Friends in perfect harmony

They come from far and wide to meet at the Mitchelton Catholic Church.

The conductor, Nita Leigh, has been a member since 1974. Margaret Douglas, now in her 70s, has been coming since she was 18, while the accompanist, Mary Hogan, is a relative newcomer to the job. She first sat behind the keyboard for them in 1986. Along the way, they have shared life’s journey – births, deaths and marriages, joys and sorrows.

It all began in the 1970s, with the mixed Sandgate Choir.

The teenaged Margaret, the organist, asked her young friend Nita to join her.

They stayed on when the Sandgate choir joined with the Brisbane Choral Society.

When the conductor died in 1987, it was decided to disband but after 12 months, realising how much they missed their weekly rehearsals, the girls regrouped. But what to do for a conductor?

The daughter of a member was studying at the Conservatorium and agreed to the job, but when she graduated, they were once again stuck.

“I said I would do it until we found a new one, but we never did find anyone,” Nita says.

“Everyone said, ‘we know you, we understand you’ so I’m still here almost 30 years later.

“I have honed my skills since then, but they understand me and that’s what matters.”

By this time, it was difficult to attract men to sing, so the choir became women-only.

And that’s how it has  stayed.

The Treble M Choir currently has about 27 members – most of them also turning up for decades rather than years, although the newest signed up only a few months ago – and coming from all quarters of Brisbane – and in Margaret’s case, Beaudesert.  When she moved 16 years ago, she wasn’t about to give it up.

“These ladies are my friends,” she says. “After we had the year off, I gave up as accompanist and joined as a singer. Nita let me sing but the others told me I should keep playing.”

While the uniform is now a simple white top with black skirt, there was a time when it was canary yellow.  They laugh as they recall that they had a maternity dress made in canary yellow, which was passed around the group.

“Our kids are now in their 40s,” Margaret says.

They have sung at weddings for their children and now they are grandmothers.

“We don’t do competitions or eisteddfods. We are more a women’s club enjoying the camaraderie,” Nita says. “We strive to make a nice sound and we enjoy ourselves.”

But while they might be there for the friendship and fellowship, they also happen to be very good at what they do; their singing is in perfect tune like their friendships.

The Treble M Choir does two concerts blocks a year, one as a fundraiser for St Vincent de Paul and the other a Christmas concert. Some years they have managed to raise up to $3000.

The choir has a mixed repertoire, from ballads to hits from the classic musicals; and from Bach to Abba.

“They say music is the last thing you lose when you have dementia, so we often find audiences at nursing homes we visit are singing along with us.”

This year’s concert is Treble M - Movies, Musicals and Memorable and includes the themes from Titanic, Dr Zhivago and Gone with the Wind.

They will perform at Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Church, Samford Rd, Mitchelton on Sunday, June 10 at 1.30pm. Admission of $15 includes a sumptuous afternoon tea and goes to a very worthy cause.