Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Treble Teens

As a 14year old I set off through the streets of my small town, wearing a burgundy skirt, pink sweater and uncomfortable pantyhose clutching an address in my hand.  The address was that of Shirley Penner, the director of a girls singing group called Treble Teens.
I was nervous and had no idea what the audition  would involve.  My Mom had just handed me the address after school and said she had booked this time for me.  I knew my older cousin had sung in this group and I had seen them perform but I never thought I would be one of them.
When I arrived at the house I was taken down to the basement and was asked to sing some scales and a familiar song.  I don't recall what I sang as I had no preparation ahead of time.  It was something like "Happy Birthday".    I was told I had a mezzo voice (having no clue what that meant)  and was put in the First Alto section of the senior choir.  We sang in a 5- riser arrangement - The first three risers were for first and second sopranos the fourth was the first altos and at the end were the second altos.  I sang with the first altos and am seated in the middle of that back row but secretly I longed to be a second alto.  Of course we sang many songs together as we did 2 and 3 part singing, but in the 4-part songs I looked longingly over at the second alto section.e of the back row of the first alto riser.

I loved my time with the Treble Teens, especially when we had intensive weekend long rehearsals.  I loved the feeling of us all working together to create something great.  I felt like a professional! 
We even had a choreographer although pretty much all we did was "step touch step touch" but I was feeling more proud of myself by the minute!  It's not easy for a Mennonite without rhythm  (and we all are) to do the "step touch" while singing!

1975 Treble Teens sang with Piero Gamba and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.   It was a Christmas special together with Will Millar, member of the Irish Rovers.  Of course, I was thrilled to be assigned to the "Back Stage Entrance" and have a dressing room with lights around the mirror!  Yes, the dressing room was shared by all 40 of us but thrilling nonetheless
Treble Teens also appeared in the ill-fated Peter Gzowski hosted show on Television.  (he was much better on radio) and we recorded an album which was not as easily done in the 1970's as it is now.  We also recorded in a studio on vinyl.  This was an interesting experience as we had to sing better than we had every sung before but no audience to relate to.  A good part of Treble Teens training was spent on stage presence and facial expressions none of which helped us in the recording sessions.  Here we had to rely on techniques learned in our weekly voice training.  It was harder than one would think.

Treble Teens was a great way for a young girl to catch the choral bug and this old lady has still not recovered.


  1. Oh how I remember the days of the Trebble Teens...I always loved their (your) performances!!

    This blog is a good idea Lori .... can't wait to read more (glad you're not making it private... this way we can all enjoy it)!


  2. You are so kind Frieda and believe me I appreciate it. This Blog feels rather awkward to me but also kind of fun. It won't be as well written or well photographed as Caroline's.

  3. Yes, fun, fun!

    Makes me want to set mine up again. We'll see.

    Whenever I pick up a term, I get all nervous about what's all on my blog and what the admin. (you know they're looking) or parents might find out that I don't want them finding out, so I 'shut 'er down'. Safe and sound.

    I remember those treble teens. They were long done when I was that age, but their legacy lived on. :)

  4. Yay Lori! So glad you're blogging! I should really post on mine again - haven't in forever! Thanks for the kick in the pants Lori ;-)

  5. Thanks for the encouragement Maria and Monica.
    But "ouch" Monica - 'they were long done when I was that age." : )

  6. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog thus far, Lori! Your comments about being an alto are highly interesting! I had my own odyssey toward becoming an alto!

    When I first started out at the U of M and found out about the "University Singers", then conducted by Henry Engbrecht, I knew I had to be in that choir! But hmmm.... I discovered that the students in the B. Mus. program had first dibbs over us (ssshhh...!) "lowly" students in the general B. Ed. program (LOL!) (I eventually became "one of them, by the way! ;) Undaunted, I marched over to Henry's office to audition ... as a soprano! (Heck, I'd always sung soprano... and wondered why no one was ever interested in my lower register!) Well ... he heard me sing, then said, "We need an alto. Can you sing alto?" I said, "Sure!" He turned to look at me, and said, "You're IN!"

    And THAT, my dear friend, was the beginning of my career as an ALTO, and the end of my soprano career... looking back... who'd a thunk it???? I am most DEFINITELY an ALTO, through and through and through!!! So yeah, I get it girlfriend! Altos are just BUILT "differently" than those Sops over there (meaning no disrespect... after all, you and I both have dear friends in the Soprano section!) and you just don't GET that .... until you're an ALTO!

    You go girl! I love your blog!

  7. Thanks Anne Marie. I love your Henry Engbrecht audition story. I can't believe he needed an alto, usually we are a dime a dozen.
    thanks for making a comment!

  8. Being in the Treble, ok I was only a Jr High singer of the TT, was great fun! No I was never a big shot SENIOR like Lori,just a lowly jr and a soprano at that. A second soprano and NO not a move towards being an ALTO.
    I actually learned how to sight read I thought you either could or you couldn't so happy I could learn.
    I even played the Handbells in my final year, ha ha, and liked it.
    "Into your hands...we commend our spirit.... into your hands", was on BIG song. oh yeah did steps to that one. Lawrence Welk material!
    I have my album that we recorded.
    Hey I do remember "Makin' Music" song but how does the song "Better World" go'

  9. Hello,
    where I can find the lyrics of TT's songs? We have a LP an we love the songs. We would appreciate any help Thanks

  10. Hilarious request to me. I know one of the LP/s had the lyric sheet enclosed but as to the other songs you probably have to "google" each one by title and composer and see what happens that way. Sorry, I realize this is not much help.

  11. Hello Lori, unfortunately our LP doesn't have the lyric sheet, I'll try your suggestion. Thank you for your reply.

  12. Hi! I am writing on behalf of Cindi Rempel Patrick. I found you because we are looking for all Treble Teen Alumni! On May 23rd, 2014, we are creating a choir from the many years of Treble Teen Alumni! Shirley Penner will conduct and we have the beginnings of a great list of past members who are willing to sing a few selections at the Steinbach Arts Council's 35th Anniversary Show! (Also some that will do the handbells)

    I hope you will contact me with your information at events@steinbachartscouncil.ca

    I am also hoping that you will pass this along to anyone you know who was a part of the Treble Teens in Steinbach.

    Have a wonderful day,