First Lady Dr. Jill Biden attended a candlelight vigil in Nashville on Wednesday evening. The event honored the lives of six people — including three children — murdered in a mass shooting at an elementary school Monday morning that has left Music City reeling. The night saw featured performances from Sheryl Crow, Margo Price, and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, each of whom has spoken out in favor of gun regulation after this week’s tragedy.
Among the event’s speakers, which did not include the First Lady, were Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who called the shooting the “city’s worst day” and thanked President Joe Biden for lowering the nation’s flags to half-staff. Police chief John Drake also spoke and noted how years of training for incidents like the one that happened on Monday doesn’t dampen the shock of experiencing the reality that brought him and his officers to tears. Religious leaders offered the familiar thoughts and prayers. Yet it was the musical performances that made the biggest statement, reflecting and transcending the collective solemnity and atmosphere of abject grief that defies language.
Crow, Price, and Secor appeared in that order — each without introduction, each bearing expressions of post-traumatic resilience matching many in the crowd of hundreds.
Seated in front of a keyboard, Crow delivered a somber “I Shall Believe” as people used their candles to light those of others, like a traveling whisper.
If Crow crooned grief, Price confronted the anger. Almost as if on cue, the rush-hour sounds of the city surrounding downtown Nashville’s Public Square Park seemed to fade away as Price belted a devastating a cappella rendition of The Band classic “Tears of Rage,” commanding a pin-prick silence that screamed volumes. Even the children, of whom there were many in attendance, went quiet.
Soon after, a child began to play the harmonica. He was accompanied by his dad, Old Crow Medicine Show leader Ketch Secor, who plucked and strummed a banjo while leading a sing-along of the Carter Family standard “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)” — the national anthem of the Grand Ole Opry.
A similar moment of Opry style came when many — actually most — in the audience lingered after the brief gathering, perhaps expecting words from the First Lady. Instead they got Secor, Price, and an accompanying entourage calling audibles of “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away,” singing them off-mic with the crowd.