As we have matured (diplomatic way of saying gotten older), we enjoy large crowds less. Our love of music however has continued to grow and our tastes have expanded. That leaves us with the challenge of finding smaller venues with the acts we want to see. The Ryman in Nashville certainly fills the bill. It seats 2362 people, in pews. Yes that is right, the seating is church pews. The Ryman is the Mother Church of Music. Built by Thomas G. Ryman and originally named Union Gospel Tabernacle, the building was first used as a place where all people could gather and worship. When Ryman died, its name was changed his honor.
History of the Ryman
Grand Ole Opry Days
In 1943 Lula booked the Grand Ole for every Saturday night and a new era was born. The show filled the pews and the airwaves as it was broadcast first on radio and then beginning in the 1950’s on TV. By 1974 the Opry had outgrown the Ryman and moved to a new venue east of downtown Nashville. When the Opry left, the Ryman sat empty for 20 years and was almost torn down but the people of Nashville and the music community would not have it. In 1991 and 1992 Emmy Lou Harris performed a series of concerts at the Ryman and released them as an album At the Ryman. The concerts and the album’s strong favorable reception and reviews increased interest in reviving the Ryman. The venue was restored and opened again in June 1994. Back to those pews for a minute. During the restoration of the Ryman, all 250 pews and 500 end pieces were removed and restored to their original beauty. When you are seated at the Ryman, the pews create such a sense of history. You can almost feel the spirit of the audiences before. If you would like to learn more about the history of this music icon, check out The Ryman|The Mother Church of Country Music at https://www.wnpt.org/the-ryman/
We have had the good fortune to see three concerts at the Ryman so far, Hozier, Little Big Town and Tedeschi Trucks Band. In each case the acoustics were beyond compare. When Hozier sang “Cherry Wine” each note came through rich and clear. Little Big Town did their encore without microphones or instruments. The result was an amazing demonstration of the hall’s design. Each voice again was crystal clear. Tedeschi Trucks Band totaled 12 performers between musicians and singers. The sound absolutely filled the venue and it didn’t bounce off walls and echo as I have heard it do in other venues.
It is no wonder the Ryman is called The Mother Church of Country Music. I have subscribed to their mailing list so I don’t miss an opportunity to see bands that I enjoy in this incredible venue. Tickets for shows run between $25 and $125 with most being between $40 and $80. The higher end shows are for bigger names like Bill Maher and Steve Miller Band with Peter Frampton. Tickets on the secondary market can go for more than twice that price. If you are interested in seeing a show here, I highly recommend you subscribe to their mailing list (https://www.ryman.com) so that you can avoid the mark up of the ticket sale sites.