A diary of memories - The Holiday Season

Happy New Year to all my faithful blog readers. The email list is now approaching 400. Last week the Port Alberni Community Website (alberni.ca) added a link to the online version. I see the link has received 89 reads so far. Welcome to those readers.

The Holiday Season is without a doubt my favorite time of the year. The years during my working life as a teacher were filled with music, my favorite event each December was the Candlelight Concert that featured my wife Pat’s Teen Choirs with my school bands and handbell choirs.

The handbell set used by the student groups was purchased through the Dr. A.P. Miller memorial fund set up by the Kinsmen Club of Port Alberni and endorsed by my mother when my father passed away. When I retired I placed the bells in storage.

Photo: The bass bell section of one of the handbell ensembles I directed at ADSS performing at the annual Candlelight Concert. Unfortunately I didn’t date the photo. However, I do remember the names of the students in the photo. (R to L): Gordon Mosey, Luke Mayba, Steven Gregory, Alan Beauregard and Joanne Marshall. 

Photo above: Pat’s Alberni Valley Teen Singers performing in the ADSS Auditorium at our 30th Candlelight Concert in December of 1995.

However, several years ago I put the bells on the Port Alberni Orchestra & Chorus Society’s instrument inventory list as the Dr. A.P. Miller Memorial Handbells. Currently the society has the bells on loan to the Alberni Valley United Church where Michael Villette has been training a group of ringers. A few days ago Mike emailed me a YouTube video of his ringers performing Unto Us a Child is Born at the church’s recent Christmas concert.   It’s wonderful to hear the bells being rung again in memory of my father. 

Here is a link to the AVUC Bell Choir video for anyone who’d like to see it.         http://youtu.be/RBHzKvA0chA

Celebrating our 30th Anniversary Candlelight Concert
The Boxing Day sales mania saw us switching over to an HD television set. To a movie addict like myself the conversion to an outsized TV screen has ushered in a feast of films through the online video streaming site Netflix. I’ll need to be vigilant and spread out my expanded viewing options to avoid becoming a couch potato. 

Living in Nanaimo with 14 movie theatre screens just moments away from our home, the holiday season means indulging in one of my favorite pastimes, viewing the latest film releases that traditionally play theatres during December. A few days after Christmas, I took in the new movie version of the musical Les Miserables. Over the years I’ve seen at least a half dozen live productions of the musical, including a wonderful production of the 25th anniversary concert beamed last year from London via satellite into movie theatres. I’d been looking forward to viewing the new film ever since learning of its Christmas day release date. 

Sadly, I was extremely disappointed with the screening I attended. The balance between the voices and the orchestra was unusually poor, something I didn’t expect from the Dolby sound system at the Nanaimo’s Galaxy Theatre. I’ve seen many opera presentations via satellite in the theatre complex and all, with the exception of one which had an equipment breakdown, had superb sound. With the orchestra tracks barely audible and the voices excessively strident, I had difficulty connecting to the musical on any sort of technical or emotional level.

I know that the studios insist that theatres set their Dolby speakers at certain volume levels. Perhaps someone at the Galaxy got the mix wrong. Returning home, I did listen to the film’s soundtrack on my computer through iTunes and the balance was excellent. I plan to be at the Galaxy seeing some other films in January. I think I’ll duck into the auditorium showing Les Mis and see if the pitiful sound was a ‘one-off’ situation. 

World War II had just ended and electric trains were once again to be found in toy stores. In the photo above my brother Terry and myself are playing with a model railroad that suddenly appeared on Christmas morning. The layout, set up by our father late on Christmas Eve, consisted of a 4X8 sheet of plywood painted green with an oval of “027" gauge railroad track tacked firmly to its surface. Our father being a medical doctor had even constructed a miniature pedestrian overpass out of wooden tongue depressors. That simple layout expanded over the years into a major model railway operation only to be torn down when my parents moved to a smaller home after I graduated from high school.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day for our family dinner. Pat and I always light a special candle after the meal. The huge candle was given to us at our final Candlelight Concert in December of 1997. It contains dozens of melted down candle stubs that were used over the years for rehearsals.

On Saturday evening Pat and myself with my brother Terry attended the Chemainus Festival Theatre’s Christmas musical The Gift’s of the Magi. The timeless holiday love story follows a down-on-their-luck couple who go to great lengths to find the perfect gift for each other. In the spirit of Christmas, they discover that the best gifts come from the heart. The Chemainus version of the venerable off-Broadway musical was outstanding. Jeff Hyslop was brilliant in the role of Soapy. The Vancouver born actor/singer currently lives in Campbell River. His most famous role was the phantom in Phantom of the Opera in which he played over 975 performances. Hyslop is also well-known internationally for his role of Mike in the London West End and Broadway productions of A Chorus Line. 

Pictured above is the British built Hornby steam locomotive from my first model train set. It now graces our living room Christmas window frame display.

New Years Day I hit the slopes for my first ski day of the season. Our grandchildren were on the hill as well. The conditions on Mt Washington were perfect, some new snow overnight followed by a sunny ski day.

It’s 3 am on Jan 3rd as I wrap up this blog. It’s the 3rd period at the World Juniors and Canada is getting blown out of the rink 5 goals to 1 by the USA. Canada’s Gold Medal dreams are shattered. I’m going back to bed.