Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Geoffrey Gibbs Concert Will Feature New Works, March 12

Media Contact:

KINGSTON, R.I.— February 24, 2010 – Dr. Geoffrey Gibbs, composer, baritone, pianist, and Emeritus Professor of music composition at the University of Rhode Island, has presented more than 45 concerts in the years since he first came to teach at URI, so a concert seemed a fitting way to celebrate yet another achievement this year, his 70th birthday. Gibbs’s concert, part of the URI University Artist Series, will be offered at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 12, and is the first of two concerts that weekend at the university. The URI Symphonic Wind Ensemble will present their annual winter concert on Sunday, March 14, at 3 p.m.

Both concerts will be held in the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Admission for each is $8 general admission, $2 students, on a first-come basis. The box office opens 45 minutes before each concert begins.

Gibbs’s concert program offers the premieres of two major works by the composer. Songs of Land and Sea, fifteen settings of poetry by the composer's father, Alonzo Gibbs (1915-1992), will be performed by the composer as baritone soloist accompanied by Stephen Grueb, clarinet, and Ann Danis, viola. His Preludes for Piano and Percussion will feature the composer at the piano and Ronald Stabile, percussion.

Since his father's death, Geoffrey Gibbs has devoted much time to editing Alonzo Gibbs's poetry and prose. The poems which comprise Songs of Land and Sea come from Dreams at the Fireside, verses written by Alonzo Gibbs as a teenager (1930 to 1934). These youthful poems have a sweet simplicity and naïvete to them. A number of the lyrics are attempts at popular song and have been set by Geoffrey Gibbs in a cabaret style, while some other songs are sea shanties, and one is styled as a penny ballad.

The program opens with five songs from Songs of Land and Sea: "Spring in the Valley", "Seaman's Blood", "Love", "The Fruits of Life", and "Tale of a Tramp Steamer." Four Preludes for Piano and Percussion will follow. The program will then continue with five more songs from Songs of Land and Sea: "Narcissus", "Mother of Mine", "A Tree", "To______", and "I saw you, oh maiden romantic". The second half of the program will feature the remaining Songs of Land and Sea: "Waving Corn", "To Venus", "The Wanderer's Song", "Dream Harbor", and "Night." The concert concludes with the rest of the Preludes for Piano and Percussion.

Born in 1940, Gibbs started his music training at age seven and was soon composing his own pieces. In high school he studied composition privately with Elie Siegmeister, noted for his championing of American folk music. At the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester) he studied composition with Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers and voice with Julius Huehn and Yi-Kwei Sze. He came to the University of Rhode Island in 1965 to teach composition and related subjects, and completed his doctorate in composition and voice at Eastman in 1974.

Although he retired in 2001 to devote all his energies to composing, Gibbs soon resumed teaching an occasional course (guiding young composers and teaching the history of contemporary music). In addition to giving at least one concert at URI each year, Gibbs has helped to present the works of other local and regional composers through the Rhode Island Composers Forum and recently Vibe of the Venue. His works have been performed throughout New England, at the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), and as far away as Russia and South America.

URI professor Ann Danis is a graduate of the New England Conservatory where she worked with such notables as Rudolph Kolisch, Richard Pittman, and Andrew Massey. At URI she directs orchestral activities and teaches viola and violin. She is a frequent solo performer throughout New England and conductor of the Fall River Symphony Orchestra. Ronald Stabile holds a Master of Science degree in music from the University of Southern Oregon. He is a freelance percussionist and has directed the percussion studio at URI for many years. Stephen Grueb is a URI graduate student in conducting and clarinet.

The URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall is handicap-accessible, and parking is available in the lot behind the building, off Bills Road. For more information, contact the URI Department of Music, 874-2431, or visit: www.uri.edu/artsci/mus.