Palm Court Light Orchestra


Among the many guests to have performed with Vancouver Island’s Palm Court Light Orchestra since its founding almost two decades ago, probably the most notable is English composer and conductor Ernest Tomlinson.

“With nearly 500 published pieces to his name, Ernest Tomlinson is unquestionably one of the finest British composers of the day…”

Mr Tomlinson made his first trip to North America to conduct the Palm Court Orchestra’s Festival of British Light Music in 1996 and returned a year later for a tribute to the dean of light music, Canadian composer Robert Farnon.

Other guest conductors have included: Montreal's Mr. Pops, Marc Fortier, John Wilson (City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Scottish and BBC Concert orchestras, orchestrator /conductor for Paul McCartney); Britain’s brilliant young conductor Gavin Sutherland famous for his Carry On Gang recordings, and Victoria’s own well-respected George Corwin.


The Music—A History

The popularity of the palm court genre owes much to the BBC in Britain and such famous exponents as Alfredo Campoli, Albert Sandler and Max Jaffa.

Long after the days of taking afternoon tea at the Ritz – or at Victoria’s own Empress Hotel – and of Tea Dances with an enchanting palm court ensemble barely visible behind the potted palms, BBC Radio popularized palm court music making it “accessible to the masses” through regular afternoon broadcasts featuring Reginald Leopold and the Palm Court Orchestra live from the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne.

BBC Radio in Great Britain and the CBC in Canada, went on to commission hundreds of light orchestral works contributing significantly to the careers of many composers and a constellation of famous band leaders, while popularizing a musical genre once synonymous with British and European high society.

Charles Job, Vancouver Island’s own Palm Court conductor recalls:
“My love of light music began during childhood in England. I remember listening to band concerts in the park and not wanting to leave. “Let’s stay for one more tune.” Everyone in those days also listened to music on the radio. It was through state radio that palm court truly became the people’s music of the day.”

What is It?

Palm court music is light-hearted entertainment and, like the teas served in those grand hotels, is a curious blend of British and European flavours.

A World of Good Tunes

The merriment of Gilbert and Sullivan and the music halls, Edward Elgar’s elegant Salut d’Amour, twentieth century favourites like Percy Grainger’s Country Garden, Ketelby’s In a Persian Market, and almost anything by Eric Coates… combined with those glamorous musicals by Ivor Novello and Noel Coward… with a dash of Viennese Strauss, Hungarian Lehar, Parisian Offenbach’s CanCan… salon music… the transatlantic talents of Romberg, Victor Herbert, Friml and Kern…with tunes too by Gershwin and Leroy Anderson… all contribute to the essence of palm court music.

Decades of Delight

Born in the 1890’s, palm court includes even the ballads and film scores of the 1950’s. Well-crafted music for all who appreciate a good tune, beautifully performed, encompassing a range of musical styles.
Palm Court conductor Charles Job’s early musical love affair may now be shared as we enjoy a resurgence of interest in palm court light orchestra music, on disc and in live performance today.

For more on Light Music Today

Robert Farnon Society

The Light Music Society (Great Britain)


Guest Artists

The orchestra also invites guest artists to join us each season. Among a long list of featured musicians are Karel Roessingh, Bruce Vogt, Kinza Tyrrell and Phillip Dyson; instrumentalists Sharon Stanis, David Stewart and Sal Ferreras; singers Shae Apland, Alexandra Browning, Sally Braswell, Ken Lavigne, Catherine Lewis and Erica Northcott.

I leave concerts feeling as if I am walking on air.



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