Garrison Keillor has hosted A Prairie Home Companion since 1974, except for a three-year sabbatical in 1987. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter.
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. More recently, he was cast as the patriarch of a farm family in the independent film drama Fallen Branches. 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."
The DiGiallonardo Sisters
The DiGiallonardo Sisters, born and raised in Brooklyn, have been singing together since early childhood. They still call New York City home, and they still love stacking up those three-part harmonies. Daniela has sung with a variety of bands, including The Demensions and The King's County All-Stars. She also teaches at Brooklyn's Mark Twain School for the Gifted & Talented. Nadia is a pianist, composer, arranger, and singer, who served as musical director/conductor for the 2009 Broadway production of HAIR. Christine is a singer and actor whose credits include Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare in the Park Festival) and My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center). Her voice can be heard on TV commercials for Mr. Clean, Aquafresh, Febreze, and more.
Texas-born Bob Douglas has lived in Minnesota since his college days. During that time, he worked with acoustic ensembles and jug bands, performing at coffeehouses on Minneapolis' fabled West Bank. Music became a full-time vocation in Germany when he teamed up with a Canadian group called The String Band, completing three European tours and two recording projects. In the early years of A Prairie Home Companion, Bob did mandolin duties and played spoons in the show's house bands, the Powdermilk Biscuit Band and the New Prairie Ramblers. These days, he is Chair of the Sustainability Committee at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, but he still finds time for music, including playing with the Show'd Up Band and the Tune Jerks.
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. Nobody's Fault (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's albums.
When Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson was a kid, she loved listening to her dad's record collection — Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee. Then she grew up to be a top-flight artist in her own right, known for her work with Moore By Four and her solo appearances on concert and club stages worldwide. She is the creator of Fever, A Tribute to Peggy Lee, which she has performed throughout the U.S., and a Peggy Lee show called "Happy with the Blues." In 2012, she adds two new albums to her numerous recordings: Sweet Happy Life and All the Cats Join In.
Rob Fisher's first love is playing the piano, but his specialty has become conducting classic musical theater. For his work with the Tony-winning Encores! series at New York's City Center, he was presented the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Special Achievement. As guest artist, he has led major symphony orchestras coast to coast, and he regularly creates evenings for Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y and the American Songbook at Lincoln Center. A recognized authority on American music of all kinds, he was artistic advisor for Carnegie Hall's Gershwin Centennial Celebration and was music director and conductor for the Ira at 100 concert, later broadcast on PBS' Great Performances.
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.
Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys
After leading several popular 1980s cult bands in and around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, Chuck Mead landed in Nashville where he co-founded the famed quintet BR549. When the band went on hiatus, Chuck formed the Hillbilly All-Stars. Now it's Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys. He also served as music director for the Broadway smash Million Dollar Quartet. His latest CD — and second solo album — is Back at the Quonset Hut (Ramseur Records), recorded at Nashville's legendary Quonset Hut Studio, where Patsy Cline, George Jones, Merle Haggard Roger Miller, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and others cut some of country's greatest tracks.
Dan "Daddy Squeeze" Newton was wowing audiences with offbeat accordion music even before he won the Nebraska State Accordion Contest at the Czech Festival in Wilber in 1987. In the 25 years since he moved to Minnesota, he has become an acclaimed fixture on the Twin Cities music scene. Equally at home playing Celtic, Tex-Mex, Cajun, blues, jazz, Scandinavian, French musette, polka, and pop, Dan heads up a bunch of different groups, including Jumbo Ya Ya, the Rockin' Pinecones, and the incomparable Café Accordion Orchestra, whose latest recording is Berets and Bongos.
Jonathan "Juanito" Pascual and El Periquín
Flamenco guitarists Jonathan "Juanito" Pascual and Peter Kalb (El Periquín) met as teenagers in Madrid in 1991 while following their mutual passion for the rich traditions of flamenco music and culture. A Minneapolis native, Pascual discovered the art form while in high school. He went on to attend Boston's New England Conservatory. Dutch-born El Periquín began his studies of flamenco by the age of 11 and later studied in Paco Peña's Flamenco Conservatory in Rotterdam. The two reconnected in 2008 and have since toured together in the U.S. and Holland. Each has released solo CDs, and they are working on a duo recording.
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.
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.
New York-based jazz pianist Jon Weber has been drawn to keyboards all his life. When his family inherited his grandmother's player piano and piano rolls, young Jon studied the moving keys, and by the time he turned six, he knew thousands of standards. He has recorded and toured worldwide, winning numerous honors for performance and composition. Gary Burton, Roy Hargrove, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and Avishai Cohen have all recorded his music. His newest release is Simple Complex (2ndCenturyJazz Records). Jon frequently served as guest host on Marian McPartland's long-running radio show, Piano Jazz. He now hosts NPR's Piano Jazz: Rising Stars.
