At two different venues I visibly winced when the music was too loud. That might have been expected at the organ concert, but it was a surprise at the regular Sunday morning worship service.
We had no idea the service would feature a bluegrass gospel band, Appalachian Fire. As we sat down in the pew, we saw five men gathering in front of microphones. I’m not an authority on bluegrass, but they seemed pretty good, just too loud for the church. Judging by the size of the amplifier, they could have burst eardrums in any normal space. Comparing notes afterwards, John and I agreed we had never, ever been to a service where not a single hymn was sung. For high church, liturgical purists, this was a low blow. It was offset by a most excellent sermon from one of the retired pastors who is a member there.
We whiled away time by eating a leisurely dinner and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We thought we were comfortably early for the organ concert at The Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. This is the church the Vanderbilt family constructed for the area, the one where Cornelia married John Cecil, the ambassador from England in 1924. Much to our surprise, there were no empty seats visible from the entrance. We squeezed ourselves down a side aisle and found two spaces at the back of the transept. That might have been a blessing. The people in the center got the full blast of that mighty Casavant organ. The musician, Stefan Kiessling, is an assistant organist at St. Thomas Church Leipzig (Bach’s church). Of course, he performed challenging music, so I had never played any of the pieces myself. John knew two of them quite well, having listened to recordings from time to time. Herr Kiessling is known for colorful registrations. I wondered if some of the things I thought I heard were my tinnitus or if my ears were ringing from that extreme music. In any case, it was wonderful to be at home surrounded by quietness. My ears had had enough of a challenge for one day.