In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and to express gratitude to frontline medical and service workers, the Montclair State University Singers have partnered with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), which has commissioned a new work, Gratias Tibi, for physically distanced orchestra and choir from José Luis Domínguez.
The Singers will join the musicians of the NJSO for a virtual world premiere on June 8. All performers will record their parts individually from home, and each part will be stitched together to create the finished work.
Gratias Tibi, which means “thank you” in Latin, offers a message of thanks to all frontline workers who have responded to this unprecedented emergency with bravery and compassion.
“This is a very special opportunity, and I’m grateful our students are able to collaborate with the NJSO on such a unique project,” says Montclair State University Director of Choral Activities Heather J. Buchanan. “Service through music is a core value for the MSU choral program, and the message of this composition aligns beautifully for us. We’re all devastated by the loss of our live performances right now, but we’re honored to be part of a meaningful music project that allows us to express our gratitude to the frontline workers and first responders. Their dedication is our inspiration!”
“The COVID-19 shutdown yanked artists across the world off stage without warning,” says Anthony Mazzocchi, director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. “Dr. Buchanan and her University Singers, alongside the NJSO, are developing something brilliant. These moments of beauty that rise from an awful situation give me so much hope for our art during an otherwise heartbreaking time. I can’t wait to witness the process and product of this partnership that we have valued so much through the years.”
“The University always responds to adversity with open minds and hearts,” says Daniel Gurskis, Dean, College of the Arts. “Montclair State is proud to reach outward and partner with NJSO on this groundbreaking effort. This collaboration will provide not only a once-in-a-lifetime experience of learning and performance for our students but also solace and connection at a time when they are sorely needed.”
Domínguez – a frequent NJSO summer parks and family concert conductor, and artistic director of the NJSO Youth Orchestras – is an accomplished composer whose works have been performed by some of the most important orchestras and ballet companies in South America. Ballet de Santiago premiered his most recent ballet, La Casa de los Espíritus, to acclaim in his native Chile.
“There are some situations that require true heroism,” he says. “First responders, doctors, nurses and everyone on the front lines – they have the skills and calling and devotion to put themselves in harm’s way. They’re not with their families so that we can be with ours. They are fighting for us, and this hits really close to the heart.
“We say ‘thank you’ every day, but sometimes those same words become more meaningful because there is a sincere intention behind them that makes an entire world of difference. I thought the most honest thing to do with this piece was to write something as simple as ‘thank you’ in Latin to make it universal. The piece is written with a full heart and humble attempt to express that very special, profound gratitude.”
The commission is an extension of NJSO at Home, the Orchestra’s efforts to share original video content and NJSO concert recordings on social media and the Orchestra’s website. During this time of physical distancing, NJSO musicians are sharing at-home performances, instrument demonstrations and insight into their lives.
“We are so proud to premiere this timely, groundbreaking work from José Luis, a member of our NJSO family, with our longtime choral partner, Montclair State University,” says NJSO President & CEO Gabriel van Aalst. “Connecting with our communities, commissioning new works from diverse composers and celebrating artistic partnerships are all key aspects of the NJSO mission, and through our Music and Wellness Program, we have seen the tremendous impact music has in health care settings. The opportunity to create music in response to this pandemic and sending this message of gratitude to frontline workers and first responders is incredibly meaningful to the Orchestra.”