There are venues that musicians dream of playing: Carnegie Hall, La Scala, the Hollywood Bowl, Symphony Hall in Boston, just to name a few. In the world of country music, it’s the Grand Ole Opry. A highly talented pianist named Lois Cunningham finally played in front of the red barn, but it was a bit late in her career. Still, you can take pride in playing at the Opry when you’re 98 years old!
Strictly speaking, the Grand Ole Opry isn’t a place, but a country music stage concert. However, it’s inseparable from Nashville, Tennessee, its home since it debuted in 1925 as the WSM Barn Dance on a local radio station. There’s no arguing with the Opry’s slogan: “The Show that Made Country Music Famous.”
Country singer Josh Turner told the Opry audience, “My wife’s ninety-eight-year-old grandmother — her name is Lois Cunningham — and she’s going to come out and play on the Grand Ole Opry stage for the very first time.” The spry 98-year-old took her place at the piano and gave a beautiful performance of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
“How Great Thou Art” was written by Swedish poet Carl Boberg in 1885. The inspiration came one day when he was walking home from church: a sudden, quick thunderstorm followed by a rainbow. The English-language version came via a circuitous route, being translated from Swedish into Russian and then into English. This was then set to a Swedish melody. There are over 1,700 known recordings of “How Great Thou Art.” It’s appeared numerous times on television and in movies but may be best-known thanks to George Shea and Cliff Barrows’ performances at Billy Graham crusades.
Check out the video posted below and let us know what you thought of this better-late-than-never debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry in the comments at Facebook. Be sure to like and share!