St. Cecilia’s day

Don’t ever let it be said we have never played a show at a convent.

Today is St Cecilia’s day (patron saint of western music).  There is a giant convent on a hill (off of 8th / Metro Center) overlooking Nashville that was built in 1861. The photo above is from March 6, 1906.

It was built at night-time by a group of Nuns from Ohio, who wanted to start a school. Apparently they built during the night so as not to offend the local neighborhood, who would have though it inappropriate for a bunch of women to be doing construction work.

At several different times during the civil war, ‘skirmishes’ between confederate and union soldiers started on their land. Each time they did, the nuns would run out (in in full habits)  between the two sides pointing guns and tell the soldiers to take their fight somewhere else. They also gave food to soldiers of both sides throughout the war. (These details I got from one of the nuns at the motherhouse.)

 In the 1930’s Timshel’s grandmother went to high school here, and almost became a nun herself. She changed her mind a couple weeks before graduating high school and went off to start a family in Philadelphia. (For completely selfish reasons, I’m glad she did).

The first time we played a show in Nashville (Douglas Corner Cafe in 2002), Timshel and I got up early to go see this convent where her grandmother had gone to high school. It’s not exactly a tourist spot, and there are no ‘tours,’ as it’s still a fully active convent with over a hundred nuns going about their business. However the nuns (most of whom had taken a vow of silence the day we showed up) were welcoming and let us walk around the motherhouse, chapel, etc. Two of the younger nuns who were playing piano in one of the halls invited us (plus the rest of our band) back later that afternoon for their ‘coffeehouse.’ Naturally, we went back woke the rest of the band up and played a show for an amazing room full of nuns drinking coffee. 

I’m not sure when Nashville was first called music city but it was ‘after’ the turn of the century. I love that this giant convent dedicated to the patron Saint of music has been overlooking Nashville since before the civil war.