Memories of Trail from an acclaimed conductor

“The Conductor Is The One In Front,” by Bruce E. More.“The Conductor Is The One In Front,” by Bruce E. More.
“The Conductor Is The One In Front,” by Bruce E. More.“The Conductor Is The One In Front,” by Bruce E. More.
Bruce E. MoreBruce E. More

Following is an excerpt Bruce More shares from his biography, wherein he recounts his formative years in Trail.

Upon our move to a new congregation in East Trail, B.C. in 1947, my remembered life really began.

Trail is arguably one of the most “diss”-able cities in the western world.

Whenever I told anyone I was from Trail, they always went on about what a dirty, barren and ugly place it was.

Not my Trail!

I loved it then, and as I have returned to the area in my retirement, I still love it!

It had everything a little boy could desire: great hills to climb, a majestic river with wonderful places to swim, lots of winter snow and summer heat.

Most of all it was a wonderful community of people with all the amenities — excellent schools, social facilities and broad ethnic spirit (mostly Italian and British) — that small, relatively isolated B.C. communities had in the late 40’s and early 50’s.

This was true in the microcosm of my dad’s congregation and within the general community of Trail.

My musical “career” was furthered by the presence of the Kootenay Music Festival.

My mother taught me piano from the age of five, and with more advanced lessons from Agnes Inkster and later Jessie Gairns, I entered piano classes from 1949 until 1954.

Nelson B.C. was the partner (and rival) in this festival, and notwithstanding its current identity as the cultural centre of the Kootenays, we “kicked their asses” on a regular basis in those years.

I placed in the top three (all from Trail) in those classes, but I was regularly denied first place by Shirley Menkes.

My singing career was given a boost by landing the role of “Ralph” in Jean Shepherd’s Laura J. Morrish Elementary School production of “Molly Be Jolly.”

Not recognizing the future opera star in their midst, the director made me speak (rather than sing) my main aria.

Oh, the humiliation, especially since my “leading lady” was also Shirley Menkes.

I think this was the point that bravado replaced reality for me.

I distinctly remember walking home from school one day and telling several friends that I was writing an opera, having no idea what writing music was, much less what an opera was.

At this point of my life, I had to be satisfied with hymns and the influence of the vast repertoire of campfire songs that I learned at Camp Koolaree in 1953.

I heard my first choir in the bandshell in Sandy Park in 1952 (Edmonton’s Timothy Eaton Singers), and my first musical theatre production in the Junior High auditorium in 1953 (Rossland Light Opera’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” — the same company that our daughter Alexis conducted in their Spring of 2013 production — 60 years later — no pride here eh?)

Trail was also the beginning of my career as a felon.

Being the youngest of three children of a minister’s family with a brother two years older and a sister four years older, both “achievers,” I was constantly trying to “prove” myself.

Unfortunately, this included risk-taking.

I was known to climb on the girders under the Columbia River bridge, and most feloniously, I was caught on two occasions shoplifting candy bars in local stores.

In grade one, I decided to prove my “manhood” by hopping on the back of a steamroller as it worked on the pavement next to the school.

This resulted in my receiving the biggest of all badges of honour — the strap!

I managed to receive this most horrible corporal (not to be confused with capital) punishment for each year of my first six school years, for various reasons of “proving” myself to the masses.

My last and happiest memories of these years were car trips with the family.

In spite of the fact that any trip was preceded by Mom and Dad’s insistence that they have a “nice cup of tea” before departure, the family took on particularly high spirits on these occasions.

All five of us were excited at the prospect of going to a new campsite or visiting the “big” city of Spokane, or the real adventure of a 12 hour drive over sometimes paved roads to Vancouver.

Mom loved to sing.

At home, she was inclined to hymns, but God help us when she sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” — we knew we were in trouble then!

On the road, she led us in singing “Blue Skies” or “Sweet Kentucky Babe” with all of the infectious joy of a robin in spring.

Coupled with the imperative of moving to a new congregation every six years, such experiences had a profound influence on all of us.

My sister and her family lived in Germany in the 70s, travelling all over Europe, and my brother has been to more places around the world than I have (if you can believe that).

And me? Well…read on!

Before Ocean Falls, Dad’s “calling” took him to Hazelton and then to Kispiox in northern B.C. as a missionary in a First Nations village.

Trail was the last “isolated” community we lived in.

In 1954, we had a choice: Sault Ste. Marie or Burnaby.

Since the higher educational needs of the three kids began to loom, in 1954 my dad decided it was time we moved nearer to a university.

In these years, there was only one institute of higher learning in the province – the University of British Columbia (UBC) — so the inevitable decision was made to take the “call” to East Burnaby United Church near Vancouver.

– From “The Conductor Is The One in Front”

by Bruce E. More

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