Four New Concertos by Women Composers

New Music concert series Soundbox will present its long-planned New Concerto Project Tuesday at Covington's Leapin Lizard Event Space.

Young composers in Cincinnati and elsewhere are creating exciting new sounds that you can hear by attending a Cincinnati Soundbox concert. Now in its second season, Soundbox is a New Music concert series that presents works by living composers with no boundaries as far as style or genre. Its co-founders and co-artistic directors are Rachel C. Walker and Ivan Alexander Moscotta.

On Tuesday at the Leapin Lizard Event Space in Covington, Soundbox will present its long-planned New Concerto Project, featuring the world premieres of four concertos by four women composers. Two are from Cincinnati, all have been active in past Soundbox events and all will be present for the concert. One of the composers is Walker, a 2016 graduate in composition from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. She and another of the night’s composers, Laura Harrison, coordinated the New Concerto Project.

A concerto historically is a three-movement work for a solo instrument or a group of instruments accompanied by an orchestra, but for this event Walker and Harrison were looking for creative uses of the structure.

“We wanted to include composers we’d worked with on previous concerts,” Walker says. “It turned out that Cristina Spinei and Stephanie Ann Boyd were in the process of writing concertos, so it all came together.”

The composers are in their mid-20s to early-30s, and each has an impressive body of work spanning orchestral, chamber and vocal music. Walker’s New Concerto Project work for percussion and string orchestra, entitled “On a paper nautilus,” was inspired by the rhythmic swaying of an ocean pier. 

“It’s a palindrome, rhythmically, so it’s the same piece twice, offset by 90 seconds backward,” she says. “The soloist is CCM alumna Colleen Phelps. She’ll be playing various percussion instruments, including seven triangles, three bowed cymbals, a Chinese wooden temple block and Tibetan tingsha cymbals.”

Harrison, pursuing a doctoral degree at CCM where she teaches composition and orchestration, will present “Corners of the Sky” for piano and orchestra. It will be performed by Kristofer Rucinski. 

“The title is from a poem by Federico García Lorca,” Harrison says. “The first movement is melancholy, the second is a contrast with more whimsical and fast-paced music, and then it comes back to the original material but it’s reframed in a more reflective context.”

Boyd, a New York-based teacher as well as composer, has contributed the bassoon concerto “Rituum,” featuring Chicago musician Andrew Marlin. 

“Stephanie has a minimalist background,” Harrison says. “Her piece is full of rhythm and energy and shows off the bassoon’s range in a really playful way.”

Spinei, whose “Clarinet Concerto” will be performed, composes for dance groups, film and musicians. The Juilliard graduate now resides in Nashville and frequently collaborates with CCM alumna Phelps and clarinetist Emily Tyndall — the latter will be the soloist for Spinei’s concerto. 

Each composer sought to make the concerto form relevant to her audience. “Relevancy comes from repeated performances,” says Jon Noworyta, who will conduct Spinei’s and Harrison’s concertos. (Alexander Colding Smith will conduct the other two.) “The idea of our project is that someone out there will want to program one of these pieces with their orchestra. If a soloist really likes it, she can make a strong case for future performances.

“We have four young women who have written four great pieces of music,” Noworyta continues. “What’s vital is what the song in their heart is and how are they going to sing it.”

Walker is proud of Soundbox’s contribution to Cincinnati’s arts so far. “I felt there was a gap in the opportunities for Cincinnati composers to be heard,” she says. “We shop local and have local theater, and we’re proud of that, but there are also amazing composers here. At the same time, it’s hard to hear composers from outside Cincinnati. And we’ve been able to build relationships with young composers and performers from all over.”

Cincinnati Soundbox’s NEW CONCERTO PROJECT takes place 7 p.m. Tuesday at Leapin Lizard Event Space, 724 Main St. in Covington. Cocktail hour at 6 p.m. Tickets/more info:

About The Author

Anne Arenstein

Anne Arenstein is a frequent contributor to CityBeat, focusing on the performing arts. She has written for the Enquirer, the Cincinnati Symphony, Santa Fe Opera and Cincinnati Opera, and conducted interviews for WVXU's Around Cincinnati. In 2009, Anne was named an NEA Fellow in Classical Music and Opera Journalism...
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