Small Town Girls went ‘big’ Saturday night at Norfolk Has Talent.
The Langton-based country band consisting of 14-year-old twin sisters Haley and Hannah Van Maele, their 16-year-old sister Cassie Van Maele, and 14-year-old Jillian Van Daalen of Tillsonburg rocked the Simcoe Composite School Lion’s Auditorium during the sixth Norfolk Has Talent showcase.
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They were the first performers to play in the second act and impressed judges Abraham Asto, Jonathan Ellul and Kiri-Lyn Muir so much that at the end of the night the girls were crowned champions – an honour that came with a $5,000 grand prize, and at the same time padded their growing resume.
“I thought it was really cool,” said Hannah, vocals and mandolin. “And some of the younger dancers were really cute.”
“I thought it was put together really nice and really cool to watch,” said Haley, the lead singer.
“It was great,” nodded Jillian, the drummer, who joined the third-year band in the spring.
“It was fun to watch all the other acts and compete against other great, amazing people,” said Cassie, lead guitar, “that were also very talented.”
It was the first talent show for Small Town Girls as a four-person band, Cassie noted, and “it was really cool to do that.”
Norfolk Has Talent is aimed at amateur entertainers from Norfolk, Haldimand and Brant Counties and Six Nations. In the case of bands and choirs, at least one member of the group has to be from one of the designated areas.
A total of 20 acts – singers, musicians, dancers and an illusionist – performed before a crowd of more than 250 and each was given detailed feedback from the aforementioned panel.
Auditions were held a month ago, and while preparing for showcase Small Town Girls choreographed new elements to their performance with more movement on the stage.
“I went out of my comfort zone,” Haley smiled, recalling the moment when she moved to the front of the stage. “I decided to take the microphone out of the stand – I’ve never done that (during a song) before… I was so scared I was going to drop it.”
“And then we all went around Jillian (near the end of the song),” said Hannah.
“Almost everything we did was planned,” said Jillian, who also went out of her comfort zone singing into a mic (low harmony while Hannah did high harmony) along with her drumming. “Like they said, none of us had a moment when we were ‘in the dark.’ We all shined a little bit.”
“We practiced lots and lots…” said Cassie.
“A lot – a lot – a lot – a lot…” Hannah smiled.
“To get it perfect,” Cassie nodded.
“Never have to practice that song again,” Haley joked.
Small Town Girls went with their original song ‘Daydreaming’, a country song written by Haley and Cassie about a “teenage fairy tale” – a teenage girl daydreaming about her boyfriend.
“We both wrote it,” said Haley.
Head organizer Dave Kent was amazed by all the performers on the Norfolk Has Talent card.
“I was once again blown away by the acts that performed at the showcase. Congratulations to all of the acts that performed Saturday evening. You are all winners.”
Like the judges, Kent praised the Small Town Girls.
“(They) were outstanding,” he said. “Their dedication to their craft will lead them on their way to professional careers in the industry if they stick with it.”
The Small Town Girls plan to use some of the money to record an original song – or maybe even songs – and they hope to have it played on the radio.
“We were so happy and thought it was really cool to win the whole show,” said Haley, adding the feedback from the judges was beneficial in providing ways they can improve.
Haley also credited the other artists on the bill.
“All the other acts were really good,” she said.
“I really liked the third-place person (Amanda DeBock),” said Jillian. “She was my favourite.”
“I loved Kaeley Atkins, second place,” said Hannah. “She was so good.”
“The second and third place were good, but I loved the father and daughter (Mike and McKenna White) – that was my favourite act,” said Haley.
Atkins, from Simcoe took home the $2,000 second-place prize while DeBock, from Delhi, received the third-place $1,000 prize.
Also competing were Anti-Socials, Paul O’Toole, Collateral Beauty, Andy Gorzo, Hermione Marshall, Cameron Fairburn, Em Jordan, Jeff Smith, Mike and McKenna White, Rylea Awrey, Victoria Rockefeller, Kaylynn Riches, Alesio D’Agostino, Max Abonyi, Jill Church, Isla Kelly and Marlon Schott-Ramirez.
Former Canadian Idol winner Theo Tams was the MC for the night. Last year’s Norfolk Has Talent winner, Danielle Ward of Delhi, was guest performer.