow for me? I should really take this month and spend it in Mexico each year. Then I could just enjoy it and not cry into my fake margueritas about my self-imposed poverty.

Deep breath - But really, I don't want to get a job. I don't want a regular paycheque or dental benefits. This is where I want to be. ( with you, so close to me...) Doing what I love every day, and getting paid enough to keep my house and my sanity. Besides, it gives me the freedom of watching a movie after midnight, and going to brunch on a Tuesday afternoon. How many nine-to-fivers can say that?

This week, I'm back at auditioning. Four in the past week, including one callback. Not bad, especially given how deadly slow the industry is this year. I've been so blessed this year with auditions and bookings. It's really quite terrible for me to complain at all. Still, I haven't been on set since last month, and I'm feeling that urge again.

One of my auditions was for a musical. I haven't done a stage show in far too long. It would pay diddly, but I would be on stage again. And, right now, that's tempting enough in itself. But we'll see. I went in, looked good, and sang and acted well, and now it's all up to "them" and their idiosyncrasies. Do I look old enough to be a mom and young enough to be a daughter? Is my hair to long/curly/red? Do I have too much experience in theatre, and not enough in musical theatre? Or is it the other way around? Blah, blah, blah. Walk in, do the best I can do in the moment, and leave it there.

I'm so tired tonight. I'm recovered from school - finally - so it's that good-tired of working hard.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

The real work...

I am now in the phases of "real work". I no longer have the school's schedule or Allison Durham Speer or Daryl Williams to push and inspire me. This is the tough part of achieving your dreams. The infamous follow-through. Self-discipline. Taking the things I learned, and applying them. Building on them. Keeping the momentum. Blah, blah, blah...

As I'm writing this, I realize that I just sent off a professional email without doing spell check. I've now portrayed myself as a writer who doesn't know how to spell. My mother, the ultimate proof-reader, will not be impressed.

I'm trying to revamp my website, so that my musical offerings read more like ministry and less like diva-moments. School was a safe environment, but Toronto is not an easy city for Christians. We're told to hide our nativities at Christmas, and when someone sneezes, it's "bless you". To say "God bless you" is seen as pushy and offensive. Don't get me wrong. I love our multicultural city. I love living in and learning about other religions and cultures. But, in that light, Christianity should be equally accepted and important. In Toronto, wearing a cross on a necklace is fashion. Wearing a cross on a pin is political. How can we survive as a society when we are forced to remove all spirituality from our daily living?

I know there are people who will be offended that I'm taking my music in a new direction. I'm not going to stop singing Kurt Weill or Cole Porter. Good music is good music. I can never deny the power of a good song to affect someone's day. I guess the difference for me is a little broader. With a good jazz song, I can change someone's day. Give them an great night. With a good gospel song, I can change their life. And that's what I've always aimed for as an artist. To shake people up. To bring them out of the ordinary. For them to leave my performance with questions, new thoughts, new considerations.

I know that God has affected my life in amazing ways in the last few years. I can't wow people with my Biblical insights. That's just not my strength. What I can say is this: I was in the darkest place imaginable. My life took a turn that I thought I would not survive. I can't explain it, but this force we call God brought me through it. I can't explain it, but I know that this God loves me, cares for my everyday thoughts and actions, and stays faithful to me in good and bad. And I know that when I gave my art, my career, and my life to Him for His controlling, that my art, my career, and my life changed in ways I could never "ask or imagine". I can't explain it, but I can tell you that I know all these things to be true. And if you have any doubts, try it. Just give your life over to God, and see what will happen. It's truly amazing.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sunday Serenades

Last night was awesome! I had a gig with the Philips-Westin Orchestra. It's all big band music, and I'm one of two vocalists. We did an outdoor concert in North York. It's part of a weekly series of big band music. Well, the series is more popular than I thought, cause we had thousands - yes, thousands! - of people out to hear us. They sat on benches, chairs, lawns, and ledges. Some brought their dogs. Some brought their kids. Some just sat and nodded along.

But mostly, they danced. They danced to Fever and S'wonderful. They danced to All of Me and Paper Moon. They danced to Mack the Knife and Beyond the Sea.

And it wasn't just shaking and shimmying. They danced. Real, old-school, sweep-her-off-her-feet dancing. How awesome to stand on stage and watch it all, and know that we were a part of this great night.

