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There's nothing like live

Local University of Minnesota, Morris students got a taste of what it’s like to be heard by millions of people nationwide

February 26, 2011
By Cindy Votruba

Last Saturday, Olivia Bennett of Marshall and Luis Reyes of Hanley Falls were heard live across the country by 4 million listeners on 590 public radio stations.

The two are part of the 70-member University of Minnesota, Morris concert choir that performed during the Feb. 19 live broadcast of American Public Media's Prairie Home Companion with host Garrison Keillor.

Bennett, a 2010 Marshall High School graduate, is in the alto section of the concert choir, and Reyes, a 2010 Yellow Medicine High School graduate, sings second tenor.

Article Photos

Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota, Morris University Relations
The University of Minnesota, Morris choir was featured during the Feb. 19 broadcast of Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. Local students Olivia Bennett of Marshall and Luis Reyes of Hanley Falls are members of the choir.

Keillor and Prairie Home Companion last came to the Morris campus in 2006.

"For him to come back, that's good," Reyes said.

Bennett said she and a friend would listen to the program while on marching band bus trips, but Reyes wasn't too familiar with the show.

"I got familiar for the last two weeks," he said.

Keillor and featured guest singer Jearlyn Steele, even came to UM, Morris on Friday to rehearse with the choir students and their director.

"They came Friday and we had a two hour rehearsal," Bennett said. "It was very much fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. It went as well as any of us could've hoped." Bennett said the choir had practiced songs it was going to perform on the show, but didn't really know what Keillor would want until the day before the broadcast.

"It went well, we got to see how his show worked," Reyes said. Reyes said Keillor listened to the choir and gave the members feedback.

"It was cool and I didn't know Garrison was going to be there on Friday," Bennett said.

Keillor was impressed with how well the choir sang during Friday's rehearsal, Reyes said.

The choir also sang backup for a couple of Steele's songs. Bennett said they learned them on that Friday.

"She had to teach us the part by singing it to us," Bennett said.

"I was very impressed by her," Reyes said. "She was amazing."

One of the songs the choir sang on its own was "Put Vijini" (Blow Winds), Bennett said.

"That's a Latvian song we're going to do on our tour of Europe in May," Bennett said.

Choir members were also featured during the "Dusty and Lefty" skit. Bennett said they had to pretend to be the choir whose bus had broken down. Reyes and Bennett said they sang contemporary songs, such as "All-Star" by Smashmouth and "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.

"We sang snippets from each of those songs," Reyes said. Four of the choir members got speaking parts, Reyes added.

"It was fun," Bennett said "He's a really fun show."

And all the action took place in front of a packed gymnasium on the campus.

"It was a really big, big group of people," Bennett said, noting that the bleachers were filled, along with the chairs that were set up. "There were a lot more young people than I expected, which was cool," Bennett said.

Bennett said Saturday's live show flowed well.

"The stagehands told us when to go," Bennett said. "It all went pretty smoothly."

Even though he didn't really know who Keillor was before the live show, Reyes said he enjoyed Keillor's monologues, finding them hilarious.

"It me an appreciation to his kind of variety shows I've never known before," Reyes said.

Reyes also said he was thankful for the opportunity to be on Prairie Home Companion.

"It's something I would always treasure," Reyes said.



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