Composition Weekend

Canções da America
From the Imagination of Clarice Assad

The Composition Department of Levine Music gratefully acknowledges the generosity of The Randy Hostetler LivingRoom Music Fund.



From Canções da America | Clarice Assad

Obrigаdo | Clarice Assad
I. Praise for the Sacred Altar
II. Saluting the Father of the Saint
III. The Orixás: Exú, the Prankish Sage
IV. The Orixás: Ogum, the Warrior
V. The Orixás: Oxossi, Lord of the Forests
VI. The Orixás: Xangô, God of Thunderstorms
VII. The Orixás: Mamа̃e Oxum
VIII. The Orixás: Iansа̃’s Waltz
IX. The Orixás: Iemanjá, The Queen of the Seas
X. The Orixás: Erê, the Child
XI. Obrigаdo


“Cravo e Canela” | Milton Nascimento/Ronaldo Bastos

“Quebra-Pedra“ | Antônio Carlos Jobim

“Estrada del Sol” | Jobim/Dolores Duran

“Perto do Luar” | Clarice Assad/Daniel Basilio

“Yo Soy Maria” | Astor Piazzolla

“Maria Maria” | Milton Nascimento/Fernando Brant

Clarice Assad, vocals and piano
Leslie Silverfine and Susan Katsarelis, violins
Joelle Arnhold, viola
Vasily Popov, cello
Mark Sylvester, mandolin and upright bass

About the Program

Canções da America is a collection of song-like movements inspired by chants, dances, and rhythms associated with South American music. A melting pot of cultures consisting of Europeans, immigrants, natives, and people from Africa. This six-movement work embraces fragments of the milonga dance, related to the tune of Uruguay; the choro from Brazil, the music of Paraguay; and a movement dedicated to the Argentinian tango, born in its modern version in Buenos Aires in the early 19th Century. Also in the suite is an homage to Andean music, chant-like melodies associated with regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and other peoples who lived approximately in the area of the Inca Empire before the Europeans arrived.

For the first time as a composer, I explore the music of neighboring Brazilian countries – my original homeland –including Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. The latter was the homeland of composer Claudia Montero, whose passing in early 2021 inspired me to write this work. Montero was an accomplished musician who dedicated her life to creating beautiful pieces of music sparked by Latin American themes. She supported numerous projects to amplify women’s voices in music, and her body of works reinforces the importance of female composers’ voices in today’s world. Canções da America is dedicated to her, her legacy, and Fry Street Quartet.

“Obrigаdo” in Portuguese means “thank you.” The idea for this piece came from a desire of mine to explore the music, chants, and rhythms of an Afro-Brazilian religion called Umbanda. The music consists of simple melodies with no harmonic support, accompanied by vigorous, complex rhythmic patterns underneath. I was introduced to this music as a child, and some of it, especially the rhythms, make up a significant part of my earliest musical memories.

As I wrote the piece, I found myself being deeply lured into the very source of this faith, which seems to have first appeared in the early African Yorùbá mythology.

The Yorùbá religion originated in Southern Nigeria and is extraordinarily rich, abundant in spiritual philosophy such as life after death and reincarnation. Overall, it carries beautiful messages of substance over matter, intangible values, and honoring the transcendent. Religious practices were common in the worship of divinities called Orishas (in Portuguese, Orixás). An Orisha is an entity that acts as an ‘intermediate’ force between people and the supernatural. They can also be viewed as deities because they can control certain elements in nature.

I have a vague idea of what Yorùbá music sounded like in its original form before it was introduced to many parts of the world as a result of slavery in the Americas as early as the16th Century. But, it is not wrong to assume that African drumming and its intricate, complex polyrhythm played a huge role in the construction of the mixture it produced while in contact with other cultures and musics of the world. In Brazil, for example, samba and olodum were born out of mother rhythms’ called after African regions such as Angola and Nago, respectively.

In writing Obrigаdo, I carefully listened to over one hundred chants and chose the ones I resonated the most with. The work is written in 11 movements and loosely follows the traditional religious practice of a Brazilian Umbanda ceremony. From its opening chants, through the honoring of each of the most important Orishas, until the final closing anthem which sends out a powerful message of gratitude for the gift of life.

– Clarice Assad

Following intermission, the evening will conclude with Assad joining the ensemble to perform a song set that explores a range of South American musical genres, including bossa nova, tango, and more. The program features classic songs by Nascimento, Jobim, and Piazzolla, arranged and sung by Assad.

About Clarice Assad

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Brazilian American Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop,and jazz genres. A Grammy-nominated composer,celebrated pianist, and inventive vocalist, she is renowned for her evocative colors, rich textures, and diverse stylistic range. As an innovator, her award-winning Voxploration Series on music creation, songwriting, and improvisation has been presented throughout the United States, Brazil, Europe,and the Middle East. With her artistic talents sought after by artists and organizations worldwide, the multi-talented musician continues to attract new audiences both onstage and off.

In the recording arena, Ms. Assad has released seven solo albums and appeared on or had her works performed on another 30. Her music is represented on Cedille Records, SONY Masterworks, Nonesuch, Adventure Music, Edge, Telarc, NSS Music, GHA, and CHANDOS.

A prolific Grammy-nominated composer with over 70 works to her credit, Clarice Assad’s numerous commissions include works for Carnegie Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orquestra Sinfônica de São Paulo, Chicago Sinfonietta, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Youth Orchestra, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Queen Reef Music Festival, and the La Jolla Music Festival, to name a few. Her compositions have been recorded by some of the most prominent names in the classical music, including percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and oboist Liang Wang. Assad’s music has been performed by internationally acclaimed orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, Queensland Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfônica de São Paulo. Ms. Assad has served asa composer-in-residence for the Albany Symphony, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Her works are published in France (Editions Lemoine), Germany (Trekel), Criadores do Brasil (Brazil), and by Virtual Artists Collective Publishing (VACP), a publishing company co-founded with poet and philosopher Steve Schroeder. Ms. Assad is currently writing the soundtrack to Devoti Tutti, a documentary by Bernadette Wegenstein, while composing the music for a ballet by award-winning choreographer Shannon Alvis.

As a performer, Clarice has shared the stage with such artists as Bobby McFerrin, Anat Cohen, Nadia Sirota, Paquito D’Rivera, Tom Harrell, Marilyn Mazur, and Mike Marshall, among other outstanding musicians. She has performed at internationally renowned venues and festivals including The Netherlands’ Concertgebow, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Belgium’s Le Palais des Beaux-Arts, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Le Casino de Paris, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Caramoor International Jazz Festival.

A passionate educator, in 2015 Ms. Assad founded VOXploration, an award-winning, trailblazing program which presents a creative, fun, and accessible approach to music education through meaningful, interactive experiences. Carefully curated to work equally well with participants of any age who have little music education or those having musical backgrounds, VOXploration has received grants and awards from Brazilian foundations such as CAIXACULTURAL and SESC, as well as American grants from New Music USA and the McKnight Foundation. Ms. Assad has given masterclasses, residencies, and workshops throughout the United States, Europe, and Middle East.

Born in Rio de Janiero, Clarice Assad is one of the most widely performed Brazilian concert music composers of her generation. The recipient of numerous honors and awards,amongst them an Aaron Copland Award and several ASCAP awards in composition, Clarice Assad holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Roosevelt University in Chicago and a Master of Music degree from The University of Michigan School of Music.

Please join us on Sunday, May 1st at 4:00 pm for our next Loeffler Alumni Series performance:
Loeffler Alumni Series: Micah Hendler
Micah Hendler is a musical changemaker working to harness the power in each of our voices to make a difference.