I did have a Stamps-Baxter moment up on stage though. I was a little nervous starting out. You know, with the thousands of people and all. And I heard Allison Durham Speer screaming, "Open your eyes! Don't disengage your audience!".
But opening your eyes takes such guts and bravado!
I opened my lids. I forced myself to look at a different person for each line of music. And it worked! It felt great. I know I was connecting with people. And I think I sang better too!

Oh, we Allisons are a smart bunch!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Home at last!

I got home 2 days ago, and it feels so good to be here. Nashville was awesome, but Dorothy had it right: There really is no place like home.

My travels weren't so great. My first flight was cancelled and I was put on another airline. 12 hours to get home! Flying in to Toronto felt wonderful, til I looked out the window and saw the blanket of smog covering the city. What are we doing here? I love living in Toronto, but everytime I travel, I fall in love with clean air again.

We just found out yet another friend has cancer. The impulse to leave the city and engage in a genuinely healthy lifestyle seems even stronger in these moments. City-folk think we're being healthy by taking vitamins and visiting the gym. And we wonder why country-folk laugh at us.

I'm trying to spend a little time resting, but I also feel a great need to get to work. I want to use all the knowledge I gained at the school. I am also feeling the need to do some serious reshaping of my career.

For now, it's all unpacking, organizing the trip's receipts for next year's taxes, and listening to the twenty-odd cds I bought.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Nashville - Play Day #4

My last real day in Nashville. Michaela and I hooked up with Tracey for lunch and she took us to Monell's. This was my first time trying soul food, and I was very excited. Monell's is set in a beautiful Victorian house, reminiscent of Stratford. We were led to one of several rooms that serve as dining rooms. But instead of small tables, you sit around a large dining room table. Our table was set for 14. We were the only people there, but when it's full, you sit with whoever is put at your table. The waitress told us to help ourselves to tea while she brought out the food. I was a little confused, because I had yet to see a menu. Well guess what - there is no menu. They just serve you food! Whatever they've made that day. So out come these ladies with huge bowls of food - fried chicken, creamed potatoes, biscuits, corn bread, peach preserves, green beans, spinach lasagna, and something green with marshmallows and pecans in it. The food kept coming til there was over 12 bowls of food on the table. All for the 3 of us. And then brownies for dessert. It was impressive. We just kept eating and eating til they asked us to leave {they're only open a few hours at a time}. It was like Christmas or Thanksgiving in my family. They just bring you food til you roll out the door.

Michaela flew home today, so after dropping her off at the airport, Tracey and I visited the Speer Building on Music Row. This is the part of town where all the music publishers and record companies are located. It doesn't look like a business district at all. Most of the companies are in gorgeous old homes. I got to say a few good-byes, meet Ben's dogs, and see a little behind the scenes stuff. I have already been assigned my voice teacher for next year's school.

Tonight was the Grand Ole Opry. This is the only thing I had planned before I came. It's no secret that I'm not a country music fan, but how could I come to Nashville and not see the Opry? And I'm sure everyone else knows this, but "Opry" is a bastardization of "Opera". This made me giggle. The Opry is still a live-to-air radio show, and runs as such. There is no curtain between acts. People are very casual on stage. Performers will stand on the side of the stage to watch the other acts, and their friends and family have special seats on the stage itself. There are 8 acts. Everyone does about 12 minutes, with 3 minutes of live commercials inbetween. The whole show is 2 hours exactly. Our show was a mix of old and new country. First there was hall-of-famer Porter Wagoner. He's exactly what I think of when I think Opry. A cowboy hat and a rhinestoned purple suit. But he was wonderful. His voice is old, but his spirit felt young. And you can tell he means every word he sings. Then there was a great singer, Rebecca Lynn Howard. Great vocals and fun songs. Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys provided great bluegrass music. Did you know bluegrass music started with the Irish and Scottish settlers? They brought the Celtic music up into the mountains, and it developed into bluegrass. That's my people! Billy Currington was a sexy hillbilly treat. He's got to be a rising star. Mandy Barnett has great smoky vocals, but she really needs a good stylist. Dress-shorts and heels are so 1985. John Conlee sang a song about the families of soldiers at war. Not as good a song as Hero at Home, from the Bluebird, but it had the crowd on its feet. Jim Ed Brown delivered touching old songs with warm harmonies. Really gentle and charming. Daryle Singletary finished the program with an accent so thick I couldn't understand a word he said. He's a real cowboy-hat-wearing country singer. A little too country for me.

