Antonin Dvorák’s Te Deum, Op. 103, will be the first collaboration between the Champlain Philharmonic, conducted by Matthew LaRocca, and the Castleton University Chorale, directed by Sherrill Bodget.
“It’s really, really great,” LaRocca said by phone. “It was written around the (same) time as the ‘New World’ (Symphony), a little bit before. It’s from his later period, and it’s amazing. And it’s really great for our orchestra too.”
Blodget will conduct the 40 members of the community orchestra and the 50-voice Chorale in the Te Deum at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Congregational Church of Middlebury, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 31, at the Casella Theater at Castleton University. Vocal soloists will be soprano Helen Lyons and bass Neil Wacek.
LaRocca and Blodget will share the conducting duties in Dvorák’s “Carnival Overture,” Op. 92, Beethoven’s Fantasia in C minor (“Choral Fantasy”) with pianist Charles Madsen, and Fauré’s “Pavane,” Op. 50.
Te Deum laudamus (Latin for God, We Praise You), also called Te Deum, is a Roman Catholic hymn to God the Father and Christ the Son, traditionally sung on occasions of public rejoicing. It has been set to music by many composers, and Dvorák is among those most often performed.
“To me it’s uplifting and spiritual,” LaRocca said. “It has that holistic feel to it. You walk out of it and you feel whole, you feel uplifted. For the most part, Dvorák is pretty happy in his music, but this is really joyful.”
LaRocca has found working with the Chorale on this masterpiece has been challenging but rewarding for the orchestra.
“It’s coming together well,” he said. “It was a stretch, but it was a good stretch.”
Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” Op. 80, is written for chorus, orchestra and solo piano, almost a piano concerto.
“That’s actually how I look at it because the chorus is so minimal,” LaRocca said. “It’s weird — that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s off-kilter, and it took me a long time to figure it out. It moves through so many different fields.”
Conversely, Fauré’s “Pavane” is one of the most familiar works in the concert repertoire — but not this version with chorus.
“What’s cool for us as an orchestra is we did it in one of my first concerts with them, but without a choir, which is how you see it most,” LaRocca said. “It’s great for us to actually revisit a piece, but have it take on a totally different life. With the addition of the voices, it’s a different piece.
“To me, it becomes a little more mysterious and a little more ethereal,” he said.
The concerts will open with Dvorák’s “Carnival Overture.”
“I chose this as the counterpart to the Te Deum,” LaRocca said. “‘Carnival’ opens the show and the Te Deum closes the show. They have that same jubilant spirit to them, where you’re taken on a journey in the best possible way.”
According to LaRocca, the Champlain Philharmonic, now in its 15th season, has grown in size and ability.
“They’re good,” he said. “We’ve added strings every cycle, and this year we got (Vermont Symphony Orchestra member) Stef Taylor to be our concertmaster. She probably teaches a half dozen of our string players in private lessons. That has been such a great addition for us.”