WASO, Brulé concert scheduled for broadcast Nov. 26, Dec. 3
WORTHINGTON -- It isn't every day one's friends and neighbors are seen on TV, but in the coming week, Worthington residents will have two chances to spot several familiar faces if they tune in to Pioneer Public Television.
WORTHINGTON - It isn’t every day one’s friends and neighbors are seen on TV, but in the coming week, Worthington residents will have two chances to spot several familiar faces if they tune in to Pioneer Public Television.
At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and again at 8 p.m. Dec. 3, a concert taped live on Nov. 24, 2015, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center (MAPAC) will be featured in a premiere broadcast on Pioneer Public TV (PPTV) as part of the station’s “Making Spirits Bright” membership drive.
With PPTV promoting the performance on its own website as a “soon-to-be-classic holiday concert,” the 90-minute presentation (initially scheduled for viewing in PPTV’s South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin markets) is not to be missed for fans of the award-winning Native American band Brulé and the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO).
“I’m so proud for the orchestra to be featured like this,” assured Dr. Christopher Stanichar, director of WASO. The homegrown symphony collaborated with Brulé on the one-of-a-kind concert.
“Both the orchestra and the story of Paul LaRoche and his band, Brulé, deserve the attention.”
Paul (Summers) LaRoche grew up in Worthington, where he graduated from high school and later married his teenage sweetheart, Kathy (Frisch) Summers.
At age 38, following the death of his adoptive parents, LaRoche learned the truth about his biological heritage: He was a member of the Lakota tribe, with family still living on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation.
Always a talented musician, LaRoche changed the focus of his music to reflect his Native American roots; Brulé was eventually born, and the unique band has thrived for the past 20 years.
“Over the course of two decades, we’ve been privileged, blessed and lucky to receive a lot of support from public TV generally,” said LaRoche in a recent interview.
“Our biggest previous effort was in 2008 and 2009, when public TV broadcast Brulé’s performance at Mount Rushmore.
“Almost every public TV affiliate picked that up, and it still runs to this day; it’s hard to predict if multiple affiliates across the country will do that, but it could happen again.”
The WASO/Brulé collaboration was historic in many ways. First, it was WASO’s initial experience as a “backup group” and is resulting in WASO’s television debut.
But it also marked a 60th anniversary of sorts for LaRoche and his wife, with LaRoche viewing the 2015 concert as a reconnection with MAPAC and his childhood home.
“Being able to return to your hometown to perform after 60 years - I’m 61 now - and to have family, and people you knew in high school, still there is wonderful in itself,” said LaRoche.
“Then you add into it the collaboration with WASO, and the blending of Native American music with orchestral instrumentation - that’s a first, too, being on the cutting edge of a new musical sound.
“It all struck a chord with public TV to the extent they wanted to be a part of it, so it’s really exciting to see this all come to fruition.”
Tammy Makram, MAPAC managing director, is equally in awe that all the pieces came together for what she is assured will be a high quality broadcast event.
“Somehow, it all fell into place,” she said. “A lot of credit goes to our technical director, Mark Brodin, because the filming of the concert wouldn’t have been possible without his knowledge and professional expertise.”
PPTV’s new mobile studio was put into play for the taping, and Makram said weeks of preparation preceded the concert.
“Pioneer also spent a lot of time talking to Paul LaRoche and going around Worthington with him, and they met with WASO’s leaders to get background information to supplement the concert clips,” Makram explained.
LaRoche recently saw a preview of the WASO/Brulé production at PPTV’s Appleton headquarters and proclaimed the result “fantastic.”
Although Stanichar hasn’t yet seen it, he was equally confident in the outcome.
“I assume it will be of the highest production quality,” said Stanichar. “The WASO leadership team (Melanie Loy, Karen Pfeifer and Beth Habicht) put in a great deal of hard work for the many, many details that had to be attended to for that concert and taping to be successful; it was a labor of love.
“We - WASO - were there to support Paul, Brulé and his story, and we are definitely happy to have been included. Their music isn’t contrived, but is true to the Native American experience, directly from the heart and soul of Brulé.”
Viewers will be treated to numbers such as “Star People,” “Silent Star Night,” “Silent Grace” and “Creator’s Prayer.”
“I’m a strong advocate for public TV because of its support for artists and musicians,” said LaRoche. “Anything we can do to raise the viewership of these two broadcasts and help out their funding programs is important.
“Brulé is unique, but that can be a two-edged sword,” he continued. “We have the opportunity to be really different and gather attention, but at the same time, we don’t always fit into the ‘system.’
“Public TV has been the one national medium giving us regular exposure.”
LaRoche emphasizes how honored he feels to receive ongoing support from Worthington over the years.
“We’ve seen the city go through so many changes, but I’m very proud to be from Worthington and so grateful to the folks at MAPAC and WASO; they’re the ones who made this possible, and we are very humbled and overwhelmed by this,” said LaRoche.
“This [the concert collaboration and PPTV broadcast] is one of the pinnacles of our 20 years of Brulé, and we feel blessed to be a part of it. Last year’s concert had all the marks of a monumental event, and this broadcast is great for Worthington, great for WASO, great for culture and great for Brulé.”
Pfeifer, a WASO leadership representative, admits she had not foreseen WASO reaching the heights of a regional - and later, perhaps national - TV broadcast in collaboration with a renowned group such as Brulé.
“We had no idea when we started this seven years ago that we’d be where we are today,” said Pfeifer. “This is far beyond what we envisioned, and it’s such an honor to be on stage in this big way with a nationally known act.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities and experiences for our musicians, and this certainly is one.”
Makram is equally delighted at the exposure the PPTV broadcasts afford MAPAC and Worthington.
“It’s like a dream come true to see all of this come together, and to show off our beautiful auditorium - it’s just amazing,” said Makram.
LaRoche, who continues touring nationally with Brulé and performs up to 150 times annually (the group will be playing at the Historic Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa, with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 10), is similarly pleased.
Assured LaRoche, “When you see a response like we had last year in Worthington, it’s a heart-warming feeling that you put in your bag of great memories and wonderful things to share as time goes on.”
The Brulé/WASO holiday concert will be broadcast on Pioneer Public Television at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Dec. 3. For more information, visit www.pioneer.org/viewing-area . For more information about Brulé, visit www.brulerecords.com .