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The Circle Remains Unbroken at the Grand Ole Opry

by Rich and Laura Lynch

In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry started off as a simple broadcast. Back in those days, its audience was limited by how far the Opry's radio waves would reach but today with the Internet the longest running radio show is a global phenomenon. The Opry has been a source of inspiration for decades. During the Great Depression the sounds from the Grand Ole Opry helped folks forget their troubles for a short time every Saturday night.

The Circle Remains Unbroken at the Grand Ole Opry
Vince Gill in Nashville. (MCN Photo Archive)

Even a devastating flood back in 2010 did not stop the show. Instead, the live broadcasts were aired and performed on other Nashville stages while folks worked tirelessly to restore the building. It was fitting that "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" - the country music anthem that often opens or closes an evening at the Opry was the first song to be performed there after it re-opened.

In March of 2020, the Circle faces another challenge. Currently, the Opry and many other venues are closed to live audiences because of the coronavirus. So, instead of gathering around radios modern day fans will congregate by their screens to watch Opry artists perform to an empty hallowed hall. Living in Nashville, Tennessee for the past few years we have had the pleasure of attending the Grand Ole Opry on a number of occasions but this was our first Brave New World version of the concert. We tuned into the Circle Channel on March 21, 2020 to watch some of our favorites - Brad Paisley, Vince Gill & Marty Stuart with Circle host/comedian Bobby Bones.

The Circle Remains Unbroken at the Grand Ole Opry
Marty Stuart Gill in Nashville. (MCN Photo Archive)

Of course, the first thing we noticed was no audience and no band. Brad, Vince, Marty and Bill Cody at the podium were spaced a safe distance from each other. Marty played guitar and mandolin throughout the night as the other two strummed acoustics. Stuart mentioned the passing of the great country/crossover artist Kenny Rogers and opened with a song for him.

"Keep playing music for you one way or the other," said Brad as he gave a shout out to his friends working OT at Vanderbilt Hospital. "This Is Country Music" set the tone as each artist talked about how so much of the genre focuses on hard times and also hope. During the show, Marty performed two tunes from Jimmy Rogers (1897-1933) who many consider to be the "Father of County Music." As he played the relatable "No Hard Times" Vince than Brad added short, solid guitar solos to punctuate Roger's prose.

Vince chose a sentimental song that he had penned for his wife Amy a long time ago. As he strummed and sung he invited the others to play something too as this show flowed like a loose writers round. During what we presume were the commercial breaks, Bill read ads from Opry sponsors such as Boot Barn and Cracker Barrel. Meanwhile, Bones from Circle shared some of his perspectives along with comments from his Twitter feed as fans worldwide interacted on-line rather than in person.

The Circle Remains Unbroken at the Grand Ole Opry
Brad Paisley in Nashville. (MCN Photo Archive)

"Look out for others," suggested Vince who sent out his next song to everyone who is hurting - "Go Rest High on that Mountain" was memorable and moving. "We should play this one," said Brad as the trio concluded the concert with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". This show was shorter than the live performances which traditionally feature more guests including up and coming artists but it was good to see these three stars doing their part to keep the Circle going.

Lighting was used effectively throughout the night. We assume there was a limited crew on site, so the camera angels were straightforward which worked well in this stripped down version of the Opry. It certainly was a different experience watching the Opry from home but for the time being live-streaming will be the "new normal". In addition to the Circle Channel, folks can tune in to Opry broadcasts via a mobile app, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Nashville's 650 AM WSM, and the Opry website and WSM 650 AM website.

Related Links: For more information on the GRAND OLE OPRY and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Our Grand Night | History, Family & Music | Youth Movement at the Opry | Keith Urban & Darius Rucker | A Legend and Lineage in the House | Christmas at the Grand Ole Opry | A Day and Night at the Opry | Grand Ole Opry


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