December 24, 2011

Christmas Compilation

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Billy Collins

In one of his poems, Billy Collins muses, "The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry," Not a problem, Mr. Collins. Keep 'em coming. The works in Questions About Angels; Picnic, Lightning; Sailing Alone Around the Room; Nine Horses; The Trouble with Poetry; Ballistics, and his other best-selling books have sparked a firestorm of interest in the art. He was twice appointed United States poet laureate and served as New York State poet laureate 2004-06. In 2004, he was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humor in poetry. Horoscopes for the Dead (Random House) is his newest collection.

Maxine Kumin

Former U.S. — and New Hampshire — Poet Laureate Maxine Kumin grew up in the Germantown area of Philadelphia and was educated at Radcliffe. She is the author of 17 books of poems — most recently, Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (W.W. Norton & Company) — in addition to novels, collections of essays, children's books, and the memoir Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery, which chronicles her recovery after a near-fatal carriage-driving accident. For Up Country, her 1972 poetry collection, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, only one of numerous honors she has received over the years.

Nathan Gunn

Metropolitan Opera baritone Nathan Gunn has appeared in renowned opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), Paris Opera, and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. He is also a distinguished concert performer. His most recent solo album, Just Before Sunrise, is on the Sony/BMG Masterworks label. Gunn is a professor of voice at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, his alma mater. At the piano: Julie Jordan Gunn.

Pink Martini

In 1994, classically trained pianist Thomas Lauderdale — who was working in politics and contemplating that one day he would run for mayor — founded the highly eclectic Pink Martini to play for political fundraisers. Now the Portland, Oregon-based "little orchestra" is in demand coast to coast and beyond. The band is: Thomas Lauderdale, piano; China Forbes, vocals; Nick Crosa, violin; John Hart, guitar; Gavin Bondy, trumpet; Robert Taylor, trombone; Phil Baker, bass; Martín Zarzar, drums; Derek Rieth, percussion; Timothy Nishimoto, percussion. Joy to the World, "a globally-inclusive holiday album for the 21st century," was released last month on Heinz Records.

Gillian Welch

Gillian Welch grew up in Los Angeles, where her musical parents wrote for The Carol Burnett Show. In the early 1990s, she met Dave Rawlings at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, while the two were students waiting to audition for the country-band class. Over the past two decades, they have carved out a highly successful career, including Welch's latest album, The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony Records).

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.

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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