Magazine article Opera Canada

Roger Moore

Magazine article Opera Canada

Roger Moore

Article excerpt

The story of Roger Moore's second career supporting young Canadian artists, new Canadian works and a wide network of performing companies in and around Toronto takes an eccentrically circuitous route, beginning in Redlands, California, straight east from Los Angeles and west of Palm Springs.

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Today a city of about 70,000, Redlands was founded in 1881 and for decades grew and thrived on tourism and navel oranges. Moore's family was well-established in the community when he was born there in 1939. His great-grandfather, Capt.William Graff Moore, a Union Army Civil War veteran, headed for the warmth of southern California from Pennsylvania after a bout of illness, arrived in Redlands in 1893 and settled there with his family as proprietor of the Redlands Daily Facts. It remained a family-run newspaper until the Moores sold it in 1983.

Like his ancestor, Moore found Redlands a pleasant and congenial place, though there were few indications there of the passion for opera and music that informs his life now. Ask about his early encounters with music, and he'll tell you how he really hated the sound of the violin, an aversion that did not go away until he later discovered Bach. He also recalls, as a teenager in the '50s, the odd contrast between the cascading strings of Mantovani and his Orchestra and Bill Haley and the Comets rocking around the clock. But he did explore music through his father's record collection, Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Met (Saturday mornings at 11 in California) and his grandmother, who had spent a year studying voice in Germany and returned with an interest in then-modern composers like Paul Hindemith. He had no aspirations to play himself. "My sister had piano lessons and my brother played the drums," he says. "I guess I was the musical klutz in the family."

By his university years, he had attended a stage performance ("Die Fledermaus ... I thought it a cheerful opera") and remembers an epiphany of sorts when he heard Licia Albanese sing Mimi in La boheme. He was interested enough to take a music survey course when he moved on to Stanford University after the University of Redlands, but was more focused on his chosen field of mathematics than on music. Computing was in its infancy when Moore was exploring the higher reaches of algebra--towards the end of the age of vacuum tubes, as he describes it. But he made the switch to the emerging world of computer programming, and quickly found a place on some leading-edge projects. One of the first big ones was to develop a program to translate from the language of algebra into machine language. It was a 16-month job in which he figures he did half the work and one-third of the thinking, abstruse to outsiders but immensely satisfying to the mathematician. "With computers, you tended to see whether or not your handiwork was correct right away," he says. "The computer tended to be a critic with quick feedback, and that was an attraction."

That project garnered Moore a recommendation for his next job, leading him to make the long drive in late April, 1963, from Palo Alto, California, to Regina, Saskatchewan, where he went to work with Saskatchewan Power Corp. The SPC of the time has a place in computing history for buying the largest Ferranti-Packard FP6000, a Canadian-designed challenge to IBM and one of the first multi-tasking computers used outside research labs and universities. Moore helped program SPC's FP6000, pioneering work in the earliest days of business computing. When he later gave a paper describing some of his work at a conference in Ottawa, the Deputy Industry Minister dubbed "An Implementation of Algol60 for the FP6000" as the least comprehensible title.

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It's also part of Canadian computing history that when, in 1963, the British government moved to consolidate computer companies for competitive reasons, British-owned Ferranti Inc. …

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