musicians bring back memories for Lied crowd"
by John Cutler
For the Lincoln Journal Star
Thursday, February 28, 2002
- The "ah-one-and-ah-two"
was gone, as were all those bubbles, but some of the elements
that made the "Lawrence Welk Show" a television staple
came to the Lied Center for Performing Arts Wednesday to help
a crowd of 1,200 remember what it was all about.
- The audience
came from all over. Vanloads from retirement homes, groups from
as far away as Yankton and Norfolk, buses from Omaha, all coming
to hear and see the voices and instruments out of the past live
on the stage. Ralna English and Ava Barber, Henry Cuesta, Jack
Imel and Mary Lou Metzger.
- The dozen
instrumentalists in the band were under the baton of John Baylor,
who is married to Janet Lennon of the Lennon Sisters.
- The music
started with Barber, who recruited two men from the house to
help sing, "Ya'll Come" for the opener. "Jim"
and "Martin" did the response, and Martin took a real
shine to showbiz with his antics. The crowd laughed and clapped
- English came
to the stage with "Tangerine" and "Green Eyes,"
then let the emotions go with a touching "Wind Beneath My
wings." She explained her positive relationship with former
husband Guy, noting they were still friends. In the second act,
English held the house spellbound with a lush rendering of "I'll
Be Seeing You."
- A Welk show
would not be a show without dancers. For the tour that included
the Lied Center, Russian dancers Pasha and Iona performed. They
are an excellently trained pair, but their forte is NOT the polka.
The pair danced the "Pennsylvania Polka," but their
near-ballet elements were much too polished and classical for
the usual Welk Show fare.
- That's not
to say the dancer don't deserve accolades. Late in the show the
pair danced a carefully choreographed "Waltz of the Flowers,"
then a Cossack dance that was breathtaking in its precision and
partnership. Near the close of the show, it was announced that
Pasha is becoming a United States citizen, with Aylona soon to
follow. A huge round of applause came from the crowd.
- While the
dancers drew much attention, it was perhaps the oldest of the
musicians, Cuesta and Imel, who held the crowd's attention.
- Cuesta is
know for his Benny Goodman-style clarinet playing. It was apparent
with a rousing "Sing, Sing, Sing." as the crowd clapped
along, and a driving "Begin the Beguine." But far away
from the Goodman style was his "Just a Closer Walk with
Thee," which he said was the first number he performed with
the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
- Imel is a
marimbist and dancer too. After showing off his mallets on "Lover,"
he joined Metzger for a tap dance pairs routine to "You
Gotta Have Heart." During the 1960s Welk shows, Imel would
occasionally jump over the marimba in his dancing. he told the
crowd he wouldn't try it Wednesday, and in the routine that followed,
Imel approached the marimba three times with jumping on his mind,
but would stop short as the crowd howled.
- Patrons stood
and began to sing with English on the band's finale, "God
Bless America." It was a touching moment and the crowd stayed
on its feet for the traditional Welk show closing, "Good
- It was, indeed,
a good night for the house, mostly seniors, who came to remember
and enjoy what used to be the mainstay of the
night TV diet.