Fiddling around with Family: 5Q’s with Hulda Quebe

By Steven Libowitz   |   November 30, 2017
Quebe Sisters Performing Band

Hulda, Sophia, and Grace were ages 7, 10, and 12 in 1998 when they attended their first local fiddle competition near their Texas home, and within a year won both state and national championships in their respective age groups for four years running. Nearly two decades later, the trio’s evolution from “whiz-kid Western swing fiddlers” into an adult Americana band with heavenly harmonies is nearly complete, as the Quebe Sisters are finally fixing to record their fourth album, their first featuring original songs.

Hulda clued us in on the latest developments in advance of the sisters return to the Lobero stage this Friday as part of the Sings Like Hell series.

Q. Being in a band with your sisters: sibling rivalry or sibling revelry?

A. (Laughs) That’s a good question. We have a lot of fun together. It’s good because can be really honest with each other, ‘cuz we’re family. While we do have disagreements, we appreciate both our differences and our similarities. And usually, we can come to some sort of consensus when there are issues.

How do you create the close harmonies, and for that matter divvy up the fiddle parts?

When a song is brought to the table, it’s usually pretty clear who should do what, which one of us will have the best interpretation, which is usually the one that found the song. The current setup is mostly Sophia singing lead, with Grace doing lower harmonies, and me the higher ones. But we switch around a lot more now than we used to. Same goes for the fiddling.

Transitioning from a kid trio to a mature band has meant a bit of a change in style. How has that happened?

It was our mentor who introduced us to western swing, which we love. But as you mature, your musical taste deepens and you learn to love music on your own. It’s like weening yourself from your parents. You don’t really know what you want when you’re still in your teens. I think all three of us are in our journeys, figuring out our own tastes and our sound. We’re in the process of diving into what inspires us as individuals and as a band. We want to take it further, still do dance-based music that makes you want to move, but also lyrically says something about the culture we live in and make a difference. So, we’re excited about finally writing our own songs that are good enough to record.

You’ve played Asleep at the Wheel’s Dance Hall tour, on cruise ships with Delbert McClinton, and with a zillion stars at the Grand Ole Opry. What’s the biggest thrill of your career so far?

Oh, man, that’s a tough one. Gimme a second… okay, as a kid, it was playing the Ryman Auditorium for the first time. It was a special night, because we were on the same stage where all the musicians I’d listen to growing up had played. I actually cried after we walked off the stage. It was validation that we were doing something that mattered. Now it’s getting to work with the booking agency we have. We’d been pushing ourselves, and when someone in industry you respect wants to work with you, it means a lot. It’s a moment to step back and go wow, this is really my life.

Speaking of which, this life is all you’ve ever known. Ever envy the “regular” kids?

Hmmm. What’s “regular” in this world? I think it’s a matter of anything you don’t get to experience, you wish you could have that lifestyle. So sure, I wanted to do those normal teen things, like go to school and hang out with kids, which would be cool. But I also appreciated how unique our experience has been. I know it sounds like a generic answer, but it’s the truth.

Christmas at Pemberley

Andrew Barnicle freely admitted he had some doubts about signing on to helm Ensemble Theatre’s holiday show Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, an imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, despite scoring successes with all three of his previous directing turns at the Santa Barbara company in just two short years.

“I’ll be honest, I was skeptical,” he said over the phone last week. “And I didn’t even know why they wanted me. I do understand historically how things work. But quite frankly, I figured he would want a female whose sensibilities seemed more attuned to Austen than mine. Then I read it and I liked it.

“But the real litmus test was my wife.”

That would be the woman who served alongside him as volunteer dramaturg at Laguna Playhouse, where Barnicle was the artistic director, helming 40 plays and producing another 80 during his 20 year tenure. His wife, Barnicle said, is “the biggest Jane Austen freak in the world.”

“When I gave it to her, she said, ‘No, nobody would try to write that.’ But then she read it one sitting and declared it delightful. So I knew I was good to go.”

The Barnicles aren’t the only ones impressed by Miss Bennet. Only a year after debuting, the play has become a regional holiday hit, while its co-author, Lauren Gunderson, at 35, is said to be the most produced playwright in the country for the 2017-18 season.

“She’s done a really accurate job of recreating the style and syntax of Jane Austen, the circumventing language that dances around the truth with that weird veneer of politeness of the era before getting down to it,” Barnicle said.

The plot of Miss Bennetconcerns the “lost middle sister, Mary, who is neglected in Pride and Prejudice, just a geeky teenager that nobody played attention to. But now, just two years later, she’s having her moment in the sun,” he said. “It’s about her coming of age and finding out who she is in the shadow of her sisters.”

The action takes place at the titled estate, the distinguished home of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in the early 19th century. The happy couple have invited the entire family to visit for Christmas, and they gather in the drawing room as the play unfolds.

“It’s a holiday play with lots of music and even Christmas carols,” Barnicle said. “But it’s also about love and tolerance in the face of numerous legal, social historical gender-based obstacles. Ultimately, it’s about people figuring out how to come together rather than breaking apart, an ode to the human heart.”

(Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley plays November 30 to December 17 at the New Vic Theatre. Call 965-5400 or visit


You might also be interested in...