Iris DeMent was born on the Arkansas Delta and grew up the youngest of 14 children. Her dad played fiddle; her mother dreamed of singing on the Grand Ole Opry. For a family that saw its share of hard times, music was a necessity of life, not just a pastime. With Infamous Angel, her 1992 debut recording, Iris launched a career that has made her one of the most celebrated artists of her generation. Sixteen years after her last album of original music, a new CD, Sing the Delta, was released this fall on Flariella Records. Richard Bennett (guitar); Jon Graboff (pedal steel).
As a kid, Dick Hyman got hooked on jazz by playing his brother's record collection — Art Tatum, Bix Beiderbecke, and other greats. Now his remarkable career as a composer, arranger, pianist, and more spans six decades, with a résumé that includes scoring soundtracks for Woody Allen films like Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo. Among his recent recording projects is Late Last Summer (Left Ear Records), a collaboration with his daughter, violinist Judy Hyman. Lock My Heart (Red House), a new album with vocalist Heather Masse, is due for release in February.
Growing up in rural Maine, Heather Masse sang hymns and folk songs around home with her family. Now based in New York, this New England Conservatory of Music alum is a one-third of the Juno Award-winning Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys. Her solo album, Bird Song, was released in 2009 on Red House Records. Lock My Heart, a recording with piano legend Dick Hyman, comes out in February on the Red House label.
Violin virtuoso and conductor Itzhak Perlman has performed in the world's great concert halls, not to mention playing jazz with Oscar Peterson, klezmer with groups like the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and Beethoven's Minuet in G with a tuba-tooting Muppet on Sesame Street. Winner of four Emmy Awards and 15 Grammys, Perlman's recent recordings include Mendelssohn: Piano Trios (Sony Classics), a collaboration with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma, and Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul (Sony Masterworks), with cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot.
Yitzchak Meir Helfgot
Admired for his powerful voice and incredible range, cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot is certainly one of the most important cantorial voices of the 21st century. He appears regularly in concerts, as well as serving as guest cantor for communities around the globe — from New York to Beijing, from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to Australia. Currently, he is Chief Cantor of the Park East Synagogue in New York City.
Klezmer Conservatory Band
Since its formation by Hankus Netsky in 1980, the Boston-based Klezmer Conservatory Band has toured worldwide and kept toes tapping at concerts, wedding receptions, and bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. The band has performed with Joel Grey in his recreation of Mickey Katz's Borscht Capades, with Itzhak Perlman in a PBS special called In the Fiddler's House, and at venues from the U.S. to New Zealand. KCB's many recordings include Oy Chanukah! (Rounder). The band: Hankus Netsky (piano), Jim Guttmann (bass), Robin Miller (flute), Yaeko Miranda-Elmaleh (violin), Grant Smith (drums), Mark Hamilton (trombone), Mark Berney (cornet), Ilene Stahl (clarinet), Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl).
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, and Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny (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 and Vicksburg Blues (a collaboration with Butch Thompson) are the most recent of Pat's 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.
Richard Kriehn is principal second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony. But it's not all classical all the time; he is equally at home playing bluegrass fiddle and mandolin. He was a member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and the bluegrass group 1946.
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."
Massachusetts-born, LA-based Erica Rhodes is known to many for her starring role in the popular Web series "Upstairs Girls," which posted more than 200 webisodes. She has also appeared in motion pictures, including Go West, Javatown, and the 2008 indie horror film Plague Town. These days, Erica performs her stand-up comedy in clubs across the country.
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.
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.
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).