Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT symphony orchestra concert sets tone for upcoming season

William Whitworth
The University of Texas Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Douglas Kinney Frost and Soprano Leah Crocetto perform at the Bates Recital Hall on September 24th, 2023. The UTSO performed Clarice’s Assad’s, Baião ‘n Blues a world premiere commissioned by KMFA 89.5.

With a wave of the conductor’s baton and powerful strikes of bows, Bates Recital Hall quickly filled with evocative melodies.

On Sept. 24, the Butler School of Music’s symphony orchestra set their performance season off to a strong start. The concert featured the world premiere of composer Clarice Assad’s latest orchestral composition, “Baião ‘n Blues,” and Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” featuring Grammy-winning vocalist Leah Crocetto and finished with Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4.

The evening began with Clarice Assad’s “Baião ‘n Blues.” Commissioned by KMFA 89.5, Austin’s classical radio station, through a musical residency that pairs composers and music commissioners, Assad said she composed the energetic orchestral piece with UT’s symphony orchestra in mind.

“I love the rhythms and melodies from a particular place in Brazil called Recife, a region in the northeastern part of Brazil,” Assad said. “It is full of a great array of exciting rhythms and melodic nodes. I’m taking that and mixing it with the language of blues.”

Assad said she could feel the excitement in the air when working with the eager young musicians in UT’s symphony orchestra and enjoyed interacting with them. Symphony violist Casey Boyer, a senior viola performance and journalism double-major, said she always admired Assad and anticipated working with her.

“She was really clear, supportive and excited when she gave us feedback,” Boyer said. “She was actually rewriting the piece as she was hearing us play it, which is unbelievably cool.”

When the vigorous applause for “Baião ‘n Blues” subsided, Leah Crocetto, a worldwide performer and UT faculty vocal lecturer, entered the stage. Accompanied by the symphony, Crocetto performed Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” a piece written based on James Agee’s 1938 prose about American Southern evenings from a child’s perspective.

“I hope to bring the audience a sense of nostalgia but also a sense of peace and community,” Crocetto said. “This whole piece is about family and being a part of a group and a community.”

After a brief intermission, the symphony played Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms as a classic yet poignant finale. Douglas Kinney Frost, the orchestra’s principal conductor, said he worked with students to bring emotion to all of the pieces played.

“This concert is a journey of soul and the very different experiences between these three gifted voices whose compositions we’re using,” Frost said. “They take us down different but very spiritual and very meaningful paths.”

Reflecting on the experiences of her final season-opening concert, Boyer said she learned things to add to her repertoire through working with Assad, Crocetto and fellow students.

“It never fails to amaze me how amazing all of my colleagues are when it comes to envisioning a piece, practicing it on our own, and then bringing it all together and really making a very cohesive and awesome sounding piece of art,” Boyer said.

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