Hello Dolly playing

Hello Dolly playing in Qualicum

For five weeks this summer I’m tinkling the ivories and directing the orchestra for the Bard 2 Broadway Society’s summer production of Hello Dolly now playing on stage at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach. Taking on the project also involved several months this past winter of rewriting the score so it could be played by 7 musicians instead of the 18-plus players the original Broadway production was arranged for. 

Two weeks before opening night I met the cast and did a run through accompanying them on piano. Although the rehearsal was a little bumpy, likely due to the fact I had to stop periodically and get my cues straightened out, I had the distinct feeling this show was going to be one among the best that the company has produced. Director Gary Brown has done a brilliant job molding various veteran talents from past B2B presentations with a number of up and coming youngsters into a cohesive fast-paced production. I guarantee you’ll not be able to leave the theatre without humming a song from this hilarious show.
Putting together a production such as Hello Dolly doesn’t happen overnight. Kudos to two talented musicians who spent several months preparing the cast for opening night - Hilary Whelton as choral director and Kathy Harper who acted as rehearsal pianist. Choreographer Donna Wilkins’ originality is also in evidence throughout the show.
Alternating on different nights with Hello Dolly this season is a riotous comedy titled Becky’s New Car. My wife Pat, my brother Terry and I attended the final dress rehearsal and enjoyed the play immensely. 
For a full review of B2B’s Hello Dolly production click the link below to the Parksville/Qualicum News: http://www.pqbnews.com/entertainment/162351196.html

What a gorgeous July we’ve had weather wise at our summer house at Sproat Lake. After the June snow melt of Mount Klitsa, the lake has finally heated up to my satisfaction. On Hello Dolly show nights driving over the hump to Qualicum Beach has also been pleasant – especially the traffic-free return trips when the night is warm and the summer sun has just dropped behind the mountains. With all my car windows cranked down and a good piano jazz album playing in the CD player, nothing could be closer to heaven. 
This year Port Alberni is celebrating its 100th birthday. The long weekend of August 3, 4 and 5th has been designated as the Homecoming Weekend. If you lived in Port Alberni at one time or are a current resident of the Valley you’ll not want to miss any of the planned events. Go online at www.portalberni.ca to access the complete list.
After completing our shift on the Alberni Pacific Railway last week Pat and I visited another railway operation in the valley, this one much smaller – Ken Rutherford’s Garden Railway.
What is a garden railway you might ask? In England garden railways have been around since the 1860’s. For decades, the development of model railways was similar to that of full-size railways. Railroad builders often built models to test theories and to present their ideas to investors. 
In the United States, garden railroads were almost unheard of throughout the 1950s and 1960s. They were out of favor in Britain during this period as well, but because they had achieved more popularity in earlier years, they still existed in some numbers. 

The rolling stock inherent in a garden railway is a much larger scale than the more common model railway (e.g. HO gauge) that one sees inside a train hobbyist’s home. However, in the 1970’s information about European manufactured garden trains started appearing in US model train magazines and the flame was kindled in North America. 

(Above) Ken Rutherford is shown here wiping off the track to stop one of his locomotives from slipping on the grade.

(Above) A coal train climbs up the grade on the trestle. The hopper cars are filled with miniature chunks of real coal found at an old mine site in Nanaimo. 

My Swiss Railway Odyssey with brother Terry continues…….. 

Montreux to Interlaken on the Golden Pass Panorama Railway

Photo left: After our stay in Montreux we boarded the Golden Pass Panorama Express train to Interlaken. The train is unique with the locomotive having a bubble dome in the roof where the engineer sits above 8 VIP passengers in the front. Here I am seated ready to roll. Terry and I had the entire car to ourselves for the trip. Leaving the Lake Geneva waterfront (the Swiss Riviera) of palm trees, the French language and warm weather, the train climbed up 14% grades through lush vineyards and gardens. Passing through a tunnel at the top of the grade we ascended back into a world of fir trees and fast-flowing streams.

The view out of the huge windows at the front of the locomotive makes you feel like you’re inside an IMAX movie except this is real life. Almost all Swiss railway lines are electrified and it’s amazing how quickly the Golden Pass Panorama Express trains can ascend the 14% grades without slowing down at all. The Golden Pass track is one-meter gauge. 

Engine #5 was built in 1891. The Brienzer-Rothorn Bahn was opened in 1892 and has a cog configuration, meaning there is a toothed rack rail between the running rails. The trains are fitted with cog wheels or pinions that mesh with the rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on very steep grades, in this case 25%.

Photo below: View of the Brienzersee (lake) at the half way point of the ascent up the mountain.

Terry and I were the only passengers aboard the train, it being early in the tourist season.

(Photo above) Downtown Interlaken taken from our hotel room.

Our second day in Interlaken was spent ascending the Jungfrau to the highest railway station in Europe. The railway is a masterpiece of Swiss engineering, going into service in 1912. Of all the railways we rode while in Switzerland the Jungfrau Railway was without question the most spectacular. Attitudes to the Jungfrau Railway project had been mixed. Members of the Swiss Alpine Club were concerned about unobstructed access for mountain climbers. Some club members even wanted to lodge a petition 

against the building of the Jungfrau Railway and to call for a national protest movement. However, the criticism drew little response as the people of the valley saw tremendous potential in the railway’s presence to guarantee tourism in the area for all time.

Leaving Interlaken (1850 ft) our first stop was the rail junction town of Zweilutschinen (2142 ft). Here our train was split into two parts - one going to the ski area of Gimmelwald and ours to the alpine town of Grindelelwald (3393 ft). 

At Gimmelwald we changed trains to what is called the Yellow Train for the steep ascent to the town of Kl. Scheidegg (6762 ft). Here we switched trains once more, this time to the Red Train for our final ascent of the mountain.  At the village of Eigergletscher (7612 ft) there was a short stop to off-load some freight before entering a 4.5 mile tunnel that looped inside the mountain to reach the peak. The photo below shows our train stopped at Eigerwand (9400 ft) inside the mountain. We detrained for 5 minutes and walked through a tunnel to a viewpoint at the side of the mountain. The train then continued to the peak of the Jungfrau (11,333 ft).

At the peak passengers can stroll through ice tunnels cut into the glacier. Wow was it cold! I was glad I’d brought my ski vest with me. Hiking through the tunnels there were ice sculptures (photos below) cut into large caves within the glacier. Unfortunately the Jungfrau was cloaked in fog the day we visited so the view at the peak was somewhat restricted. 

Descending from the Jungfrau, at Kl. Scheidegg we switched trains for the fourth time today and traveled down the opposite side of the mountain. Passing through the Alpine village of Wengen, I looked back and could see the Jungfrau peak which had momentarily cleared. It was hard to believe we had reached all the way to the summit by train. Detraining at the village of Lauterbrunnen we took a city bus to Stechelberg to visit the Trummelbach Falls. To view these unique falls you have to enter by a tunnel. The falls are actually inside the mountain. 

Returning by bus to Lauterbrunnen we boarded our final train of the day to Interlaken.  The scenery I’d seen today is what I always imagined Switzerland to be – a land of mountains, small villages, lush valleys and pristine lakes. 

(Above) The Red Train at Kl. Scheidegg station

Trummelbach Falls

Descending on the Yellow Train to Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen Valley - The land of 72 waterfalls.

The Alpine village of Wengen. Jungfrau in background