Christmas concerts coming to a close

Each year at this time I write blogs promoting upcoming Christmas concerts that my wife Pat and I are involved in. In the case of the Timbre! Choir that Pat conducts, I typically write something about their program and tell folks where to purchase tickets etc. However, this year was different. No extra promotion was needed during the week’s lead up to the concert which took place last Sunday afternoon as the show was sold out a week in advance. 

Before the busy December concert season gets underway I usually put up all my Christmas decorations inside and outside our home a week or so after Remembrance Day. I seem to have started a trend in our neighborhood. This year some in our block had their Christmas lights on display before me. However, to be fair to myself, I did have a Halloween light display that had to be dismantled first. 

My December show commitments got underway two weekends ago with the Yellow Point Christmas Spectacular with 5 shows at the Cedar Community Hall. Then it was up to Courtenay to perform two performances at the Sid Williams Theatre. Returning to Cedar we performed another 5 shows. 

At this writing the cast is having four days off before moving the production into the Port Theatre in Nanaimo for 3 performances. This will be the largest venue the Yellow Point Christmas Spectacular has played in its 7 year history so the cast is quite excited.

Dec. 20 at 7:00 pm and Dec. 21 at 3pm and 7:00 pm Tickets available online or by phone 250.754.8550.

Pat and my schedules overlap at this time of year. I haven’t been able to attend a Timbre! Christmas concert for the last 7 years as I’m always performing an afternoon matinee with the Yellow Point Christmas Spectacular the same day. However, I did get to hear the final rehearsal the day before (and the choir sounded magnificent. I’m sure those attending Timbre!’s performance last Sunday will agree. It was great to have our grandson Nathan running the sound board in the new theatre and son Cory involved as Timbre!’s Assistant Conductor. 

Christmastime always brings fond memories of my childhood and my love of trains. It all started with my first electric train set which magically appeared under our family Christmas tree in 1945. In the photo at above I’m vacuuming some dust off my display cabinets of railway hats and other assorted memorabilia. 

(Photo above): Some of my collection of railway dining car silverware.

(Photo above); My favourite Christmas photo shows my brother Terry and I looking over our new electric train setup on Christmas morning. 

(Photo above) I still have the steam locomotive from my first 1940’s era train set. It becomes part of my window ledge winter scene decorative display each December.

Over the years numerous musicians and singers who grew up in the Alberni Valley have carved out successful careers in the music business. Singers Tyler Duncan, Lisa Wallecki, Laura Langmead and, Los Angeles based recording engineer Jason Van Poederooyen, pianists Brent Jarvis and Danielle Marcinek, saxophonist Brock Miller, organist David Poon, drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, and award winning TV & movie composer Andrew Oye are just a few names that came to mind. 

Actually, Pat and I started coming up with names of others, including those who became music teachers and began to realize we were barely scratching the surface and such a list could fill several pages. I’m sure readers of this blog know of many more. Perhaps together we could make this an online project and enlarge the list. E-mail me at  

This month New York based bassist Lauren Falls is another Port Alberni grown talent who can be added to this list with her recently released debut avant-garde jazz album titled The Quiet Fight. I enjoyed listening to the album while driving over the hump several times this past week. If you’d like a copy of Lauren’s recording it can be downloaded on iTunes. Another name can be added as well. Lauren’s brother Trevor is the drummer on the album.

Photo above: The Alberni Valley United Church Handbell Choir rehearsing a combined number with Timbre! at Saturday’s dress rehearsal. The group performed 4 numbers on their own.


The Alberni Valley United Church Handbell Choir under the directorship of Michael Villette was one of the guest performers at Timbre!’s Christmas Concert last weekend.

The collection of handbells they used came about on the passing of my father Dr. A.P. Miller, who came to the Alberni Valley as a pioneer medical doctor in 1935. Under the auspices of the Kinsmen Club of the Alberni Valley, my mother Evelyn Miller set up a handbell fund to which citizens of Port Alberni could donate money to in memory of her husband. Schulmerich, the world’s largest and oldest existing manufacturer of handbells in the United States, made the bells.  

During my teaching years the bells were rung by groups of teenagers I recruited from the music program at Alberni District Secondary School. Upon retirement I had the bells stored in my basement. Three years ago I placed the handbells in the inventory of the Port Alberni Orchestra & Chorus Society and in agreement with the society, I have the responsibility of administering the loaning out of the bells on a yearly contract to an organization of my choice. Presently the Alberni Valley United Church are using the bells to develop the group of ringers who performed at Timbre!’s concert last weekend. Their director Michael Villette has done an outstanding job.   

Some weeks ago Michael asked if I could recall any humorous events from my years as director of the handbells. I emailed him the following: 

Hi Mike

This story was not humorous at the time but over the years has moved to that category.

The ADSS Handbell Choir, along with the ADSS Concert Band directed by myself and the Alberni Valley Teen Chamber Singers directed by Pat, was touring Nova Scotia under the sponsorship of a Canadian Government student exchange program. We had flown through Toronto to Halifax and then bused to the community of Truro in central Nova Scotia. It had been a very long day. The schedule called for a handbell concert on arrival for billeting parents. As we were setting up the bells the two students in charge of loading the buses in Port Alberni with our equipment to drive to the Victoria Airport informed me that the handbell music had not arrived and must have been left in the ADSS band instrument storeroom. I can't remember their names but I still recall the horrified look on their faces as they confessed. The look on my face? No comment!

What was I to do? My only option was apologize to the gathered audience that it would not be able for us to perform the program by memory and promised somehow we'd reprogram it later. The following morning I phoned ADSS (no internet in those days) and had the handbell music priority air-shipped to Nova Scotia. The good news is we were able to perform the program three days later. The cost of shipping the music was $150.00.