April 22, 2014

Essay: The good ol' days in Columbia — past and present

Music has always been an important part of our lives in Columbia.

My husband, Michael, saw a small notice in the newspaper that a pianist would be playing – by memory – 48 preludes and fugues by Bach one Friday evening this spring.

Unfamiliar with Ebenezer Lutheran Church, we left early. The lines for German schnitzel and Conquest beer kept growing, but it was pleasant in the church courtyard, with tables set up under a live oak dotted with white paper lanterns.

Inside the sanctuary, light glowed behind blue-green stained glass.

The audience was absorbed by Matthew Ganong’s performance of short pieces on a grand piano. We sat alone in the balcony at first, then during a break moved to the front pew where we could see the pianist’s expressions.

It was a beautiful evening, and got us to talking about the prospect of visiting different churches in Columbia to explore more historic architecture and uplifting music.

Check out our list of Columbia's hot spots past, present and future

Music has always been an important part of our lives in Columbia.

But the crowded dance clubs and live music of the mid-1980s – when we spent late nights at places like The Beat, GROW Cafe, Rockafellas and Greenestreet’s – have given way to chamber music at the art museum or small concerts by singer-songwriters at the Unitarian Universalist church.

It’s just the two of us again, so Michael and I are exploring events off the beaten path.

While we used to drink beer and get sunburned at the rapids, now we’re more likely to tromp through the botanical gardens at Riverbanks Zoo and cross the river by bridge, or take the dog walking along one of the riverfront trails.

We go to estate sales and auctions. There are a couple of antique malls where we can always find a treasure.

I’ve joined a book club with women who also gather for events like the Open Book series at the University of South Carolina, which brings in contemporary authors to talk about writing, or the Indie Grits Festival, sponsored by the Nickelodeon.

During a recent visit to the beautifully restored Township Auditorium, Pat Conroy addressed his fans on a love of books and crazy Southern families. The crowd was charmed.

I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about great concerts I’ve seen there: Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M. and The Black Crows.

Then again, there’s plenty left to do.

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