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It’s difficult to imagine that cellist Yo-Yo Ma could be held in higher regard. He has dazzled audiences worldwide and has garnered awards including the Avery Fisher Prize and the National Medal of the Arts. Secretary General Kofi Annan named him a U.N. Messenger of Peace, and last month President Obama appointed him to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Among his 75 albums (15 Grammy winners among them) is the holiday collection Songs of Joy & Peace (Sony). A 90-CD boxed set, Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box (Sony), was released this fall.
When Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson was a kid, she loved listening to her dad’s record collection — Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee. Then she grew up to be a top-flight artist in her own right, known for her work with Moore By Four and her solo appearances on concert and club stages worldwide. She is the creator of Fever, A Tribute to Peggy Lee, which she has performed coast to coast, and a new Peggy Lee show called “Happy with the Blues.” Connie has released eight albums on the Minnehaha Music label. The latest, Little Did I Dream, is a collection of songs by Dave Frishberg.
Inga Swearingen always loved singing, whether it was with her elementary school choir in San Luis Obispo, California, or performing her own songs in high school. But after joining a jazz choir while pursuing her education at Cuesta College, she knew her calling: singing jazz. In 2003, after studying with Swiss artist Susanne Abbuehl, she won the Shure Jazz Voice competition at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. She earned a master’s degree in choral conducting from Florida State University, then returned to California, where she now performs, works on recording projects, and teaches at Cuesta College — her old alma mater. First Rain, her new CD, is on the Rhythome label.
The Assad Brothers
The Assad Brothers — Sérgio and Odair — first learned music in their native Brazil from their mandolinist father. The youngsters went on to study guitar with Monina Távora, a disciple of Andrés Segovia, and their international career began with a major prize at the 1979 Young Artists Competition in Bratislava (Slovak Republic). Now the duo is setting new performance standards and playing a major role in creating and introducing new music for two guitars. Odair is based in Brussels, where he teaches at école Supérieure des Arts, and Sérgio resides in Chicago and Paris. That said, most of their time is spent on tour throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Far East.
One minute he’s mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he’s George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. APHC has yet to stump this man of many voices. He was voted “Best Radio Host” by Mpls./St. Paul Magazine and “Outstanding Broadcast Personality” by the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. Minnesota listeners can catch Tim weekday mornings from 5 to 9 a.m. as entertainment editor on 830 WCCO Radio.
On APHC, Sue Scott plays everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native and Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop alum is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television. Or you might find her in a movie role or on a Twin Cities theater stage.
Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. He can be seen daily on public television’s Between the Lions, and he is author of the book (and CD/CD-ROM) MouthSounds. Fred admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, “once by my bottom lip.”
Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, graduated from the University of Minnesota (’66), and lives in St. Paul. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest, Life Among the Lutherans (Augsburg Books) and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking).
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band is led by A Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky. A masterful keyboard player, composer, and improviser in any style, he writes all the script themes and underscores, and he has accompanied guests from James Taylor to Renée Fleming. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.
Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today. And he writes songs too recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's nine albums.
Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band, Sammy Davis Jr. with whom he toured for several years and the Minnesota Klezmer Band. He teaches jazz bass at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.
Peter Johnson (percussion) has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. He was a drummer for The Manhattan Transfer and for Gene Pitney. He has toured the world, but he always comes back to home base: Saint Paul.
Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) definitely has far-flung musical leanings. He collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson, and he has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and Bob Dylan.
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).