September 10, 2011

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The Battlefield Band

Named after the Glasgow suburb of Battlefield, where the group was formed by four student friends, The Battlefield Band has spent more than 30 years living up to their motto "Forward with Scotland's Past" and bringing their innovative blend of traditional Scottish and modern music to venues worldwide. Although fiddle, bagpipes and guitar are common instruments in Celtic bands, The Battlefield Band is credited with being the first to add synthesizer. Their latest CD is titled Out for the Night (Temple Records). The current line-up features founding member Alan Reid on keyboards, guitar, and vocals; Mike Katz—originally from Los Angeles—on pipes, whistles, and bass guitar; Sean O'Donnell from Derry, Northern Ireland, on guitar and vocals; and Alasdair White, from the island of Lewis, one of the Gaelic-speaking Outer Hebrides, on fiddle, whistle, banjo, bazouki, pipes, and bodhran.

The Jerry Douglas Band

The New York Times called Jerry Douglas "Dobro's matchless contemporary master." He's a nine-time Grammy winner and has twice been named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association. In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Douglas a National Heritage Fellowship. He has recorded both as a solo artist and as a member of groundbreaking bands, including J.D. Crowe & the New South, the Country Gentlemen and Alison Krauss & Union Station. And his distinctive sound can be heard on more than 1,500 albums, including discs by Garth Brooks, Paul Simon, James Taylor and Ray Charles, among many others. Douglas' latest solo album, The Best Kept Secret, was released in 2005 on Koch Records. "Who's Your Uncle?"—one of the songs from The Best Kept Secret—has received a Grammy nomination, as has his composition "Unionhouse Branch" from Alison Krauss's CD Lonely Runs Both Ways. Jerry Douglas is joined by Viktor Krauss on bass, Larry Atamanuik on drums and Gabe Witcher on violin.

Hopeful Gospel Quartet

As the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Garrison Keillor, Robin and Linda Williams, and Carol Elizabeth Jones) explains it, the group "began its career backstage at Prairie Home shows, when we stood waiting for the balloon to go up and sang to pass the time and found out that we all like gospel songs and that they sound wonderful in a stairwell." Now, countless gigs (and a couple of personnel changes) later, they are still finding great four-part harmonies in stairwells and on stages across the country.

Singing the music they love—be it bluegrass, folk, old-time, or acoustic country—Robin and Linda Williams have carved out a three-decade career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. They've have written dozens of terrific songs, ones that have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and The Seldom Scene. Robin and Linda's latest CDs are Deeper Waters and The First Christmas Gift, both on Red House Records.

Carol Elizabeth Jones hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She has made her mark as a singer of traditional mountain music and as a writer of new songs in the old tradition. She has recorded several acclaimed albums of original material. Ridin' Along (Yodel-Ay-Hee Records), released in 2005, is a collection of classic country and bluegrass duets with Laurel Bliss.

Bella Hristova

Violinist Bella Hristova was born in Pleven, Bulgaria, to musical parents—her mother was a school choral conductor and piano teacher, her father a composer—and began playing violin when she was 6. She came to the United States in 1999, at age 13, and started her studies with Stephen Shipps at the Meadowmount School of Music in New York. That year, she won First Prize at the International Enesco Competition in Bucharest, Romania. One month later, she won the Grand Prize in the Michigan American String Teachers Competition. She continued musical studies with Shipps at the University of Michigan School of Music while completing high school in Ann Arbor. At the International Kocian Competition in the Czech Republic, judges awarded her First Prize in 2000 and the sweep of Grand Prize, European Union Prize and Barenreiter Prize in 2001. Her repertoire stretches from Bach to the latest contemporary compositions. Favorites include 19th- and 20th-century Russian works. In September 2003, Bella entered Curtis Institute of Music, where she studies violin with Ida Kavafian and chamber music with Steve Tenenbom.

Prudence Johnson

Prudence Johnson's 25-year career in music has taken her from 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. 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, and is currently writing a play about Elisabeth Hauptmann, an uncredited collaborator of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Prudence is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.

