Last Friday night, composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain wowed the audience with his fresh and unconventional performance in the packed Emerson Concert Hall of the Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
Roumain performed alongside members of the Harlem Chamber Players and Sphinx Organization: violinists Ashley Horne and Monica Davis, violist Adam Hill, cellist Lawrence Zoernig and pianist Yayoi Ikawa.
His performance was part of the Flora Glenn Candler Concert Series, a series made possible by a gift from the late Flora Glenn Candler. It brings eight world-renowned artists and ensembles to Emory each year.
Roumain’s program began with violin soloist Monica Davis somberly playing the “Unaccompanied Sonata No. 2 in A minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Afterwards, the lights dimmed and Roumain’s exciting performance of “Filter,” a self-composed work, began. “Filter” sounded similar to a frightened bumble buzzing from place to place. It caught the audience’s attention, and it revealed a fantastic use of the violin to create surprisingly new sounds. He ended this song with a sudden stomp.
“Filter” is a quintessential example of how Roumain’s career is marked by unconventional contemporary performances. It shows a new use of the violin that breaks the classical notions of string performances. For example, he even played the violin like a guitar at one point of the performance.
The more notable performances of the night included “Deep Woods Blues” by cellist Lawrence Zoernig, and the Three Soul Settings of Bach Chorales. The cellist explored all the expressive possibilities of his instrument, at times playing it with his bow in the traditional manner, but often plucking the strings with his fingers, tapping the neck or using the instrument’s body for percussion.
Goizueta Business School senior Glen Silverman said after the concert that he “had no idea the cello could do that in the song ‘Deep Woods Blues’!”
Before the Three Soul Settings of Bach Chorales, Roumain talked about his Haitian background. He explained that “the Haitians have a different approach to mourning. They say, ‘Who will call your name when you’re gone?'” He asked the audience to keep this in mind as they listened to the music. It was a nice added touch to the interesting music.
Before another piece, he explained his inspiration: Rosa Parks. He asked the audience to think about Rosa Parks and the day she became known in history as we listened to his song.
His comments before each piece of music helped the audience understand his motivations for composing the song, and therefore brought more meaning to the audience as they listened to his productions.
An added delight of the concert was Roumain’s commentary on his position on education and the arts. Roumain stated that he believes that an increase in school violence is strongly correlated to the decrease in funding by the government for the arts at public schools.
He shouted, “I am a proud product of public school education.” He then proceeded to raise his violin and state, “This is my weapon of choice. I wouldn’t know what or where I would be without the violin.”
He then touchingly thanked a family in the audience that was currently living in Atlanta; they were from his adolescent years in Florida and they had helped him recognize and harvest his musical talent for greater things. He humbly stated that he was eternally grateful to them.
Overall, Roumain’s pieces were more suspenseful than melodic. They were not conventionally “nice” pieces, but they displayed an intricate understanding of the strings, and they made the audience think about the instruments being played.
Roumain definitely remains an entertainer who knows how to connect with the audience and bring the audience to its feet at the end of the show.
“Daniel Roumain’s composition was incredible! His mixture of tonal and atonal harmonies really brought out the passion in his music,” Silverman said.
College sophomore Adriana Gomez also enjoyed the show.
“This was my first time at an Emory performance, but I will definitely be back for another one,” she said.
– By Monica Yang