Pop Culture

Symphony Brings Garrison Keillor's Wobegon Tales to UH's Cullen Hall

Garrison Keillor, the longtime host of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion, will visit Houston for a one-night-only appearance presented by the Houston Symphony.
Garrison Keillor, the longtime host of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion, will visit Houston for a one-night-only appearance presented by the Houston Symphony. Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony
Listen up, American Public Media folks – now’s the chance to see one of your staple entertainers. Garrison Keillor, the radio host with deadpan humor and his trademark red tennis shoes, will make a stop in Houston to grace audiences with his tales of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota on Monday, September 25 at Cullen Performance Hall as part of the Houston Symphony’s fall line-up.

“He’s such an amazing storyteller. He’s a modern-day Mark Twain in my opinion He’s just brilliant,” said Lesley Sabol, director of popular programming for the Symphony.

In an ad to fans, Keillor mentioned he’s “Telling stories about Lake Wobegon in Minnesota, the little town that time forgot…Not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.”

In the past, his stories meandered from anything like the goings on of the local church to his fascination with the letter P. For this performance, Sabol says, "He’ll be on stage with a microphone weaving tales from books and stories, some from A Prairie Home Companion, as well as his newfound life as a retired guy."

The performance will last approximately 90 minutes, and if tradition holds, he will sign books afterward. Despite his popularity, Sabol says, Keillor remains quite down to Earth and accessible to his fans.

"He was there close to midnight [autographing books] last time he was here. He’s very gracious to his fans with his time," she notes.

Keillor has been entertaining listeners for most of his life. He hosted A Prairie Home Companion on APM for 42 years before stepping down last year and handing the reins to current host Chris Thile. On the show, Keillor often talked about tales from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota — probably a result of his upbringing.

He studied communication at the University of Minnesota and worked for Minnesota Public Radio starting in 1969. From there, his popularity grew and grew — as did his imagination. He amassed 3.5 million listeners on 700 public radio stations as his tales of local life became more and more colorful about the small town and its many adventures.

Just like his stories, his list of awards has collected over time. Keillor has been honored with Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He has also published several books, and his radio show was turned into a movie in 2006 starring sandpaper-voiced Lindsey Lohan, Academy Award winner Meryl Streep and comedy Grande Dame Lily Tomlin.

Needless to say, he has a following, and tickets will sell out fast.

As sometimes happens, the Houston Symphony will not perform during this performance, but this presentation was important enough that the Symphony wanted to offer the chance for audiences to take in an evening with Keillor.

"This is really part of pop culture," says Sabol. "At the Houston Symphony, we like to bring that to our audiences. We like to remain relevant in that regard. As one of the voices of our time, we feel like [Garrison Keillor] is an important person to showcase."

Garrison Keillor performs at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Cullen Performance Hall, 4300 University Drive on the UH campus. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35 to $149.

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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd