Garrison Keillor has done A Prairie Home Companion since 1974, except for a three-year sabbatical in 1987. He is the author of numerous books, including Life Among the Lutherans. He lives in St. Paul and New York with his wife, Jenny, and daughter Maia. Jenny is a violinist and violist who plays in the Minnesota Opera orchestra, formerly in the New York City Opera touring company. She is an avid reader, an art gallery-goer, and music lover, particularly opera and symphonic music. Maia is 13 and loves swimming and jokes and being around people.
One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. In other roles, Tim played the part of Al, the stage manager, in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and a detective in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man. Tim is also a film critic; his reviews can be found at russellreviews.com.
Since 1992, Sue Scott has been a member of A Prairie Home Companion's Royal Academy of Radio Acting. Never short on versatility, she's played everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native and Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop alum is a highly regarded character actor who has performed in movies and on theater stages throughout the Twin Cities and the Midwest. She is also well known for her extensive voice-over work on radio and television.
Long ago, sound effects man Fred Newman was a freckle-faced, snaggletoothed kid sitting on a Coke box eating Popsicles and listening to storytellers in small-town Georgia, He is now an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. In addition to his work on A Prairie Home Companion, he can be seen daily on the public television reading show Between the Lions. He's author of the book (and CD/CD-ROM) MouthSounds. Fred admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from a several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."
Richard Dworsky leads APHC's Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. A keyboardist, composer and arranger, Rich has accompanied Garrison Keillor on U.S. and European concert tours and has provided original music for many Keillor recordings. He has worked with numerous other performers, including Al Jarreau and singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth. For seven years, he worked with the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, and he served as music director for the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion. His many CDs include So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions).
Chet Atkins called guitarist Pat Donohue “one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today.' So true. From swing and jazz to bottleneck blues and folk, Pat plays it all with a flourish of artistry and melodic inspiration. And he writes too unique compositions that have been recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Although most weekends are spent lending his talents to A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts, Pat manages to schedule dozens of solo concerts a year nationwide. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's albums.
Over the last few years, Genticorum has become one of the most sought after proponents of Québécois musical culture. The trio — Yann Falquet, Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, and Pascal Gemme — have taken their energetic interpretation of traditional music across the globe, from North America and Europe to Asia and Oceania. Their distinctive sound and sense of humor make them a crowd pleaser anywhere in the world. Genticorum's latest album, La Bibournoise, won the Canadian Folk Music Award for "Best Traditional Album" of 2008.
St. Paul-based percussionist Peter Johnson started his career with a group that performed daily at L.A.'s Magic Mountain theme park. Since then, he has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. For three years, he was drummer for The Manhattan Transfer, with whom he toured the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. He was also Gene Pitney's drummer and served as principal percussionist with the Minnesota Sinfonia. Peter has written hundreds of jingles and underscores for commercials, and he composed and produced music for two Sesame Street Live shows.
Richard Kriehn is an Instructor and the Academic Advisor for the School of Music at Washington State University in Pullman Washington. He teaches violin, Guitar Class, Survey of Music Literature, Fundamental Music Theory and Introduction to Music Technology. Richard earned his BM from Boise State University and his MA in Music from Washington State University.
He has been a member of, or performed with, the Washington-Idaho Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and the Alabama Symphony. He also served as concertmaster and a founding member of Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra (Boise, Idaho). Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, he and his family lived just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. While in Tennessee, he toured with Travis Tritt, Aaron Tippin and Michael Peterson, was a member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and was a member of the bluegrass group "1946." When Richard wasn't traveling, he transcribed mandolin books for Mel Bay Publications (four to date) and performed studio work. During his five years in Nashville, he appeared at many diverse venues: Country Gold Festival, Kumamoto, Japan; The Rosie O'Donnell Show (ABC); The Grand Ole' Opry (TNN); Walker, Texas Ranger (CBS); Farm Aid 2000 (TNN).
Richard lives in Colton Washington with his wife Danette, and their three children Caitlyn, Zachary and Joshua.
Le Vent du Nord
Since forming in 2002, the exuberant musicians of Le Vent du Nord have become fan favorites in Québec's progressive folk movement. These four friends — whose sound features hurdy-gurdy as well as button accordion, guitar, and fiddle — are constantly on the road, playing 100-plus concerts a year, mostly across North America and Europe. At the 2010 Canadian Folk Music Awards, they walked away with Ensemble of the Year honors for their 2009 recording La Part du Feu (Borealis Records). Le Vent du Nord Symphonique, a collaboration with the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, was released last year on the Radio Canada label. The group is Nicolas Boulerice, Simon Beaudry, Olivier Demers, and Réjean Brunet.
For many years, Kate MacKenzie was lead singer of Stoney Lonesome, a Twin Cities-based band with whom she recorded six bluegrass albums. And she received a Grammy nomination for her solo CD Age of Innocence (Red House Records). She was a favorite Prairie Home Companion guest, dating back to 1981 — longtime listeners still recall her recurring role as “Sheila, the Christian Jungle Girl” (wild, yet pure). With Garrison Keillor and Robin & Linda Williams, Kate was a founding member of the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and she produced the group’s second CD, Climbing Up on the Rough Side.
Mandolinist/composer Peter Ostroushko grew up listening to tunes played at family get-togethers in the Ukrainian community of northeast Minneapolis. It's the music that provides the basis for many of his compositions. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin set on Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Since then, his works have been performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, among others, and his music has been featured on public television specials such as Ken Burns' film The National Parks and Minnesota: A History of the Land, for which Peter won an Emmy. His all-instrumental CD, When the Last Morning Glory Blooms, was released last year on Red House Records.
For 10 years, bassist Gary Raynor taught in the University of Minnesota Jazz program, and he's now an instructor at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul. He has toured with Sammy Davis Jr. and performed with the Count Basie Band and the Minnesota Pops Orchestra. In addition, Gary has played for productions by the Guthrie Theater, the Ordway Music Theatre, and for dozens of Broadway touring shows. He is featured on two Janet Jackson albums, and has worked with many Minnesota-based artists, including Moore by Four and Connie Evingson.
Andra Suchy & Andrew Pierzina
Andrew Pierzina is a skilled and versatile acoustic and electric guitar player, known for good instincts and great tone. He has worked with a long list of Twin Cities groups, including the Andra Suchy Band. Andrew and Andra also represent the engineering know-how and vocal talent behind ASAProcks, their online recording session service, offering vocals, guitar work, and voice-overs.
Andra Suchy spent her childhood on a farm near Mandan, North Dakota, the daughter of two talented singers. By the time she was in grade school, she was traveling around, doing concerts and festivals with her family. She moved to Minneapolis in 1996, and these days, she sings with several local groups in the Twin Cities area — including the all-girl trio The Dollys. She also works as a back-up singer and as a jingle singer on commercials for White Castle, Target, and more. Andra's solo CD is called Patchwork Story.
Originally from Cloquet, Minnesota, Joe Savage —multi-instrumentalist and frequent guest musician with APHC's Guy's All-Star Shoe Band — made his way to Minneapolis in the 1980s. These days, he is a fixture on the Twin Cities music scene, performing with a number of artists in addition to keeping up his work as a studio musician. He is a two-time Minnesota Music Award winner and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame. Joe's recording credits include 2007's Perennial Sideman, a sampling of his musical versatility, and his latest, Joe Savage Plays Country (Lilly Ray Records).
Calling themselves Storyhill, acoustic duo Chris Cunningham and John Hermanson are longtime musical collaborators beginning when they started performing together as teenagers in Bozeman, Montana. (Chris still makes his home in Montana; John is based in Minnesota.) Their 2007 recording — simply titled Storyhill — was named Best CD of the Year by the Indie Acoustic Project and led to their winning the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition. Their latest recording is Shade of the Trees (Red House Records).
Vern Sutton has collaborated with major musical organizations as a singer, actor, director and educator. He was a founding member of the Center Opera Company, which became the Minnesota Opera, and composers Dominick Argento, Robert Ward, Conrad Susa, Libby Larsen and others have written for his voice. For 36 years, he taught at the University of Minnesota School of Music, and for four summers he was artistic director of Opera in the Ozarks. At the Guthrie Theater, he has appeared in productions of A Christmas Carol and 1776. Vern was a guest on the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.
Butch Thompson is one of the most prominent musicians in traditional jazz. Born in Marine-on-St. Croix, Minnesota, he was playing Christmas carols on his mother's upright piano by age three, and began lessons at six. He picked up the clarinet in high school and led his first jazz group, “Shirt Thompson and His Sleeves,” as a senior. Still in his teens, he began making frequent visits to New Orleans to learn from veteran musicians like clarinetist George Lewis. He played American and European festivals and by 1974, he had become A Prairie Home Companion's house pianist. He has traveled the world, from Cairo to Tokyo, as a soloist and with his trio and eight-piece Jazz Originals Band. His many recordings include the Grammy-winning Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton on the Verve label and a long-running solo series on Daring Records of Boston.
Robin and Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion in 1975, the same year they recorded their first album. In 2008, they released their 20th, Buena Vista (Red House Records). For more than three decades, these two have charmed listeners worldwide with their robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country. Robin and Linda claim that they make their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but truth be told, they spend the lion's share of their time on the road. And fans at every stop are glad they do.
Roy Blount Jr.
