In September, 1957, eight young men met for the first time at the newly-named University of Maine in Portland (on the former Portland Junior College campus). Although we came from quite varied backgrounds, there was immediately a common interest...the love for singing harmony. Since UMP had no dorms then, we had no place to go between classes except the school lunchroom, which is where we began "woodshedding" old barbershop numbers of the time, such as "Linger Awhile", "Mister Moon", "Sweet Cindertime", and a real old chestnut "Lately I've Had Trouble Meeting Mary." It seems we were liked, or at least tolerated by most of the students and faculty there...even Vera, the crusty lunchroom manager became a big fan (though not big enough to offer us a free lunch).
It was purely coincidental we had about the right voice ranges for a double quartet. We began to become friends and vocal counterparts, practiced a bit at some group members' homes, and managed to polish up a bit of our barbershop numbers which we performed from time to time at the college.
The original group consisted of:
Tenor: Leo Daniels & John Mitchell
Lead: Frank Morrison & Bob Sweet
Baritone: Pete Hay & Don Chenard
Bass: Don Rumery & Dana Dudley
Our musical backgrounds were also quite different. As I recall, Rumery and Dudley both played instruments (piano and sax, I think), and they were strong and resonant basses. Pete Hay and Don Chenard provided a wonderful mellow baritone sound which kept us in tune (most of the time, anyway). The leads, Frank Morrison and Bob Sweet were equally gifted. Frank had a clear "radio voice" and a wonderful sense of humor. Bob was everyone's "Mr. Nice Guy", a very good musician who usually pounded out the parts on the piano for us to learn. For the tenors, Leo Daniels had the trained voice in the group. He had done extensive solo work around the Portland area, and had sung the leading role in a Portland Lyric Theatre production, "The Student Prince." John Mitchell was a music lover from an early age, dabbled a bit at the piano, and enjoyed working on vocal arrangements.
1958 saw the original group separate, as the "upper register" transferred to the Orono Campus. the four of us became involved in campus musical activities such as the Chorus and/or The University Singers. We found four guys who shared our musical enthusiasm and we coined what seemed to be a very natural name, "Maine Steiners".
The new group at Orono consisted of:
Tenor: Leo Daniels & John Mitchell
Lead: Bob Sweet & Larry Libby
Baritone: Dave Sweet & Bob Dubois
Bass: Frank Morrison & Ray Berg
We decided to schedule rehearsal at least once a week (3 hours or so) at a room in the Memorial Student Union (Sunday evenings, I think). Our repertoire began to grow, and included some barbershop numbers, and semi-modern songs by Rodgers and Hart, Gershwin, and other popular composers of the time. Most of the arrangements were stock, with certain modifications we thought sounded good.
Our first campus performance took place at the Field House at Homecoming Weekend. The place was packed, and I'll never forget the ovation we received when we performed our first number... "I'm Sitting On Top of The World". We had all purchased charcoal pullovers and suntans for the occasion.
From that time on, our performance schedule was as full as we wanted it to be. We sung at various events in the area, such as frat parties, Winter Carnival at both the Orono and Portland campuses, Maine Day, and other activities on and off campus. We performed at the Bangor Auditorium for the Auto Show, which netted us enough to purchase custom blue blazers from Mickey Goldsmith's Clothing in Old Town. We also did a couple of TV appearances in Bangor and one in Boston. Some of our repertoire included:
Coney Island Baby
Bidin' My Time
There's a Small Hotel
Love Walked In
Whale of a Tale
How High the Moon
Halls of Ivy
Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
Long Ago and Far Away
If I Had My Way
Clancy Lowered the Boom
Moonlight in Vermont
Lately I've Had Trouble Meeting Mary
The Steiners made a recording, probably in 1959-60, actually a 45 rpm extended play. Also, the Steiners were featured on a "Maine Prism" recording that year, singing "Mood Indigo". There were also several practice tapes made. I'm afraid the recording may be lost to history, though a tape of the original recording might exist somewhere in my archives (sounds better than attic).
I'm afraid this information is as accurate as my failing memory allows, after 40 years. Of course, members came and left during some of this period, and I don't know what took place after my graduation in 1960, though I've heard that interest sputtered and perhaps stopped not long after that. The Steiners experience was most enjoyable to all of the early group, I'm sure. Unfortunately, work, time, and geography has kept most of us from staying in touch over the years.
In hindsight, I believe the biggest mistake the original Steiners made was that we never became affiliated with the University. At that time we wanted to remain independent. If we had established a connection with the music department, perhaps it would have been easier to perpetuate the Steiners from year to year.
I'm very pleased the Steiners remain alive and well again, after all these years. Since I'll be retiring this year and be returning back to Maine, perhaps we'll be able to become acquainted.
Over 65 years have passed since the original Steiners transferred to the University of Maine Orono and since then we have watched the musical world grow and change just as we have over the now 16 generations (over 100 young college men) that have come and gone through our group.
Certain staples within our current repertoire stay clung to our barbershop style roots, but others reflect the ever-changing modern style of music. We are continuously arranging multiple modern popular songs (2000's on) but never forget to perform the hits popular in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s so that we can truly offer something to every audience member, no matter their age.
The current group consists of:
Tenor: Simon Roussel, Jonathan DeRoche
Lead: Isaiah Grace, Tor Bright
Baritone: Ryan Murray, Sam Morrill
Bass: Bradlee Watts, Jon Dube, Micah Thurston
Our current repertoire consists in part of:
Stand By Me / Beautiful Girls
Hello, Mary Lou
Come What May
...and many more!
2022 has brought on challenges for our group but also has brought us closer than ever together. We have partnered with the University of Maine's School of Performing Arts to be able to do bigger shows with more groups around campus such as the all-treble a cappella group Renaissance and the all-mixed a cappella group Mainely Voices. We are now an auditioned group out of the University of Maine Singers (the University's prestigious choir) which has since allowed us to travel more and spread our message to a further audience than we could have ever imagined.
We currently rehearse 2 days a week, for 2 hours each day with the occasional extra day closer to performances which gives us a good chunk of time to get ready for our upcoming shows and tours. We are grateful for our partnership with the University as using their facilities to practice has given us an amazing opportunity to focus on our music making and not trying to find a place to rehearse. This is something we openly try not to take for granted.
2023 Maine Steiners will see the streets of Italy in part of the University of Maine Singers quadrennial tour which has been postponed due to current events till next year but has not lost excitement within our group!
This year we have revamped ourselves and have taken advantage of the modern social-media age that we live in, including posting on our TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to keep our fans engaged with our group as we do our biannual tours and showcases and to also keep us connected to our community as much as possible. Check out our socials at the top of the page if you'd like to visit any of them!
Overall, the Maine Steiners have had an amazingly fruitful existence encouraging young men and women to keep music in their lives as they transfer to secondary schooling and beyond. We are proud of what we have accomplished and we are thankful to the countless men that came before us all the way back to John Mitchell and his friends that have made this group what it is and all the traditions that have come with it. We are beyond excited to see what this year will bring to our group as well as the years to come.
The Maine Steiners
Check out our members page to get to know the guys!