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Smile Softly, Softly Smile

Julia Adolphe

Based on a photo of the composer’s partner Zach as a newborn baby with his mother.

Yevgeny Kutik, violin
World Premiere


Yevgeny’s request that I compose a piece based on a family photograph came to me during the first month of the pandemic, a time when I felt an intense longing to reunite with my family and great uncertainty about when this could take place. While I searched through my collection of photographs, I realized that I felt most connected in that moment to my partner Zach, and that daydreaming about our future together and one day having our own child gave me great comfort during a time of intense isolation. I chose a photograph of him as a newborn baby in the arms of his mother, Tina. I was touched by the look of peaceful ease on his face, unaware of all that awaits him, and of course, his smile. The work is an imaginary lullaby, conjuring a call and response between mother and child, each mirroring the other’s sense of love, belonging, and joy.

– Julia Adolphe

Julia Adolphe’s music is described as “alive with invention” (The New Yorker), “colorful, mercurial, deftly orchestrated” (The New York Times) displaying a “remarkable gift for sustaining a compelling musical narrative” (Musical America). Her works are performed across the U.S. and abroad by renowned orchestras and ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Belgian National Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Verona Quartet, soprano Hila Plitmann, and pianist Gloria Cheng, among others.

Current commissions include an orchestral work for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a violin concerto for Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic featuring concertmaster Martin Chalifour. Adolphe’s comic opera for all ages, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears, based on the novel by Jules Feiffer with libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann, received initial workshops directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer at National Sawdust and Boston Court Pasadena in 2019. Adolphe’s 2017 orchestral work, White Stone, premiered by the NY Philharmonic, followed on the heels of the NY Philharmonic’s 2016 premiere of Unearth, Release, Adolphe’s viola concerto composed for Cynthia Phelps, and Dark Sand, Sifting Light, featured during the 2014 NY Phil Biennial.

Julia Adolphe is the creator, producer and host of the podcast LooseLeaf NoteBook, which uncovers the connections between creativity and mental health and works towards destigmatizing mental illness. Adolphe’s awards include a 2017 ASCAP Young Composer Award, a 2016 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, a 2016 OPERA America Discovery Grant, and a 2015 Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters. A native New Yorker living in Los Angeles, Adolphe holds a Masters of Music degree in music composition from the USC Thornton School of Music and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.