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Relive ACU’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’ show

This is KACU-FM’s 25th year of bringing National Public Radio programming to Abilene and the Big Country, as you’ll read in the upcoming issue of ACU Today magazine.
It’s been quite a run for KACU-FM, which draws heavily on Abilene Christian University and its Department of Journalism and Mass Communication for on-air talent and day-to-day administration of the station. Among highlights have been two of NPR’s top-rated shows traveling here to broadcast their familiar sounds.
The most recent was “From the Top,” a show hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Reilly and featuring the talents of some of the country’s best young classical musicians. O’Reilly and friends recorded a show Nov. 16, 2010, from Abilene’s First Baptist Church.
But the thrill of KACU-FM’s lifespan thus far was the opportunity Oct. 18, 2008, for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” to stage its Saturday night show from Moody Coliseum before an enthusiastic crowd and a worldwide radio audience of more than 4 million listeners. Women from ACU’s A Cappella Chorus performed half a dozen songs with Keillor and gospel singer Jearlyn Steele, including “Just As I Am” and “When Peace Like a River.”
Need a mid-winter treat? Download and enjoy the two-hour performance from the Prairie Home Companion website, which also included Keillor interviewing College of Biblical Studies dean Dr. Jack Reese (’73) about a little Church of Christ history, the host’s tongue-in-cheek profile of ACU’s hometown, and a Guy Noir skit about a fictional “Abilene Secular Humanist University.” No one pokes fun like Keillor, as you’ll surely discover if you are not already a fan of the humorist who spins tales about his fictional hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minn. And no one is exempt from the fun-poking in this show: Texas and some of its most beloved traditions, “khaki-colored” Abilene, music ACU students sing in Chapel, conservative politics, instrumental music and, well, you just have to listen for yourself.
The Moody Coliseum crowd had multiple opportunities to join Keillor in song, from “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (Doxology)” to Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” and “Abilene” (the one made famous by country singer George Hamilton IV). After the show, patrons of KACU-FM joined Keillor and the cast, crew and volunteers for dinner next door on the stage of Cullen Auditorium. The memorable gathering featured Keillor leading the group in a number of traditional religious songs and hymns the best-selling author clearly loves to sing. And as he learned, there’s not a better place for some impromptu four-part harmony.