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Compositions to premiere at Fredonia Choral Festival

Submitted Photo Inaugural performances of three selections written by internationally renowned composer/arranger Stacey V. Gibbs will highlight the 10th Fredonia Choral Festival.

Inaugural performances of three selections written by internationally renowned composer/arranger Stacey V. Gibbs for vocal ensembles at Fredonia will highlight the 10th Fredonia Choral Festival in the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event: a premiere of pieces Gibbs wrote for our students,” said Director of Choral Activities Vernon Huff. The Chamber Choir will sing “The Welcome Table;” the College Choir, “Abide with Me” and the Camerata, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” – all under the direction of Mr. Gibbs, who’s considered the world’s leading arranger of African-American spirituals.

The concert will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m. in King Concert Hall. Tickets are $6 for general admission, free to Fredonia students with ID and will be available at the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center and at the door.

A prolific composer/arranger and clinician, Gibbs infuses new vitality and excitement into spirituals that have been performed by a wide range of choirs at festivals, celebrations and competitions in the United States and around the world.

Clinicians at past festivals at Fredonia were drawn exclusively from some of the finest choral programs in the United States and Canada, Dr. Huff explained, but Gibbs — best known for his innovative arrangements of African-American spirituals — was an attractive choice for the 2019 festival. “I have a lifelong love of that genre, and in my opinion Mr. Gibbs is the foremost living arranger of spirituals,” Huff said.

The commissioned works that local concertgoers will hear are the direct result of Gibbs serving as a clinician and guest conductor at Fredonia in 2019.

“Last year in the first rehearsal with Chamber Choir, after working with the choir for five minutes, he put his hands down and looked at me. With a huge smile on his face, he announced to us that he wanted to write a piece for us,” Huff recalled. “We were overwhelmed!”

One commissioned piece quickly grew to three, one for each ensemble.

Through his interaction with conductors and students, Gibbs said he observed “a love of the choral art and a commitment to achieve choral excellence in every genre they performed. They welcomed another philosophy in performing the spiritual and executed them with great ease.”

Gibbs found the energy, respect and appreciation that he received at Fredonia to be amazing. He enjoys creating new settings and noted that the connections made last year influenced the works to be unveiled at King Concert Hall. The three student ensembles will also perform a wide variety of choral classics from around the globe.

The Camerata, directed by Assistant Professor Adam Luebke, will sing “Nightingale,” by Thomas Weelkes; “Suffer No Grief,” by Abbie Betinis and “My Funny Valentine” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart.

The College Choir, led by School of Music Director Melvin Unger, will perform “Hope, Faith, Life, Love,” by Eric Whitacre; “Clementine,” by J. Earnest and “Lead, Kindly Light,” by Ken Medema.

The Chamber Choir, conducted by Associate Professor Huff, will sing “Timor et Tremor” by Orlando Di Lassus; “I Am Music” by Dale Trumbore and “Kyrie” from “Missa Brevis,” by Krysztof Penderecki.

Gibbs will conclude the concert by leading the combined ensembles in his arrangement of “Ezekiel.”

As a guest clinician at the two-day festival, Gibbs will deliver a lecture, free and open to the public, on Friday, Feb. 21, at noon, in Rosch Recital Hall.

Huff describes the two-day festival as “as an exciting whirlwind of an experience for everyone involved.”

Funding was received from the Carnahan Jackson Fund for the Humanities of the Fredonia College Foundation for the event.

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