Connor Gibbs ’17, a music graduate and former Wagner choir member, is bringing his musical composing talents back to Wagner this spring.
On May 5, the Wagner College Choir will premiere a piece he wrote for the ensemble, “The Swans,” as part of their spring concert, “Soundscapes of Yesterday and Today.”
Gibbs teaches choral ensembles at Springfield Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. On April 17, he was able to attend the Wagner choir’s rehearsal of his piece.
“The Swans” is a setting of a poem by the early 20th-century American poet Sara Teasdale. “I fell in love with this poem,” Gibbs said. “It paints a really gorgeous scene, with beautiful romantic imagery.”
Gibbs’ music creates a shimmering, serene setting of the poem, which describes a pair of human lovers observing a pair of swans at night. “I hope you will think of someone or something you really care about while performing the piece,” Gibbs told the choir.
The music includes jazz-inflected harmonies and rhythmic complexity, which reflect Gibbs’ interest in jazz music as well as Impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy.
Gibbs says he was inspired to contact Dr. Thomas Juneau, Wagner’s new director of choral activities, after hearing that Juneau himself was a composer.
“It was exciting, because Connor reached out to me about writing a piece for the choir,” Juneau said. “He’s an up-and-coming composer. I’m a composer, too, and I want to support young composers.”
Gibbs is a singer first. During his years at Wagner, Gibbs loved being a part of the choir and other vocal ensembles conducted by Roger Wesby, professor of music. Gibbs studied composition under Barbara Wesby, adjunct music faculty member.
On Gibbs’ senior recital, Roger Wesby conducted an all-female choir in a performance of Gibbs’ first composition for vocal ensemble.
Since graduating, Gibbs has written many new works that have been performed worldwide. In 2018, his works were heard at the Space City New Music Festival in Houston, the Dartington International Summer School and Festival in England, and the International Composition Workshop at the European University Cyprus. This year, his work “Broken Promises” for string orchestra was selected in the Musica Per Archi Music Composers’ Competition and was premiered in Lviv, Ukraine, in March. (Visit his website to learn more about his compositional work.)
The May 5 concert will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, located at 309 St. Paul’s Avenue in Staten Island. Admission is $15, and it is free for students with ID.