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New York-based composer Stephanie Ann Boyd is no stranger to the concerto genre. Come hear her new bassoon concerto Rituūum, featuring soloist Andrew Marlin, conductor Alexander Colding Smith, and the Soundbox Orchestra, on our May 2nd concert.


Lately I’ve felt concerto writing is very akin to portrait painting in that the piece is so much more than simply an image captured in time: the personality and spirit of the commissioner/soloist must be present in every layer of the music; the music itself must be a true homage to the history and the capabilities of both the instrument and the soloist. 

Eric Tyler Barga approached me two years ago about writing a concerto for him. He knew that he wanted a three movement structure, an incredibly visceral and rhythmic style overall, heart-ache written into the second movement, the Dies Irae snuck in there somewhere, and we both agreed that it should reflect an obsessive, ritualistic, manic behavior throughout. I immediately went to my dear friend Google and looked up the word “ritual” and its Latin roots: up came the word Ritūum. 

With this concerto being not only a portrait of Eric but also a portrait of the bassoon — that absolutely magical and resonant log of wood — I made sure to spend adequate time in the piece on the capabilities of that instrument that strike me every time I hear them: the goosebump-inducing sighing/screaming/wailing of the high register’s long, celery green tones; the earthy, pungent pedal tones that feel impossibly low every single time; the ability to practically fly between slurred 16th notes (showcased in the first movement as sextuplet sixteenths) with radical agility, and the stunningly human middle register. 

And so in Ritūum you’ll hear a jumpy, manic first movement with an oasis-like middle section, a middle movement that sings of the coldness of winter and a descent into the one-sided begging, pleading of a love gone wrong. The third movement is a non-stop crescendo towards a triumphant, hopeful ending. 

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