A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor made their 14th consecutive appearance at Tanglewood, on June 29, 2013. The show featured musical guests Joy Kills Sorrow a string band with Canadian roots, singer Heather Masse, a member of the Wailing Jennys, and frequent guests The DiGiallonardo Sisters. Also on hand for the final live broadcast of the season were show regulars the Royal Academy of Radio Actors, Tim Russell, Sue Scott, and Fred Newman, plus the Guy’s All Star Shoe Band along with harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy.
Mr. Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion are both sui generis. He is a literary kind of guy who started writing for the New Yorker five years before his work on a project there inspired him to create, in 1974, a variety show for radio. But whereas his model, the Grand Ole Opry, sat still in Nashville, operating more like a religion with a fixed liturgy, APHC has acquired a trans-continental congregation by presenting a regular banquet of humor, pathos, comedy and an amazing variety of guest artists representing every musical genre.
Bringing the show on the road and performing for large audiences is no gimmick, no money-making ruse. In fact, the show at Tanglewood, at least, is way better in person than it is on the radio, because it is preceded by an audience serenade and concludes with ninety minutes or so of encore performances by Keillor and the program’s musical guests. An indication of what is represented by the shows run just at Tanglewood is this pattern we noticed: the 2000 show had Tim Russell as President Clinton, singing Bob Dylan’s Like a Polling Stone, by way of whining about having no home once he leaves the White House; today’s show had Russell as President Obama, reflecting on his fond memory of the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston and daydreaming about feeling “… good at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.” to the tune of My Way.
Garrison Keillor and Heather Masse on the lawn at Tanglewood
Garrison Keillor and Heather Masse serenade the Tanglewood lawn audience before start of the June 29, 2013 radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion from the Koussevitsky Music Shed.