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Visiting Iceland — a classic from 2006
Fóstbræõur Male Choir, Bill Holm, John C. Reilly
In Cheerfulness, veteran radio host and author Garrison Keillor reflects on a simple virtue that can help us in this stressful and sometimes gloomy era. Drawing on personal anecdotes from his young adulthood into his eighties, Keillor sheds light on the immense good that can come from a deliberate work ethic and a buoyant demeanor. “Adopting cheerfulness as a strategy does not mean closing your eyes to evil,” he tells us; “it means resisting our drift toward compulsive dread and despond.” Funny, poignant, thought-provoking, and whimsical, this is a book that will inspire you to choose cheerfulness in your daily life. Click to order.
Bayfield is one of USA Today’s Best Coastal Small Towns, Wisconsin’s Smallest City, the Berry Capital of the state, and the Gateway to the Apostle Islands. There is so much to do in this wonderful small town located on the shores of Lake Superior. Garrison & Friends will stage a show under the Big Top with the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band led by Richard Dworsky, plus Heather Masse (one of Garrison’s favorite duet partners and vocalist extraordinaire) and Fred Newman on sound effects. It will no doubt be a great evening where we can come together in song and story. Tickets on sale now. Please join us for a wonderful evening on Sunday, August 27th, at 7:30 p.m.
If you are planning a trip to Bayfield, WI, which is a short drive from Duluth, MN, to see the show, here is a list of ideas of things to do in the area. Small-town charm abounds, with lots of hiking, shopping, and more. The Apostle Islands are nearby: take a short ferry ride to the main Madeline Island, visit the Sea Caves and the Maritime Museum, or check out a distillery or two. There is so much to do — just don’t forget to add our show to the list!
Things to do in Bayfield >>>
This week, the show travels two ways: we go back in time to May 2006 for a show from Reykjavik, Iceland, where listeners will be treated to a healthy dose of Icelandic history, poetry, and song in a show featuring The Fóstbræõur Male Choir, Bill Holm, Howard Levy, Diddú, John C. Reilly, plus our cast and band.
Highlights include Garrison’s “Ode to Silence,” talk with Bill Holm followed by a reading from Choir Story and a reading of few poems. The choir shares Iceland’s National Song as well as a drinking song; Garrison sings with Diddú on “Till There Was You,” plus English Majors, Dusty & Lefty visit Iceland, a few sound effects sketches, and the News. Join us on Facebook at 5:00 p.m. CT this Saturday. Or if you can’t wait, click this LINK now.
The Fóstbræður Male Choir
There is a strong tradition of choral singing in Iceland. And one of the leading groups is the Fóstbræður Male Choir. First formed in 1916, the choir is currently under the direction of Arni Hardarson. The choir keeps up a busy concert schedule in Reykjavik and elsewhere in Iceland. And the group has performed on radio and television, with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and with the Icelandic Opera. The choir has also traveled widely, visiting many European countries as well as North America. Fóstbræður (the name translates as “sworn brothers”) has won prizes at international choral competitions, including the silver prize at Llangollen in Wales in 1972, the bronze prize at Linderholzhausen in Germany in 1987, and the gold in Prague in 2001.
A poet and essayist who traveled the world, Bill Holm died in February 2009 at the age of 65. He was born in 1943 on a farm north of the town of Minneota, Minnesota. He continued to live there while working as an English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, where he taught for 27 years before retiring in 2007. He wrote more than a dozen books, including The Windows of Brimnes, named for his cottage near the small fishing village of Hofsos in Iceland. He spent his summers there in the land of his ancestors.
John C. Reilly
John C. Reilly has been an actor since he was about eight years old. He credits the Chicago Park District for his career choice. “They had great after-school programs for kids — woodworking, drama and music and all this stuff.” Acting kept young John—who grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side—out of trouble. He graduated from Brother Rice High School, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from DePaul University’s Goodman School of Drama, and eventually became a member of Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre. Reilly’s first film was Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War in 1989. Since then, he has had roles in dozens of movies, including Days of Thunder, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The River Wild, Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, The Thin Red Line, Gangs of New York, and Chicago, for which he received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor. In 2006, he starred as Lefty in Robert Altman’s film A Prairie Home Companion.
Here are the lyrics to “Ode to Silence” which is featured on this week’s classic show.
