How bass-baritone singer Davóne Tines is rethinking America’s anthem

Davóne Tines has love on his thoughts. The night time earlier than our Zoom chat, the tall bass-baritone tells me that he went on a unbelievable dinner date at a steakhouse in Vail, Colo., the place he was performing on the 2022 Vail Dance Competition. “It was great, and I spent way too much money and ate a lot of wagyu beef,” he says with a content material smile.

Whereas in Vail, the 35-year-old inventive additionally workshopped a brand new piece that meditates on the idea of affection — extra on that later — and finalized the lighting scheme and different particulars for tonight’s premiere of “Concerto No. 2: Anthem” on the Hollywood Bowl, a brand new work he devised and created in collaboration with poet Mahogany L. Browne, and composers Michael Schachter, Caroline Shaw and Tyshawn Sorey.

Other than a handful of main world premieres and reprisals, Tines has spent much less of his profession singing typical roles in opera homes and extra power creating musical works that double as deeply private, completely thought of creative statements.

A decade in the past, Tines discovered himself wrestling with the fact of life as a Harvard-educated, Juilliard-trained, Black American vocalist performing for largely white audiences. As he thought of his state of affairs intellectually and emotionally, he labored by it musically. Over the course of a number of years — and dealing together with Schachter and director Zack Winokur — he developed a musical theater work primarily based on Langston Hughes’ poem “The Black Clown” that premiered on the American Repertory Theatre in 2018 to acclaim. (Tines says the work is now “potentially slated for Broadway, we hope.”)

In 2021, Tines unveiled “Recital No. 1: Mass” on the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Centered round a newly composed setting of the Latin Mass by Shaw and that includes music by Bach alongside conventional American spirituals, the recital was Tines’ approach of deconstructing classical music’s traditionally strict efficiency practices.

Tines’ strategy avoids a complete demolition of kind and as a substitute makes use of and reinterprets established classical music constructions. He adopted “Recital No. 1: Mass” with “Concerto No. 1: Sermon,” a vocal interpretation of an orchestral kind that historically juxtaposes a violin, piano, or different instrumental soloist with the bravado of a full orchestra. “Concerto No. 1: Sermon” maintained the concerto’s typical construction — three actions contrasting soloist and orchestra — whereas exploring extra modern thematic and vocal realms.

Because the work’s soloist, Tines’ lent his potent, memorable voice to a meditation on social justice. He additionally co-created “Vigil,” a newly-composed portion of the concerto devoted to the reminiscence of Breonna Taylor. As he defined in a promotional video: “I wanted to share with an audience what it might mean to be a marginalized identity wanting to be able to move in a way or exist in a way in spite of marginalization.”

This week, Tines is unveiling his new work “Concerto No. 2: Anthem,” the results of a Los Angeles Philharmonic fee. The orchestra requested Tines to create one thing for his or her Thursday “American Stories” live performance on the Hollywood Bowl, which Joseph Younger will conduct. Tines says that when he met with Younger to debate the efficiency, they requested themselves, “What will two Black men, standing in front of this orchestra [with] this large platform and huge venue, choose to say?”

It appeared like the right alternative to “perform a magic trick,” Tines says. Why not “turn the Star-Spangled Banner into ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice?’”

Lift Ev’ry Voice,” a hymn written and composed by brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, is named “The Black National Anthem.” Its lyrics don’t contain bombs bursting in air or references to struggle and enslavement. As an alternative, it calls upon the collective, asking each voice to come back collectively and sing joyfully about liberty.

Tines says that the present U.S. nationwide anthem “outlines very colonialistic ideals.” Whereas the primary, acquainted verse echoes “the idea of sovereignty through war and conquering,” he says, issues get darker in subsequent stanzas that embrace imagery of trampling your enemies and instilling worry in enslaved folks.

“These are not the foundations I think our country should stand on,” Tines says.

Bass-baritone Davone Tines off-stage on the Hollywood Bowl.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Instances)

When Tines has concepts for musical preparations or new items, he scribbles them down on paper or sorts them up in a phrase doc, not in contrast to a storyboard. These notes then act as a degree of inspiration and a map for the composers he collaborates with.

