Howard Cable | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Howard Cable

Howard (Reid) Cable, conductor, arranger, music director, composer, scriptwriter, radio and television producer (born 15 December 1920 in Toronto, ON; died 30 March 2016 in Toronto).

Howard (Reid) Cable, conductor, arranger, music director, composer, scriptwriter, radio and television producer (born 15 December 1920 in Toronto, ON; died 30 March 2016 in Toronto). ATCM conducting and bandmastership 1939, honorary DFA (Lethbridge) 2002. Cable studied piano, clarinet, and oboe, and played in the Parkdale Collegiate Institute orchestra under Leslie Bell. While leading a dance band, the Cavaliers, 1935-41 in Toronto and at southern Ontario summer resorts, he studied at the Toronto Conservatory of Music with Sir Ernest MacMillan, Ettore Mazzoleni, and Healey Willan. He also studied with John Weinzweig in 1945.

Positions in Radio, Television, and the CNE

Cable began his radio career in 1936 on CFRB, Toronto, as a programmer and scriptwriter, and began working for the CBC in 1941 as a composer of incidental music, soon succeeding Percy Faith (who had moved to Chicago) as CBC Toronto's leading conductor-arranger-composer. In the 1940s Cable was responsible for such radio shows as 'Music by Cable,' 'Canadian Cavalcade,' and 'Jolly Miller Time.' Over the years, Cable conducted and broadcast more than 1,000 radio dramas. He was music director and arranger 1948-54 for 'Canadian General Electric Hour' and 1954-9 for the television program 'Showtime.' His concert band was heard 1952-4 on the CBC and in the USA on the MBS network. It was the nucleus of his orchestra at the CNE Grandstand, where he was music director 1953-67 and assistant producer to Jack Arthur 1963-7. In 1968 he became Arthur's successor and produced Sea to Sea!, a pageant based on Canadian history. He was music director 1954-8 and executive producer 1958-67 for General Motors automobile shows in Canada. He also produced and directed events at the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Conductor and Arranger

Cable was the civilian associate conductor and arranger 1962-6 of the NORAD Command Band in Colorado Springs. He returned to Canada to be executive producer of on-site entertainment at Expo 67 in Montreal. In 1977 Cable began a 20-year association with the Canadian Brass as arranger. While working with the Canadian Brass, Cable arranged for collaborative performances with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as well as a performance at Lincoln Centre with the New York Philharmonic Brass. At the Charlottetown Festival (1982-6) he arranged the scores for the Alan Lund productions of Singin' and Dancin' Tonight!, Ye Gods!, and Swing!. In 1986 he began to guest-conduct leading Canadian orchestras in concerts featuring his own arrangements. In 1987 he was music director of the Halifax Summer Pops Orchestra. The following year he became principal pops conductor of Orchestra London Canada and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and, in 1990, of the Hamilton Philharmonic. Also in 1990 he became music consultant for Sharon, Lois, and Bram. Over the years he composed and arranged for and conducted the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the Timmins Concert Singers, the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Lethbridge Community Band Society, Symphony Nova Scotia, the True North Brass, Empire Brass, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, and many other musical groups.

Musical Theatre

Cable worked in musical theatre and other musical endeavours with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Bob Hope, Victor Borge, Danny Kaye, and Jim Carrey. In New York 1964-7 he worked as a studio conductor and, on Broadway, as an arranger for Richard Rodgers, Frank Loesser, and Meredith Willson, and as conductor of Man of La Mancha and Chu-Chem. His Canadian theatrical credits include associations with the National Ballet, as well as the Banff, Shaw, and Charlottetown festivals. At the Banff CA, he was music director 1975-83 of the Summer Musical Theatre training program, and program head 1984-6. He was head 1983-5 of the music department at Humber College, Toronto, and music director 1974-86 of the Royal York Hotel, Toronto. In 1982 he conducted the premiere of Beckwith's opera The Shivaree. In 1989 with co-director Alan Lund, Cable began a summer training program in musical theatre techniques and production at Dalhousie University. The program was suspended after two seasons.

Compositions and Recordings

Cable's compositions include many scores for CBC radio and TV and ten film scores for National Film Board (1946-51). He wrote three works based on Newfoundland folk songs collected on a visit he made there in 1947 with Leslie Bell: Newfoundland Sketches for strings (1948, GVT), Newfoundland Rhapsody for band (1956, Chappell), and Newfoundland Sketch for brass quintet (Brassworks, 1978). Compositions for band include Stratford Suite, Quebec Folk Fantasy, and Snake Fence Country (all published in the 1950s by Chappell), and Ontario Pictures (1984, Northdale). Newfoundland Rhapsody was recorded by the Barrie Collegiate Band (1969, T-56424), the Toronto Philharmonia (1967, Dominion LPS-21024), the Edmonton Wind Ensemble (1987, CBC SM-5079), and Cable's own Symphonic Band (see Discography). Cable's first published arrangement of Calixa Lavallée's O Canada was written for Expo '67. (He later rearranged his O Canada as a more singable version without key, published by Northdale Music Press Limited in 1996.) His musical play, Mary (libretto by Christopher Gore, based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots), was produced at the Charlottetown Festival in 1971 and 1972. With Peggy Feltmate he wrote a children's oratorio, Your Work With Love Surrounds You (Boston Music, 1973), and a musical about ecology, Rana's Pond (GVT, 1975). For chorus he arranged three suites based on Canadian folk songs - 'Sing, Sea to Sea!' (GVT, 1984), 'Noel Canadien' (GVT, 1984), and 'Pastiche Quebecois' (GVT, 1979) - and composed a setting of 'T'was the Night before Christmas.' 'Sing, Sea to Sea!' has been recorded by the Toronto Children's Chorus (TCC WRC1-1456/Centrediscs CMC-2285) and the Ottawa Choral Society (1990, unnumbered cassette). The Toronto Children's Chorus also recorded his settings of 'Noël nouvelet' and 'D'ou viens-tu bergère' (TCC-009-CD).

During his association with the Canadian Brass, Cable wrote more than 80 compositions and arrangements. Several of these arrangements are published by Brassworks/Hal Leonard, and his arrangements of music from Broadway shows are published by Chappell and Morris. To 2001, Cable created and conducted three orchestral organ events entitled Power, Pops and Pipes, with the Calgary Philharmonic, renowned British organists Wayne Marshall and Simon Preston, and the Canadian jazz organist Doug Riley.

Also, in 2000, Cable composed Scottish Rhapsody, based on the songs of Scottish poet Robbie Burns (1759-96). In 2002 he conducted Symphony Nova Scotia for the recording of his CD Cable for All Seasons, which included the 50th anniversary theme song, composed by Dolores Claman (and arranged by Cable) for Hockey Night in Canada. The same year, Cable was commissioned to write a composition for concert band for the Thornhill, Ont community band for its bicentennial. Thornhill 200 is a work in theme and variations form that relates to various Thornhill landmarks.

Awards and Recognition

In 1980 Cable received the Canadian Band Directors' Association Award for his contribution to the development of Canadian band music at all levels. He was president of CAPAC 1969-71 and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. Cable was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada by the Governor General in 1999. His association with many respected orchestras, bands, and choral groups, and his extensive work with musical theatre, radio, and television, placed him in popular demand by musical groups across North America and around the world.

Further Reading