Clarice Assad

(2019) Bonecos de Olinda

Overture For Orchestra

Duration: 8 minutes | Commissioned by the Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra

Program Notes

Bonecos de Olinda are giant hollow figures made of fabric, aluminum, paper, wood, and fiberglass.  They originated in medieval Europe and were used in processions in the form of Catholic saints.  During colonial Brazil, they found their way into the country, eventually becoming popularized as a staple of the carnival of Olinda in the North East state of Pernambuco.  During the carnival, these picturesque dolls often assume the identity of well-known historical figures and celebrities. In Pernambuco, the music played and danced during carnival derives from rhythms such as frevo and maracatu; and is performed by a parade of street musicians alongside dancers and party-goers in an endless procession of euphoric madness.  This piece was inspired by the carnival of Olinda, its rhythms and sounds, the relentless energy of that music, which often puts people in a trance-like state when time seems to sit still.


2 flutes + piccolo
2 oboes + English horn
3 clarinets
3 bassoons
4 horns
3 trumpets
3 trombones
4 percussion*


triangle, whip, bass drum, tam-tam, drumset, toms, snare drum, djembe, congas, cymbals, woodblocks, suspended cymbals, tambourine, xylophone, castanets.


“Only someone familiar with the Brazilian-American composer (pianist, arranger, singer) Clarice Assad could have imagined that Benjamin Zander would be co-conducting on the Sanders Theater stage yesterday with a jazz-dancing, scatting Doppelgänger.

From the downbeat Sunday at Sanders, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s life was a cabaret, or perhaps a Carnival at Pernambuco. Indeed, for starters, the BPYO had commissioned a sunny and altogether danceable stunner with nary a dark cloud. Assad’s Bonecos de Olina augurs to become a youth orchestra standard. The percussion sounded street-smart with the tropical frevo and maracatu beats, and the 100+ young players really swung as a big band. A great setup for the concerto movements to follow.”

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