SARA TOTH – EDITOR
Clarice Assad remembers the first time she played music professionally with her father, the legendary classical guitarist Sérgio Assad. She was in her early 20s, they were in a huge concert hall in Europe and, she said, “looking out, there were just so many people” in the audience.
“It was sort of scary, but I felt this sense of comfort because I was with him,” Assad said. “I was alright. It was amazing, and a great way of easing myself into the world of performance.”
Assad, a pianist, vocalist and educator, grew up surrounded by music — her father is one-half of the preeminent guitar duo the Assad Brothers — and Sérgio Assad first started to help her create her own music starting at age 6. She’s now a Grammy-nominated composer with more than 70 works to her name, and she’ll be bringing some of those original compositions to Chautauqua when she and her father present an evening of Brazilian jazz vocals, samba and guitar at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25 in the Amphitheater.
“(My father and I) love to make music together as a duo; it’s always an exciting thing to share with people, with a live audience,” Assad said. “It’s definitely not the same when you don’t have that energy exchange. The virtual experience is just not the same.”
Assad, born in Rio de Janeiro, is one of the most widely performed Brazilian concert music composers of her generation. She’s the recipient of numerous honors, including an Aaron Copland Award, a Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Van Lier Fellowship and many others. She’s released seven solo albums and performed with the likes of Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma — and, of course, her father and uncle, Odair, who make up the Assad Brothers, whose prolific careers have taken them the world over and netted them two Latin Grammys.
When the father-daughter duo take the Amp stage, they’ll be bringing the rich tradition of Brazilian music with them.
“The music we play is full of life and joy,” she said. “We’ve chosen these songs and compositions because of their energy, and a celebration of joyful music from our original country of Brazil.”
On the setlist for tonight is several compositions from Relíquia, a 2016 album on the Adventure Music label, which was written together by the two Assads to honor their family’s musical legacy.
“The works are important to us,” said Assad, who wrote several of the songs on that album when she was a teenager. “I’m fond of these songs to this day.”
Ultimately, Assad said, she wants the evening to be a celebration of the return of live music.
“As two generations of musicians, related by blood, to be able to share that connection with audience members is a beautiful thing,” she said. “Listening to music is a very personal experience, and this is something my father and I have been doing for a long time. We have a very strong connection, and it’s not just because we’re related. There’s something really special about our relationship, our love for music and love for each other that comes across, and I think people can relate to that.”
And even if the audience doesn’t understand “the language of the samba, or the language of Portuguese,” Assad said, the way the two make music means “the essence, the love and commitment we have to this art form, definitely comes across.”
Though both Assad and her father currently live in the same Chicago neighborhood, the pandemic kept them apart for months, until a Christmas 2020 celebration together. Reuniting was joyous, Assad said, and she hopes to bring some of that joy to the Amp tonight.
“This is the wonderful thing, this human connection, that we get to be able to do again,” she said. “Now that we can get on stage and resume what we were doing before, it’s a beautiful thing.”