Florian to perform familiar ’60s tunes at Memorial Auditorium
WORTHINGTON — If you’re still wondering “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” or believe the answer is “Blowin’ in the Wind,” then William Florian’s nostalgic “Those Were the Days” show is perfect for you.
At 7 p.m. next Saturday evening, seasoned entertainer Florian will share his highly praised program of tunes — the two classics named above, along with other unforgettable ‘60s songs like “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane,” “Annie’s Song,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “California Dreamin’” — on the stage of Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center (MAPAC).
“He’s a consummate entertainer,” said Tammy Makram, MAPAC’s managing director, of Florian, a former lead singer and guitarist in the famed band The New Christy Minstrels.
“William Florian offers more than just music; he tells a lot of great stories about all the other singers and musicians he’s worked with.
“Anyone who enjoys music from that era — Pete Seeger, the Mamas and the Papas, John Denver — will love it, but I’ve been surprised when seeing him in the past that people of all ages are familiar with these songs and really have a great time.”
Florian, now based in Sebastopol, Calif., is an in-demand musician who travels the U.S. to perform dozens of times annually. This past week, Florian paused between shows in Arkansas to offer a few insights into his lengthy career via a phone interview.
“I’ve been performing since I was a kid in Connecticut,” said Florian. “I started playing guitar after the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show, because I wanted to be like them and have all the girls screaming at me.”
By seventh grade, Florian and his friends had formed a band, entertaining at local school dances and establishments in the vicinity of his Canton, Conn., hometown.
“We grew our hair long and played rock and roll all through high school,” he said.
After touring around the country with his similarly musical sister, Nanette, for a time, the pair auditioned for The New Christy Minstrels when they were in Los Angeles, Calif.
“They didn’t hire us right away,” Florian admitted with a laugh, “but we got in about a year later.”
From there, Florian has gone on to make a successful career of crooning the songs he loved in his youth — one of his personal favorites is the Seekers’ “I’ll Never Find Another You,” which he said was the first 45 RPM record he ever bought — and sharing them freely with enthusiastic audiences everywhere.
Indeed, Florian recently wrapped up a tour hitting numerous Florida sites, with recent and upcoming gigs taking him to states ranging from North Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Texas and California.
“I did a tour throughout China last year, too,” he mentioned.
Makram, who has seen Florian perform on several occasions, recommends his excellent musicianship, easy-going demeanor, informative stage patter and knack for knowing exactly what people want to hear.
“He’s really easy to talk to and is very comfortable with audiences; he relates well to them,” she attested. “William is a personable, charismatic individual with a lot of great stories that I know people will enjoy.”
Florian relishes being his own boss and says he likes all aspects of his work — not just performing, but also the marketing, travel and business elements he coordinates.
“This is a wonderful job and there’s a lot to it,” he said. “I enjoy all of it, and being on stage is lots of fun.
“Of course one of the best parts is bringing joy and music and humor to my audiences, and seeing the emotion this music stirs up during shows because these songs bring back many memories,” he continued.
“People come up to me afterwards, sometimes in tears, and say, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard that song in years.’ I definitely have found a job that works well for me.”
It’s rare that concert goers at Florian’s shows — whether at an outdoor festival, a performing arts center like MAPAC or a corporate conference — don’t join in and sing along. That’s because, he said, everyone seems to know all the songs he shares.
“This will be my first time performing in Worthington, though I’ve done plenty of Midwestern concert tours and shows in other parts of Minnesota,” Florian said, adding that he consistently programs a New Christy Minstrels hit, “Today,” as his second number.
“I’ve sung it a thousand times, but it continues to feel brand-new,” he added. “It allows me to live in the moment and realize how great life is no matter how old we are. That’s always the hope for my audience as well.”
William Florian’s “Those Were the Days” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. All seats are reserved. For tickets, visit the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, call 507-376-9711 or visit friendsoftheauditorium.com. Advance purchase tickets are discounted, and tickets are also available beginning one hour before the show. There is free pre-concert entertainment in the lobby, as well as refreshments available for purchase.