Special Guests
Saturday, November 5, 2005

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

He was born in East Tennessee, in 1944; he grew up looking forward to Saturday night and the Grand Ole Opry, and especially to Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. He taught himself to play the mandolin on a borrowed instrument at age eleven, listening to the radio and singing with his family. He went to Nashville in 1963 to play banjo with Jimmy Martin. In 1966 he joined J.D. Crowe and in 1971 went to work with The Country Gentlemen in Lexington, Kentucky. He started his own band in 1979, using for a framework the four-part harmonies of the gospel quartets. They have released 32 albums in the last 25 years, the most recent titled A School of Bluegrass. From our show they travel to the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and will be playing some 37 venues between now and next April.

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; 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. His playing was described by the Wall Street Journal as "...the incomparable jazz piano of Butch Thompson." 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. He will be at the old Village Hall in Marine-on-St Croix for the annual Christmas program on December 5th; the information number is 651-433-2049.

John Niemann

He got started in music at the right time and place, and for the right reasons; he was in high school and there were girls there. He began with Leo Fender's gift to the world, the electric bass, and started a rock and roll band. In college he discovered acoustic music on the West Bank in Minneapolis and learned the guitar, fiddle and mandolin, eventually finding himself playing a 1920s Gibson mandocello in Peter Ostroushko's band, the Mando Boys. He played kick-butt fiddle for seven years in the Stoney Lonesome bluegrass band, did a number of guitar gigs with various honkytonk bands around the cities, and for three years was in "the house band at a place called Billy Bob's, or something," at Riverplace. After years spent as a road musician and working in construction, he has settled into the relatively quiet St. Paul life of a finish carpenter. He keeps his music honed with jam sessions in the basement.

Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers

Philip Brunelle, conductor; Sigrid Johnson, associate conductor; Charles Kemper, accompanist.

Conductor Philip Brunelle founded VocalEssence (then known as the Plymouth Music Series) in 1969, leading the organization in its mission to explore the interaction of voices and instruments through innovative programming. His conducting engagements have taken him across the United States, South America and Europe. Recently he has conducted the BBC Singers, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Baltimore Symphony. He has served on the board of directors of Chorus America and the National Council on the Arts.

Heralded as "a superb American choir...an engaging group, polished, bright, and brilliantly balanced," by the London Times, the 32-voice VocalEssence Ensemble Singers reflect the adventure and enthusiasm of Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence. The singers are chosen for their musicianship, vocal qualities and flexibility in singing many styles of music. Their passion for the highest level of choral performance enlivens commissions and world premieres including works of Dominick Argento, Conrad Susa, Eskil Hemberg, Stephen Paulus, Libby Larsen, and Aaron Jay Kernis. Since the group was formed in 1991, the Ensemble Singers have toured Europe three times. In 1994, they were the first professional American chorus to perform at the Internationale Orgelwoche Nürnberg. In 1997, they were the first professional U.S. chorus chosen to sing at the prestigious Prague Spring Festival. In 1999, they sang at the Fifth World Symposium on Choral Music, held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The group returned to Europe in 2001 for an extensive tour that included sold-out concerts in Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Austria and France. The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers have made many recordings, including The WITNESS Collection, four volumes of music by African American composers, and Dominick Argento: An American Romantic. They are featured on a double CD with Garrison Keillor, Definitely Above Average and have been heard by radio audiences on MPR's Saint Paul Sunday.

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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