February 20, 2010
The Fitzgerald Theater

Saint Paul, MN

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The Stranger

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36 MENUETTO

He came to Minnesota one winter and it was so terribly white, so bitterly cold. He was from a country of olive orchards and soft breezes among the grapevines and this was the bleakest country he had ever seen. And the most silent people. He moved into an old house on a busy street in St. Paul (SFX) and nobody spoke to him; he was utterly lonely because his English was poor, so to comfort himself he played a set of bagpipes he'd brought from the old country (SFX) and then not only did nobody speak to him, they glared at him. So he sat in his house and some days he didn't even bother to go outdoors.

  1. SORROW

He sat looking out at dirty snow on a poor street with cars that wouldn't start. (STARTER) His family was faraway, waiting for him to send money to bring them here. He was a carpenter and he had a job from the city working on (SAW, HAMMER) old houses like his own, houses that were liable to fall down, and he repaired the roofs and the windows, one house at a time. Hard work and it didn't pay much but he was good at it.

38

His own house was dull and dim except the kitchen where he kept the old glass pieces he'd brought with him from the old country. Glass figurines and horses and blocks and triangles that reflected and refracted the light against the bare walls. He'd brought them through (MEMORY OF ARTILLERY, EXPLOSIONS) the civil war raging in his country, scenes of death and devastation, glass pieces that his father's father's father had made back in the home village that was gone now. The people, the exquisite dishes they prepared for holidays, the music. Gone.

CUSHION

It was a long winter. Heavy snows. He thought it would never end. And then one day was different. The sky turned almost black. (THUNDER, LIGHTNING) Rain poured out of the sky. A bolt of lightning (LOUD LIGHTNING) hit the big oak tree in the front yard and split it and it fell (CREAKING, BIG EARTHSHAKING THUMP), barely missing the house. But the roof of his house, which he had repaired, stayed tight and dry. Rain washed away some of the dirty snow, rain fell that afternoon and he went to sleep with the sound of rain on the roof.

43 PIZZICATO

He had a dream in which he was dancing. He himself was not a dancer. He was a big man with big feet. But he was dancing and a dog was dancing with him. (DANCING DOG) His old dog Pietro, on his hind legs, turning around and around in a circle, grinning, and holding a golden umbrella over his head.

3 BAGPIPES

The next morning, when he awoke, the sun was up. For the first time since he arrived, he awoke to sunshine. Brilliant sunlight. Light poured into the kitchen and the old glass pieces made dazzling patterns of colored light on the walls and that was the day he got out his paint buckets. (CREAKING, EFFORT OF OPENING LIDS) The lids had dried tight over the winter. He sanded the wood siding (SANDER) on the front of his house and he began to paint (SFX). Gold and pink and yellow and orange streaks, the colors of reflected sunrise. Without the big oak tree shadowing it, the house was bathed in light. The city sent a color inspector to look at it (JOWLY MAN) and he harrumphed and harrumphed but finally he approved (STAMP) because the house was beautiful, no doubt about it. The Sunrise House. Buses stopped (SFX) and people stood in the street and gazed at it. It seemed almost alive on those spring mornings.

44 NEW YEARS GREETING

People looked at his house and wanted one like it, so now he had work, painting sunrise on the walls of the city. You'll never get rich as a housepainter, and some of the houses were more beautiful than others, some of them looked less like sunrise and more like a paint spill, but a little success is good enough for anybody. And to make some beauty in the world is a very high calling indeed. Even if you do play the bagpipes now and then. (SFX) To bring color and life into this dull world, that is God's work, and God Himself is just about to get busy doing it.

42 RUMANIAN WHIRLING MAN

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).

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