De Champlain’s Excellent Adventure

During last weekend’s VYO concert, we performed an amazing program! It consisted of Mr. Peters’ world premiere piece, Champlain’s Voyage, the Fauré Pavane, the Brahms Schicksalsied, Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 2, and An American in Paris by George Gershwin. Often a program will include a “rest” piece, such as a concerto, that is not musically or technically difficult. Not this time! Suzanne Calhoun - Flynn Center May 09

Each piece possessed individual challenges. The Gershwin was the hardest, definitely, but we worked at it so that it sounded tight and dance-like. The Chorus added 60 more musicians to the mix when we performed the Brahms and the Fauré, so adjusting to this large, additional presence was a part of the challenge.

Our conductor wrote Champlain’s Voyage in honor of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration, celebrating Samuel de Champlain’s voyage from France to Québec and Vermont. It is a cool piece, with extraordinary textures and well-done orchestration. We were fortunate to work with the composer every week. Mr. Peters told us exactly what he wanted for sound in each spot and he answered our questions about style and tone. A sentimental note: he wrote the piece with this orchestra and all its players in mind, including a big cantabile solo for our amazing tuba player.

As for the other works: The Fauré is very pretty; the Brahms is a phenomenal combination of gorgeous and tormented music. The Carmen Suite is fun because the melodies are recognizable; the Gershwin is a journey through several different themes and styles, as the “American” strolls thorough a musical Paris. I don’t think I had a favorite piece…

The VYO will tour Québec and France this summer. Actually, we are following Samuel de Champlain’s route in reverse, starting with our kickoff concert in Burlington at the Flynn Center on July 3. From there, we drive to Québec to perform at the Palais Montcalm in Québec City. Then, we board a plane and fly to Paris to perform, and of course, to do some sightseeing! We will visit La Rochelle, the port where de Champlain initially set off for North America. We will also visit Poitiers, where we hope to meet Drake Mabry, a former VYO member who composed a piece for our tour, entitled Diary of Perspectives.
For me, the atmosphere at our spring concerts was not one of finality…most of us will get to play together again and spend time together on our tour.

I can’t wait!

—Suzanne Calhoun     (Photo: David Yandell)

In The Moment

VYO at FlynnOur spring concert has come and gone. It is strange to realize that my Sunday afternoons will be free for the rest of the school year. Even stranger,  the heavy feeling of finality that hung over this concert weekend. This concert was especially unique, adding an extra spark that helped us focus and appreciate our music like never before.

The first half of the concert felt smooth. Mr. Peters’ piece was energetic and the collaborative pieces with the VYO chorus were beautiful and delicate. The second half of the concert was even better. Sometimes, the orchestra struggles after an intermission because of physical and mental fatigue, but on Sunday, our focus level remained high and we delivered a performance of which we could be proud.

In my opinion, the last piece on the program, An American in Paris, was better than ever. Our enjoyment of the piece came through with an electric intensity. This is not to say that our playing was entirely free of mistakes, but it was so full of passion! Playing An American in Paris demonstrated to me the sheer power of music. Live music is a gift. When performers and listeners connect with the heart of a piece, it captivates and leaves one thirsty for more. This kind of magic gave many of us chills as we played the final notes of Copland’s beautiful music.

The poignancy of the moment was amplified by the knowledge that this would be our last “regular” concert with the VYO. Mr. Peters will be moving to Texas later this year and along with the other seniors, I will graduate soon. I reflect on these changes with a mixture of sadness, gratitude for the past and excitement for the future. Playing with the VYO has been such a significant part of my life for the last two years that I can’t believe my time is already ending.

Fortunately, most of us can still look forward to playing together again at our Tour Kickoff concert on July 3rd and to our exciting tour.   If our spring concert was any indication, our summer performances in Vermont, Québec and France will be magnifique!

—April Burbank     (Photo: David Yandell)