Three Sisters and the HappBee Band
By Jon Lewis
Just Fiddlin' Around
By Jon Lewis
Photos by Jeannine Hendrickson
The way Martha Boyle figured it, her three daughters were going to play the fiddle whether they wanted to or not. Fortunately for 12-year-old Clara, Caite, 10, and Cora, 9, they wanted to. In fact, they love playing the fiddle.
Why? “We like to make people happy with our music,” says Clara, “and we like to have fun when we’re playing.” That explains the name the girls picked out: The HappBee Band, which includes a nod to mom’s beekeeping background.
It’s not hard to see where the girls’ love of music comes from. Boyle and her sisters, MaryAnn and Anna, were part of a fiddle band when they were young. As the Van Vleet Sisters, the trio performed at farmers markets, retirement homes, the Good News Rescue Mission and community events. They recorded a gospel album and traveled to Weiser, Idaho, to compete in the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest.
“It was really special to me, the memory of playing together,” Boyle says, “so when I had three daughters, I thought, ‘Oh, they’re going to learn to play the fiddle.’” Each girl started playing at age 3 or 4, once they were able to hold a pint-sized violin.
Life in the Boyle household is far from a “Mommie Dearest”-style fiddle boot camp, however. All three girls have started piano and ukulele lessons (inspired by the late Chris Uchibori), Caite has been learning to play the guitar and they all spent the summer in a junior golf program at Gold Hills Golf Club. Cora, 9, notes they all like to sew and model matching outfits when they perform.
During the school year in Cottonwood, the girls participate in musicals produced through the South Shasta County Youth Arts program. All three had roles in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Clara and Caite, the oldest two, also had parts in “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” and “Peter Pan Jr.”
The sisters formed the HappBee Band last summer and, following in the footsteps of their mother’s band, performed at retirement homes, private parties, the rescue mission and farmers markets. A highlight of their first summer together was an appearance at the Summer Mountain Music and Arts Festival at Cedar Crest Vineyards in Manton. The little fiddlers made a second appearance in July.
While fiddle tunes are their specialty, the girls say they enjoy a variety of musical styles. Their tastes range from ’50s rock ‘n’ roll like “Rock Around the Clock” to show tunes like “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music.” Caite, 10, has a fondness for Frank Sinatra, and her older sister, Clara, counts fiddling and dancing dynamo Lindsey Stirling as her current favorite.
“I try to get them to practice three times a week,” Boyle says. “I love hearing them practice. It makes me happy.” Boyle, a lifelong musician who can be heard in the North State when she performs with multi-instrumentalist Morgan Hannaford in a duo known as Fiddle Bee, backs up her daughters when they perform but says the goal this year is to get them to the level of proficiency where “they can play together so mom can sit and watch.”
Boyle says the girls are encouraged to practice even more diligently when they see how much people appreciate their music. Sometimes, that appreciation takes the form of tips. Boyle says the girls—showing the showbiz acumen of seasoned artists—saved up all their tip money last summer and they each were able to buy their own American Girl doll.
The HappBee Band is scheduled to perform at the Weaverville Farmers Market in Lowden Park from 3:30 to 6:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 13.