High school choir debuts original piece by renowned composer

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Composer and conductor Michael John Trotta leads the Wilton High School Concert Choir in a rehearsal of an original work that will get its premiere March 29.

The Wilton High School Concert Choir will debut on March 29 an original piece created in collaboration with acclaimed choral composer and conductor Michael John Trotta.

Trotta was commissioned by the Wilton High School Music Department to compose an original choral piece plus lead a series of workshops for students. He also worked into the composition extra layers of music specifically for a select few eighth grade chorus students from Middlebrook. Funding for the commission was made available through a grant from the Wilton Education Foundation.

The premiere performance of this collaborative composition will take place Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at The Clune Center.  A reception will take place following the concert. The community is invited.

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Michael John Trotta

Recognized as an “an artist of vision and power” by the Phoenix Classical, Trotta works as a composer, conductor, and educator, He is premiering three new choral works, releasing three new albums and will soon debut a feature-length work — Seven Last Words of Christ — at Carnegie Hall.

“Michael Trotta is one of the most dynamic composers of choral music of our day,” Betsey de Groff, Wilton High School’s choral director and instructional leader of Fine and Performing Arts, said in a press release. “It has been an incredible honor and inspiration for the students to collaborate with and be directed by an artist of his talent.”  

“One of the most intriguing parts of this project is that it is truly a collaboration,” Trotta said. “Over a process of many months, the students have been involved with making suggestions for the text, coming up with ideas about mood, helping to select the level of difficulty, and being part of deciding what they wanted the piece to communicate.”

The collaboration began back in June when Trotta met with the WHS Concert Choir for the first time and listened to them perform one of their spring 2016 adjudication pieces. At that point, he assessed their vocal strengths and discussed their willingness to be challenged musically.  

According to Trotta, the students impressed him with their confidence and work ethic.  “One of my favorite parts of working on the Wilton project was when the choir asked for something more difficult; they really wanted a signature piece that would let them shine,” he said.

The next step in the collaboration was the selection of a text for the piece. The students chose a public domain poem by Walt Whitman, A Clear Midnight.

According to choir member Maggie Cummins, a junior at the high school, this poem had the right feeling for the composition. “The poem evokes a reflective mood. The students felt like we could create a lot of emotion with these words.”

Once the lyrics were agreed upon, Trotta began the process of putting music to the words. “My job as the composer is to help the students visualize their ideas and put them into a form that they can then use to communicate these ideas to others,” he said.

The end result was a choral composition 19 pages in length. “The piece is really a group of pieces, as there were more than a dozen drafts of the work from the very beginning sketches to the final piece that will have its world premiere in Wilton,” said Trotta. “It is wonderful for the students to learn that creativity is a process.”

For de Groff, this project has been a dream come true. “It has long been an aspiration of mine to have a choral piece commissioned for our students,” she said.

While attending a Carnegie Hall concert of a Trotta piece last spring, de Groff discovered she was seated next Trotta himself. A spontaneous conversation between the two led to the discussion of a formal collaboration.  

From there the process of fundraising began. “The students and I are incredibly grateful to the Wilton Education Foundation for their support of this collaboration,” said de Groff.  “We’d also like to thank the Music Boosters for their financial support as well.”

According to Dr. Trotta, the Wilton community should be proud. “Not only is the Wilton High School Concert Choir a top-notch vocal ensemble that can literally sing anything you give them, but their ability to collaborate in creating the mood of this work is a tribute to their community.”

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