Choir Story
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Listen



This is a story about a choir that revolted and overthrew their conductor and got loose and of course it happened in the spring. They had worked hard all winter on Bach and Handel and Faure and then they gave their spring concert of madrigals which they had rehearsed and drilled and polished every syllable----

COME LIVE WITH ME AND BE MY LOVE 1st verse

But in their heads the choir was hearing a different drummer, what they heard in their heads was

SUGAR SUGAR

And when the spring concert was over and it was time to go to the church basement for the reception and the coffee and the strawberry punch, the choir skipped it, and they snuck away and went to a bar in south Minneapolis and got sixteen pitchers of margaritas and stood around the piano and they sang as they had never sung before:

THE AGE OF AQUARIUS

And a record producer heard them, a guy in a gold vest who wore dark glasses at night, and immediately wrote out a check for a half a million dollars and they said, "Double that and you've got a deal," so he tore up the check and wrote one for a million, and in six weeks they were on the record charts. No. 1 with a bullet. And they weren't called the Vocalessence Ensemble Singers anymore. No. They were called The Angels of Hell.

MANDY

Pop music hadn't had a hit choir in years. Pop music had forgotten about choirs. And when something goes out of fashion, then when it comes back, it comes back really big, that's the whole thing about being cool, if you try to be cool you'll only ever be semi-cool, to be really cool you have to know how to be totally uncool and not care about cool, and what could be more uncool than to sing in a choir, and now here they were, a rock 'n' roll choir, riding in limos, trashing hotel rooms, going onstage in a cloud of smoke in a huge arena, lights flashing, fans rushing the stage, people going nuts, screaming, when they did their huge hit----

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

The Angels of Hell. A rock 'n' roll choir flying around on their own 757, earning millions, spending multi-millions, buying homes in Jamaica and Santa Fe and Aspen, all of them divorcing and re-marrying, in and out of treatment, in the papers every day for some kind of misbehavior, and on the road in Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin, playing soccer stadiums in Rio, Tokyo, Cairo, Moscow----


KARMA CHAMELEON

But it was soon over. All of their albums went platinum and then one album went copper, it just didn't click at all, and the next album went zinc, and then the bills came due, and they discovered that they weren't rich, they were bankrupt, and the next thing, they were on a bus, doing a tour of casinos in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan…..

COPACABANA

They were singing in casinos in the Dakotas and dreaming of making a comeback as they sang to smaller and smaller audiences of old ladies with plastic buckets of quarters, and it's an old story, the same thing happened to the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, one day they sang at the nursing home and there were all their old fans, smiling up at them from wheelchairs.

SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS

The Angels of Hell no longer got the casino gigs, now they were singing at bingo parlors, but nonetheless, coming home late to the Motel Six and ordering a pizza, late at night, looking up at the ceiling, they could remember when they were big, when they owned the world, when they were young and beautiful……

MEMORY

And one year they looked at each other and said, "Maybe it's time," and they threw away their old costumes and put on robes and went back to the church and there he was, their old conductor, and it was like nothing had changed. This is the beauty of classical music; it's so old, it makes you feel young.

COME LIVE WITH ME AND BE MY LOVE 2nd verse
into SUGAR SUGAR REPRISE

© Garrison Keillor 2003

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»

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy