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‘Return to Houdek’ to celebrate South Dakota in song

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MINNEAPOLIS (Sept. 8, 2008) — A nine-member collective of musicians has convened to honor their roots with "Return to Houdek," a concert of songs inspired by South Dakota to premiere Oct. 10-11 at the Grand Opera House in Pierre, S.D. A benefit for community-theater group Pierre Players, the show consists of 15 original compositions written in the Americana and roots-rock style that will be explained in the storyteller’s tradition.

Comprising half of the writing team behind the South Dakota project, current Minneapolis-area residents Tom Valentine and Patrick Baker are both Pierre natives and members of the 1990 graduating class of Riggs High School, where they were both active participants in music and theater. They share writing and performing credits with their wives Molly Valentine and Jennifer Baker, originally from Chamberlain and Parkston, S.D., respectively.

"We really wanted to take a look at where we came from," Valentine said, explaining the origin of "Return to Houdek" (Houdek is the official state soil of South Dakota). "It seemed as though the timing was right. We have been away long enough now to be somewhat objective observers. And at the same time, starting to raise our own families also made us really think about very personal memories of growing up there."

Song themes run the Dakota gamut – from such familiar subjects as the opening of pheasant season and the thrill of a summer street dance to thoughtful explorations of growing up in a largely rural state and how it can affect the trajectory of a person’s life. The 15 originals are just as varied musically, with modern folk and lighthearted toe-tappers standing alongside traditional bluegrass and harmony-laden roots rock.

"It’s been gratifying to be able to work with close friends on a project celebrating what we all have in common – the South Dakota experience," Baker said. "I’m most excited about the wide array of styles, moods and ideas that form the ‘Return to Houdek’ body of work – and amazed that they all somehow form a cohesive sound. I really believe much of the show could appeal to about anyone, regardless of musical taste or whether they’re even from South Dakota."

Both Valentine and Baker said they have long held a desire to put on a show like "Return to Houdek" on the stage that both informed and helped foster their interest in the performing arts while growing up. They are thankful to Pierre Players for giving them a chance to fulfill that dream while also benefitting the community theater with the concert, they added.

The Houdek musicians all either live in South Dakota or have in the past, and many cross over in other ways too, whether through family, alma mater or former bands. They include the following: Daryn Bertelson of Mankato, Minn.; Sean Egan of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Ricky Jacobsen of Deadwood, S.D. (also a member of "The Deadwood Songbook" project); Pat O’Connell of Spearfish, S.D. (a former member of Marlys Roe & The Talismen); and Brian Stemwedel of Garvin, Minn.

In addition to 15 original songs performed and explained through stories, "Return to Houdek" will offer audiences theatrical elements including a stage set and visual projections. Show time starts at 7:30 p.m. for both performances Oct. 10-11. Houdek will record the "Return to Houdek" studio album later in 2008 for a 2009 release.

For more information about Pierre Players or purchasing tickets to the show, visit or call (605) 224-7826. For more information about "Return to Houdek," visit or e-mail