Fred Penner never got a single splinter climbing through a hollow log to enter the magical world of Fred Penner’s Place.
The log was fake and was covered with carpeting inside to make his journey easier.
Penner created the concept of climbing through the hollow log at the beginning of each episode because he wanted to create the sense that he and his viewers were being transported to a magical place that was set apart from the real world.
“I thought about the things that had value to me when I was growing up,” said Penner about creating the show’s concept. “I needed a place where I could sit and be quiet and introspective.”
Having a natural environment and said creating a feeling of safety was also important.
The show lasted 12 seasons and almost 900 episodes were aired. Children sang along in front of their televisions songs Penner created such as The Cat Came Back, Otto the Hippo and Oo Babba Loo.
Penner also won two Juno awards for Best Children’s Album for Sing with Fred. Penner has released 12 children’s albums.
People’s love affair with music starts at birth, said Penner.
“From the moment you are born, the pulse of your heartbeat starts that rhythm in your body … and becomes part of your life,” said Penner.
Children are vulnerable and during those early years the rhythms and patterns children are exposed to shape a person. And songs people heard in childhood have a way of pulling people into the past, said Penner.
“When you hear those songs as an adult or later in life it takes you right back to that moment,” he said. “You connect with it.”
Penner remembers visiting a seniors home and said the residents were quiet when he first walked in.
He learned one man had German heritage and started singing a German drinking song.
“All of a sudden the one man that was completely disconnected from the group sat up and started singing the song,” said Penner. “It (music) connects with any range of humanity and it reminds them of a time in their life – the majority of time a positive emotion is drawn upon.”
Music became a strong force in his life because of his younger sister Susan. She had Down syndrome and Penner said there was nothing that could bring her more joy than music.
“She would get absolutely into the sound and delight to the max of it,” he said. “I have seen it hundreds of times … seen a child with special needs take the music to heart. Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in the life of a child.”
Penner said sometimes it can feel like everyone is living in an “absolutely insane world” and one of the solutions is embracing compassion.
“The only way we can truly survive is being compassionate and understanding together,” he said.
Penner was honoured by the Canadian Institute of Child Health in 2000. He is an Order of Canada recipient and was the first performer to win the Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Children’s Recording.
Penner performs with Paul O’Neill at the Port Theatre Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m. The show is co-presented by the Port Theatre and TheatreOne.
Attendees are invited to come early from 1:30-2:15 p.m. to make a pair of cat ears.
Tickets are $32 adults, $28 members, $15 students and are available in advance by calling 250-754-8550 or www.porttheatre.com. For more information about Penner, please go to http://fredpenner.com.