The Sprague Theater was full last Friday night for the season’s first Bandon Showcase presentation, the Voetberg Family Band. The self-proclaimed “Eight is Enough Voetberg Family Band,” is made up of 8 siblings, ranging in age from 12 to 25, two of whom are national fiddle champions. The family’s spokessibling said at the beginning, “This evening is all about family,” and no one was disappointed. Together, they put on a powerful, moving, and entertaining show.
The Voetbergs featured mainly Celtic fiddling but worked in American fiddle, oldies, rag, and jazz, as well as some pieces written by the siblings themselves. They are clearly well-versed with and comfortable singing the variety of styles, moving smoothly from one to another. Along with their two older siblings who are no longer in the band, they began their musical endeavors together in their living room, singing multi-part harmonies with their mother. They all work together extremely well on stage, down to the youngest member, and seem to enjoy performing together. With smiles on their faces and a natural stage presence, they all look happy to be there and are quite relaxed, save the flying fingers.
The eldest Voetberg Family Band member, Liddy, has written, arranged and produced several pieces for the family band. She has won several championships and contests, and has even released her own solo project. She impressed the audience with her crisp, precise fiddling, but her talent does not stop there. She stepped in front of the microphone to sing early in the performance with her youngest brother Rudy, and her voice is as clear and true as the music she produces with her fiddle. She also took her turns at the piano, the first of the family to display the many musical talents possessed by all of the siblings.
Elisha, the emcee of sorts, kept the audience entertained with the one-sided banter and quips he kept up whenever he was in front of the microphone. He explained much about the family, including the fact that the Voetberg children have all been homeschooled to enable their travels and performances (he jokingly illustrated this with a segue into the song “Wonderful World” which begins, “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology…” sung by the 3 youngest boys of the group). Elisha had a lot of nice things to say about the Bandon Showcase and our beautiful town of Bandon but promised not to say anything about our well-kept secret.
Elisha’s talent goes far being a comedian; he is the band’s amazing guitarist and has won several regional picking championships with his guitar and mandolin. He doesn’t stop there, however. Liddy told the audience at one point during the performance that with enough applause, he would play the fiddle. True to her word, after an enthusiastic round of applause, Elisha picked up his fiddle and showed his mastery of it. Like his older sister, he has won several fiddle championships and has placed in the top 5 at other competitions.
Annie, age 22, was the first in the family to win a fiddle championship. She had a calm presence on stage, but by no means did that mean she was meek. She joined her siblings in perfectly synchronized fiddling, had her turns at the piano, and helped with background singing, but her primary instrument is the cello, and it would not have been at all surprising to see smoke coming out of it at times. Although the cello is typically a mournful-sounding instrument, Annie brought it to enthusiastic life with jigs and reels, her fingers veritably dancing on the fingerboard.
Lilja spent most of the evening at the piano, trading with her sister Liddy, but the 20 year old plays fiddle as well. She is also a fiddle champion and top 5 finisher at the national fiddle competition.
Tucker, the band’s drummer and a golfer, is 18 years old. He spent part of the evening at the drums, behind his brothers and sisters, but by no means did he stay back there. He joined two of his brothers dancing to and singing “Wonderful World.” He too is a fiddler and fiddle champion.
Also a golfer, 16 year old Deter plays the bass for the band, but the instrument he played is unlike any bass most people have ever seen. Unlike the original huge, towering bass cellos we’re used to, the bass Deter played was thin and short, a perfect travelling size. It was not short on sound, however. Along with Tucker, he expertly kept the band’s rhythm moving along. Deter, of course, is a regional fiddle champ and won 6th place at the national fiddle championships.
Vance, age 14, and his fiddle stayed front and center the majority of the night. He is a National Jr. Jr. fiddle champion, a two-time state fiddle champion, and has won several regional competitions, and dazzled the audience with his talent.
The youngest at age 12, Rudy is also a regional fiddle champion. He appears to play his fiddle as naturally and joyfully as his older siblings, but is a very talented singer as well. Besides singing “Wonderful World” and back-up for many songs throughout the evening, he joined Liddy early on in a duet, and then amazed everyone with his solo rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “All of Me” later on.
Behind this spectacular group of young people are their parents. Their mother, whom Elisha affectionately referred to as “Mommy,” had some stage time herself. Her first song, a waltz, was about a sailor and his first mate (clearly a man and his wife) who eventually had a crew on board with them. This brought chuckles from the audience, thinking about their ten children. She is also their teacher, clearly a big job. Their father helped run the lights, drives their van, and, as Elisha explained, is their biggest fan.
The Voetberg’s final number was a fiddling standard, “The Orange Blossom Special” which required some audience yee-hawing and incorporated some classic TV show theme songs, but they returned to the stage for an encore. The encore, an Elisha original, was not exactly what folks were expecting. While Vance played a beautiful tune on his violin, Elisha told a story of how he was moved, watching an eagle soaring. When he said, “…and this is what the eagle said to me…”, the audience expected a lovely tune on his guitar but were instead treated to his version of an eagle’s song: several shrieks that filled the theater and incited roars of laughter.
The Voetberg Family Band was a fabulous kickoff to this season of the Bandon Showcase shows, an incredible display of talent, right here in our own Bandon’s Sprague Theater. The Bandon Showcase continues in January with a John Denver musical tribute, a comedy ventriloquist and Irish comedian in March, and then wraps up in May with Anthony Kerns, the star of the Irish Tenors.
The mission of the Bandon Showcase is to bring professional music to the community and to provide outreach opportunities for youth. The Bandon Showcase brings several quality shows to the Sprague Theater each year.