VACAVILLE — It will soon be a Vacaville voice providing the vocals for Big Band era’s most famous band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Natalie Angst, a member of the Vacaville-based Honeybee Trio, said she is still stunned that she will be providing her voice to tunes such as “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in the 76-year-old band’s 300-stop 2014 tour.
“It has all been kind of surreal,” Angst said of the opportunity.
The Honeybee Trio has been performing since October 2008, when its members were in their early teens and piano teacher Debbie McMindes asked them about doing a Christmas performance at a retirement community.
Angst, a 2013 Will C. Wood graduate and Vacaville native who has been singing and playing cello for most of her life, is one third of the trio that includes Karli Bosler and Sarah McElwain.
Since 2008, the trio has performed classics from the 1930s and 1940s swing era with an emphasis on song of performers such as the Andrews Sisters. They have performed at venues throughout the state, ranging from Welcome Home Warrior events at Travis Air Force Base to the Vacaville Festival of Trees gala and San Francisco Giants games.
They have been popular with veterans and military groups with gigs that even included the commissioning ceremony of the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Stratton.
“We loved it and we have stuck with it,” said Angst of the trio’s emphasis on 1930s and 1940s vocal music. “That music has the best three-part harmonies.”
Angst’s big break came when the trio sang at a Glenn Miller Orchestra Festival in the southwestern Iowa town where Glenn Miller grew up. Nick Hilscher, music director for the band, saw their show, liked what he heard and asked both Angst and Bosler to audition since they were old enough.
“I thought ‘No way am I going to get this, but I will try,’ ” Angst said of the audition
She nailed the audition with two songs she had never sung, “I Know” and “That’s Sabotage,” and got the call two weeks later while she was at her job at Mel’s Diner.
“I got the voicemail and I started crying,” Angst said. “I am still overwhelmed, but I know that I can do this.”
“Nick thought she would be a terrific choice to replace our leading vocalist,” said Charles deStefano, president of the orchestra. “We are always looking for someone who would come out on the road and perform with us.”
Angst will pack her bags on March 1 to join the orchestra in Arizona. She will get to listen to the vocalist she is replacing and then become the featured female vocalist for a tour that will keep her on the road for the rest of the year, with stops in 48 states, Canada and Japan.
Angst’s first local performance with the orchestra is March 15 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, which she expects will be packed with family members and friends from the Vacaville area.
Her repertoire will be everything Glenn Miller played, as well as other performers from that period that includes her favorites, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
“We are going to be doing a lot of her songs,” Angst said of Fitzgerald.
With her roots with the Honeybee Trio, few of the songs are strangers to her, but Angst said one of the challenges will be taking songs she performed as part of the trio and melding them with the big-band sound.
She is grateful that her time with the Honeybee Trio gave her such an education in vocal music and a repertoire that is a near-perfect fit with what the orchestra plays.
“I could not have done this without all the support of the people of Vacaville,” Angst said.
Angst is scheduled to tour with the band for a year, with the option of extending that if things work well. That extension could be a long one, Angst said, noting that the last vocalist stayed with the band for 35 years.
The Honeybee Trio’s last local show before heading to Japan will be on Feb. 8 at the Kroc Center at 586 Wigeon Way, Suisun City. In Japan, the group will put on four shows before splitting up for at least the next 18 months, with Bosler starting a mission for her Mormon Church in Hong Kong and McElwain finishing her senior year at Wood.
“Once we are all back, maybe we can do a big show,” Angst said of the Honeybee Trio’s future.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.