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Hodgson, Keillor collaborate on UMM Concert Choir performance

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The University of Minnesota, Morris Concert Choir will be featured during the upcoming "A Prairie Home Companion" broadcast from the UMM campus.

Garrison Keillor hosts the live radio show from the campus Physical Education Center on Saturday, Feb. 19.

The radio show will be broadcast live from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are available for the Morris show through the University of Minnesota Northrop ticketing system.

UMM Concert Choir Director Ken Hodgson said he talked with Keillor recently about the show and musical selections. The choir will since the hymn "Lead Me Gently Home," and "Blow, Winds," a popular song in Latvia and one which dovetails with the choir's upcoming trip to Latvia and Finland this spring.

"Blow, Winds" is the "second national anthem" in Latvia, Hodgson said, and it provided inspiration for citizens during the Soviet occupation.

News of the trip may have provided Keillor some inspiration for the UMM show.

"I told him about the trip and he was excited about that," Hodgson said of Keillor. "He said he might talk about choirs traveling and being on the road, and maybe talk about Latvia."

But, you never know, said Hodgson, who worked with Keillor on his previous visit to UMM in 2006.

"You don't know what he's going to do," Hodgson said. "He changes things on the fly. That's not to say he wings it, but that's the way he does the show. They're always switching things. It's great fun."

Keillor hinted that he will talk about areas around Morris -- "He said, 'We have to talk about the prairie,' " Hodgson said. " 'We have to get a feel for the prairie.' " -- and singling out the students is not new. Hodgson takes choir students to the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul to watch "A Prairie Home Companion" rehearsals and that Keillor often stops to visit with the group.

"He has a heart for college students," Hodgson said.

Regardless how the show unfolds, Hodgson said the chance to perform is "a win-win situation for us."

"It's a great opportunity for the choir," he said. "We're counting our blessings."

In addition to the Concert Choir, the show will feature fiddlers Deena and Sedra Bistodeau, Catie Jo Pidel, and Richard Kriehn. The evening also includes Keillor's signature monologue--The News from Lake Wobegon, comedy sketches, and more music.

Heard by more than four million listeners each week, "A Prairie Home Companion" is broadcast on 590 public radio stations and abroad on America One and the Armed Forces Networks in Europe and the Far East.

In addition to the live radio broadcast a live audio web stream can be heard. An encore rebroadcast is Sunday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Information is available at

For ticket information, visit or call (612) 624-2345. Show guests are asked to be seated by 4:45 p.m. Email or call (320) 589-6080 with questions.