The Opry ends at 9:00, so we visited the IMAX theatre to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and chocolate. What could be better?

We then went for a stroll through the Opryland Hotel. It's amazing. There are 3 arboretums inside the actual hotel. And one has a river, and in the day, you can take a boat ride though it. I really wanted to knock on someone's room so I could see inside, but I didn't think it would go over very well. I know the people here are friendly, but that may be pushing it.

I've had an amazing time in Nashville, but I'm also looking forward to going home tomorrow. Here's prayers for safe travel...

Nashville - Play Day #3

This morning started early with a lovely continental breakfast and a swim in the pool. I love hotels! Every morning should start with someone else making breakfast and a quick dip in your pool.

Today was our downtown day. Michaela and I made the mistake of taking a cab. We felt like calling the police and telling them that the cabbies are ripping people off! Apparently, Nashville has no real public transit, so most people drive. Therefore, the cabs have a great monopoly on transporting poor souls like us. I take a lot of cabs, and I've never seen the meter jump up so fast. Just crazy!

Our first stop was the legendary Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman was built as a church in the 1800's, and later, due to it's awesome acoustics, it became a theatre and event centre. It had a vibrant stint as a performing arts space in the first half of the 1900's, hosting such talents as Fanny Brice, Sarah Bernhart, and Helen Hayes. It also featured touring musicians and opera companies. In the mid 1900's, it became the home of the Grand Ole Opry, and this is how it is best known today. After the Opry moved to it's current home, the Ryman sat empty, until an 8-million-dollar renovation re-opened it's doors. It currently has a busy concert schedule. My fear with renovated buildings is always that the spirits will be pushed out of the space, but not here. When you are in this theatre, you can feel all the music, all the artists, all the spirits that have filled the space. Michaela and I did the self-guided tour of the auditorium, and the backstage tour. It's such a beautiful space with curved seating and a gallery. The staff were very friendly with lots of great stories about the history of the place. But here's the best moment - they let you stand on the stage to take pictures. I stood on a stage where Bob Hope and Ethel Barrymore and the Follies performed. And I could feel all of it. And then, they let me sing. I opened up and sang It Is Well, in a high key. No mic. What gorgeous acoustics! They say they're second only to Carnegie Hall. You could hear the sound filling every corner of the auditorium. At that moment, I fell madly and hopelessly in love with the Ryman! Michaela also sang, and it was beautiful. We've decided that performing there in on our lists of life goals.

After floating out of the theatre, we spent the afternoon gadding up and down Broadway, visiting every open store and club. Lunch was at Legends Corner. They don't have a kitchen, but they serve lunch. Go figure. Our waitress was great. Very hyper. She would just get up and leave the building every few minutes. Michaela figures she was waiting tables next door as well. But you know, she would always put down her cigarette before coming to our table, and that's just good service. The place is a dive in the best kind of way. Smoky, with walls covered in all kinds of music memorabilia, and a cowboy on stage singing and playing guitar. If they haven't shot a film there, they should.

Next was the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Their motto is if they don't have a specific cd, it's just not worth having. Again, memorabilia everywhere. Every building on the strip is covered in memorabilia. I found a great double cassette of Dottie Rambo giving lessons on songwriting, and some cds of the Jordanaires. I also picked up a few local cds of singer-songwriters for Gerald.

Gruhn's Guitars was amazing. Again, a Gerald store. I played a $4200.00USD Taylor. All koa with abalone inlay. Stunning! Way too much guitar for me.

We wandered into Willie Nelson's General Store and Museum with some trepidation. The "museum" is in the back of the store, and it costs $5 to see it. You'd think a living legend would deserve a bigger tribute, but who are we to comment? We skipped the museum, but I did find some great Jack Daniels treats to bring home. The Confederate flag could be found on t-shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers. I would have told them that it's not politically correct to display it, but I really value my life too much. We left there pretty quickly.

We strolled by the river, which is lovely, and found an outdoor stage. Calling this place Music City is no exaggeration. Music is not simply everywhere. It's welcomed and encouraged. How can you not love that? And there's a public art display on this summer of giant guitar sculptures, each painted by a different artist. Kind of like the moose in Toronto.

