Keillor brings news from Lake Wobegon to Brevard

Jul. 28, 2013 @ 04:55 AM

Wearing his signature red sneakers, red tie and a blue and white pin-stripped suit, A Prairie Home Companion, radio host Garrison Keillor, stepped onto the stage at the Brevard Music Center Tuesday night to the thunderous roar of an overflow audience. 

Keillor performed in the Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium open-air amphitheater, on the Brevard Music Center’s 180-acre campus, where an estimated 2,500 people gathered for the concert.

On the outside of the auditorium, some fans and music center students brought lawn chairs and blankets to hear the radio host share the latest news from Lake Wobegon and beyond.

Joining him on stage were duet singer Aoife O’Donovan, comedian/sound effect man Fred Newman, Rich Dworsky and The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band with guitarist Pat Donohue and violinist/mandolinist Richard Kriehn.  

Billed as a “two hours of duet singing, absurd improv with sound effects, poetry, outright foolishness and the News from Lake Wobegon,” Keillor was still going strong more than three hours into the evening.  At 10:45 p.m. he bid the audience good-bye and thanked them for coming to the show.

When Keillor walked onto the stage shortly after 7:30 p.m. he said, “We’re seeing the country on two buses that brought us down here to Brevard. The land of the tall pines with nothing but music on my mind.”

“Down here at Brevard at the Summer Julliard. Good to be here in North Carolina on summer vacation,” he sang.

Keillor said when his wife presented him with a project for the summer — a camping trip in Minnesota with his 15-year-old daughter — he told her he couldn’t do that. He was on tour. 

“This is my excuse for not going camping . . . I’m on tour at this wonderful music center,” he said. “After reading Lord of the Files, camping loses some of its charm.”

When he sang about the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest, the audience began clapping and cheering.

“Rounds of applause for trees,” he sang, with a question mark.

During his routine , “Back Then,” Keillor talked of a time where there were no cell phones and “when man left home, he was left alone.”

He said a cup of  coffee didn’t cost $3.95 and there were no chat rooms. “When you wanted to talk with someone you just sat around and talked to people we knew.”

Back then there were no metal detectors, no seat belts, no airbags, he said.  “And little boys stood up beside their dads while he driving, or sat in his lap while he was driving and helped steer.

“There were no ipods. There were no play dates, we just ran wild. That’s how life was like long, long ago.”

With comedian Fred Newman by his side, Keillor told story after story as Newman provided sound effects.

More than two hours into the concert, the band took a break but Keillor walked through the auditorium, still singing, still sharing stories for more than 30 minutes. 

Before going back on stage, he led the audience in a group singing. First singing patriotic songs, he completed that part of the program with a hymn singing. Such songs as “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Amen” and “Peace Like a River.”

At the end of evening, joking the two hours had become 3 1/2 hours, Keillor thanked the audience took a bow and went off to sign autographs outside the auditorium before heading back to the bus to continue his Radio Romance summer tour.