FARGO — The coronavirus outbreak has put the clamp down on a lot of live entertainment, making it harder to check out new music.
Prairie Public has a solution.
The network’s new season of “Prairie Musicians” kicks off Thursday night, May 7.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for musicians to show what they’ve been doing,” says the series' producer, Barb Gravel.
The series, now in its 12th year, features artists from North Dakota and Minnesota, and occasionally from Manitoba. Each half-hour segment is dedicated to a performer, giving them a spotlight to play in and also allowing them to explain who they are and what they do.
Previous episodes have included rock, country, jazz, blues, folk, gospel and other traditional music. Performers have ranged from Annie Humphrey, a singer and guitarist from an Ojibwe Indian reservation, to the Christian bluegrass band The Benson Family Singers and the avant-garde compositions of Trio Lorca, a group of St. Cloud (Minn.) State University music teachers.
“This is about a variety of people coming together to show what they’ve been doing,” Gravel says.
Due to copyright issues, the performers must play either original material or selections from the public domain, which only underscores their creativity, Gravel says.
“Certainly these are the epitome of artists,” she says.
Funded in part by the Legacy Amendment in Minnesota means the show can occasionally reach deep into the Land of 10,000 Lakes, even where Prairie Public doesn’t broadcast. Still, Gravel points out that with the shows eventually available online, location isn’t as much a concern.
All of this season’s performances were filmed in the Prairie Public studio in Fargo in January.
“It’s pretty much our favorite project throughout the year because we’re doing it with these amazing artists,” she says.
Things get going at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday with Fargo-based rock band Stovepipes, followed by the country harmonies of sisters Kendra and Kansas Jensen from Goodridge, Minn., at 9.
The first night closes with the Fargo-based polka and rock band Meat Rabbits at 9:30 p.m.
On May 14, the show goes deeper into Minnesota, with performances by Minneapolis singer-songwriters Chris Koza at 8:30 p.m. and Dan Israel at 9:30. Fargo-based funk and soul band The Vistas play at 9 p.m.
The final night on May 21 casts a larger musical net, starting off at 8:30 p.m. with Alexandria, Minn.-based Robb Justice playing a mix of roots rock. The show heads west at 9 to capture the jazz scene in Bismarck, N.D., through Scott Prebys and Jazz Friends as they swing through standards.
Fargo Spelemannslag keeps the tradition of Scandinavian folk music alive with hardanger fiddle playing at 9:30 p.m.
“It’s part of the culture of this region. Hardanger fiddle has an amazing story to it,” Gravel says.
What: “Prairie Musicians”
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 7
Channel: Prairie Public