We visited the Hatch Show Print, which makes posters for all the Ryman concerts, as well as shows across the country. We found a poster there for a show at the ACC in Toronto! They still print by hand using hand-carved blocks. Michaela and I have also decided that someday, they will do our posters.

Oh, and we had a great visit to the Dixieland ice cream store. Again, live music! In an ice-cream parlour! This is awesome.

Nashville doesn't feel like a big city. It sort of feels like a very busy town. Everyone is very relaxed, and they're all on "Nashville time", which is sort of like "island time". So friendly and good.

However, this city is a little too obsessed with air-conditioning. It's a lovely heat outside, but you need a sweater inside. What's up with that?

Our evening was spent at BB King's Blues Club, featuring the talents of the Clarence Dobbins Revue. They did lots of old-school R&B, like Otis Redding, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye. And, oh my! Can Clarence work the room! He would loop the cord of the mic around his arm, and walk to a table and sing to people. Then he'd drag the cord to another table. He barely stood on the stage. Walking, and singing, and dragging and winding the cord. And he kept taking us "back in the day". He took us so far back, we were expecting a song about creation! Everybody in the room loved him. He had to feel it. Funny and great.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Nashville - Play Day #2

There is so much to tell about today, and I'm going to start at the beginning. {Sing: A very good place to start...}

This morning, I attended worship at River of Life church. Daryl Williams is the music director here. I sat with the associate pastor's wife and grandson. Very nice people. Before the service, we attended Sunday School. I'm used to Sunday School being for children, but down here, there is an adult class and a children's class. Everyone meets at 9am for an hour before the service. I learned later that this is a tradition that is fading in many churches because there are so many opportunities now for Christian education.

The church was very friendly. I received a lovely visitor's packet that I'm bringing home with me as a model for our church. The style of service was sort of Pentecostal. It started with some hymns, prayers, and announcements. All good. Then, they welcomed their special guest. Evangelist Nancy Harmond was there with her choir, The Mighty Warriors, to lead a 4 day mission. She's a singer, songwriter, and preacher. They started with some great songs and music. Then the choir sat down so Nancy could preach. And this is when things got interesting...

Before you read the next section: I'm going to apologize in advance to anyone who is offended by what I am about to write. I have visited many different churches, and I'm very comfortable and accepting of various forms of worship. However, this was a very new experience for me. Please take my comments as what they are - observations of a newcomer!

So, Nancy's basic message is that we must be vibrant in our praise of God. {That's cool.} She told us that we must praise God with our mouth and not simply with our thoughts. And if we praise solely with our thoughts, we are in disobedience to God. {This, I'm not totally in agreement with.} She's self-admittedly bold and in-your-face, and I think she likes it that way. She likes pushing people out of their comfort zone. Well, she'd be thrilled with me. Every comment she made, she wanted people to shout back to her in response. "Amen", "Praise God", whatever. She didn't care what they said, but she wanted it loud. And if it wasn't loud enough for her, she'd tell us to "wake up" and answer her.

She starts telling a Bible story about 4 armies in battle. She starts calling up men in the congregation to stand in place to symbolize the armies. Then, in the story, God told the choir to guard the "good" army, so she gets her choir, the Mighty Warriors, to stand up front too. Then, she tells her Mighty Warriors to start praising God. They weren't praising loud enough for her, so she gets them to start yelling. So, next in the story, the other three armies got confused and killed each other. So she gets the men in the congregation to start killing each other. Keep in mind, this is not the church drama club. These are just regular men going to church. So they start play-acting like they're killing each other. And then she tells them to lie down on the floor, cause that's what dead men do. So all these men are lying down on the floor of the church! One man sat in a chair, and she yells, "Dead men don't sit up. Lie down!" Next in the story, the "good" army plundered the dead armies, so she orders the Mighty Warriors to go to the "dead" men, and steal their riches. So they actually start taking off these men's watches and rings and piling them up in the front of the church! Eventually, she lets the men stand up and go back to their seats, leaving their jewelry up front til the end of the service.

