Gratias Tibi: Expressing Thanks through Music

A new New Jersey Symphony commission for physically distanced orchestra and choir by José Luis Domínguez expresses gratitude to all frontline workers who have responded to the unprecedented COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic with bravery and compassion. The virtual world premiere of Gratias Tibi features the New Jersey Symphony and Montclair State University Singers.


“There are some situations that require true heroism. 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.” 

Composer José Luis Domínguez

Written in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gratias Tibi, which means “thank you” in Latin, offers a message of thanks to all frontline workers.

Domínguez says: “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.”

New Jersey Symphony musicians and MSU singers recorded their parts individually from home, and each part was stitched together to create the finished work for the virtual world premiere on June 22.

Domínguez—a frequent New Jersey Symphony summer parks and family concert conductor, and artistic director of the New Jersey Symphony 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.

The commission is an extension of New Jersey Symphony at Home, the Orchestra’s efforts to share original video content from musicians and New Jersey Symphony concert recordings on social media and the Orchestra’s website.

“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.”


New Jersey Symphony Music Director Xian Zhang

“This is a very special opportunity, and I’m grateful our students are able to collaborate with the New Jersey Symphony on such a unique project. 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!”

Montclair State University Director of Choral Activities Heather J. Buchanan

“We are so proud to premiere this timely, groundbreaking work from José Luis, a member of our New Jersey Symphony family, with our longtime choral partner, Montclair State University. Connecting with our communities, commissioning new works from diverse composers and celebrating artistic partnerships are all key aspects of the New Jersey Symphony mission, and through our Music and Wellness Program, we have seen the tremendous impact music has in healthcare 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.”

New Jersey Symphony President & CEO Gabriel van Aalst

“The COVID-19 shutdown yanked artists across the world off stage without warning. Dr. Buchanan and her University Singers, alongside the New Jersey Symphony, are developing something brilliant. These moments of beauty that rise from an otherwise 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.”

MSU John J. Cali School of Music Director Anthony Mazzocchi