Founder and conductor of the Palm Court Light Orchestra Charles Job. (Steven Heywood/News staff file)

Palm Court Light Orchestra gears up for 31st season

Even though he’s lived in Canada for decades, there is a bit of an English accent left in Charles Job’s voice. The cultural crossover does not end there.

The founder and conductor of the Palm Court Light Orchestra has been reviving light orchestral music for 31 years, and his heritage is key part of the orchestra’s soul. Job started as a viola player, but after an accident left him unable to play, he began conducting amateur musical theatre productions. In the early 1980s, he began to rediscover the music from his childhood that he would hear in flower parks not unlike Beacon Hill Park, and that’s when the Palm Court Light Orchestra began.

“Lots of music is not live in the sense of human beings actually sitting down and playing at that moment, without amplification. It’s a rare thing.” That passion for live music keeps him going.

Job said that the type of music he programs, primarily written in the first half of the 20th century, was reserved for the wealthy during the colonial era of “palm trees and wicker furniture,” but that it became popular with the people after it was put on the radio.

The season starts Oct. 5 with a concert entitled “Grand Hotel”, featuring Edwardian favourites like The Teddybear’s Picnic, The Grasshoppers Dance, and In the Shade of the Palms, which is the sort of music once played at the Empress Hotel. Job is excited about this season’s Valentine’s concert, entitled My Funny Valentine after the famous song by Rodgers and Hart, sung by guest soloist Rebecca Hass, a mezzo-soprano. She will also perform songs by Jerome Kern, Edward Elgar and Camille Saint-Saens.

“Everybody remembers Rodgers and Hammerstein but Rodgers and Hart were before that,” said Job. “And Lorenz Hart made some great songs.”

The season will end on Apr. 5-6 with April Showers featuring the music of Al Jolson and selections from early Broadway musicals like Jule Styne’s 1963 Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand.

Job never imagined the venture would last 31 seasons, but he cautioned that fundraising remains a challenge.

“We’ve had wonderful support from people. Last year we were close to $20,000 in personal donations. We’re the envy of many people in the arts. Where we haven’t done that well is from government. We tend not to get chosen for project grants.”

“Part of our thing is to keep this sort of music alive for a while longer.”

The Palm Court Light Orchestra will play at the Mary Winspear Centre at 2 p.m. on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High School on Oct 6 at 2:30 p.m.