Champlain Philharmonic presents its fall concert


Courtesy photo

MIDDLEBURY — The Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra will presenting its Fall Concert Series on Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m., at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury and Sunday, Oct. 20, 4 p.m., at Grace Congregational Church in Rutland.

“The concert features four American composers, with hints of jazz,” said Matt LaRocca, artistic director and conductor for the CPO.

On the program will be “Rodeo” by Aaron Copland and “Wood Notes” by William Grant Still. The program will also feature a piece written by Vermont composer Erik Nielsen called “Matt’s Tune.” 

No, not Matt LaRocca, but rather this piece is a “tribute to a jazz musician and educator who passed away, Matt Clancy,” LaRocca explained.

“Over the next five years, the Champlain Philharmonic is embarking on an initiative that every concert we play will have a Vermont composer in it,” LaRocca continued. “There are so many amazing composers here; it’s something I’m really personally excited about.”

LaRocca is himself a composer. He plays viola, is a professor at the University of Vermont in the Music Department and is the creative chair for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

The Philharmonic will close out the performance with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” featuring Middlebury Union High School senior Nico Brayton on piano. 

Brayton has been playing the piano since he was five years old, and has been studying with Cynthia Huard (who teaches in Bristol) since age six. He plays the piano and mallet percussion in the MUHS concert band and jazz band. And he’s attended both District and All State music festivals, winning an All State performance scholarship his junior year. Brayton has also represented Vermont in the Music Teachers National Competition for solo piano, and performed several times in the annual Cathedral Young Artists and Next Generation showcase recitals.

He’s the real thing.

When he’s not playing the piano, Brayton can be found working on the infamous Common Application, running with the MUHS cross-country team (see today’s sports section), or practicing with the high school pit band. His favorite hobbies include alpine skiing, cycling, board games and trivia.

This is Nico’s first time performing with an orchestra like the Champlain Philharmonic,” LaRocca said. “He’s played this piece with his school’s concert band last spring… But this upcoming concert with the Philharmonic is a big deal in a great way.”

“I love ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” Brayton said. “I love how frenetic it is, and how it transitions rapidly between themes in different genres: jazz, romantic, impressionist, etc. I also love the dialogue between the piano and orchestra, although perfecting the balance between us is probably the most difficult part of performing the piece.”

Brayton’s said he’s not nervous, but is “extremely excited to perform this piece with a full string orchestra” — something he’s never had the chance to do before.

Tickets are available at the door for both performances or in advance at champlainphilharmonic.org. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for seniors (60+), and $5 for students.

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