May 13, 2020

Orchestra Commissions Work For Physically Distanced Orchestra

AN ORCHESTRAL FIRST: Composer Jose Luis Dominguez has created a work specifically for physically distanced orchestra, to be performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Montclair University Singers for a virtual world premiere on June 8.  (Photo by Fred Stucker)

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and to express gratitude to frontline medical and service workers, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) has commissioned a new work, Gratias Tibi, for physically distanced orchestra and choir from José Luis Domínguez.

The Montclair State University Singers, longtime NJSO partners, 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.

“There are some situations that require true heroism,” Dominguez said. “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 are 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.”

NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang said, “Throughout history, composers have responded to major events of their time, and José Luis’ new work speaks to this unprecedented moment. We have all been moved by the ways musicians all over the world have found new ways to connect us from afar, and we are so grateful for the courage and sacrifice of the brave frontline workers meeting the challenges of this pandemic. Gratias Tibi expresses all of these emotions through the universal language of music.”

“The COVID-19 shutdown yanked artists across the world off stage without warning,” said 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.”

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 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.

For more on Gratias Tibi, visit