Simone Perrin

Actor/singer/accordionist Simone Perrin was born in Wisconsin, but by the time she was six, the family had moved to Winona, Minnesota, where Simone grew up. After high school, she attended Oberlin College and Conservatory, then spent five years in New York doing sketch comedy. Now based in the Twin Cities, she has appeared in theater productions from the Ordway to Mixed Blood to Theatre de la Jeune Lune. In 2006, she premiered two shows at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: her one-woman show, Tall Tale of a Broke Heart, and In Hopes of Claudia with Kevin Kling. She has performed extensively with The Bad Astronauts, her New York-based sketch comedy group, and next month she heads to Seattle to appear in Kevin Kling's new play, How? How? Why? Why? Why?

Purdue Varsity Glee Club

Since their first performance—with 11 voices—in 1893, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club has brought recognition and honor to the university. These days, under the direction of Brian Breed, the 50-plus members are always on the go. They have performed at five presidential inaugurations, represented the university on nine European tours and trips to Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and China. And they've traversed the U.S., including a 2005 appearance with the New York Pops orchestra at Carnegie Hall—the group's second time on the Carnegie stage in just the past three years.

Becky Schlegel

Becky Schlegel took piano lessons all through her childhood. She sang in choir and, while still in junior high, she joined her mother's professional country band, The Country Benders. But when a college friend gave Becky Schlegel three Reno and Smiley albums, the die was cast: She became addicted to bluegrass music. She left South Dakota, her home state, and moved to Minnesota. That was a dozen years ago, and since then, Becky has become a big favorite in the Upper Midwest's bluegrass, country and acoustic rock scenes. Becky formed the band True Blue in March 1997. The following year, they released their debut CD, This Lonesome Song, which was nominated for 1998 Bluegrass Recording of the Year by the Minnesota Music Academy, and they did win the Bluegrass Band of the Year award for 2000. Becky's second CD, Red Leaf, came out in 2001. That year, Becky was awarded Bluegrass/Old-Time Artist of the Year at the Minnesota Music Awards. She repeated the honor in 2002, 2003 and 2004. She was selected to showcase at the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass in 1999 and at the 2005 IBMA Songwriters' Showcase. Becky's most recent CD is Drifter Like Me, released last year. It was included on the 2005 Top-10 lists of a number of Twin Cities reviewers. Brian Fesler is Becky's accompanist.

Robert Sonkowsky

Robert Sonkowsky is a University of Minnesota Professor Emeritus of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, who has published widely on ancient and later rhetoric. He is also a gifted actor who's been seen in on many Twin Cities stages, including the Guthrie Lab, the Lyric Theatre (at Minneapolis Theatre Garage), and Theatre de la Jeune Lune. He has appeared in numerous commercials (Northwest Airlines, Snyder Drug, Best Buy Stores, to name a few) and in industrial films for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AT&T, 3M, Mayo Clinic, and other corporations.

Jearlyn Steele

Jearlyn Steele grew up in Indiana and first sang with her siblings (as The Steele Children). After she left home and moved to Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed. They started singing together again as The Steeles, and now music is the family business. Jearlyn also hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide. Jearlyn Steele Sings Songs from A Prairie Home Companion is her most recent CD.

Garrison Keillor

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 Life Among the Lutherans (Augsburg Books) and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (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. Keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he also writes all the script themes and underscores. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.

Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today. And he writes songs too — recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Nobody's Fault (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's 10 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.

Tim Russell

One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. In other roles, Tim played the part of Al, the stage manager, in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and a detective in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.

Sue Scott

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 is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television, as well as movie and stage roles.

Tom Keith

Is that water dripping? Footsteps coming this way? Car tires spinning on an icy driveway? Nope — it's sound effects wizard Tom Keith. With vocal gymnastics and a variety of props, Tom has worked his magic on APHC since the mid-1970s. Starting out as a board operator at Minnesota Public Radio, Tom never expected that his career would take such a turn.

Fred Newman

Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. 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."

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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