So Gaily We Sing….

The Spirit of Byng was perhaps most evident in its exceptional music program. From 1922 to 1947 and beyond, Dr. D.M. Herbert, the school’s much beloved music specialist, played a most significant role in its success.

Even today, alumni can fondly recall their initiation into music thanks to Dr. Herbert. He brought a profound understanding and love of classical music to his students. One of the memorable highlights of his pedagogical career was the pooling of his talents with English teacher P.A.G. Clark to compose the official school song “Echos Of Byng.”

In addition to fulfilling his regular teaching workload, he immersed himself in supplementary musical activities such as organizing a girls choir in 1923 comprised of 65 students, which later expanded into a mixed choral ensemble of 550 voices. Click on the button in the bottom right of  the video to see an enlarged view of the choir.

Original score, “Echoes of Byng” ca. 1930

Original score, “Echoes of Byng” ca. 1930, music by Herbert and, words by Clark

Unselfishly, he devoted his time and energy to holding rehearsals after school and even on weekends. It was truly a labour of love. Even during the Easter holiday period, students would eagerly come to school for practice sessions prepping for the spring concert.

At Christmas there was the annual choir competition. Which class would win the Junior Boys trophy or the Senior Boys trophy? Which student would have his or her name inscribed on the trophy for being the best conductor?

Right after the Christmas show, the music department shifted into high gear in preparation for the spring concert. This elaborate undertaking took place over three nights to accommodate the large number of family and friends attending. The Musical Evenings featured the Junior and Senior Girls and Boys choirs, the school choir, and solo performances by various gifted students. BBHS bands and choirs were at the forefront when it came to school competition. One memorable event, the International Festival of School Music, took place at the Montreal Forum in 1947. This bilingual event featured bands and choirs from Montreal, Ontario, Maine, New York State, Connecticut and Vermont.

Dr. Herbert who retired in 1947, returned two decades later to Baron Byng to coordinate and conduct the Centennial Concert that included current students and some 250 alumni from as far back as 1925. One treasured memory from this spectacular concert prompted the production of a Centennial LP album now part of Byng’s musical heritage. Following the resounding success of this concert, Dr. Herbert along with Byng graduates decided to hold annual concerts, which took place for an additional four years through 1970. The choir established a scholarship in his honour at McGill University.

In 1971, to coincide with the celebration of Baron Byng’s 50th anniversary, a record album was released of that year’s Spring Concert, featuring the BBHS choir and the BBHS  Swingle  Byngers, under the direction of teacher Solly Lévy.

The legacy of Dr. Herbert will be perpetually linked to the music program of Baron Byng High School.

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