Relocated Grand Ole Opry Show Goes On

This appeared in The Tennessean - May 5, 2010

There were no padded wooden pews or big red curtains, no barn in the background and no hallowed circle in which to stand, but the show went on, just like always.

Due to the extensive flooding at the Grand Ole Opry House, Tuesday night’s Opry moved to the War Memorial Auditorium downtown, marking the first time an Opry show had taken place in the venue in more than 60 years. Tuesday’s show was also the first time since 1975 that an Opry had taken place anywhere other than the Opry House or Ryman Auditorium.

“I think it’s a really special thing that the Opry and the musicians pulled together to make this happen,” said country singer Chris Young, who played three songs over the course of the night. “I think the most special thing about tonight is it needed to happen. They didn’t say, ‘Oh, the Opry House is flooded, we’re not going to do it.’ We pulled together, and we’re here to do it. That means a lot — as a region, it’s what we do.”

The evening kicked off with opening remarks from Steve Buchanan, president of the Grand Ole Opry Group.

“The Opry is a show,” Buchanan told the crowd that filled about two thirds of the space. “No matter where the show is held, it takes the heart of country music with it. This is a historic occasion.”

Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander also dropped by to address the Opry attendees. Corker said he thought it was important for the Opry to continue its programs because Middle Tennesseans desperately need a return to normalcy. Alexander then took a turn on the keyboard, performing a version of “Tennessee Waltz.”

Other stars who lent their talents to Tuesday night’s Opry — the first performance since floods ravaged downtown on Sunday — included Suzy Bogguss, Restless Heart, Marty Stuart, Jimmy C. Newman, Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely.

Seely was also one of many local residents to lose their home in the flood. She was able to save her dog, but she did have to borrow a pair of shoes to wear on Tuesday night’s show.

“It’s so great to be here,” Seely said from the stage. “Somebody said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to play the Grand Ole Opry tonight.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s not like I can stay home and watch TV.’ You can laugh about it or cry, and I don’t want to cry.”

The show ended with all of the evening’s performers returning to the stage to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” The crowd sang along, and as the audience was leaving there was a feeling of reverence and optimism among many of its members.

“I thought it was great,’ said Becky Williamson, who drove about three hours from Maryville, Tennessee to see the show. “The timing made it so significant, and we’re definitely coming back. We have tickets for Thursday night.”

By Cindy Watts

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