March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Compilation

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Guest Information

Frank McCourt

Author Frank McCourt taught writing for 27 years at New York's Stuyvesant High School before leaving to write the book now known as Angela's Ashes. McCourt compares the life of an author with the life of a teacher by saying, "Twenty-seven years [of teaching] ... nobody paid me a scrap of atention. You write one book, boom, you're in the public eye." Angela's Ashes (Scribner), published in 1996, rapidly moved McCourt into the public eye. The memoir held a longtime slot on The New York Times bestseller list, received critical acclaim from critics across the globe, and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography. Angela's Ashes tells the story of McCourt's childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. A sequel, called 'Tis, is already in the works.

Billy Collins

Ladies and gentlemen, Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States. That's it. It's all one would have to say by way of introduction, no matter what the event. But we add a few bibliographical bits here, not so much to polish the apple as to provide the backdrop: His poems have been published in The Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The American Scholar, The New Yorker, Harper's and many others. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, and a New York Library Literary Lion. Questions About Angels was a winner of the National Poetry Series publication prize; The Art of Drowning is his fifth book of poetry. He is professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He lives in Somers, New York. John Updike said: "Billy Collins writes lovely poems ... Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides."

Karan Casey

She first sang in a church choir in her parish of Ballyduff Lower, in Ireland. She went to Dublin, trained in piano and voice at the Irish School of Music and at the Royal Irish Academy of Music; at the same time she was singing in a jazz band called Bourbon Street and was the resident singer in George's Bistro for two years. In 1993 she moved to New York and began working on a jazz degree at Brooklyn's Long Island University, where she was asked to join the group Atlantic Bridge and went on to become a founding member of Solas. They recorded three albums in four years, played with Béla Fleck, Iris De Ment, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, the Chieftains, and Paul Winter; and they toured America, Europe and Japan. She has also recorded three solo albums, most recently, Chasing the Sun on the Shanachie label. The Wall Street Journal wrote that she is one of the true glories of Irish music today, a view supported by The Herald, of Glasgow, who called her "The most soulful singer to emerge in Irish traditional music in the past decade." They say she can make you believe any story she tells you.

Martin Sheen

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Martin Sheen (born Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez) always wanted to be an actor. His father thought otherwise, but undeterred, Sheen finally borrowed a few bucks from a local priest and headed for New York. That was in 1959. Over the years, he has piled up Emmys, Golden Globes and other accolades for his performances in movies such as Badlands, The Subject Was Roses, Apocalypse Now, The Departed and Bobby, and on television for "Kennedy," "Blind Ambition" and his seven seasons in the role of President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing." For his work as a tireless activist for social and environmental causes, he has received numerous honors, including the C&eacte;sar E. Chávez Spirit Award.

Sean O'Driscoll

Sean O'Driscoll, a native of Blarney in County Cork, Ireland, grew up in a musical family that included many professional musicians. After playing extensively in Ireland and on the Continent, O'Driscoll began touring the United States in 1980 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1982. He is considered one of the best banjo players in Celtic music; he also plays guitar, bazouki and button accordion. O'Driscoll's latest album, Sticking Out a Mile, was just released on Castle View Records.


The music of Altan is derived primarily from Ireland's northern counties, especially County Donegal. The group takes its name from Loch Altan, in northwest Donegal, the area where lead singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was born. Altan's music reflects the traditional music of its namesake area, a music that's traditional Irish with a distinctive Scottish flavor. Through the years, Scottish music was brought home through Donegal natives, who did seasonal work in the potato fields of nearby Scotland. The group had its beginnings in the late '70s. It began as a partnership between Ní Mhaonaigh and the late Frankie Kennedy, an expert flutist. They made their recording debut in 1979 as a duo with the recording Albert Fry (Gael-Linn Records) in 1979 and then, in 1987, expanded and formed Altan. The band's lineup has changed over the years, but the group's focus has remained the same: the music of Donegal. Altan's latest recording is Runaway Sunday (Virgin Records), named for a traditional Donegal story. Performing tonight are: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (fiddle), Dermot Byrne (button accordion, melodeon), Ciarán Tourish (fiddle, tin whistle), Daíthí Sproule (guitar), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki, bouzouki guitar).

Cathal McConnell

Cathal McConnell is one of of Ireland's best known and well loved musicians of Irish traditional music. He comes from County Fermanagh, an area rich in musicians, and he can trace the flute back through four generations in his family. By the time he was eleven years old he was playing the tin whistle, encouraged by his father and local teacher Peter Flanagan. At 15 he took up the flute and in 1962, at the age of 18, he became All-Ireland champion on both instruments.

