For years, I’ve wondered what the huge Moorish-styled castle in the middle of Pasadena was all about. Last Wednesday, November 16, 2022, I found out after attending an awesome event there: Autumn Frolic at Castle Green featuring Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys and Alex Mendham and his Orchestra!
The event was in two parts. First a sit-down concert in the Grand Salon by Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys, then a dance in the Grand Ballroom with 1920s jazz performed by Alex Mendham and his Orchestra.
Janet Klein, with her distinctive bob haircut, is based in Southern California and plays “obscure, lovely and naughty songs from the 1910s, 20s, and 30s”, as she puts it. You can see her play at venues like the Cicada Club, which I highly recommend you do! Unfortunately, due to work and the difficulties of getting across town from the West Side to Pasadena at rush hour, I wasn’t able to see her perform this night.
From Essex, England, Alex Mendham and his Orchestra specialize in music from the 20s and 30s, and have played at the Cicada Club and vintage venues around the world. Sporting a tux with tails and waving his conductor’s baton, Alex was an entertaining frontman and vocalist. Janet Klein and Natalie Mendoza also contributed vocals on some songs.
Alex’s excellent band was supplemented by local stars like Jonathan Stout on guitar, Benny Brydern on violin, and Jim Ziegler on trumpet. Basically a “dream team” of hot jazz.
I really enjoyed the music; being from the 20s and 30s, it wasn’t the typical stuff you hear at our Swing venues, other than perhaps the Cicada Club. A few songs were more Foxtrot type of music, but the musicianship and song choices made every song enjoyable, if not Swing-danceable.
One of my favorite songs they performed that night was Duke Ellington’s “The Mooch” (second song in the video below), which is rare to hear live because it requires three clarinets.
I’d say the crowd was mostly the vintage lifestyle crowd. Women wore formal gowns with some in flapper dresses. Men wore suits or tuxedos. Some had such attention to detail that they looked like they had come straight from the 1920s in a time machine.
There were not as many Swing dancers as I had expected, making this more of a “bring-your-own-partner” (or dance crew) type of event.
The dance floor was smooth tile, pretty good for dancing. It was crowded but there was always room to squeeze in.
Castle Green was built in 1898 in the Moorish Colonial and Spanish style as an extension of the phenomenally successful Hotel Green in Pasadena (I’m always amazed that we have any buildings built in the 1800s in Los Angeles!). The complex was a lavish resort and social center in its time. Thankfully, many of Castle Green’s original features remain! The interior is truly magnificent. The exterior is an awesome site to behold.
Today, Castle Green is available for weddings or other special events. It’s not generally open to the public other than a few tours during the year, which is why this event was so cool. Only a very small part of the venue was open though, and I would love to get a tour of the entire castle sometime!
We had a great time at this unique event with amazing music in an enchanting venue. As a bonus, they served dessert and snacks to the prevent late-night munchies that we usually get after dancing.
Will It Happen Again?
There was mention during the show of making this an annual event, so keep your eyes open next year! I’d highly recommend going if you can round up a partner or dance crew. Just start looking for your 1920s/30s outfit now. – Brian