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'Lawrence Welk' vet to join Jubilee at Maryland Theatre

April 07, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

There will be a celebration, a "Celebration of Spring," in the form of Laurel Mountain Jubilee at The Maryland Theatre on Thursday, April 10.

In the style of Grand Ole Opry productions, the variety show will take the stage at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. There will be music - gospel, country, folk and inspirational tunes. There will be dance, comedy and audience participation - family-oriented entertainment.

The jubilee is hosted by Mark Statler and features DeAnna Dawn Denning, comic Howard "Caboose" Mincone, a "Salute to Patsy Cline" and the Laurel Mountain Gospel Quartet.

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John Parrendo, fiddler from the country band Blackhawk, will be spotlighted, and headlining the program is Ralna English, who has performed on "The Lawrence Welk Show" since 1969.

English will be making her Laurel Mountain Jubilee debut.

"It's gonna take me back to my roots," she says.

She just completed a 21-city tour of "The LIVE Lawrence Welk Show" all over the United States - including two and a half days stuck in Denver during the "storm of the century."

She's ready to celebrate spring, and she's ready to sing her mix of country, gospel and patriotic songs at the downtown Hagerstown theater.

"I've never done a show in 30-something years that didn't close with 'God Bless America,'" English says.

English first sang before audiences when she was in junior high school in Spur, Texas, near Lubbock, Texas.

She started with a rock 'n' roll band, then added Dixieland, big band and jazz to her repertoire. She performed on local television shows and at public events. While attending Texas Tech University, she was chosen to perform at Six Flags Over Texas and moved to Dallas.

She got a job singing jingles, and for two and a half years, sang jingles four hours a day and in nightclubs six nights a week.

When English was 18 or 19, she moved to Los Angeles. She performed at a Santa Monica, Calif., club called The Horn. Regulars included Jim Nabors, Jack Jones, Vikki Carr and Steve Martin, doing his "stupid magic tricks," English says.

She played Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and did a USO tour in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

In 1969, English auditioned for "The Lawrence Welk Show," a television program she says her grandmother loved.

She sang "I Have Loved Me a Man," a "folkish" song she describes as her least favorite type of tune.

She was hired for the Welk show. Her parents and some of her friends thought she was "nuts," English says. But it was a network show, and although she intended to do just one show, she's been with it for more than 30 years.

"I'm way past 50," English says, not disclosing her age.

"It's been such a great road for me," she says. "I'm so happy to be going on."

Yes, Welk died in 1992, but the show also goes on. Celebrating 51 years on television, it is viewed by 2.5 million people on weekly broadcasts on 277 public television stations across the United States.

English and other original members of the company tape segments that update their lives and careers and introduce shows from the past that are broadcast weekly.

"It's just been the greatest gift to me," English says.

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