The Lord Byng Junior and Senior Honour Orchestras gave outstanding performances this year at the Fraser Valley Kiwanis International Music Festival and the National MusicFest Canada competition earning gold standing and trophies at both events. Both groups were recognized as the most deserving ensembles in the String Orchestra Divisions for their respective age group.
Wayne Toews, Chair of the Orchestra Division for Musicfest Canada, commented:
"The Lord Byng Honour Orchestras gave distinguished performances which earned high praise and a gold rating from the panel of five adjudicators. The careful preparation and high level of musicianship is a credit to the ensemble members and their conductor, Odette Kurth. In the adjudication clinic which followed the performances I was impressed by the players' courtesy, attentiveness, musical flexibility, but especially by their wholehearted willingness to participate and to learn. The orchestra members were superb representatives of their school and community. I congratulate the school and school board for this outstanding string program."
The Orchestras are conducted by Odette Kurth, a Romanian born violinist, who has been at the school since 2002. Kurth has performed in many professional orchestras including the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops, Vancouver Opera, and CBC Orchestra.
During Kurth's time, the Lord Byng ensembles have won over twenty-five Kiwanis Festival Gold Awards (Provincial Competition) and three Gold Awards from the National Competition MusicFest in 2005 and 2007. In 2008, the Senior Honour Orchestra received 1st prize in the North West Orchestra Competition in Portland, Oregon, and in 2010, both Junior and Senior Honour Orchestras received the highest accolades in the Heritage Music Festival in Seattle, Washington.
Students must audition for both junior and senior ensembles and are required to be highly committed and willing to take on leadership roles, such as those extended to graduating students throughout the year to play solos from their own chosen selections and to be accompanied by the orchestra. Accepting such opportunities gives students the chance to grow in their personal confidence and in the satisfaction of their accomplishment. Overall, students tend to experience tremendous growth in their abilities as players in the orchestra and as musicians.
Kurth states, "The Honour Orchestras are representative groups that play at assemblies, within the community, and at national and international competitions. I'm enormously proud of these students for their continuous commitment and the hard work that they bring to the ensembles, as well as their willingness to be more accomplished year after year."
While junior students receive instruction on timetable, senior students have classes two times per week beginning at 7:20 in the morning. Early mornings are not an issue for one grade 11 student, Serena Li, who comments, "Through my participation in the Lord Byng Senior Honour Orchestra I have learned to work collaboratively with my classmates in exploring a large variety of different musical styles and techniques. Our commitment as a team to true musicianship has allowed us to grow closer as a group and form lasting friendships."
Recently, the Senior Honour Orchestra has been selected by ASTA, the American String Teachers Association to participate in the National Orchestra Festival Competition in Atlanta, Georgia in March 2012. According to Kurth, "competitions are a culmination of months of hard work to refine the repertoire selected for that event." This prestigious invitation to one of the top international string competitions is only extended to high level groups, and out of hundreds of submissions the Lord Byng Senior Honour Orchestra was one of fourteen ensembles that were accepted.
But for Kurth and the students being in the orchestra is not only about doing well at competitions. It is about musical and personal growth as well as moving audiences through their creative expression. One audience member recently commented, "Last night I was at the amazing concert at the Chan Centre. It was absolutely brilliant probably the most memorable concert I have heard in years and I would love to listen to it again and again."