WARM 'WELK'OME'
Lawrence Welk Show' alumni perform at 4-H fair grandstand

By Marcia Fulmer
Entertainment Editor,
Elkhart Truth newspaper, Elkhart, Indiana
July 20, 2002
 
 
 
GOSHEN--Emotional comfort food.

That's the easiest description of the music that floated through the Elkhart Co. 4-H Fair Grandstand Friday morning as "The Lawrence Welk Show" alumni Guy and Ralna and Myron Floren took about 2,000 mainly senior citizens on a melodic trip down memory lane. Even the champagne bubbles were recreated, thanks to a group of GinDor Inc. employees who took the day off to help at the fair. Seated right nest to the stage, they created a continuous flow of bubbles throughout most of the hour and a half performance.

The excellent tuxedo-clad Tim Forneck Orchestra from Grand Rapids, Mich., played and, en masse, went from jackets to shirt sleeves as the heat increased.

The Welk show has not been on television "live" since 1982, but PBS re-runs have kept its performers perennially pouffed and polyestered.From "Stop and Smell the Roses" through a variety of oldies ("My Blue Heaven," "Tangerine," "Only You," "Side by Side," "You'll Never Know") and gospel ("Put Your Hand," "How Great Thou Art"), the singing duo of Guy Hovis and Ralna English demonstrated the vocal power--individually and together--that made them popular favorites on the weekly cavalcade of music.

The tuxedo-clad Guy and red-gowned Ralna work comfortably together, no surprise except the once married duo, the Welk show's dream couple, has been divorced since 1984, a fact Ralna explained early on. Earlier Guy said some fans didn't know of the split until years later, because it happened after the show left the air. Both insist Welk performers are still "one big happy family," a statement that has to be believed after seeing them on stage and off. All are proud of the "Milestones and Memories" TV special which brought surviving Welk show members together.
 
 
Another is planned for March, but this time, according to Guy, there will be only about 18 invited performers.

Today Ralna lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.., and performs the most of any of the three. Guy, now remarried, says his "day job" as state director for Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) limits his outside performance time. He did admit his favorite music is gospel and, if he had his choice, he would be first tenor in a gospel quartet. "Being on the Lawrence Welk Show was my only claim to fame," he said grinning before the show, while wondering whether he would be able to sing so early in the morning (no problem). "I was the utility man," he said. "If there was a song that didn't fit anyone else, they'd say--Give it to Guy.

Although glad that PBS has kept the show alive, he rarely watches the re-runs. "It's those clothes and that hair from the"70's," he cringed. His mom, however, still watches and she tells me every time I'm not on.

"Today, the place I'm in is real nice," Guy said. "I can sing when, where and what I want...and even for free because I don't have to make a living at it."

The senior member of Friday's performing trio was the amazing Myron Floren, a very youthful 82 (almost 83), whose warm grin and hearty handshake tend to make a stranger feel like a longtime acquaintance. A big hit at last year's senior day, the mostly-retired Floren said then he'd like to return. It was obvious the audience was glad he did.

He was joined once again for "Beer Barrel Polka" by Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman after newly crowned Senior Queen Julia Bauman shared an on-stage dance with young Tyler Hostetler. Poking fun at the problems of advancing age (he suffered a slight stroke during a performance in '98), Floren introduced medleys by announcing, "I'm gonna play three songs. I forget the first, but you'll know it" or "I can't think of it...but the first one's in G and the next one's in C."

The laughter was definitely empathetic. The musician who gave new life and new status to the accordion, has
"cut down" on public appearances, doing only about 20 shows a year instead of 150 to 200.

He still practices daily at his home outside of Los Angeles, a habit that began in Sioux Falls, S.D., when Myron, 15 got his first piano accordion and practiced eight to 10 hours per day.

It was the instrument that was his first love and, like his wife of 56 years and his five daughters, is still the love of his life.
 
A patriotic medley concluded the show...and the bubbles were still floating.
 

 

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