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12/13/2012 9:12:00 PM
Have a Howdy Holiday!: Cowboy Christmas brings holiday feeling to PCA
Courtesy photo
Tony Norris returns to the Folk Sessions production of A Cowboy Christmas, Saturday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.
Courtesy photo
Tony Norris returns to the Folk Sessions production of A Cowboy Christmas, Saturday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.
Courtesy photo
Nancy Ruybal and Jon Messenger 
complete the bill for A Cowboy Christmas, Saturday night at the Prescott Center for the Arts.
Courtesy photo
Nancy Ruybal and Jon Messenger complete the bill for A Cowboy Christmas, Saturday night at the Prescott Center for the Arts.
By Joanna Dodder


PRESCOTT - "A Cowboy Christmas" was so popular its first two years that organizers have added a matinee this year.

The annual concert features cowboy music, poetry and stories at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.

"This year, I wanted to make sure we play up the music," Folk Sessions host Tom Agostino said. The Folk Sessions is presenting the event with PCA.

This year he invited western musicians Tony Norris from Flagstaff alongside Jon Messenger and Nancy Ruybal from the Sierra Vista area. They'll perform separately, and then together at the end.

Norris, who sometimes dresses up as Santa, performed at the first Cowboy Christmas. Agostino likes to say Norris sounds like Garrison Keillor would sound if Keillor were raised on cornbread and beans.

Agostino will never forget the story Norris told at the first Cowboy Christmas about being snowbound in a cabin on the San Francisco Peaks.

"He had people rolling in the aisles," Agostino said.

Norris said he's glad to be back.

"Tom always promotes a good event," he said. And Norris gets to visit some of his Prescott relatives while he's here.

Norris is a singer, songwriter, storyteller, and host of music festivals and radio shows, Agostino said.

"He does it all," he said.

Norris said he doesn't come with a predetermined set list, because often the audience and fellow performers inspire him to play certain tunes. He does get lots of requests for the snowbound cabin story, however.

Messenger is a talented writer and guitarist in high demand for studio work, said Norris, who has known Messenger for many years. Messenger is a founding member of Rimfire, a western trio.

"He has a gorgeous, deep voice," Norris said.

A lot of artists have recorded Messenger's old school music, Agostino noted. Messenger is president of the Western Music Association board and has been nominated for several WMA awards.

Norris has performed at the same cowboy poetry gatherings as Ruybal, but hasn't had the opportunity until now to play with her on stage. He recommended Ruybal to Agostino.

"She's really known for her voice," Agostino said. Her band's website describes it as an alluring vibrato with sweet Celtic undertones.

Ruybal is an award-winning songwriter and founder of the Katy Creek band.

Agostino said he started the Cowboy Christmas annual tradition because he loves the pure humility of cowboy music.

"I'm from Brooklyn, so I still get a huge kick out of cowboy music," he said.

(Tickets for Cowboy Christmas are $17. Call 445-3286 or go online to pca-az.net. The Prescott Center for the Arts is located on the corner of Marina and Willis.)


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