This week: we're live from New York for the second of three broadcasts this December from The Town Hall on West 43rd Street. We'll have songs of sacred moments, empathy, and memories from Bon Iver; banjo virtuosity from Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn; and observations on life from Idaho-raised, New York-based comic Ryan Hamilton. Plus: another new entry in the Song of the Week canon from Chris Thile; music from our band, The First Call Radio Players -- singer Aoife O'Donovan, Richard Dworsky on keys, bassist Mike Elizondo, Alex Hargreaves on fiddle, guitarist Julian Lage, and drummer Ted Poor; and we'll dive into the joys and miseries of the holiday season and survival in the Big Apple with our acting company, Serena Brook, Tim Russell, and Fred Newman. Warm up your Twitter reflexes for this week's Instant Song Request and join us on Saturday evening.
Download the Song of the Week, "Ornaments"
  • Bon Iver

    Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer Justin Vernon is best known as founder and frontman of Grammy-winning indie folk band Bon Iver. His frequent collaborations include artists such as Bruce Hornsby and Kanye West (who has called Justin his "favorite living artist"). In 2016, after a five-year hiatus, Bon Iver released 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar), described as "a collection of sacred moments, love's torment and salvation, contexts of intense memories, signs that you can pin meaning onto or disregard as coincidence."
  • Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

    Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have been called "the king and queen of the banjo" -- and with good reason. Fleck, a 16-time Grammy winner, is a master of three-finger style; Washburn, a singer-songwriter and clawhammer ace, has combined American old-time music with Far East culture and sounds. The first duo recording for the couple, who married in 2009, won the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk album. Echo in the Valley -- their second album together -- was released this fall on the Rounder label and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart.
  • Ryan Hamilton

    In 2012, Rolling Stone named Ryan Hamilton one of Five Comics To Watch. And comedy fans have been keeping an eye on this Idaho-raised, New York-based stand-up ever since. On TV, he has appeared on Conan, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Last Comic Standing, and other shows. And he's a favorite at clubs across the country. Happy Face, his first one-hour special, became available on Netflix this past August.
  • Chris Thile

    By the time Chris Thile turned 15, he had already been playing mandolin for a decade. He'd also started Nickel Creek with Sara and Sean Watkins, and released his first solo recording, 1994's Leading Off. This Grammy winner and MacArthur Fellow teams up with numerous musicians in myriad styles and leads acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. His albums include Thanks for Listening (Nonesuch) 10 studio recordings originally written as Prairie Home Companion Songs of the Week. He is now in his second season hosting the show.
  • Aoife O'Donovan

    With her ethereal voice and substantive songwriting, Aoife O'Donovan captivates fans and critics alike. She was lead singer of the string band Crooked Still and a featured vocalist on The Goat Rodeo Sessions, the Grammy-winning album by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Her own recordings include Man In A Neon Coat: Live From Cambridge. Along with Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins, Aoife performs as I'm With Her, whose first full-length album, See You Around, is due out in February.
  • Richard Dworsky

    Keyboardist, composer, arranger, and longtime Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky has collaborated with such diverse musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Kristin Chenoweth, and Sheryl Crow. He has provided music for documentaries on HBO and PBS, and has released many recordings of original material, including his latest, All In Due Time.
  • Mike Elizondo

    Musician, songwriter, and Grammy-nominated producer Mike Elizondo is best known for his 11-year collaboration with Dr. Dre, as well as for co-writing Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady," Carrie Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova," and 50 Cent's "In Da Club." In course of his career, he has contributed to albums for artists across a wide range of genres, including Jay Z, Fiona Apple, Maroon 5, Mary J. Blige, Ry Cooder, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, and myriad others. He is currently Senior Vice President of A&R for Warner Bros. Records.
  • Alex Hargreaves

    Alex Hargreaves is an innovative, cross-genre violinist described by virtuoso mandolinist/composer Mike Marshall as "one of the greatest improvising violinists in America today," and "the best young jazz violinist in America" by Matt Glaser, artistic director of Berklee College of Music, American Roots Program. He has performed on stages worldwide and is the newest member of the renowned Turtle Island Quartet. Among his recordings are his debut album, Prelude, and The Brotet, with Samson Grisman, Dominick Leslie, and Nathaniel Smith.
  • Julian Lage

    The New York Times has called Julian Lage "one of jazz's breezier virtuosos, possessed of an unflappable technical facility and a seemingly boundless curiosity." A former child prodigy, the California-born, New York-based guitarist boasts a resume that an artist twice his age would be proud to claim. In addition to his many collaborations, Julian has released three albums as leader, most recently 2016's Arclight. Mount Royal (Free Dirt Records) -- his duo album with guitarist Chris Eldridge -- earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
  • Ted Poor

    "Adventurous, truly dynamic, and forward-thinking drumming," said Modern Drummer magazine of Ted Poor. An in-demand session player and sideman, this Eastman School of Music alum has toured worldwide with various bands, and he is currently an Artist in Residence at the University of Washington, Seattle. For the past few years, Ted has been a member of Andrew Bird's band and appears on Bird's 2016 release, Are You Serious.
  • Serena Brook

    Actress Serena Brook has appeared off-Broadway, on the national tour circuit, and on regional theater stages. In the Twin Cities, her work includes productions at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 7th House Theater, the Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio, and the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. The Eagan, Minnesota, native is also a voice-over artist who can be heard on national and regional radio commercials.
  • Tim Russell

    Mild-mannered Tim Russell one minute -- Obama, Trump, or myriad others the next. It's almost impossible to stump this "man of a thousand voices." A longtime radio personality (veteran of WDBQ in Dubuque, WCCO and KJJO in the Twin Cities, in addition to his decades-long Prairie Home stint), Tim appeared in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
  • Fred Newman

    Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. Turns out, no one is more surprised than Fred that he's made a career out of doing what he used to do behind the teacher's back -- crossing his eyes, making sounds, and doing voices. He readily admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."