Students and Teachers Join for the BC Honour Ensembles

October 24, 2011

Arts, Music

Keanu Howarth, Aidan Hoffman,  Adam Mah, Logan Ennis, and Stephen Duncan had the opportunity to be members of the BC Honour Ensembles this October, representing Langley Fine Arts in the province wide amalgamation of auditioned student musicians.

The Honour Ensembles, hosted during the BC Music Educators Conference annually, are a unique example of student participation in a Teacher’s conference. The rehersals are intensive, for up to eight-hours at a time, and lead to the final preformances, showcasing the talent of the musicians to music educators, family, and friends. This year’s Conference took place at the Fraserview Church in Richmond, and the preformances were in the church’s sanctuary.

Though there were four ensembles this year, LFAS made a mark in the Concert Choir and Concert Band; not only were the students a part of those ensembles, but Mr. Jim Sparks and Mr. Rob Goddard also conducted the groups.

Goddard, in charge of the BC Honour Concert Band, brought his experience as a highschool band teacher to the group.

“Some of the clarinets came with B flat and E flat clarinets,” he said, “but we still focused on smiliar issues to [a highschool] band. They’re the issues that all young musicians have.”

In rehearsal, Goddard clearly focused on the rhythmic, dynamic, and tonal issues the band had. This may have been a part of the eclectic selection of the program, which was technically taxing on the musicians. “Symphony No. 1, In Memoriam Dresden” by Daniel Bukavic had the students screaming in German, and playing the chord of a B52 bomber. “Ned the Neck”, commissioned for the BC Honour Band, was a musical representation of the moods of an albino boa constrictor. An arrangment of the classic Stravinsky piece, “The Firebird”, stretched the limits of crescendos and sustained lines, while “Dusk” kept the band at the softer end of their dynamic range. “Amparito Rosa” was the march of the selection, with flamboyant flamenco sections, and a soft, energetic trio.

Goddard worked the band hard,  but the students seemed to enjoy it.

“It’s interesting, but I like it,” one saxophonist said. Her neighbour agreed with the description, saying “It’s like being in the claws of a lion.”

Stephen Duncan, playing 3rd and Bass trombone in the band, enjoyed the experience, although during the rehearsals a lack of sleep and mental fatigue seemed to be plaguing him, as his quote on how it felt to be playing in the BC Honour Band was: “Tiring, it’s time for a nap.”

Though the band may have suffered from fatigue during rehearsals, the performance did not show any of it.

“It went really well, when we actually did it. It was hard to say during the preformance, but looking back on it, it looked good.” Stephen said.

At the concert, the entertainment factor was increased through Goddard wearing a Russian hat during “Ned the Neck” , and the telling of stories from Goddard’s touring days by Rob McLeod, who introduced the band.

The Honour Choir performed the day before, and Sparks said he was humbled by the experience.

“The Choir of BC, they really stepped it up. They had some very difficult music, but they worked really hard, and they were prepared when they came.”

The members of his choir were equally enamored of his conducting and personality.

“He’s really chill.” Luc Steele said, “I’ve had him as an instructor before, and he says things differently than my usual instructor does. She might say something and I don’t understand it, and he’ll say it differently and I’ll get it.”

“He brings amazing experiences from all over.” another choir member said, “It helps you connect to the songs globally and personally, which is really cool.”

Sparks, having been on sabatical the previous school year, travelled throughout the world learning from different choirs and collecting music. Some of this music he brought back to the Honour Choir – the joined arrangment of “Soon and Very Soon”, a southern gospel, and “Ombani”, a Masai chant, was gifted to Sparks by the director of the Kenyan National Boys Choir.

The choir also sang “Gratias Agimus Tibi” from the Bach B Minor Mass, as well as two songs for which the choir was divided. “Kuka Nukku Tutussasi” was the girls’ song from Finland, about the loss suffered during Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The boys sang Sparks’ arrangment of “Parting Glass”, in which bagpipes,  violin, guitar, and double bass were present.

The Honour Choir started their selection by having the audience close their eyes, and imagining themselves at a Cuban beach. The sanctuary went quiet, and the choir walked into the aisles, shushing waves and playing rainsticks. The simple melody of the Cuban song split into harmonies, and melded back together for the end.  Under applause, the choir moved onto the stage, and set the tone for their global performance.

“The concert was a big success.” Aidan Hoffman said, “Mr. Sparks was a huge part of bringing the choir together.”

“It was like we’d been singing together for years.” Adam Mah, a bass in the choir, said.

The BC Honour Ensembles are meant to give young musicians experiences that they will bring back to their respective highschools, and elevate the standard of musical excellence across the province. However, the BC Honour Ensembles give something else to musicians as well.

As the young man who introduced “Parting Glass” said, it’s about the companionship and togetherness of “the comrades of the BC Honour Provincial Choir”. It’s about the comrades of all the BC Honour Ensembles, and as the boys sang on the Friday: “Good night and joy be to you all.”


Grace Kennedy

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