I Was A Treble Teen

I’m second from the left in the back row

Last weekend thanks to Cindy Rempel Patrick, the Steinbach Arts Council, and Golden West Radio, I was able to enjoy a reunion concert and brunch for the Treble Teens, a singing group that put Steinbach on the map for a number of decades. I was in the Treble Teens from 1969-1971. Like many women in the choir I learned valuable lessons about responsibility and teamwork from my experience.

Jocelyn Reimer Kent in June 2010 with then President of the Canadian Nurses Association Kaaren Neufeld

 Four years ago I had the privilege of writing a news story about Jocelyn Reimer Kent, a former Treble Teen, who was a University of British Columbia adjunct professor and the president of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses. Jocelyn had developed an internationally recognized protocol for treating cardiac surgery patients.

Jocelyn Reimer is third from the right in the first row in this newspaper photo advertising the May 1970 spring concert of the Treble Teens

During our interview, Jocelyn expressed appreciation for the lessons she’d learned while performing with the Treble Teens. She said director Shirley Penner helped her cultivate the confident stage presence she had needed to present her innovative ideas to audiences from across Canada and around the world. 

Shirley Penner at Saturday’s reunion brunch

Jocelyn’s story is one echoed by many of the Treble Teens I spoke with during our reunion weekend. Besides learning music skills their participation in the choir helped develop traits of leadership, loyalty and poise that served them well in life.

Old and new members of the Treble Teens perform a number at the 1971 spring concert- I’m at the far end left in the second row wearing my high school graduation dress and sporting my granny glasses

It was a treat to browse through the memorabilia on display at the Cultural Arts Centre during our Saturday morning brunch. Looking at photos of the choir from my era I was surprised I was still able to name almost all forty singers with whom I’d performed. I was delighted to see a copy of the record we’d made and found I could still recall the words and music to most of the songs we’d recorded like The Sleigh, Moody Manitoba Morning, Little David Play on Your Harp, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.

The Steinbach Treble Teens participate in A Mosiac of Music in April of 1970- I’m the very furthest to the right standing and leaning on the door

Looking through scrapbook pages I was impressed by all the things our choir had done- participating in a multi-cultural show at the Centennial Concert Hall, recording radio and television programs, singing with the Winnipeg Symphony and travelling to other provinces to perform.

In the early ’70s, our director was still referred to by her husband’s first name instead of her own

It was interesting to see how times had changed since the 1970s. I noted in newspaper articles about the Treble Teens, Shirley Penner, the group’s director and founder, was referred to by her husband’s first name rather than her own, and that the songs we sang frequently used words like brotherhood and man even though our choir was exclusively female.

Old Treble Teens uniforms on display at the concert

I got teary at the concert when Arts Council President Frances Funk mentioned parent support. My parents paid for my participation in the Treble Teens and my voice lessons. They drove me to practices, came to my concerts and helped with fundraising. I was sad my Mom, who died a year ago couldn’t be at the reunion concert. She’d have loved it.

I bumped into my Carillon editor Grant Burr at the concert and when I told him I’d be writing a column about the reunion for this week’s paper he suggested, perhaps in jest, that I reveal the untold story of the Treble Teens. I haven’t done that, because, despite the inevitable behind the scenes politics that exist in any organization, the experience of singing in Treble Teens was overwhelmingly positive.

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

But I will leave you with one ‘inside scoop.’ Quite a number of former Treble Teens confessed that like me, they had their mouths open but weren’t really singing on those high notes at the concert on Friday night. After all, many of us are in our sixties and at least in my case, the only singing I’ve been doing of late is with my grandson.

Other posts about Steinbach……

An Alphabet For Steinbach

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

The Old Kornelson School


Filed under Childhood, Culture, Education, Music

2 responses to “I Was A Treble Teen

  1. Superb Mennonite Church

    Thank you for your article. I was in TT from 73-76 and it was a foundational experience for my life. You expressed it well. The untold stories are the incredible variety of ways that singing in this choir influenced our lives. Who knew that learning to handle a mike on stage would be part of preparation for life!


  2. Sandy Fast

    I was a Treble Teen in the late 60’s. If you have another reunion, I would love to attend! Wow! This has taken me back!


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