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Joy, hope and love: When the Wicklines come on stage, faces smile and toes get tapping

By on February 26, 2019 in Arts with 1 Comment
The band, including, from left, Sherman Hayes, Karla Jo Tupper, Dave Michalski, Lynda, Mandi, Bob and Marcee Wickline and Dave Thomas, have a lot of fun on stage while making beautiful music.

By Marlene Farrell

Photos by Kevin Farrell

Eight friends shared a stage for a Christmas show. Behind them, the floor to ceiling windows gave a sense they were playing, not just for their audience, but also their tunes were spilling out into the dark night. 

Four of the band members were family, the others connected by the invisible hands of time spent together doing something they love. 

Karla Jo Tupper, the flutist, insisted, “We are family.”

Bob Wickline began the band, Wickline, four decades ago. Their repertoire of folk, rock and bluegrass, with hints of old time, gospel and Celtic traditional music, highlight the expressive voices of Bob, wife Lynda, and daughters, Mandi and Marcee, who take turns doing lead or backup. 

The other band members lend their voices and also provide lively and evocative playing on guitar, bass, flute, mandolin, penny whistle and drums. 

Mandi Wickline, a Leavenworth local, arranged to have Wickline play an intimate Christmas concert in Icicle Creek Center for the Arts’ Canyon Wren recital hall.

For her day job, Mandi helps others perform to the best of their ability. As Cascade School District’s head drama coach and co-director, she oversees three productions every year, including a splashy spring musical, and coaches the speech and debate team. For six years she has also directed the Upper Valley Connection Special Needs Theater Camp production in June.

Mandi Wickline said, “I knew Canyon Wren would be the perfect fit for our personal show that’s like a family Christmas party.”

She squeezes in chances to be the one on stage. She’s been involved both behind the scenes and on stage for Dangerous Women, an original and annual Women’s History production. In addition, every year she joins Wickline for Christmas concerts. 

Performing was destiny for Mandi and Marcee. When each was little, they joined the band and enchanted audiences with renditions of Daddy, What If? And now they create three-part harmony with their mom, Lynda.

While Mandi was growing up, Wickline made the rounds regionally through the summer festival circuit. It worked well with the time off from Bob and Lynda’s teaching jobs. 

“I travelled with my parents throughout my childhood in a big white bus,” said Mandi. “My grandparents would either come along to watch me, or I’d stay with them so I wouldn’t miss school. I loved singing at fairs.”

For years Wickline gave musical education presentations at schools through the Washington State Arts Commission. 

“My family visited over 2,000 schools during their 18 years with the Arts Commission. We mostly played elementary schools. One of the coolest things was doing shows for parents in the evenings; they were like bluegrass picnics — very festive and community-oriented. I learned the importance of arts education from my parents. I also developed a love for creating community through the arts.”

Every year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is dedicated to a marathon practice session to prepare for Christmas shows, where, as Mandi puts it, “We work on Christmas songs with a folk rock or bluegrass influence. We also play a few hippy songs — because we’re hippies.”

Bob’s the founder of the band, but he was quick to say, “It’s a collaborative effort. I’m working with talented people who give good input.”

Bob encourages lots of audience participation during performances, noting, with charming self-deprecation, “Singers live longer. And if everyone’s singing and we make mistakes, you can’t hear them.”

Lead guitar Dave said, “The greatest thing about this band is you never know what to expect.” Song order might change on the fly, but this extended family, who know each other’s playing style so well, make it work, seamlessly adapting. 

One of the final pieces during the Leavenworth Christmas concert was a special song, Could You Fall in Love on Christmas. It started as a poem written by an extended family member who was diagnosed with cancer. 

Mandi explained, “The poem sat on Dad’s desk forever because he was afraid he couldn’t do it justice. But when he finally picked it up to put music to it, the song practically wrote itself.”

Everyone in Wickline gives much to the audience. Mandi said, “My dad isn’t afraid to show emotion on the stage.”

In return, the group is treated to an authentic audience response. 

In Canyon Wren, everyone was singing along, tapping toes and smiling, soaking in the joy, hope and love conveyed through the music of Wickline.

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  1. Sandra Purdue , says:

    So nice to read about our old friends Bob, Lynda, and girls. We all belonged to the same church family for years before we moved to Utah. Miss their concerts.

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