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Civic Orchestra of Tucson premieres work dedicated to Justice Ginsburg

Civic Orchestra of Tucson paid tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a performance of Bob Atwell’s new work “Soliloquy.” Small ensembles performed their parts separately and Atwell compiled them into a single video.

Tucson composer Bob Atwell turned his attention to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his latest work “Soliloquy,” which the volunteer Civic Orchestra of Tucson premiered in a virtual performance.

It is the second piece in remembrance of Ginsburg, who died last September, to have a world premiere in Tucson. Earlier this month, the Tucson Desert Song Festival hosted the world premiere of the Jake Heggie song cycle “What I Miss the Most.”

“Soliloquy” is Atwell’s sixth composition since the COVID-19 pandemic began. He penned five works last year, including a piece about the tumultuous 2020 presidential election that the volunteer Foothills Phil premiered in October.

In his latest piece, Atwell kept COVID-19 social distancing protocols in mind, dividing the piece into five parts to be played by brass and woodwinds quintets and string ensembles. The groups recorded their parts separately, with Civic Orchestra of Tucson Conductor Charles Bontrager leading them individually, and Atwell mixed the recordings into a single performance.

“I think this is a really cool piece,” said the 74-year-old Atwell, who plays clarinet for the volunteer Foothills Phil and Sonoran Winds.

Atwell described the piece, commissioned by a Texas patron who supported Atwell’s civil unrest work “Overture for Equality” last fall, as alternating between the energy of the brass and woodwinds to a soft melody from the strings.

“All of this just plays into my image of Ginsburg,” he explained. “The sadness, the beauty, the power, the strength — all of that in this extraordinary person.”

“There’s the sadness, which to me is losing this great mind, this powerful human being. And the lyric beauty of what she did accomplish in her life,” he added. “It’s that interplay to me that is the essence of the piece.”

There is no cost to watch “Soliloquy” online at

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at On Twitter @Starburch

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