Special Guests
Saturday, August 6, 2005

Marni Nixon

Marni Nixon was dubbed by Time magazine as the 'Ghostess with the Mostest,' a compliment to the famous invisible voice. Actresses who don't sing are as common in musicals as actors who don't fight are in action films, and the female singing voice you hear in West Side Story, My Fair Lady, An Affair to Remember, Mulan, and The King and I is her voice. She has dubbed for Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno; she did a voice in Secret Garden for child actress Margaret O'Brien, and she did the angel voices heard by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc.

It's been an interesting career so far. She has released albums on her own, including Marni Nixon Sings Gershwin and Marni Nixon Sings Classic Kern, and she appears as a musical comedy and cabaret performer, opera diva, stage actress, symphony guest artist in both classical and pops repertoire, recitalist and recording artist; and she teaches voice master classes.

Greg Brown

Greg Brown's mother played electric guitar, his grandfather played banjo, and his father was a Holy Roller preacher in the Hacklebarney section of Iowa, where the Gospel and music are a way of life. Brown's first professional singing job came at age 18 in New York City, running hootenannies (folksinger get-togethers) at the legendary Gerdes Folk City. After a year, Brown moved west to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where he was a ghostwriter for Buck Ram, founder of the Platters. Tired of the fast-paced life, Brown traveled with a band for a few years, and even quit playing for a while before he moved back to Iowa and began writing songs and playing in midwestern clubs and coffeehouses. Brown's songwriting has been lauded by many, and his songs have been performed by Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Michael Johnson, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. He has also recorded more than a dozen albums

Butch Thompson

He first became interested in jazz during his childhood in Marine-on-St. Croix, Minnesota, where he discovered the piano at age three. In high school he collected jazz LP records and in 1956 went with his father to see Louis Armstrong at Northrop; he stood in a long line to meet him afterwards and got his autograph. He led his first band, Shirt Thompson and his Sleeves, and played his first professional engagements as a teenager. In 1962 he joined the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band on clarinet and began a series of pilgrimages to New Orleans. He studied with clarinetist George Lewis and became one of the few non-Orleanians to guest at Preservation Hall. He writes articles and reviews on jazz and produces his own weekly show, Jazz Originals, on KBEM radio in Minneapolis. His writing has appeared in Down Beat, The Mississippi Rag, Keyboard Classics and New Orleans Music.

Dave Van Ronk

As a teenager in Brooklyn, he played tenor banjo in a group called the Brute Force Jazz Band before switching to guitar and developing a style that combined blues, jazz and folk music. After moving to Greenwich Village, he was encouraged by Odetta to pursue music as a profession. From his start in the folk boom of the 1960s, to jug band music and cabaret theater, from ragtime guitar arrangements of Jelly Roll Morton, to covers of Tom Waits and Paul Simon tunes, he's done it all.

Prudence Johnson

Her 25-year career in music has taken her from nightclubs and honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall, from the theater stage to the Silver Screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It), from the Midwest to the Middle East. She is a regularly featured guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, heard across the country on public radio stations. Her ten album releases include Little Dreamer, a collection of international lullabies, Moon Country, which features the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and S'Gershwin, a collaboration with pianist Dan Chouinard. She recently collaborated with four Minnesota composers to create A Girl Named Vincent, a presentation of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music, to be released on CD this year. She is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.

René Fleming

She was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania and grew up in Rochester, New York; her parents were voice teachers. While studying at the State University of New York she sang with a jazz trio and was discovered by jazz legend Illinois Jacquet, who invited her to tour with his band. Renée went to graduate school instead, where she focused on classical music at the Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School. Renée Fleming's professional break came in 1988 when she was invited to sing the role of the Contessa in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro with the Houston Grand Opera, and in 1989 she made her New York City debut in La Bohème. She sang in London's Covent Garden and returned to New York in 1991 to make her Metropolitan Opera debut. Since then, the two-time Grammy award winner, who is recognized as a risk-taker in her field, has created many roles for the operatic stage and has premiered numerous songs written for her. She has performed throughout the world's most distinguished venues with today's foremost orchestras and conductors, and recorded numerous award winning discs. An exclusive recording artist with Decca since 1995, her recent recordings include Renée Fleming: Handel, the Grammy Award winning Bel Canto, and she is featured on the Warner Bros. Records Oscar-winning soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. On May 10, Decca releases her newest CD, Haunted Heart; a personal journey through popular songs she loves, with jazz pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Bill Frisell. In November 2004, Ms. Fleming's first book, The Inner Voice, was published in the United States by Viking Penguin; an intimate account of her career and the creative process, Ms. Fleming shares personal experiences learned throughout the course of her career.

Emmanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax was born in Lvov, Poland, and began studying piano in Warsaw at age six. After his family moved to Winnipeg in 1961, he continued his studies at the Julliard School under Mieczyslaw Munz. He first won the attention of the classical world in 1974, when he took the top prize in the first Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv at the age of twenty-five. He won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists the following year, and the Avery Fisher Prize in 1979. He has been busy performing ever since, in recital and orchestral concerts. Mr. Ax performs regularly in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, and makes regular festival appearances at Aspen, Blossom, the Hollywood Bowl, Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, and Tanglewood. He is also a member of a quartet that features Jaime Laredo, Isaac Stern, and Yo-Yo Ma. Mr. Ax records exclusively with Sony Classical and is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) for Haydn: Piano Sonatas Nos. 29, 31, 34, 35 & 49.

Katey Bellville

Vocalist and yodeler Katey Bellville debuted on A Prairie Home Companion in January of 2001.

Mark O'Connor

Mark O'Connor began to play the guitar at the age of six and won a University of Washington classical/flamenco guitar contest when he was only ten. A year later, tiring of just playing the guitar, he turned to the fiddle and within weeks was playing it at square dances. By the age of 14, he had already won two National Fiddle Championships, a Grand Masters Fiddle Championship, the National Guitar Flatpicking Championship and had also produced two albums. His multi-instrumental ability has seen him much in demand and he has played on countless recordings as a session musician. By the late 80s, his music mixed various genres including bluegrass, rock, jazz and classical. In 1990, he began to follow a more independent career, writing much of his own material and concentrating on his own recordings. His collaboration with the cream of country session men on New Nashville Cats (1991 Warner Bros.) won him much critical acclaim, and his revival of Carl Perkins' "Restless," with vocals by Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner and Vince Gill, won several Country Music Association Awards. O'Connor then moved smoothly into classical music despite having no classical training. Appalachia Waltz (Sony Classical), O'Connor's crossover collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and composer-bassist Edgar Meyer, dominated the classical charts in 1996. The tremendously successful follow-up release, Appalachian Journey (2000 Sony Classical), received a Grammy Award in 2001. He has been wildly successful in a full range of musical ventures and his career is still going strong. His latest project, In Full Swing (Sony Odyssey), was released just last month and features O'Connor and his Hot Swing Trio paying homage to the jazz legacy of his mentor, the late Stephane Grappelli.

Vince Giordano

Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks are renowned on the New York scene for their commitment to preserving and authentically presenting 1920s jazz. Each piece they perform is inspired by, and arranged from, original recordings from greats of the era. The Nighthawks are Vince Giordano, Andy Stein, Brad Shigeta, Mark Lopeman, Dan Levinson, Dave Brown, Randy Sandke, Dan Block, Peter Yarin, Mark McCarron and John Gill. They were recently featured in the movie The Aviator and can be heard every Monday and Tuesday at Charley O's Times Squre Grill on Broadway and 49th.

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in North Carolina and Virginia. She began playing the guitar at sixteen, and eventually left college to pursue a career in music. After recording her first album in 1969, Harris joined forces with Gram Parsons, with whom she made two albums, GP and Grievous Angel. After Parsons' death in 1973, Harris formed her own band and signed with Warner Bros. Records. She began making albums that encompassed her own vision of what country music ought to be, the first of which was Pieces of the Sky. The success of Pieces enabled Harris to continue writing songs that stood apart from much of the music coming out of Nashville in the late 1970s. By the mid-'80s, Harris had formed her famous Hot Band and had made several albums, including Elite Hotel. A serious bronchial infection led to an abrupt change in the direction of her career. No longer willing to sing over electric instruments, she broke up the Hot Band and created the acoustic Nash Ramblers. Their first album, was the Grammy Award-winning At the Ryman. Its mix of rock, country, traditional, and bluegrass elements is typical of Harris' eclecticism.

Maria Jette

Maria Jette enjoys a wide-ranging career, singing chamber music, oratorio, and operatic repertoire. A Twin Cities resident, she has performed locally with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Plymouth Music Series, Ex Machina Baroque Opera, and others. Other engagements have included performances with the Los Angeles Chamber and Portland Baroque orchestras, the New York Chamber and Kansas City symphonies, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Her 45+ operatic roles range from Handel's Cleopatra and Alcina to Mozart's Fiordiligi and Countess.

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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