Tomorrow evening (Saturday, Oct. 5) at 7:30 p.m., 92-year-old Howard Cable will take the stage, conducting the Stratford Symphony Orchestra in an evening of big band swing.
The event, held at Central United Church in Stratford, features a number of medleys arranged by Cable himself. These include a tribute to Duke Ellington, another to Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, as well as "Swing on the Screen- The Fred Astaire Songs", which features snippets of such classics as The Carioca, Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, and Puttin' On The Ritz.
This is Cable's first time in the Festival City, although he says his family has deep roots here.
"My great-grandfather was killed in the train yards in 1863," he notes. Cable says his ancestor was a train engineer who was killed in a head-on train collision when a switchman failed you switch the tracks in time. He says the inquest found in favor of his family, but when the Grand Trunk Railroad sought an appeal, the trial was moved to England.
"My great-grandmother couldn't afford the trip, so the case was dropped."
Of his family, Cable was the only musician. A professional at the age of 18, he's spent the last 74 years doing what he loves.
Following his studies, he began leading a dance band, named the Cavaliers, at gigs in and around Toronto and at various Ontario summer resorts. This led to a career in radio. first as a scriptwriter at CFRB and later as a composer and host on the CBC.
When CBC began producing television, Cable made the switch.
"I had one of the first shows on CBC television," he says.
Other notable accomplishments include arranging Dolores Claman's "The Hockey Theme," the standard version of the famous former theme song of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
Cable moved to New York City to spend two and a half years working on Broadway.
"But I never went back to New York," he says. "I always felt I was more Canadian than American."
Upon his return to Canada, Cable took the job as executive producer of on-site entertainment at EXPO 67 in Montreal.
Since then, he's conducted orchestras across Canada, including 15 years at the Royal York Imperial Room in Toronto. He's worked with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, and Tony Bennett.
"Tony Bennett is 85 and still doing it," Cable notes, adding Bennett, along with Neil Diamond and Cher, are among the only performers left still performing classic songs from the Great American Songbook … in addition to himself, naturally.
"Everyone else is retired or dead," he laughs.
"I don't feel like stopping. I may fall off the podium someday, sure. But I won't ever consider retiring."