NASHVILLE, TN (October 27, 2015) -- Ranked as the #1 “Thing To Do” in Nashville by Trip Advisor, Ryman Auditorium is the ultimate destination for music lovers both by day and night. Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (NYSE: RHP), owner of the Ryman, Nashville’s iconic National Historic Landmark and world-renowned performance venue, unveiled its $14 million Ryman Auditorium expansion and renovation last summer. The significant improvements enhance the experience for both daytime museum visitors and nighttime concert attendees while also continuing to celebrate and preserve the rich history of the beloved building.
RYMAN BY DAY
At the heart of the expansion is the new daytime tour attraction, which begins with a state-of-the-art theater experience titled “Soul of Nashville” as well as five new exhibits.
“To say there is no other place like the Ryman is an understatement,” says Sally Williams, Ryman Auditorium general manager. “The story of this building is so powerful and emotional— we needed an extraordinary way to take visitors on our nearly 125-year journey. The ‘Soul of Nashville’ and our new exhibits do that job beautifully.”
Soul of Nashville Tour Experience
“Soul of Nashville” kicks off the reimagined Ryman daytime tour experience in an innovative, one-of-a-kind 100-seat theater custom built for the show. Created by BRC Imagination Arts of California, “Soul of Nashville” utilizes cutting edge technology to surround the audience with moving images on multiple projector planes and sound that engulfs the senses and puts them in the center of the show. Through special effects, archival images and footage, performers from the Ryman’s past become multidimensional right before the viewer’s eyes. The show dives into the Ryman’s fascinating history as more than a century of legendary performances come to life on all sides of the room. The dramatic story of the building’s near demolition and rebirth climaxes with a new collaboration featuring Darius Rucker, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill. By design, this experience makes an emotional connection with the audience who will then exit the theater and begin the rest of their tour experience.
“Soul of Nashville” is hosted by a virtual Lula C. Naff, the Ryman’s longtime promoter and manager (1904-1955). A remarkable woman not widely known today, Naff’s business and booking savvy garnered prestige for both Ryman Auditorium and the city of Nashville as a performance arts center for the region. Hailed as the “first lady” of theater management, she brought the greatest performers and Broadway plays of the day to the Ryman including: Bob Hope, Charlie Chaplin, Enrico Caruso, Harry Houdini, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Ziegfeld Follies, “Guys and Dolls,” “Oklahoma!” and many more. Naff also ushered the Grand Ole Opry into the Ryman in 1943, where the show resided until 1974. Under her leadership, the Ryman became a showplace for great diversity, a tradition that continues today. She was also a trailblazer for working women, branching out on her own before women even had the right to vote.
Watch a “Soul of Nashville” teaser here.
Visitors can enjoy five all-new exhibits inside the famed auditorium: “Workin’ on a Building,” “Showplace of the South,” “Mother Church of Country Music,” “Ryman Stage to Screen” and “Ryman Renaissance.” Guests will see genuine artifacts and enjoy videos with hosts Charles Esten, Marty Stuart, Nicole Kidman, Ricky Skaggs, Robin Roberts and Trisha Yearwood taking them through each chapter of the Ryman’s illustrious history.
“Workin’ on a Building”
Video host Trisha Yearwood tells of the famed meeting between Thomas Green Ryman and Samuel Porter Jones, and the inspiration that led to the construction of one of the nation’s grandest tabernacles. On display are artifacts documenting Ryman’s life, construction of the building and events that took place during the early years of the Union Gospel Tabernacle.
“Showplace of the South”
Most know of the Grand Ole Opry’s time in the Ryman, but some may not be aware of the performances that graced the stage long before the radio show arrived. Video host Nicole Kidman shares the fascinating story of the Ryman’s transition from a revival hall into a premier performing arts venue. At the forefront was longtime manager Lula C. Naff.
“Mother Church of Country Music”
The Ryman acquired a new identity when a soon-to-be world-famous radio program found itself in search of a new home. The Ryman’s new tenant brought a whole new fan base into the pews when they began broadcasting their clear-channel signal coast to coast from the stage of the old “Mother Church.” Hear firsthand accounts from Opry members Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs as they host the exhibit video, enjoy rare performance footage and see stage costumes and instruments on display.
“Ryman Stage to Screen”
Many remember hearing the sounds of the Opry resonating over the airwaves but do not realize how many times the Ryman has appeared on the big screen. Visitors will see clips from the concert tapings, television episodes and major motion pictures that have used the Ryman as their setting during a video hosted by Charles Esten. From “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to television’s “Nashville,” “Honkytonk Man” to “American Idol,” the Ryman has served as an important backdrop for many filmmaking projects over the years.
The last stop on the tour is an exhibit dedicated to the ongoing legacy of the Ryman. Video host Robin Roberts shares recent Ryman history and relates the importance of its continued tradition. Today, the Ryman hosts 200-250 events annually, and, just like the generations of the past, people sit in the same wooden pews to see the greats of their day perform and breathe new life into the room.
