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Up close & personal: Lorie Line's May 12 concert has intimate format and feel

Lorie Line is a brunette, not a blonde, and the female pianist and recording artist wouldn't liken her life to a fairy tale, but she can relate to the fictional story of Goldilocks.

"I've had the most beautiful career of anybody I know," she said. "It's been just right for me. It's like the story with the three bears and the three beds -- it hasn't been too big or too small. It's been just right."

Billed as "America's Favorite Female Pianist," Line has released 25 CDs, with sales exceeding 5 million copies, and released 20 complete books of music. She owns and runs the largest woman-owned independent record company in the world. The annual holiday show with her Pop Chamber Orchestra is an extravaganza that is anticipated at venues throughout the Midwest.

And yet, she asserts that her family life is very much like that of any working parent. She and husband Tim have two children.

"At one point in my younger years, I really wanted to be really big nationally. I had big dreams," she reflected during a phone interview from her business office in downtown Wayzata. "But this is good. I love this. I still can go places and don't have the paparazzi out there. I have a very cool life in that I can pick and choose what I want to do. My kids can go to public schools. Everything's under control. I don't have to have a nanny. I don't have to have a driver. We do our own house cleaning, our own gardening. I find time to tour, write music, arrange music. We have wonderful friends. I'm my own boss. I feel very entrepreneurial. I can turn on a dime, make decisions very quickly every day that affect our organization. I'm in a very good place."

A new tour is allowing Lorie to share more of her life with her audiences. Called "The Spring and Summer Evening Series: An Intimate Evening with Pianist Lorie Line," the tour is much less extravagant and much more personal. It's a departure from what she's done in recent years.

"It's going back to where I started," she explained. "I have been working with some of the same musicians for more than 15 years. Some of them don't tour, though, because my tours are enormous, some of the biggest tours out there. The holiday shows are the biggest and fastest-moving tour in the country at that time of year, and not everybody's geared up to tour that long and that hard. Either you love it or you can't stand it. I love touring. Tim loves touring. The people in the Pop Chamber Orchestra must love touring. You're unhappy if you don't love it. So I've worked hard at getting a group together that can tour together, hang out through November, December, some of October, in a very confined space, on the bus and in hotel rooms.

"On this tour, I'm only taking five people, and I'm going out with my top favorite musicians," she continued. "They don't have to dance. They don't have to sing. They don't have to change costumes. I'm just going out with the killer musicians. It's a different vibe, with more options musically to create a more intimate show, only based on music. These are some of the original cast members that have recorded with me over the years."

The smaller cast will include drummer Kirk Johnson, Jeffrey Bailey on bass, Dave Budimir on trombone, Bruce Kurnow on harmonica and Dean Magraw on guitar.

Another integral part of the show will be Line's piano -- her personal concert grand piano. Line has two, and this time it's the white one that gets the nod.

"I have one piano at the studio and one at the house," she said. "The studio piano is going out on tour. I'm taking Esmerelda out this year. It's white, so it looks more springy, and it's newer than my black piano. The pianos are like race horses, and they know when they're going out. My piano that sits on a stage at the house, he's a black stallion and he knows when he's going to go. He loves to tour. Esmerelda's a little more temperamental. She was made in Japan, and I had it shipped over. It's the only concert grand white piano in the country. I had her made for the 2000 show, 'White Christmas.' We couldn't have a black piano for a white Christmas."

The studio to which Line refers is a relatively new addition to the Lines' property on Lake Minnetonka. She and Tim renovated a guest house, doing a lot of the work themselves, and turned it into a recording facility. Line's latest two recordings, "My Favorite Things," a holiday CD, and "Now and Then" were both recorded there.

"Now and Then" includes arrangements of some contemporary songs such as Coldplay's "Clocks" as well as a few older pieces, like The Beatles' "Yesterday" and "On a Slow Boat to China." Line's daughter, Kendall, also sings on the recording, performing "I'm Not That Girl," a song from the musical "Wicked."

"I'm going to play some of that music," from "Now and Then," Line detailed about the upcoming concerts. "There will also be some older music from 'Young at Heart,'" an earlier CD (September 2004). "I think I have a really good lineup. ... There's something frightening about doing a big show, but there's also something frightening about doing a smaller show. You're more exposed. You're really inviting people into your life."

The format allows Line to perform again at some of the smaller venues she's done in the past, like Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, as well as some new locales. The first wave of the tour features about a dozen concerts scheduled through May, and another similar grouping is being arranged for a second tour, perhaps heading toward the eastern United States.

Throughout the show, Line intends to incorporate some stories and anecdotes about her life, adding to the intimate flavor.

"I think people are really going to enjoy the storytelling, the more personal side of Lorie Line. I really do feel like I can pull up a chair and tell them fun stories. I even feel like I can tell them secrets. This is not for 4,000 people, it's for 400 people. I'm not frantically trying to change out of a 100-pound gown in the middle of the show. I wear one gown in the first half, another one in the second. It's just going to be a lot simpler."

There will also be a chance for a personal encounter with the pianist.

"I don't get to do this during the holiday show, but I'll be greeting fans in the lobby after the show, autographing CDs and music books in the lobby afterward," she said. "I have a brand-new music book out for beginners, called 'Practice, Practice, Practice.' I put it together based on comments from my fans who were always asking, 'What book is the easiest book?' So this is my first easy book. People can take a look at it online."

While the new tour allows fans some unique opportunities, it also has some advantages for Line and her family. Because of the proximity of many of the venues, she gets to return home frequently during the tour, affording her more time with family. An avid gardener, Line will also get to enjoy her spring plantings.

"I have 4,000 tulips coming up right now," she said with obvious delight. "Sometimes I've never gotten to see them because I've been out on tour. I don't even remember what color I planted. I'll just get word over the phone of how beautiful they looked or maybe see the last of them when I get home. Because of the nature of this tour, I get to enjoy all the plantings. It works for everybody, and I get to see the gardens come up."

Lorie Line will perform at 7:30 p.m. May 12 at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center in Worthington. For tickets, phone 376-9101.

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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