Cathal is also a fine traditional singer with a large repertoire, including the long ballads and serious songs and also some more humorous pieces. Since 1974 he has been a principal member of the internationally acclaimed ensemble, The Boys of the Lough, and he continues to perform with them at major venues throughout the world. His naturally relaxed stage presence has endeared him to audiences wherever he has appeared. Cathal has produced an excellent set of instructional materials for the tin whistle, available on "Homespun Tapes."

Cathal McConnell has been featured on over twenty albums, and many of these have received top awards with nominations from "Grammy" (USA), "Deutschen Schallplatten" (Germany), and "Folk Albums of the Year" (Ireland). The McConnell/Graham duet album, "For the Sake of Old Decency" (Sage Arts, 220121) was nominated for the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers (NAIRD) as one of the top Celtic/British Isles releases.


Dervish began in 1989 when five musicians from the North West of Ireland got together to record an album of music by local songwriters. They were so inspired by the experience of making the album, titled The Boys of Sligo after a reel from the recording, that they decided to turn the informal gathering into a working band. Over the next two years, Dervish honed their craft as an instrumental band and added vocalist Cathy Jordan in 1991. The group released their first album, Harmony Hill (Whirling Discs), in 1992, and they found themselves in high demand for live performances. Their popularity led the band to tour extensively in many European countries throughout 1993. Their constant touring made it difficult for the band to work in the studio, but in 1994 they finally released their second album Playing with Fire (Whirling Discs). The release of their two albums in the U.S. brought about performances at festivals in San Francisco and at Wolf Trap in Virginia. In 1996, Dervish released their third album, At the End of the Day, which won the Hot Press Trad/Folk Album of the Year award against mainstream legends like Christy Moore and Donald Lunny. The 22-track double album Live in Palma was recorded in Palma, Majorca's Teatre Principal in April 1997. They decided to record the concert just a few hours before going on, but captured a performance that required little editing in the studio. 1997 brought Dervish to Canada for a number of festival performances, and 1998 started with a six week coast-to-coast U.S. tour, followed by their first-ever Irish tour. The band's latest CD, Midsummer's Night (Whirling Discs), was released last summer. Dervish are: Cathy Jordan (vocals); Brian McDonagh (mandola); Liam Kelly (flute); Shane Mitchell (accordion); Michael Holmes (bouzouki); Seamus O'Dowd (fiddle/harmonica); and Tom Morrow (fiddle).


The vocal chamber ensemble Kantorei was founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Axel Theimer and is dedicated to performing 19th- and 20th-century European music for audiences throughout Minnesota. Theimer is a native of Austria, where he was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir, and is now in his 30th year on the music faculty at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. Members of Kantorei performing tonight are: Tenor I: Bret Bannon, Perry Collier, Patrick Geiger; Tenor II: Peter Bartholome, Kenneth Jenson, Lee D. Nelson; Bass I: Joe Kestel, Tony Meysenburg, Joseph Polta; Bass II: Matt Culloton, Brian Fulford, John Kelly.

St. Olaf Choir

The St. Olaf Choir was organized in 1911 by F. Melius Christiansen, born in to a musical family in Berger, Norway and later trained in Leipzig, Germany; a young man whose first interest was instrumental music, particularly concert violin, and who came to St. Olaf in 1903 to build a music department. By the time he retired in 1941 he had managed to change the voice of American collegiate choral music, setting a style and standard that have given St Olaf an international reputation.

They began touring in their first year, to Wisconsin, Illinois and North Dakota, and in the next season, 1913, shipped out to Scandinavia. Since then they've seen just about every place from Tijuana, Mexico, to the Great Wall of China; from Des Moines to Dusseldorf, including Australia, New Zealand and Korea.

The current conductor is Anton Armstrong, selected by a search committee from a national field on January 2, 1990. He grew up on Long Island, New York, toured Italy with the American Boychoir in 1971, and graduated from St. Olaf in 1978. He earned a Master of Music degree at the University of Illinois and a Doctor of Musical Arts at Michigan State. He is a frequent guest conductor and lecturer throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

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 Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking) and A Christmas Blizzard (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 and Sammy Davis Jr., with whom he toured for several years. He was first call for dozens of touring Broadway shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. Gary teaches 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.

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 A Prairie Home Companion since the mid-1970s.

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."

Erica Rhodes

Erica Rhodes was only 10 years old when she first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. Lots has happened since: She starred in the 2008 indie horror film Plague Town, which has shown in festivals and theaters nationwide and beyond, and she had roles in Go West, Javatown, and Blindsided. "Upstairs Girls," her popular Web series, is the story of a sweet L.A. girl named Sandy and her roommates.

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.

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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