Special Guests
Saturday, April 17, 1999

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. Last April, The Virtual Consort took first place in A Prairie Home Companion's Fourth Annual "Talent from Towns Under 2,000" (T-TUTT) competition. They return tonight to hand over the T-TUTT title to this year's winner.

Seventeen-year-old Bobby Arnell is from Hardwick, Vermont (approx. pop. 1,600). He comes from a family of musicians including his great-grandfather, Robert Arnell, who played clarinet in the NBC Symphony under the direction of Arturo Toscanini, and his grandfather, Robert Arnell, Jr., a Juilliard-trained jazz musician. Arnell-Robert Arnell IV-began playing guitar at age seven, and next year begins his studies at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He entered the Talent from Towns Under 2,000 (T-TUTT) contest with a rock version of the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

The Groveton Marimba Band was formed in Groveton, Texas (pop. 1,071) in April 1995, as a band of players aged eleven to sixteen. It has since expanded to include an adult band, and both groups play at events and celebrations, both locally and as far away as Dallas. Under the direction of Maria Minnaar, the group plays African marimbas, which come in four sizes (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). Members of the band performing tonight are: Martha Mericle, Heather Ellis, Kathy Page, Autumn Dial, Matthew Ibanez, Rahmin Massudi, and Brendon Fowler.

Jill Jones and the Lone Star Chorale also call Texas home. Vocalist Jill Jones resides in Driftwood, Texas (pop. 350). She grew up on a ranch north of Austin and started singing back-up in an R&B band in the `70s. A past winner of the Western Music Association Grand National Yodeling Championship, she was lead singer for the Hays County Gals when they won the Academy of Western Artists Award for Cowboy Group of the Year. The Lone Star Chorale are: Doug Floyd (vocals, mandolin, guitar, banjo); Lynn Daniel (bass); and Greg Lowry (dobro, accordion, banjo, harmonica).

Nikki Matteson is a sixteen-year-old blues singer and guitarist from Lakefield, Minnesota (pop. 1,679), a town in the southwest corner of the state. She started playing guitar about three years ago when her grandfather gave her a guitar and showed her three chords. After being inspired by a class at school that covered the blues, including the music of Janis Joplin, she was hooked. In 1997, she won the Cottonwood County talent contest and the opportunity to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, where she placed second in the semi-finals. She is currently a sophomore at Jackson County Central High School and plays in a band called the Strangers.

Jason Moody is a seventeen-year-old violinist hailing from Dover, Idaho (approx. pop. 500). As a very young child, he attended a symphony orchestra concert at the Festival at Sandpoint (Idaho), where he pointed to the concertmaster and told his parents he wanted to do that. He started violin lessons and gave his first solo performance at age five. He now studies with the concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony and was named the concertmaster of the 1999 All-Northwest Orchestra. He is a member of the Spokane Youth Orchestra string quartet and, under the direction of Gunther Schuller, he was a soloist with the Spokane Symphony at the 1998 Festival at Sandpoint, where his interest in the violin first began.

Uncle Henry's Favorites are a string band from White Hall, Virginia (approximate pop. 50) in central Virginia. They have been performing together since 1985, playing square dances, festivals, and other events in Albemarle County, Virginia. In addition to their music-making, the group keeps busy with full-time careers: Ellen Vigour (mandolin) is a special education teacher; Pete Vigour (fiddle) teaches fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and guitar, as well as teaching music at two private schools; Jim Childress (guitar) is co-owner of Old Dominion Capital Management, an investment firm; and Mark Beall (bass) is a mechanical/electrical technician at a college preparatory school for boys.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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