Small Town Girls not so small anymore

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It was only a matter of time before Small Town Girls' Hannah and Cassie Van Maele joined their sister Haley on stage.

Darrin and Alison Schott, their music Langton-Tillsonburg teachers, actually predicted it six months ago when Haley performed at a Valentine's Day Johnny Cash tribute show in front of 250-plus people at the Langton Community Centre.

"Yes I think you will see all of them, Hannah too," said Darrin, gazing into his crystal ball.

Hannah, Haley's 11-year-old twin, and Cassie, who turned 14 on Sunday, had music talent, he said. What they didn't share - six months ago - was Haley's love of performing.

That would change, he predicted.

"I think so too," Alison agreed, noting they just needed to find their comfort zone.

The Van Maele sisters formed a band, Small Town Girls, in the late spring following up on their Langton Relay for Life performance in May as they prepared for their first summer gig at Norwich Township's July 1st celebration in Springford, sharing the Canada Day stage with The Sling Band, who also provided backup for the Langton sisters.

Six months ago the girls, along with youngest sister Chloe, had argued about who was 'chicken' and who 'was not.' Saturday at the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair where Small Town Girls kicked off a full day of live music with a one-hour set of mostly country with some rock and pop, they were still arguing about who was and wasn't 'chicken.' They all agreed, however, that it was in the past.

"Hannah is not a chicken," stated Haley.

"I was the chicken and so was Cassidy..." nodded Hannah.

Which her older sister quickly denied with 'I was not!'

"You were too!"

What changed for Hannah and Cassie was taking the plunge in Springford in front of an estimated 100-150 people. And enjoying it.

"Well, I actually got on stage for once and I actually liked it," said Hannah. "So... now we're here."

"Pretty much the same thing for me," said Cassie. "I'm not nervous anymore."

"I thought you weren't ever a chicken?" Hannah smiled.

"I'm not," said Cassie.

Small Town Girls added a fourth band member in July. Bass guitarist Rebecca Allender from Mount Elgin (meeting both requirements - small town and girl), joined them at the Lynn River Music and Arts Festival in Simcoe, the weekend of July 31st-August 1st.

"That went really well," said Hannah.

The Van Maeles also tried busking at Lynn River, generating $200 in tips and donations - the most of all the festival buskers.

The band's connection with Allender was made through the Schotts, who teach guitar, violin/fiddle, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, bass, piano and vocals in Tillsonburg and Langton. Alison and Darrin's students have the opportunity to perform monthly at The Hideaway in Langton, and that's where the Van Maeles met the 15-year-old bass player.

"We were at The Hideaway performing with Alison and Darrin Schott, and then she (Allender) performed," said Cassie. "We needed a bass player, so we asked her."

Each of the Van Maele sisters play a different instrument - Cassie plays electric guitar, Haley has an acoustic guitar, and Hannah plays mandolin.

"Bass hits the low notes, to fill it in, and the mandolin is kind of the high end," said Allender, a student at Ingersoll DCI who did not have any 'nervous' issues on stage.

"I had never really performed, but I'm not shy," said Allender. "I did do a couple school things a couple years ago."

One of the band's challenges has been a rapidly expanding play list. Saturday's 60-minute set, with only brief pauses between each song, did not include all them.

Just over year ago they might have known two songs, said Hannah.

"We knew a lot more than two," Cassie laughed.

"We just learned like six songs," Hannah noted. "So, just sayin'... It's hard work."

"I learned five songs yesterday," said Allender.

Haley, who soloed at the 2015 Langton Fair talent show and qualified for the Norfolk County Fair competition, said she knew about 10 songs a year ago.

Today, Small Town Girls can play 'over 20 songs,' with only two of them not quite memorized yet.

They've even wrote one of their own.

"It's called You're My Hero," said Hannah.

"We wrote it for our music teachers," said Cassie.

"We taped it on my mom's phone," Haley added, noting it has not been uploaded online yet.

Small Town Girls have two more performances next month - Friday, Sept. 2 at Bayfest in Port Rowan (Sip and Savour), and the Delhi Fall Fest (the weekend of Sept. 16-18). They also have a couple shows scheduled during the Christmas season.



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