More than 1,500 years ago an unknown individual authored a poem of praise that remains one of the most revered and vital parts of the Christian Church’s liturgical celebrations today. Several of the poem’s verses, now called the “Te Deum”, continue to be sung around the world and are held up as one of the most effective ways to give thanks and honor to the triune God.

Concordia alumnus Matt Thiel (left) conducts his choir at Sheboygan Lutheran High as noted composer Michael John Trotta looks on. Photo courtesy of Carla Solle

The Te Deum is so highly regarded, in fact, that numerous (and notable) composers over the centuries have found inspiration in it, each taking their turn at setting its lyrics to their own arrangements and bringing new creative energy to a Church classic.

The latest musician to try his hand at the Te Deum is up-and-coming composer Michael John Trotta, and the choir of Concordia alumnus Matthew Thiel (’08) was among a select few choirs throughout the nation hand-picked to premier the piece.

This morning, Trotta traveled from his New York City home to Sheboygan Area Lutheran High School to work with Thiel’s choir in advance of the group’s March 17 concert in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, during which they will debut the new piece.

Trotta has appeared as a composer and conductor at Carnegie Hall three times since 2014. Last July, MidAmerica Productions and MidAm International named him the first-ever “Distinguished Composer & Conductor”.

Thiel, who majored in music education at CUW and who is currently enrolled in Concordia’s EdD LICI program, stumbled into the opportunity to work with the esteemed composer when he sent a video recording of Sheboygan Lutheran High’s choral group performing a different one of Trotta’s works as a “thank you” and nod to the composer’s talents.

Trotta responded with an exclusive invite to join the consortium that would commission his new work.

Michael John Trotta (left) holds clinic with the Sheboygan Lutheran High School choir. Photo courtesy of Carla Solle

“It was very unexpected and really an honor that he recognized the potential in our group,” Thiel said. “We’re a Lutheran school with less than 200 students in little old Sheboygan, but this opportunity serves as a huge reminder to my students especially that musical talent can be bred anywhere.”

The opportunity also gave students an inside look at how music is created.

“It’s really cool for my students to see that composers are still writing,” Thiel said. “My students tend to assume the composer on any given music selection we perform is dead, but the reality is that there is a lot of great music still being written today.”

Concert details

The public is invited to hear Thiel’s choir perform Trotta’s piece, along with other sacred selections, on Tuesday, March 17 at 7 p.m. The Sheboygan Lutheran High School choral concert is free and will take place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan, located at 824 Wisconsin Avenue.

“The Te Deum will definitely be a highlight of the concert. It’s one of the greatest texts ever written for the church,” Thiel said. “People like Mozart, Dvorak and Handel have all set that text before and now people will get a look at what a 21st century composer has done with the text.”

In the Media

Trotta and Thiel were featured on KFUO’s Coffee Hour on March 12. Hear them share the story behind their collaboration by clicking here or on the play button below.

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