Chris Palmer was born in the Hague, Netherlands, of Canadian parents. When he was four years old, his family moved to London, England. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London, and later at Ottawa University.
As a professional bassoonist he has played in many orchestras and ensembles, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Since 1985 he has been a member of Symphony Nova Scotia, and he has occasionally performed with the orchestra as a soloist. He also plays piano and organ, and has been active in the community as a teacher, coach, and conductor. He currently directs the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra, and he has been the musical director of The Music Room Chamber Music Series.
Chris is also a composer and arranger. His Ships and Flags: a 2012 Overture was commissioned by the CBC and performed at the 2012 Tall Ships Festival in Halifax, and later broadcast across Canada. Other orchestral works include For Those in Peril on the Sea, Juvenescence Overture (written for the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra), From the Delta to Chicago: a Blues Journey, and Pier 21 Overture.
As an arranger, Chris has written orchestral accompaniments for East Coast artists of diverse backgrounds who have performed with Symphony Nova Scotia, from Lennie Gallant and the Barra MacNeils to Buck 65 and El Viento Flamenco. His arrangements of songs by Leonard Cohen for the Blue Engine String Quartet and Cliff Lejeune have been performed many times with great success, and the recording has been broadcast nationwide on CBC radio. He has arranged Broadway music, Christmas music, and Beatles for the Rhapsody Quintet.
Q&A with Chris
How did you become interested in classical music?
I grew up in a family that loved classical music and played it as well. As a child I was taken to many operas and concerts – I grew up in London, which was a great place to see those sorts of things.
Do you play any other instruments?
I play the piano and the organ, and I did play drums in a rock band as a teenager. Also, at the age of 40, I took up the violin, studying it for two years – primarily to learn how to write for string instruments. I never amounted to much on the violin (I wasn’t a grown-up prodigy), but I learned what I needed to.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m fond of being active – running, exercising, lifting weights. I’m also very involved in church activities, and I really enjoy movies and plays. I’ve been working away at gardening – I’m not very good at it, but every success pays off!
What are you listening to right now?
I love good music – Classical, Jazz, folk, and the best popular music. I listen to it all, although mainly classical music that I don’t get to play.
What’s your favourite movie?
It changes by the day, but some of my enduring favourites are A Man for All Seasons, Fellini’s La Strada, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m also very much into the great silent movies – Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are brilliant!
What would you do if you couldn’t be a musician?
It’s hard to imagine – but I like to think of myself as becoming a scientist. But if all else failed, I’d probably end up being a teddy bear stuffer!