Making Music at BCMEA 2016

Monday, November 07, 2016 - By: Hannah R, Mackenzie, ‘18

BCMEA stands for the British Columbia Music Educators’ Association. Every year, the association holds a conference with workshops, educational sessions, and speakers, but most importantly for students, Honour Ensembles. 

Last spring, music students from all over BC were busy singing or playing an instrument into a microphone, recording audio auditions for the BCMEA Honour Ensembles, which include Concert Choir, Vocal Jazz, Strings Ensemble, and Concert Band. Each conference, in addition to educating conductors and music teachers, provides an opportunity for students who excel at their instruments to congregate, practice for three days, and perform for supportive parents, teachers, and other students – this year at the Fraserview Mennonite Brethren Church in Richmond, BC. 

Three Brentwood students were selected, based on submitted auditions, to be in the BCMEA 2016 honour ensembles: Maria R, Mackenzie, ’19 & Francis V, Ellis, ’18 joined the String Ensemble on cello and violin, respectively, and Hannah R, Mackenzie, ’18 was accepted to the Concert Choir as an Alto 2. 

On Wednesday, the concert choir, led by the terrific Dr. Graeme Langager, Director of Choirs at the University of British Columbia, launched into very complex music with up to eleven parts sung at one time.  We were privileged, as well, to have Jake Runestad, composer and choir director, fly to Vancouver from Minnesota a week before he had originally planned, just to work with the choir. Mr. Runestad also graciously agreed to conduct And So I Go On – fittingly, as he wrote it. 

On Friday night, after two and a half days of rehearsals, the concert choir performed the eight songs they had prepared.  The performance was a great success, with Mr. Runestad’s And So I Go On and the touching story accompanying it bringing tears to many eyes. 

Although the rehearsals were intense, the Strings Ensemble was described by Maria as a great “opportunity to play with other musicians from all around BC”.  Directed by Dr. Jonathan Girard, Director of Orchestras at the University of British Columbia, and comprised of about 45 young musicians, the Strings Ensemble rehearsed pieces by Elgar, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler, to name a few.  Francis V, in addition to being accepted to the prestigious honour ensemble, had the distinction of being named Principal of the First Violin section. Unfortunately for the future of Strings Ensembles like the one hosted by the BCMEA, the Vancouver School Board is cutting many of its strings programs, making this experience all the more precious.  

After rehearsing for two and a half days, the Strings performance in the sanctuary of the Fraserview M. B. Church on Saturday night went very well, and was enjoyable for audience and performers alike. 

I believe I can speak for all three of the music students from Brentwood who had the opportunity to join the BMCEA Honour Ensembles when I say that it was a fantastic experience.  An overall higher skill level and prior rehearsal individually allowed each group to simply enjoy playing or singing and making music together. 

Thank you to Mr. Clausen for informing his students of the opportunity and supporting us while we were there, and to Mrs. Widenmaier for venturing to Vancouver to watch the finished product!    

If you wish to see the Concert Choir singing And So I Go On:   . And the Strings Ensemble playing The Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s String Serenade: (They start at 2:40)  

Hannah R, Mackenzie, ‘18

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