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The VSO Chorus Returns: a conversation with director José Daniel Flores-Caraballo

Dr. José Daniel Flores-Caraballo is directing the VSO Chorus in their first performance in two years, "Gloria".
José Daniel Flores-Caraballo / used with permission
Dr. José Daniel Flores-Caraballo is directing the VSO Chorus in their first performance in two years, "Gloria".

The VSO Chorus returns in full song this weekend, with a program entitled “GLORIA” after John Rutter’s work that features the choir, organ, brass and percussion. I had a chance to chat via zoom with…

José: My name is José Daniel Flores-Caraballo, director of the chorus at the Vermont Symphony.

James: Because of the pandemic, it’s been over two years since the VSO Chorus has performed together. I asked Jose how the ensemble feels about this long-awaited return.

José: We're excited with the return. Of course, one of the super linings of this pandemic is that I think both people involved in the choral arts, as well as the audience, have a renewed passion for this art. We were silenced just temporarily, but we understood that this is too big to be silenced. We are all anxious to go back to singing. You know, I find it impressive that these singers drive sometimes two, three hours to get the rehearsals. And then in addition to that, they need to sing mask and that's not easy. It's a little annoying and they still do it with great enthusiasm, which, you know, speaks of how big this is in their lives.

James: The title of the concert is “Gloria” based on John Rutter’s work. Why that specific piece? What’s so special about this work?

José: I wanted to finish the program with a piece that would be uplifting. One of the things about the standalone concert is that I need to select an ensemble from the symphony; instead of the whole symphony as we do in other programs. So being in a church, I was interested in having brass; especially churches with fine organs, because the combination of brass and organ is always very special. So that immediately led me to Gloria. Gloria is a very festive piece. It's like an explosion of exuberant joy. And I wanted to contrast this with the beginning of the concert, which is more reflective. However, there's a common denominator in the program, which is love and hope and justice. We wanted to start with these ideas in the first half of the program and then after that reflection, we needed to finish sending people home simply dancing; and this piece does it all!

James: What else can we expect from this concert?

José: People can expect a banquet that features a program that is more diverse than maybe they would anticipate. The program begins with brass; these wonderful instrumentalists from the symphony, and after the brass comes the chorus, which is singing acapella and also with piano and organ accompaniment. And then, perhaps the major surprise is that I will be playing myself on the organ. It is the first time that I will be playing for a Vermont audience. I'll be playing J.S. Bach’s Toccata in C major. I could not resist knowing that they have these beautiful instruments in these churches. And then after that, we all come together, the brass, the organ, the percussion and the chorus for Rutter’s Gloria.

James: That was Dr. José Daniel Flores-Caraballo, director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Their program “Gloria” is taking place, Friday, May 20th, 7:30 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington and Saturday, May 21st, 7:30 at Grace Church in Rutland. Find out more details and get your tickets at

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
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