Biting into AppleYesterday

 Biting into Apple

Yesterday it was time to face reality, another holiday season was a wrap and it was time to dismantle all my colourful Christmas displays. I’ve always found the job depressing. However, the December memories will linger, prolonged by dozens of downloaded photos programmed to alternate on my computer screensaver.

Today, technological gear is a huge part of seasonal gift giving. Although the odd toy still appears under the tree for our grandchildren, electronic wonders like the e-reader are quickly replacing physical books.

I confess I find computer technology irresistible. Last Christmas Pat and I switched to the world of Mac. Although our first computer had been an Apple II back in the late 1970’s, like much of the world we’d succumbed to the lower priced competitors embracing Microsoft products and Windows 95. 

However, with the urging of our sons and my brother Terry, when it came to updating our aging computers, we decided to take the leap back to Apple. It’s been a stimulating experience. We now use Apple MacBook Pro Laptops when travelling and have replaced our laboring eMachine desktop with an Apple iMac sporting a 27” screen. Sitting before it feels like being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. For transporting and listening to music I use the Apple iTouch, an amazing pocket-popping digital recorder about the size of a half deck of cards. 

This Christmas we replaced one of our cell phones that was obsolete due to discontinued batteries, adding the iPhone 4S to our arsenal of Apples. It’s a truly remarkable device. In fact I’m writing part of this blog using an application built into the phone that enables me to talk to it and have what I say printed as text. However, the real killer application on the phone is Sira, a program that lets my voice - commands, send messages and place phone calls. I can ask Sira questions and it understands what I say, knows what I mean, and even talks back. Other applications (Apps) allow me to read newspapers, check the weather reports, listen to music, and scan my emails from anywhere I am at that moment. I’m still discovering new Apps daily.

Pictured above is my computer work area. I use the piano to play musical scores into the computer and then print out the music for the individual musicians. On screen is the Overture to Hello Dolly, which I’m currently working on for accompanying Bard 2 Broadway’s summer theatre production. The musical is earmarked to open at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach the first week in July. Alongside is my Apple MacBook Pro Laptop, an iTouch and the iPhone. 

Reading through my ears

This holiday season I’ve discovered a use for technology that adds an entertainment component to the time I spend performing a number of tedious tasks. Such tasks on my list include vacuuming, washing floors and cutting the lawn. My discovery is the Audiobook, something that’s been around since the heyday of the cassette tape. Although I’ve always used recorded music to pass the time while cruising through mundane endeavors, I’ve never bothered to use the entity to read a book.

Audiobooks were originally invented for blind people who want stories in their lives. A person, often an actor or someone with a professionally trained voice, will read and record the entire contents of a book. Appropriately enough it was Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of Apple co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs, that sparked my interest. I received the 600-page tome for Christmas but before I started reading it I discovered a free copy in audiobook format available on the Internet. I downloaded it, transferred it to my iTouch and started listening. It’s been a revelation for my multi-tasking instincts. The earphone buds have been firmly planted in my ears while shopping, riding my bike, and yes, while steering the vacuum around the house. Incidentally, for anyone interested in the history of computers the book is a great read, or should I say in my case, a great listen.

New Year’s Eve

Pat and I with my brother Terry spent New Year’s Eve at the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s presentation of Countryside Christmas. Written by Nicolle Nattrass and Chemainus’ artistic director, Mark DuMez, it was a perfect way to wrap up the holiday season. After grazing the mouthwatering buffet in the dining room we waddled into the theatre just in time for the opening scene. 

Set in a small cabin on Vancouver Island, we were introduced to the Cornwall family who have for many years celebrated Christmas together with many wacky family traditions. Family conflicts ensue - think Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation. However, it’s the string of musical numbers slotted into the script that keeps the play alive with merriment. My ears naturally gravitated towards the backup musicians in the pit/loft. The Musical Director was Vancouver musician Nico Rhodes who wrote the arrangements and accompanied the show with some superb piano playing. Playing standup and electric bass was talented Nanaimo musician Marisha Devoin who I’ve had the pleasure of playing with on numerous occasions including a Timbre! Choir concert. Once Marisha lays down a tempo the roof caving in wouldn’t force her off the beat. Guitarist Nathan Tinkham was tasteful throughout. 

The cast of six actor/singers covered a wide range of musical styles from traditional carols to country rock tunes, with everyone contributing their own special twist to the wide selection of material.

I’m looking forward to the Festival Theatre’s upcoming 2012 musicals – All Shook Up featuring the music of Elvis Presley (Feb 24 to April 7) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (June 15 to September 1). The Christmas musical is called The Gifts of the Magi and will run from Nov 30 to Dec 30. Unfortunately it won’t be performed New Year’s Eve. I find it a wonderful overture to welcoming in the New Year. 

Terry Whyte remembered

Sadly Port Alberni lost one its most treasured citizens recently. Last Saturday Pat and I, along with hundreds of others attended a Celebration of Life for Terry Whyte at Echo Centre. 

In a musical theatre production there are the supporting players, and at the top of the pyramid there are the stars. Within a given community you have numerous people that work conscientiously to create a better place to reside. They are the supporting cast that drives a community forward. Within that supporting cast there are citizens who play starring roles. In Port Alberni Terry Whyte was one of those individuals, someone who regularly placed the Alberni Valley in the spotlight both provincially and nationally.

Although Terry in no way would consider himself being the star in any of the roles he played in improving the quality of life in Port Alberni, he truly was a headliner. His dedication to protecting the rights of seniors, his participation in countless community groups, saving part of the old hospital to build Abbeyfield, all will leave their mark on the city’s marquee for years to come.

My wife Pat and myself as volunteer conductors aboard the Alberni Pacific Railway would run into Terry regularly at McLean Mill where he was a strong supporter of the National Historic Site. Between runs we’d share stories about Alberni Valley history and performing arts education. 

The last time I spoke with Terry was at the Timbre! Choir’s fall concert. Pat’s three sisters were in attendance along with her brother Dave who was playing drums in the show, our son Cory with his wife Dorianne, and our grandchildren Nathan and Matthew plus my brother Terry. It was a rare moment when so many of the family were in one location and Terry [Whyte] offered to take numerous photos of us together. 

At the Celebration of Life on Saturday, speaker after speaker extolled Terry’s tenacious efforts to extract funding from assorted sources for important community projects. The bottom line was he never took no for an answer. My daughter-in-law Dorianne mentioned to me after the service that she had approached Terry, who was the administrator of Fir Park Village at the time, about initiating Music Therapy sessions for the seniors living there. He thought it was a wonderful idea and asked the Board of Directors who turned it down as being unaffordable. Terry told Dorianne not to be concerned. “It’ll happen!” And it did. 

The curtain has fallen on an incredible human being.