Saturday, May 20, 2006
Howard LevyHoward Levy plays piano, sax, Chinese flute and a bunch of other instruments. But he is perhaps best known for taking the standard diatonic harmonica into territory where no one expects it to go, covering the entire musical scale. Anyone who has ever picked up a little Hohner Marine Band can appreciate the feat; the rest of us just enjoy the music. Howard was raised in Brooklyn and in the part of Queens known as Rockaway Beach, where the movie Radio Days was filmed. He studied piano and theory at the Manhattan School of Music for four years, then studied pipe organ for two years. In 1969 he continued his schooling at Northwestern University, where played in the jazz band. He has lived in the Chicago area since 1972. He was a founding member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and is currently leading two bands in Chicago. He has contributed to hundreds of CDs and won a Grammy in 1997. In 2005, he released three new CDs on his own Balkan Samba Records label: Howard Levy & Paul Sprawl, Cappuccino (with violinist Fox Fehling), and Secret Dream with the band Chévere de Chicago. He appears on Donald Fagen's new album, Morph the Cat, and he will tour Europe with Trio Globo in September and October of 2006.
Bill HolmBill Holm is an essayist and poet whose books include Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China Essays (for which he won a Minnesota Book Award); The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth; Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary; The Dead Get By with Everything; Box Elder Bug Variations, and his recent poetry collection, Playing the Black Piano. He teaches at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, and when the school year is over, he frequently spends his summers on the north coast of Iceland, about 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. The grandson of four Icelandic immigrants to Minnesota, Bill grew up listening to the old people speak their native tongue and tell stories of the stubborn stoicism and fierce independence of his ancestors. Bill calls his house in Iceland "The Windows of Brimnes," and he is currently writing a book and a collection of poems about his summers there. He is also working on a book about cabins for Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The Fóstbræður Male ChoirThere is a strong tradition of choral singing in Iceland. And one of the leading groups is the Fóstbræður Male Choir. First formed in 1916, the organization will be 90 years old this year. To celebrate, there will be a special anniversary concert on November 4, with The Fóstbræður teaming up with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Currently under the direction of Arni Hardarson, the choir gives keeps up a busy concert schedule in Reykjavik and elsewhere in Iceland. The group has performed on radio and television, with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and with the Icelandic Opera. The choir has also travelled widely abroad, visiting many European countries as well as North America. Fóstbræður (the name translates as "sworn brothers") has three times won prizes at international choral competitions: the silver prize at Llangollen in Wales in 1972, the bronze prize at Linderholzhausen in Germany in 1987, and the gold in Prague in 2001. The choir has a recording of traditional Icelandic music called Arvasalda. There is also concert recording, Islenskir Karlmenn. Arni Hardarson has directed the choir since 1991. He was educated as a pianist and composer at the Royal College of Music in London. He is now director of the Kopavogur Music School.
DiddúOpera star Sigrún Hjálmtýrsdóttir, perhaps best known by the name Diddú, is one of Iceland's most popular singers. She was born and raised in Reykjavik and studied at the Reykjavík College of Music and later at the Guildhall School of Music in London. She began her singing career in the 1970s as vocalist with the pop group Spilverk Þjóðanna, but many fans know her for her classical performances both in Iceland and abroad. She has sung the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffman at the National Theatre of Iceland. With the Icelandic Opera she has performed the parts of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Gilda in Rigoletto, Papagena and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta in La Traviata, Adina in L'elisir d'Amore and Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus. She was a guest singer as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro in Trondheim, Norway, and as Gilda in Rigoletto in Göteborg, Sweden. She has often performed with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, with which she has recorded four albums. Her CDs include Sigrún Hjálmtýrsdóttir Sópran (1992), Töfrar (1994), Jólastjarna (1997), Klassík (1998), Ljós Og Skuggar (2000), Óskastund (2001), Fuglar Tímans (2003) and Hvert Örstutt Spor (2005)
John C. ReillyJohn C. Reilly's has been an actor since he was about 8 years old. He credits the Chicago Park District for his career choice. "They had great after-school programs for kids, woodworking, drama and music and all this stuff." Acting kept young Johnwho grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago's South Sideout of trouble. He graduated from Brother Rice High School, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from DePaul University's Goodman School of Drama, and eventually became a member of Chicago's renowned Steppenwolf Theatre. Reilly's first film was Brian De Palma's Casualties of War in 1989. Since then, he has had roles in dozens of movies, including Days of Thunder, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The River Wild, Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, The Thin Red Line, Gangs of New York and Chicago, for which he received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor. In 2004, he starred with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, sharing the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast from the Screen Actors Guild. And he appears as Lefty in Robert Altman's new film, A Prairie Home Companion. Reilly frequently returns to his theater roots and recently was seen in the title role of Marty, based on the movie and Paddy Chayefsky screenplay of the same name. In 2000, he appeared in Sam Shepard's Broadway production True West, starring opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and garnering a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Lead Actor. His other stage credits include starring with Gary Sinise in the Steppenwolf Theatre productions of The Grapes of Wrath and A Streetcar Named Desire, and producing and playing the title role in Ionesco's Exit the King at the Actors Gang Theatre in Los Angeles. In 2005, he returned to Broadway and A Streetcar Named Desire, this time to tackle the role of Stanley Kowalski to wide acclaim.
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).