For “Concerto No. 2: Anthem,” Tines requested Schacter to create an association of the primary verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that might lean into the Hollywood Bowl’s grandeur. Give me “Super Bowl, Disney World, MGM Musical, Whitney Houston,” he stated. For verses two and three, he particularly wished the temper to shift. His notes for these verses learn, “Eerie, blood-soaked battlefield” and “grotesque.”

Tines doesn’t contemplate himself an activist. He doesn’t create a recital or concerto with an agenda. His artwork is extra process-driven, a figuring out of emotions and concepts by music, textual content, creative collaboration, and efficiency. If he considers a query artistically, he’s additionally contemplating it personally: What does it imply to be a Black performer in white areas? What does it imply to be a Black American? What does it imply to be American?

For Tines, being an American means being the descendant of enslaved ancestors. It means being the grandson of a retired naval officer who additionally served because the native church choir pianist. It means rising up in Fauquier County, Va., a picturesque, principally white neighborhood southwest of Washington, D.C. Tines describes it as “a really complicated place that exists in the remnants of the Civil War, a place where contradictions are wrapped in the beauty of its landscape.”

These deeply Southern, deeply American contradictions had been obvious all through Tines’ early years. He describes life in Fauquier County as “like growing up in a Ralph Lauren ad” and remembers singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” earlier than weekend polo matches in highschool. A proficient younger violinist, he performed in youth orchestras with all-white or mostly-white friends. “I can honestly say that outside of my family and church community, I had one Black friend,” he says about his childhood and highschool days.

Attending companies at Windfall Baptist Church in Orlean, Va., along with his grandparents, who raised him, related him along with his native Black neighborhood and influenced him musically. Church choir practices at Windfall Baptist Church, which went on for hours, had been “a labor of love,” he says. As a younger boy he was typically bored and “rolled around on the floor wondering when it would be over.” However he additionally grew to become obsessive about triads, or chords — the mixture of three notes sounding concurrently that kinds the idea of Western concord — as he internalized gospel rhythms and watched his elders expertise ecstatic, music-driven worship experiences.

Tines’ musical concepts mirror his life experiences, combining the classical kinds and timbres he fell in love with as a younger violinist and studied in-depth at Juilliard with the gospel traditions pivotal to his upbringing. His creative work has additionally constantly grappled with race and identification. “Concerto No. 2: Anthem,” continues that thematic path, however for his subsequent undertaking — a recital targeted on the theme of affection — he’d prefer to step away from the heaviness of America’s racial wounds and wrought politics.

“I’ve done a lot of work dealing with race and identity,” Tines says. “You reach a saturation point, maybe even a certain point of exhaustion.”

Maybe that’s why “Lift Ev’ry Voice” means a lot to him proper now. Not like the present U.S. nationwide anthem, which he says glorifies a bloody previous, the “Black National Anthem” is inherently optimistic and forward-looking.

“The majority of the [American] population can exist in a way that romanticizes the past,” Tines says. “But I think [Black people] have to be future-leaning because that’s the only way we can move toward a place where we actually feel welcome. ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice’ is perhaps a better choice [for a national anthem] because it is about collective unity. Liberty, freedom — that’s what harmony is.”

The forthcoming work is reflective of how Tines is concentrated on pursuing concord and love in his private life. “I’m really happy at this point in my artistic life to start on a journey of pursuing something a bit more personal, but also potentially universal,” he says, including that he’s been studying about love within the works of C.S. Lewis and bell hooks.

And that fantastic date he went on in Vail? It was a solo affair.

“Right now I’m having a really nice time dating myself,” Tines says. “I’m quite excited about exploring what self-love actually is so that I can share that with others.”

This Thursday night time, as he steps on stage on the Hollywood Bowl in a customized white dinner jacket commissioned from Black tailor Brandon Murphy of B|M|C, search for sparks of Tines’ subsequent undertaking whereas contemplating his proposal: a brand new, extra inclusive, extra joyful, extra loving anthem for America’s future.