Robin and Linda Williams
"Individually their voices can melt cheese, and in duet they can do all-purpose welding," Garrison Keillor has said of Robin and Linda Williams. Singing the music they love, be it bluegrass, folk, old-time, or acoustic country, these two have carved out a more than three-decade career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. They first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion in 1975, the same year they recorded their first album. This year marks the release of their 22nd, These Old Dark Hills (Red House Records). 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.
For 30 years, Bruce Benson served as College Pastor of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where his responsibilities included chapel services, counseling, and overseeing the life and work of the students-only St. Olaf Student Congregation. During those years, he was involved in numerous other roles, including narrator for the Christmas Festivals, teacher in the great books program, faculty supervisor on international study programs, and host of a weekly sacred music radio program. Born in Berkeley, California, Bruce was raised in Minnesota (after three early childhood years in China). He is a graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, and holds the S.T.M. degree from Yale Divinity School.
Kim Christensen is a knitter, a spinner, and — as luck would have it — a teacher. Based in Minnesota, she has taught at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, and any number of yarn stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. During the Prairie Home Cruise, sunny vineyards, handcrafted rugs, and baroque architecture will serve as inspiration for participants in Kim's classes to get those needles clicking and find new joys in the art of knitting.
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.
Rabbi Shosh Dworsky is the Associate Chaplain for Jewish and Interfaith Life at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. She was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1998 with a concentration in Hebrew literature — which included study of the rabbi-poets of medieval Andalusia. She served congregations in New York City and Portland, Oregon, before returning to her native St. Paul in 2004. In addition to her work at Carleton, Shosh serves as the rabbi of Temple Sholom in Eau Claire Wisconsin, teaches widely in the community, and is a trained mediator in private practice.
Leland (Lee) Guyer has lived and traveled widely in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Costa Rica, and South America. He received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 1983, he has taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. His favorite courses to teach include Spanish and Portuguese languages, modern Hispanic literatures, and literary translation. He is also editor of Ultralingua, a digital Spanish-English dictionary. In addition to his academic pursuits, Lee is a private pilot, and he enjoys high-alpine and desert hiking. His latest book, an extensive translation of the works of Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar, will appear in November 2012.
Jeannie Perales' love affair with Spain began in 1993 when she met Daniel Perales, a Spaniard who became her husband. She has a deep appreciation of the Iberian Peninsula, and she enjoys sharing information about and enthusiasm for Spain with others. Jeannie's inventive, informative and entertaining sessions on basic Iberian history and culture — along with practical travel tips for making the best of your visit — will have cruisegoers prepared and excited for each port of call. Jeannie and her family make their home in Sarasota, Florida, where she is director of education at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Born in Madrid to a Spanish father and an American (Iowa!) mother, Daniel Perales spent his formative years in Madrid. His parents, both educators and musicians, traveled Spain playing music in a Renaissance quartet. It was on these trips that Daniel's fascination with taking pictures began when he received his first camera at the age of 10. He uses photography as a way to explore place and culture. With 20 years' experience as a photographer and educator, he has taught students of all ages and with varying levels of ability. Picturing Place: The Art of Travel Photography will help participants convey their travel experiences and visually capture the essence of place like a pro.
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.
Jon A. Wiant is an authority on the world of intelligence, both in fact and fiction. And APHC cruisers will find his talks on international espionage just the thing to cast an intriguing light on our ports of call. During his 36 years with the government, he served in senior positions at Departments of State and Defense, the CIA, and the White House. He was twice Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and was Director for Intelligence Policy, National Security Council. In retirement, this recipient of the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal was Professor of Intelligence History at the National Defense Intelligence College. He currently teaches at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.
For more than 25 years, naturalist Rich MacDonald has worked in the fields of natural history and ecology, with an emphasis on 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 to Bar Harbor, Maine, where he has taught ornithology at College of the Atlantic. He has been on hand for all the Prairie Home cruises, helping passengers rack up an impressive list of birds. These days, Rich — along with his wife, Natalie Springuel — operates The Natural History Center, 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 is of particular interest to Natalie because it starts in the North Sea, where she spent summers as a child with her Belgian family.
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. His most recent books are A Dictionary of Bible Plants (Cambridge University Press) and Plants of the Chesapeake Bay with David Knepper (Johns Hopkins University Press). He has lived and worked in several Mediterranean countries, and he continues to make annual trips to the Middle East. Currently, he is busy with the Flora of Iraq project, in addition to a book on wild foods and one on cordials from wild plants.
Visit our journal of daily updates to see the highlights from this year's cruise — including videos, photos and notes — or relive your time aboard the ms Ryndam