THE CANES MAY be wood, not peppermint, and the white angel hair is still on the original owners, but at Seaport Landing, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The big tree in the lobby is decorated with white porcelain orbs and red-feathered cardinals.

More trees, dusted with faux snow, adorn the mezzanine balcony, hung with white lights.

The mantels above the fireplaces are decked with greenery and ornaments, forming the perfect backdrop for a family Christmas photo.

The larger fireplace is flanked by a lineup of Old World St. Nicholas figures, the tallest, at 4 feet, in white robes and peaked hat. All would entrance small children, who are welcome to visit the retirement community on Hancock Street.

Outside the front door are more trees and lights.

“This is the first year we put lights on the roof,” said Falan Ferguson.

Ferguson is the office manager at Seaport Landing, where Christmas runs the whole week.

A week of Christmas

On Sunday, residents were treated to a concert by John Swearingin, who sang carols and Christian music. Swearingin is a caregiver at the Landing.

“Everyone does something for the residents,” Ferguson said. “We are a big family.”

On Monday, the family extended to local pianist Nan Toby Tyrrell, who played Christmas carols and songs.

Tyrrell, who notes the irony of “the Jewish girl doing Christmas carols,” spends the weeks before Christmas playing at nursing homes, retirement centers and other venues.

For the Seaport residents, she played all the standards, both religious and secular, from “O Holy Night” to “Jingle Bells.”

Afterward, Gene Mika, who is from California, said her favorite is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

For Grace Marshall, it’s “Silent Night.”

“I used to sing it,” Marshall said. “It brings back memories.”

That’s because Marshall was the music director of the Lutheran church in Almont, N.D., where Christmas was always white and everyone went to church for the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

Rain, not snow

On Monday, however, raindrops danced in the puddles outside the windows as the familiar melodies rang out under Tyrrell’s hands.

Tyrrell prefers the old carols in minor keys SEmD “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “We Three Kings.”

As the notes poured from the piano, the chords of “The First Noel” rose into the air, the words a reminder that it doesn’t really matter where you are on a cold winter’s night and hear the angels sing, “Born is the King of Israel.”

On Tuesday, Tom Sass, the executive director of Seaport Landing, made his debut performance at a Christmas concert.

Sass, who plays the piano and sings, was joined by Cheryl Torres, the new activity director, who sings.

There will be a Christmas Eve service at the Landing at 2:30 p.m. and a service on Christmas Day at 1:30 p.m., when families will talk about their holiday memories.

And on Wednesday, Dec. 29, residents will start to ring in the new year at a party with live music by The Copycats, hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

“We like to have fun here,” Ferguson said.

Sass, who moved to Port Townsend from Idaho, has played music mostly at church, so he said he was a little nervous before Tuesday’s concert.

Tyrrell, however, is an old hand at playing the piano in public.

Old hand at piano

Raised in a traditional Jewish family in Lakeside, N.J., she took piano lessons at a music academy from a Sister Beatrice, who beat her students’ knuckles and ordered Nan to stay an extra hour and practice if the lesson did not go well.

Tyrrell plays Christmas music for people who might not otherwise hear it firsthand, which is especially appreciated by people who grew up in the era before iPods.

“I’ve always had a piano in the house,” said Dottie Donahoe, who attended Monday’s concert.

On Tuesday, Tyrrell accompanied the children’s choir at the Port Townsend Public Library’s annual holiday open house.

Today, she will be at the Jefferson Healthcare hospital waiting room at 2 p.m. playing carols on the piano she donated.

On Christmas Day, she will be at the Tri-Area Community Center playing carols on the piano for the people gathered for a communal dinner.

Musical inspiration

At Seaport Landing, after running through her Christmas songbooks, she played an Italian rondo, a Chopin prelude and a piece by Handel, then ended with music improvised for the occasion.

For inspiration, Tyrrell said, she thinks of something beautiful SEmD a snowy scene in Vermont, where she used to live, with a brook and birds flying, or her grandson’s face.

Playing for the Seaport Landing residents — some with walkers, some with canes, most with white hair SEmD is like playing for family.

“I always play for my father and mother,” Tyrrell said, looking out at the smiling faces. “It’s just like my mother is listening.”

To contact Tyrrell about playing for holiday gatherings, phone 360-385-6653 or e-mail

For more information about events at Seaport Landing, which welcomes visitors of all ages, phone 360-379-9376.

Seaport Landing is at 1201 Hancock St., off Ninth Street, in Port Townsend.


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail

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