A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor

Fourth Annual Talent from Towns Under Two Thousand Contest
April 4, 1998
About the 1998 Finalists

Harmony - Kirkmount - Claire Stadtmueller
Tour de France - The Virginia Cutups - The Virtual Consort

1997 Winner (Also appearing April 4, 1998): Kirkmount

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HARMONY is a traditional folk trio from Fox, Arkansas (approx. pop. 1,000), between Timbo and Rushing on State Hwy. 263. The group, which has been performing together for 10 years, entered the T-TUTT contest by auditioning via answering machine. They are: Dave Smith (fiddle, banjo, button accordion), Mary Gillihan (autoharp, bass, spoons), and Robert Gillihan (guitar, mandolin). Last summer, Mary and Robert Gillihan represented Arkansas in a concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Thirteen-year-old fiddler JAKE KRACK lives a mile or so away from Freeman, Indiana (pop. 20), about 18 miles northwest of Bloomington. When Krack was four years old, his dad, a fiddle builder and repairman, made a little cardboard fiddle for Jake to play. At age six, Jake Krack graduated to a quarter-sized violin. He started taking classical lessons at school, but has learned old-time music from his mom and dad and other teachers and fiddlers he's met along the way. Krack's first album was released a few years ago when he was 11 years old. It's called "How 'Bout That." A second album, "One More Time," will be released soon.

Opera singer CLAIRE STADTMUELLER resides in Hope, Rhode Island (approx. pop. 1,700), which is about 15 miles southwest of Providence. She grew up in Gladstone, New Jersey, which also has fewer than 2,000 people, then went on to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Stadtmueller has appeared as a concert soloist at Avery Fisher Hall and has sung roles with several area opera companies, including Danbury Connecticut Opera Company, Queens Opera, and Brooklyn Lyric Opera. She makes her Carnegie Hall debut on April 25.

TOUR DE FRANCE comes to tonight's show from Caspar, California (approx. pop. 200), a town just north of Mendocino on the coast. The group has been together for two decades, playing the rural music of nineteenth-century France. The group's beginnings can be traced to the day when Arrigo D'Albert was selling jewelry on the streets of Paris, heard a hurdy-gurdy player, and became hooked. He bought a hurdy gurdy and moved to America, where he ended up on the California coast, and met up with the other three band members. Tour de France plays at festivals, weddings, wakes, and any other events. But all of them keep their day jobs: D'Albert (hurdy gurdy) is still a jeweler; Alan Keith (bagpipes) designs computer graphics, Vickie Yancy (accordion) is a teacher of the deaf; and Debra Dawson (violin) is a chef of French cuisine.

THE VIRGINIA CUTUPS are a bluegrass band from three different towns in Virginia. Alvin Breedon (banjo) and Charles Frazier (guitar) are from Earlysville (approx. pop. 1,000); Donnie Shifflet (bass) is from Dyke (approx. pop. 500); and Jeff Vogelgesang (mandolin) is from Heards (approx. pop. 50). Breedon, a painting contractor by day, started the Virginia Cutups in 1978. Frazier, who works for Virginia Electrical Power, was an original member of the Cutups. Shifflet and Vogelgesang have joined the Cutups in the past few years. They work for a rental realty company and a law publishing firm, respectively.

The members of THE VIRTUAL CONSORT span two states: Peter Blanchette (archguitar) is from Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts (pop. 1,996); Charlie Schneeweis (trumpet) is from Marlboro, Vermont (pop. 625); and Jean Chaine (bass) is from Whitingham, Vermont (approx. pop. 1,000). Blanchette is a builder of instruments and the inventor of the "archguitar," an 11-string instrument that combines elements of the lute and the guitar. Schneeweis is a Minnesota native who has, for the last 10 years, been lead trumpeter for the Gene Pitney Orchestra. He has performed with Ben E. King and The Four Tops. Chaine has toured the world with The Virtual Consort and with his own band. Visit http://www.archguitar.com for more about the archguitar and Virtual Consort.

The Reigning Champion
KIRKMOUNT is a trio of brothers: Alex, Sam, and Simeon Bigney, who live in Woodland Hills, Utah (approx. pop. 900). Alex (17) plays the harp, Sam (16) the fiddle, and Simeon (14) the cello. The Celtic music they play is a Bigney family tradition that stretches all the way back to their great-great-grandfather. The group takes its name from the all-but-forgotten village of Kirkmount, in the hills of Nova Scotia, where their forefathers lived and performed. For the past several years, the trio has been part of the Utah Performing Arts Tour, performing in small towns and schools throughout the state. Kirkmount has recorded two self-produced CDs, Late Summer Air, and their most recent, Robin. Last March, Kirkmount took first place in A Prairie Home Companion's Third Annual "Talent from Towns Under 2,000" (T-TUTT) competition. They return to hand over the T-TUTT title to this year's winner.

Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance

In Garrison Keillor's latest book, Lake Wobegon native Margie Krebsbach dreams up the idea of a trip to Rome, hoping to get her husband Carl to make love to her — he's been sleeping across the hall and she has no idea why. She finds a patriotic purpose for the journey. A Lake Wobegon boy, Gussie Norlander, died in the liberation of Rome, 1944, and his grave, according to his elderly brother, Norbert, is in a neglected weed patch near the Colosseum...

It's a story of Wobegonians in a strange land, telling stories of kinship and self-revelation — all delivered with Keillor's trademark humor.

77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor

77 Love Sonnets From Garrison Keillor:
“When I was 16, Helen Fleischman assigned me to memorize Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 29, ‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state’ for English class, and fifty years later, that poem is still in my head. Algebra got washed away, and geometry and most of biology, but those lines about the redemptive power of love in the face of shame are still here behind my eyeballs, more permanent than my own teeth. The sonnet is a durable good. These 77 of mine include sonnets of praise, some erotic, some lamentations, some street sonnets and a 12-sonnet cycle of months. If anything here offends, I beg your pardon, I come in peace, I depart in gratitude.”

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