Sounding the Bells for Haiti

Martin Connor ’12 Major: Music Hometown: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
June 4, 2012

When an earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the world sprang into action. Martin Connor sprang into composition. Connor, then a sophomore and a newly declared music major, began working on a requiem for the victims of the earthquake, which claimed more than 300,000 lives and left more than one million people homeless. Working with Anthony Kelley ’87, A.M. ’90, associate professor of the practice of music, Connor spent two years on the project, which became his senior thesis. The finished work, debuted at Duke Chapel this spring, features singers, musicians, and the work of carillonneur Sam Hammond ’68, M.T.S. ’96. Connor wrote lyrics for the funeral mass in both the traditional Latin and Haitian.

Martin Connor  [Les Todd]

Martin Connor  [Les Todd]

Raised Catholic, Connor had a natural interest in the requiem as a musical form, but he also drew motivation from his deep, if unexpected, feelings for Haiti. “I’m not Haitian,” he says. “I don’t know too many Haitian people. But I listen to their music, and kind of keep [the country] on my radar. I feel like Haiti is a country to be proud of.”

Connor says he hadn’t planned to major in music when he entered Duke, but he has found it to be something he can’t live without. “Something about it just feels right,” he says. “If anyone was ever meant to do anything, I was meant to compose.”

He hopes to publish his requiem and use proceeds from live and recorded performances to support rebuilding efforts in Haiti. “The news cycle moves so fast,” he says. “I wanted people to slow down…and remember it doesn’t end when the news cameras leave.”