SimpleGifts Press Kit
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All portrait photos © 2016 St Paul Photo Co.
SimpleGifts 8.5 x 11 Poster
SimpleGifts 11 x 14 Poster
SimpleGifts 24 x 32 Poster
This Christmastide 2016
SimpleGifts Group Photos
Billy McLaughlin, Acoustic Guitar
Known for his harp-like guitar playing technique he calls "finger tapping," McLaughlin is an American original - an international performing and recording artist who has achieved Billboard's Top-Ten Chart. Several years ago, he came to embody every musician's greatest fear. The award-winning guitar virtuoso began struggling to play his own music. Searching in vain through countless therapies for an answer to his problem, he was finally diagnosed with a yet-to-be-cured neuromuscular disorder called Focal Dystonia. After enduring the loss of all he ever dreamed of, McLaughlin did what for many would be unthinkable — if not impossible — he taught himself to play left-handed. His remarkable story is captured in two award winning documentary films: Changing Keys: Billy McLaughlin and the Mysteries of Dystonia and two-time Emmy Award winning Starry Night - Billy McLaughlin with Orchestra Nova which aired on PBS stations. His triumphant comeback concert was also filmed by WWE camera-crew volunteers who captured Billy's historic return for a DVD titled Coming Back Alive. Billy currently serves as the Ambassador of Awareness for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and is a founding member of the American Brain Foundation. See more at his website: billymclaughlin.com.
Billy Oehrlein, Percussion
Billy sings, and plays drums and ornamental percussive instruments. He started playing drums at age six and graduated to a professional musician. He has performed regionally and nationally in the US, and in Europe. Billy toured with WHEELS for several years sharing stages with Randy Travis, Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, Marie Osmond, Juice Newton, and made regular appearances at the WE FEST country music festival. Billy has done numerous recording sessions and performed regularly with national recording artists Tina and the B-Sides, Billy McLaughlin, and most recently Jeff Arundel. He brings Simple Gifts season its dazzling holiday spirit with his percussive ornamental accents — ensures that holiday joyousness is on hand.
Heather Moen (Garborg), Vocals, Violin
Born into a musical family in Bloomington, Minnesota, Heather has always had her sights set on a musical career. Throughout her elementary and high school years, she participated in numerous competitions in both piano and violin. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from St. Olaf College in 2000. In addition, she also enjoys singing and songwriting and released her first solo album in 2012. Now in addition to being a mother to daughter Adeline, Heather enjoys leading worship at various churches as well as her home church, Calvary Baptist and is excited to rejoin SimpleGifts for her 7th season.
Wooden Flutes, Whistles, Concertina, Bagpipes
Laura has learned from many noted tradition bearers on both sides of the Atlantic, and has herself been recognized as a master folk artist. She has received numerous honors and performing arts awards for her participation and dedication in this realm of music, including being selected for the original Cherish the Ladies series, featuring noted women in Irish music in America. More recently, Laura was awarded both Bush Foundation and McKnight performing arts fellowships. Laura performs and teaches on an array of wind-powered instruments, including wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, Scottish smallpipes, Border greatpipes, French cornemuse, medieval greatpipes, gemshorn and voice. Enjoying a richly varied career in traditional music and beyond, Laura has performed and recorded with diverse ensembles, worked with theatrical productions and for public radio, and has performed at festivals across the United States. She can be heard on a multitude of recordings and on several documentaries. In addition to solo performance, Laura's ensembles include Brass Lassie, Ross & MacKenzie, Northern Gael, Willow Brae (harp and winds) and her duo with Dáithí Sproule. Laura's recordings can be sampled and purchased at her website: lauramackenzie.com
Karen Paurus, Vocals
Karen Vieno Paurus has performed locally, nationally and internationally since 1986 with such local bands as Holiday Ranch and BUG!. Her first solo CD, "Passion, Prayer and Poison" is available on iTunes, CD Baby and other online stores. Paurus has also performed regularly as the featured musical guest in the Fitzgerald Theater's productions of "Stage Sessions" in 2006-07 with host Heather McElhatton and guests including Robert Bly, Bill Holm, Dan Buettner, Kevin Kling, Colleen Kruse and others. She was also the featured musical guest during the Fitzgerald Theater's "Talking Volumes" series with authors Jonathan Safran Foer and Jean Harfenist. She's appeared with Colleen Kruse at the Historic Pantages, and wrote the score for the sold-out Bryant-Lake Bowl Theatre's productions of "Thirty Days in Frogtown.” Paurus was named "Minnesota Female Vocalist of the Year" in 1999 and has performed/recorded with Billy McLaughlin, Willie Wisely, Stuart Davis, Peter Mayer, Dan Schwartz, Jeff Arundel, Peter Ostroushko and others. She has also performed live on "A Prairie Home Companion," MPR, Cities 97, KBEM, Radio K, 770 and various stations around the nation.
Amy Courts, Vocals, Melodica
Singer-songwriter Amy Courts has been performing live since she was a small girl touring with her family in Denver, CO. After graduating college in 2003, she spent eight years in Nashville, TN where she independently released two critically acclaimed pop and alternative folk albums, and promoted them on multiple national tours. After moving to Minneapolis in 2011 with her family and taking a few years off to dedicate to parenthood, Amy has recently begun performing live on a regular basis with local bands and as a solo artist, along with leading worship at Woodland Hills Church. Amy is thrilled to be returning for Simple Gifts' anniversary tour! amycourts.com
Photo © TJ Jensen
Photo © St Paul Photo Co.
Photo © St Paul Photo Co.
Photo © Melissa Busse
Photo © Melissa Busse