As part of the renovation, the Ryman has doubled the size of its gift shop. The new store offers exclusive Ryman-branded items as well as an activity station where visitors can make their own custom t-shirts and posters and listen to music before they purchase. Users also have the opportunity to shop the Ryman e-commerce site at the activity station. The gift shop is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Daytime Tour Hours & Pricing
The Ryman is open for tours seven days a week (closing only for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Self-guided tours (including “Soul of Nashville”) are $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 4-11. Backstage tours (including “Soul of Nashville”) are $27.50 for adults and $22.50 for children ages 4-11. Tickets can be purchased online at http://ryman.com/tours, at the Ryman box office or by calling 615-889-3060. Group rates are available for parties of 15 or more; please contact group sales 615-871-5043.
In another nod to Lula Naff, a restaurant has been added bearing her name, Cafe Lula. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows on three sides and a covered patio, the cafe, located just outside the Ryman’s main entrance, caters to daytime tour visitors, nighttime concert-goers, downtown office workers and residents alike.
Cafe Lula is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with extended hours during Ryman evening events. Serving Springer Mountain Farms chicken, the menu features fresh, healthy fare with an emphasis on rotisserie cooking and locally-sourced ingredients available for both dine-in and grab-and-go service.
RYMAN BY NIGHT
In addition to the enhanced daytime tour experience, the $14 million renovation also features several improvements that significally benefit nighttime concert-goers. These upgrades include enhanced food and beverage services throughout the building, an expanded box office, additional restroom facilities and larger lobbies.
Hosting over 200 events and concerts a year, the Ryman was named the Pollstar’s 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Theatre of the Year, an award voted on by peers and widely regarded as the most prestigious in the concert industry. The venue is currently ranked twelfth in the world and sixth domestically based on year-to-date tickets sales in the Pollstar Theatre category. Other awards include Venue of the Year nods from both the Academy of Country Music, the International Entertainment Buyers Association and SRO Venue of the Year presented by CMA. Concert highlights for 2015 include The Beach Boys, Dave Chappelle, Damien Rice, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Hozier, Kacey Musgraves, Kraftwerk, Ryan Adams, Twenty One Pilots and Willie Nelson.
What brings performers to the Ryman Auditorium today is what attracted so many great entertainers throughout its history. The beauty of a well-seasoned performance hall, like that of a fine vintage instrument, cannot be reproduced. The Ryman’s acoustics, built to project the voice of Sam Jones so long ago, are among the finest in the world. Today, the Ryman remains true to its diverse entertainment legacy, hosting concerts of all genres by a new generation of entertainers for a new generation of audiences.
“Sweetest sounding room of all time”—Beck
“The greatest theatre in the world!”—Coldplay
“There’s no place I’d rather play.”—Keith Urban
“My favorite place!”—Kris Kristofferson
“If country music had a Vatican, it would be the Ryman.”—Marty Stuart
“The best bloody place for a musician to play in the whole world!”—Roger Daltrey
“I feel at home on this stage.”—Sheryl Crow
“You changed my life when I stepped on your stage for the first time!”—Taylor Swift
“The most amazing place I’ve ever sung in…”—Vince Gill
Ryman Concert Calendar & Ticket Information
Upcoming concerts: Chris Cornell October 27, Steve Miller Band October 28, Sturgill Simpson October 30 – November 1, Sufjan Stevens November 11, Straight No Chaser November 12, Jonathan Cain from Journey, Tim Nichols, The Warren Brothers (Benefit for Hats off to High Hopes) November 15, Joe Bonamassa November 16 & 18, Lee Camp & Friends (Tokens Show) November 22, The Marshall Tucker Band (Christmas for Kids Benefit) November 23, Brian Setzer Orchestra December 6, Andrew Peterson December 13 & 14, The Arcs December 20, A JOHNNYSWIM Christmas December 21, Dancing With the Stars December 28, Dave Rawlings Machine December 29, Old Crow Medicine Show December 30 & 31, Peppa Pig February 5, Jenny Lewis February 6, Beth Hart February 12, Gary Clark , Jr. February 26, Tommy Emmanuel February 27, 2Cellos February 28, Il Volo March 1, Leon Bridges March 2, George Thorogood February 7, John Prine March 11 & 12, The Piano Guys March 15, Vance Joy March 18, The Moody Blues March 20 and Chick Corea & Bela Fleck April 17.
Additional programming includes Opry Country Classics each Thursday in October, Opry at the Ryman Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays November 2 through the end of the year and on Fridays and Saturdays January 2 through January 30, 2016. “Sam’s Place – Music for the Spirit” November 8, January 10, February 14, March 6, April 10 and May 1. Amy Grant & Vince Gill: Christmas at the Ryman December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 22 and 23.
Tickets for Ryman shows are available via ryman.com, Ticketmaster outets, ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.