The New York Times Book Review has called Roy Blount Jr. "one of America's wittiest writers." Readers of his articles in The Oxford American, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Vanity Fair, GQ, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times could tell you that. So could fans of his 22 books, including Hail, Hail, Euphoria!: Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, the Greatest War Movie Ever Made (Harper Collins, Inc.) and Alphabet Juice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). He has been honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Literary Light by the Boston Public Library. Raised in Decatur, Georgia, Blount makes his home in western Massachusetts and Manhattan.
Kim Christensen is a knitter, a spinner, and — as luck would have it — a teacher. She has taught classes at various yarn stores in Minneapolis, and she's looking forward to teaching plant dyeing at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and spinning and knitting at the Minnetonka (Minnesota) Center for the Arts this fall. During the Prairie Home Cruise, you can join Kim in the Explorer's Lounge every day between 3:00-5:00 p.m. as she gets the knitting needles clicking. Bring along your own project, or come to be inspired by other knitters. Kim has great patterns — summer shawls and warm socks — something just right for the beginner or the more advanced.
Berwick, Nova Scotia, native Dan Conlin is curator of marine history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Canada's oldest and largest maritime museum. He gives a few dozen lectures a year around Nova Scotia as well as teaching university and Elderhostel courses. And back in his student days, he helped pay for a master’s degree by giving walking tours along the Halifax waterfront. Dan has also made short voyages on three tall ships: the schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, the brigantine Playfair, and the barque Europa, where he was the resident lecturer. His first book, Pirates of the Atlantic: Robbery, murder and mayhem off the Canadian East Coast, was published in 2009.
Joy Davina and Todd Paulus
Joy Davina and Todd Paulus are the co-owners of the Social Dance Studio in Minneapolis, specializing in group class education in Salsa, West Coast Swing, and Ballroom. The two compete and perform in Minnesota and on the national level, and they are thrilled to bring dance to the Prairie Home Companion cruise. Joy and Todd emphasize that dance is great exercise and fun for all, and they encourage everyone to attend their sessions with or without a partner.
John Saucke is a "a Scotch connoisseur of the highest order." So says the Campus Club of the University of Minnesota. How did he get that status? John explains: "It was luck. Back in the '90s, I was in a bagpipe band, where the members introduced me to good Scotch. That led to my evolving into an enthusiast. I have since become a presenter of outstanding Scotch whiskies at Whiskyfests in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco." In addition to leading the Scotch whisky presentations, this former member of the Minnesota Police Pipe Band will serve as the cruise bagpiper.
For more than 25 years, naturalist Rich MacDonald has worked in the field of natural history and ecology, with an emphasis on birds. He has been on hand for all four previous Prairie Home cruises, helping passengers rack up an impressive list of birds. His ornithological interests have taken him from New York's Adirondack Mountains, where he worked on the science staff of The Nature Conservancy, to the Dominican Republic, and now to Bar Harbor, Maine. He has also taught ornithology at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. These days, Rich operates a new business, The Natural History Center, which is a Bar Harbor-based retail store and nature tour business.
Naturalist Natalie Springuel combines her passions for the marine environment and coastal heritage with a love of teaching and adventure to help people discover the ocean and coast. She works for the Maine Sea Grant College Program, creating programs on the ecology and culture of coastal regions. She has led thousands of visitors on ocean and coastal adventures, by land and by sea, and is especially keen on helping Prairie Home passengers discover what lives beneath the waves. This cruise takes Natalie back to her home waters of the Gulf of Maine and Atlantic Canada, where marine mammals reside in abundance!
Dykstra Eusden Dyk for short lives in South Paris, Maine, and is a professor at nearby Bates College. He earned a Ph.D. in geology from Dartmouth College and now enjoys teaching a variety of field-based courses, including Geology of the Maine Coast by Sea Kayak and Katahdin to Acadia: Exploring Maine Geology. In 2010, he published a book (and geologic map) titled The Presidential Range, New Hampshire: Its Geologic and Tectonic History, a story of plate collisions in the Paleozoic Era to form the ancient Appalachian Mountains. He is currently working on a project to map the mid ocean ridge system where it comes onshore in Iceland.
Lytton Musselman is, by his own admission, a man who loves plants. He earned a Ph.D. in botany from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and was chair of the department of biological sciences at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of several books, including Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran (Timber Press), an examination of virtually every plant expressly mentioned in the Bible and Quran. He has lived and worked in several Middle Eastern countries and he continues to make annual trips to the Middle East. Current projects include a book on wild foods and one on cordials from wild plants — a collaboration with his daughter.
We had a wonderful time on the cruise, and we hope you did too. We've posted a journal of daily updates — notes, photos, and videos — that captured our time at sea and on stage. You can also visit the archive to hear the best of the cruise performances on the July 23, 2011 show.