So, I'm a little uncomfortable with re-enacting a battle scene in church, but oh! The best is yet to come. She starts talking in tongues! Maybe this happens in your church everyday, but not in mine. She starts, and then she orders her Mighty Warriors to talk in tongues, so they all look at her, reach out their arms to her, and they start taking in tongues. Then people in the congregation start talking in tongues! {NEVER experienced this in my LIFE!}

Next, she looks at the lady in front of me, and tells her she's ready for a miracle. So this women comes up front, and Nancy starts talking in tongues, til she says "Satan get out of her!" and smacks her on the head and the woman falls down. {I have since learned that this is called "slain in the spirit"}. I've been to churches where people fall down before, but nothing this loud or seemingly violent. And this just starts happening over and over, with Nancy picking people out of the crowd, and the Mighty Warriors yelling to God and talking in tongues. I start praying, "Please God, don't give me a miracle today." Cause I am not moving from my seat! When the person would fall, a Mighty Warrior would catch them, cover them with a cloth, and just leave them there shaking on the floor. So now picture this: Nancy is up front speaking in tongues and hitting people on the head. The Mighty Warriors are walking around yelling praises and catching people. The congregation is mostly standing and yelling stuff. And there are shaking people all over the floor. And I'm the quiet Anglican in the third row, unable to go anywhere cause I'm sitting with the preacher's wife.

But oh, it doesn't stop there. Next Nancy yells, "Mighty Warriors, do a little dance!" and they all start dancing. I've seen lots of dancing in church, but never on command. So add dancing to the scene above. But then it hits a high point when she tells her Mighty Warriors to run around the church for God. All her choir members put their hands in the air and start running about the sanctuary. Running! And still yelling and speaking in tongues. And then she starts pointing to people and telling them that God wants them to run too! So they would run too! Again I'm praying, "God, please don't want me to run." One older lady jumps up to run, trips, falls right down on her face, someone helps her up, and she just keeps on running. It was amazing! I've truly never seen anything like this, not even on tv. I really wanted to be there to see it all, but I would like prefered to be a fly-on-the-wall instead of an Anglican in the third row. I felt really really really uncomfortable. And I've never felt uncomfortable in a church. This was not a form of worship that I enjoyed or felt at all connected to. I have no doubt that God could hear us. I just don't think we could hear God.

After two and a half hours, an older couple stood up to leave. Nancy snapped at them to save her a place at the restaurant. The pastor, God bless him, quickly stood and ended the service. And I breathed a sigh of relieve.

I was later told that the congregation is generally pretty reserved, and that Nancy is a special guest. Some people really loved it, and some people walked out. It was a fabulous thing to witness first hand, but once is enough for me. You know, I've been in church my whole life. I'm open-minded, and I love witnessing and participating in various forms of worship. But, in my opinion, no one should feel attacked in church. If you can make me feel uncomfortable, what are you doing to someone who's new to church?

After lunch, the pastor and his wife took me out for lunch. They are awesome, generous people. We had a lovely time and great food. I told them that Dad's a priest, so we were able to compare things about our different churches, and they were great in answering questions I have about the Southern Christian churches. They welcomed me back any time, and even told me I could stay with them if I'm ever in town again. Lots of times, Mom and Dad have cared for visitors who've come to the church. I now know how comforting it can be.

This afternoon, Michaela came to stay at the hotel with me til Tuesday. It'll be good to have the company. Of course, we're still exhausted, so we dedicated a few hours to napping.

Tonight, Micheala, Tracey and I visited the legendary Bluebird Cafe. I was sent there by Gerald, and I'm so glad I was. The Bluebird is a songwriter's club. You can't perform cover tunes, or anything that's had some kind of major release. It's pretty much for new and original material only. It's an absolute dive. It's not even downtown. It's in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. The first set was a husband and wife duo. They live in the mountains, and it's reflected in the celtic, Americana sound of their music. Then, it was locals night. All the performers live in Nashville or the surrounding area. There were 12 artists, each doing 3 songs. A mix of stuff. Overall, very good, with some excellent stuff floating to the top. Todd Elgin was witty and entertaining. One writer's song, Hero at Home, celebrated a women who's husband has gone off to war. It's being released by another artistic on Sept 5th. Keep an ear out for it, cause it's a really good song. After the locals, they always have a featured songwriter, someone who's had some great success with their songs. Tonight was Shae Smith. Most of her stuff is country, so I didn't know it, but I did recognize Complicated. She was really great. There's something so raw and wonderful about hearing a writer, who's not a performer, perform their own songs. She did this one song about a man attending AA meetings. So moving and wonderful. It hooked into me in a deep way.

The Bluebird has a very welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Songwriters are just loved in this town. I picked up a pamphlet on how to book a spot at the club. Gerald and I have to play there!