Cellist Helena Jung. Photo by Crystal Chowdhury

New Strathcona Symphony Orchestra director draws on experience

The Strathcona Symphony Orchestra’s new music director/conductor will draw on more than 25 years as a musician and teacher to instruct and inspire the diverse musicians of the regional band.

“This is actually quite a challenge for me because we have all different levels,” cellist Helena Jung said in an interview.

While even professional, full-time orchestras have a range of ability, the gap is greater for volunteer community bands such as the SSO whose players drawn from the Comox Valley and Campbell River range from beginners to experienced musicians. As music director, Jung is responsible for creating a program for the 2018-19 season that won’t overwhelm less-experienced musicians while not boring more-talented ones.

“Since last August I’ve spent a lot of time to set the repertoire for this season … my idea is for new members I want to keep some arranged music (stripped down to basics). Also, for advanced musicians, I want to try a whole symphony every year.

“I always have a positive mindset, so let’s try. Why not?”

Jung will lead the SSO into its 14th year, replacing Jim Montgomery, who held the dual positions for the previous three years before retiring to travel with his wife. All performances will be in the Native Sons Hall.

The first concert, which features Haydn’s London Symphony op. 104 in D major, will be performed Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. “This is his last symphony, so it’s really well-made, very popular.”

Jung says it will be a challenge for the string players in particular.

The December concert will also feature a workout for the brass section including Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man as well as Christmas music sung by a children’s choir guided by well-known local choir leader Jenn Forsland.

The centerpiece of a children’s concert March 9 at 7 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m. will be Saint Saens` The Carnival of the Animals, although Jung hints that other animal-themed songs such as The Pink Panther might be heard. English composer Paul Patterson has given Jung permission to play his Three Little Pigs, narrated by Val Macdonald, known for her involvement with Courtenay Little Theatre.

The season-ending performance in late May or early June will focus on dance music (including Ravel’s iconic Bolero) in a joint effort with Lindsay Sterk, artistic director and owner of Pantuso Dance.

“This is part of my project to get a broader audience,” she revealed. “Always I want to get a kind of collaboration with another society or other art group,” said Jung, who admitted she’s already looking past the coming season.

Although her music career as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician has not previously included the positions of music director or conductor, she feels her experience as a musician will serve her well.

“I have had a lot of chances to meet great maestros and they inspire me in how to be a conductor … and this is a really great chance to broaden my career.”

Jung has performed as a member with the Jeunesses Musical World Orchestra as well as the Seoul Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gyeonggi Provincial Philharmonic Orchestra as principal cellist. She is a faculty member of the Comox Valley Youth Music Camp and has held her own cello recital series, Cellobration, and her students` concerts Hello, Cello! since 2007.

* * *

The SSO is always open to new musicians, supporters and volunteers. Musicians must have at least two years of experience with their instrument and be able to read music. If you are an aspiring or accomplished musician, you can contact the orchestra by visiting www.strathconasymphony.ca.

Rehearsals happen Mondays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the bandroom at G.P. Vanier Secondary School.

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