In a world of crashing and woofing and humming
Of roaring and snoring and going and coming
In a world of noise and outright violence
In Iceland one discovers silence
IPods, Muzak, cellphones, and general hysteria
TVs on in every public waiting area
Sometimes a person feels devoured by sound
In Iceland, people have calmed down
If you do.
Then I will.
Here's to the gentle people here today
Who think of things that they then do not say
Who keep some feelings bottled up inside
Who can sit in a hot bath and be satisfied
Hold the music, hold the mayo
Gloria in excelsis deo
The climate neither hot nor cold
The language thousands of years old
Poems and stories gently age
Iceland turns another page
Iceland—This is a song in your praise
Though I've been here only three days
So glad we got the chance to meet
Come up close so I can hear you
1 2 3 4
Sitting on the ocean shore
5 6 7 8
It's okay. Just sit and wait
9 10 11 12
Lovely being by yourself
12 11 10 9
Bird song. Smell of Pine.
8 7 6 5
Yes, you are still alive
4 3 2 1
More about Bill Holm
Bill Holm was a great friend of the program. Here is what Garrison wrote for the website in February 2009:
Bill Holm was a great man and unlike most great men he really looked like one. Six-foot-eight, big frame, and a big white beard and a shock of white hair, a booming voice, so he loomed over you like a prophet and a preacher, which is what he was. He was an only child, adored by his mother, and she protected him from bullies, and he grew up free to follow his own bent and become the sage of Minneota, a colleague of Whitman though born a hundred years too late, a champion of Mozart and Bach, playing his harpsichord on summer nights, telling stories about the Icelanders, and thundering about how the young have lost their way and abandoned learning and culture in favor of grease and noise.
He thundered with the best of them though he had a gentle heart. He was an English prof who really loved literature, and he could buttonhole you and tell you he’d just finished reading Dickens again and how wonderful it was. He got himself into print pretty well, and anyone picking up his “Windows of Brimnes” or “The Music of Failure” or “The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere On Earth” will get the real Holm.
He hated Minnesota winters and maybe that’s what killed him, flying back from beautiful Patagonia to the windswept tundra and thinking about having to shovel out his house in Minneota.
I'm glad he got to see Barack elected, which restored some of his faith in his countrymen. I wish I’d been there to catch him as he fell. I hope his Icelandic ancestors are waiting to welcome him to their rocky corner of heaven. I hope his piano goes to someone who will love it as much as he did. I hope that people all across Minnesota will pick up one of his books and see what the man had to say.
A few poems that were featured on The Writer’s Almanac:
This classic book is now 30 years old. And as we approach Father’s Day, we thought we would revisit this gem, which Publisher’s Weekly called “provocative and hilarious.”
“Guys are in trouble these days,” says Garrison Keillor. “Years ago, manhood was an opportunity for achievement and now it’s just a problem to be overcome. Guys who once might have painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling are now just trying to be Mr. O.K. All-Rite, the man who can bake a cherry pie, be passionate in a skillful way, and yet also lift them bales and tote that barge.”
This brilliant short-story collection confirms Keillor’s reputation as an ingenious storyteller and very funny guy. Twenty-two classic short stories about guys and men. Click to purchase.
Read ‘Lonesome Shorty’ from The Book of Guys - click to read
A CD or download of the book is also available so you can hear it in Garrison’s own voice. The recording was nominated for a Grammy Award. Here is “The Midlife Crisis of Dionysus” as read by Garrison.
Garrison Keillor often satirized or set to music, poem, or prose some of nature’s natural wonders. And this year, we revisit one of those wonders. Yes, the cicada symphony is coming, but cool weather is putting a damper on the orchestra, which occurs every 17 years. So, here is Garrison’s ode this creature that exists to mate, lay eggs, and die every 17 years.
The seventeen-year cicada crawls out of the ground
And looks around
From a wall or a low-hanging limb —
He looks for her and she discovers him.
Courtship does not extend for months.
Their only job is to have sex once.
No long interlude of pleasant reminiscing about days gone by.
Just buzz and whir and thank you, sir, and then you die.
Cicada love does not involve poetry or song.
Was it good for you? Thanks. So long.
“Cicadas” was originally performed as part of a two-night celebration at the Fitzgerald Theater upon the release of Garrison’s poetry collection O, What a Luxury. The poem appears in printed form in the book and as part of the CD recording of the book.
A collection of merchandise curated by Garrison Keillor & staff relating to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac.