The 17th and final broadcast from Tanglewood of A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor, was a perfectly entertaining two hour live radio show for the enjoyment of millions of listeners worldwide wrapped in nearly another two hours of singing and storytelling around the Berkshires campfire. Some twenty minutes before airtime, Keillor and duets partner Heather Masse sauntered from the stage in the Koussevitsky Music Shed out onto the lawn, to serenade the massive audience, first with America the Beautiful and then with familiar, wistful songs that everybody loves to sing aloud.
Back on stage he introduced a story that he would flesh out during the broadcast and then return to three and a half hours later while bidding farewell to one of his favorite venues. It was about a trip last week to give a speech in Oslo, and during the broadcast he urges the audience to tell their European friends to come here first – to the Berkshires and towna like Lenox and Stockbridge, so that they can see America at its best. The show is available, whole or in segments, at prairiehome.com.
origin of A Prairie Home Companion
The last stroy he told here, more than an hour after the end of the broadcast, was the true story of how he named the show in remembrance of the Prairie Home Cemetery, founded by Nowegian Lutherans in Moorhead, MN, a gesture that seems to have established a permanent bond between the settlers of the Red River Valley and the characters who would populate Lake Wobegon. Besides a solid hour of impromptu singing with The DiGiallonardo Sisters and Heather Masse, with backing and a few solos from the band – music director Rich Dworsky on keyboards, Jonathan Dresel on drums, bassist Larry Kohut, Richard Kriehn on mandolin and fiddle, guitarist Chris Siebold and guest pianist and long-time Keillor associate Rob Fisher, Keillor also reached out to several front-row patrons, interviewing them to the delight of the audience, and also distributed about twenty copies of The Keillor Reader.
photos from Tanglewood finale of A Prairie Home Companion
Bill Clinton on first and last Tanglewood A Prairie Home Companion shows
We got a kick out of the fact that Bill Clinton made an appearance on this show, just as he had the first A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood in 2000, when Tim Russell did an uncanny impersonation of President Clinton reciting Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone after Keillor had asked him, “How does it feel to be leaving the White House?” One of the funniest bits tonight came in the last segment, with Keillor on the phone telling his father that he was visiting Tanglewood for a few concerts, giving Russell the opportunity to voice the father doing an impersonation of Brian Wilson singing, because he’s heard he’d just performed here. (Our review).
favorites from A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood
We attended every episode of A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood except for the one in 2007, when we were drawn instead to the Bob Dylan show at Bethel Woods. Thirty two hours of live broadcast and half again as many hours of after-show fun add up quite a trove of fond memories, such as Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performing the Orange Blossom Special after the 2009 show:
More here: summary of A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood, 2000 – 2015.
Perhaps the greatest and most endearing spectacle was the appearance on the first show of the Berkshire Highlanders, including their parade through the ailses of the Shed. We’ve also been introduced to many wonderful artists and musical acts during the show’s 42 year history, such as Robin and Linda Williams, as well as the stunning Inga Swearingen, whose Tanglewood appearances included the 2008 show, which also featured U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, with whom we since become acquainted, making 3 visits to his home at Eagle Pond Farm in NH. Hall and his wife Jane Kenyon are featured regularly on The Writer’s Almanac, one of the projects that Mr. Keillor has said he now intends to spend more time on. Good luck with that, Garrison Keillor, and thanks for the memories.