Last week I was lucky enough to get to go see Garrison Keillor, the renowned storyteller, at the Eastman Theatre! I was so excited to have the chance to see him live. My family wasn’t an NPR family growing up, but many of my college friends are fans, and they had always raved about good old Garrison. After a long week, “An Evening of Storytelling with Garrison Keillor” seemed like just what we needed!
Being a bit of a Keillor n00b going into this show, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was pretty delighted, though, when he kicked off the evening with a singalong! It was an eclectic mix, everything from “This Land is Your Land” to “I Saw Her Standing There.” Another delightful factor? I spotted the president of my alma mater, Joel Seligman, seated in one of the boxes near the stage, blowing his nose frequently and singing along. (I was under the weather too, Joel. It’s okay. Hope you’re feeling better!).
Garrison Keillor performed with an incredibly talented jazz sextet from the Eastman School of Music, and they blew me away. Garrison would chat and joke for a bit, then have the musicians play a little bit. They played Gershwin, New Orleans jazz, and much more! The clarinetist was so fantastic it made me really want to pick up my clarinet again. And I haven’t played in 4 years!
They closed out their set with a number I was very pleased with myself for recognizing: The St. James Infirmary Blues.
While the song’s origins are unknown, Louis Armstrong made it famous with his recording in 1928. I actually knew it from my visits to Fritzel’s, my favorite jazz club in New Orleans! I’ve visited NOLA enough to love the city, but definitely not enough to count myself satiated. I can’t wait to go back sometime!
Anyways, this jazz sextet from Eastman performed a phenomenal rendition of this fantastically depressing song and it brought the house down. And then they came and sat next to us in the crowd! So that was pretty cool.
Garrison has such an interesting style. He’s understated, calm and mellow, but manages to include a level of depth and detail in his stories that’s both astonishing and impressive. My mind caught on details of each story more so than the overarching story arc. The strawberry shaped change jar his parents kept in his home growing up. The French’s mustard he squirted on his burger on his sneaky trip out of the house. A memory like that is bound to make you a good storyteller!
My favorite story that he told was about the insane murder ballads his grandma used to sing him. So strange and so hilarious! I couldn’t believe how he remembered every single word of the ballad. They were bizarre and hysterical.
Up next in the fantastic Eastman Presents concert series? The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to town! They’re featuring Nikolai Lugansky as the pianist and are performing Brahms and Shostakovich. I’m sure this will be an amazing concert and I’m psyched to see it!
Good news for YOU! I’m giving away a pair of tickets to this concert too! To enter: 1) Follow @eastman.school on Instagram. 2) Follow me on Instagram (@servemethesky). 3) Leave a comment on my photo about this post telling me why you’d love to see this concert. If you’re not feeling competitive (or don’t win but are still dying to see the show), you can purchase tickets here.
Best of luck to all!