If you missed Woodstock, but you made it to Wooster Street Monday evening, then you still got to find out what happens when “The Star Spangled Banner” bursts into air—and reemerges as as an anthem for a modern age.
A bandana-ed Jimi Hendrix attacked his Fender Stratocaster and cranked up the feedback on the stage in Bethel, N.Y., in 1969 to reinterpret America’s national anthem for the Woodstock Generation.
Daniel Bernard Roumain lit into “The Star Spangled Banner” with equal measures of ear-splitting ferocity and heartfelt intensity as he wandered in white “Zara Cake Batter” sneakers amid the dining room of Consiglio’s Wooster Street restaurant Monday. He played the anthem on violin. For 75 supporters of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO). He didn’t plug in. He didn’t need to. He had enough self-generated distortion and mind-bending amplification to fill the room, and more. Enough to reinterpret the anthem for the post-musical silo generation.
The occasion was an opening party for a 20-day residency the Haitian-American hip-hop classical violinist is spending in New Haven courtesy of the NHSO. He’ll play on the stage of Woolsey Hall Thursday night. He’ll play for schoolkids in Fair Haven, upper Westville, and Shelton. (He’ll also keep a New Haven diary for the Independent, the first installment of which appears later on in this story.)
Wherever he goes, as became clear at Monday evening’s intimate kick-off, Roumain will bend minds—along with the definitions of “classical” and “roots” and “jazz” and “voodoo” music.
Consiglio’s closed the restaurant to the general public, cleared out the tables, and invited in the Symphony and its supporters for the event.
Roumain, who’s 42, offered a dose of his blend of rhythmic spoken-word musicological preaching (backed by an insistent single-note plucking) interspersed with an instrumental style that ranges from tender melodic bowing to acid-rock improvisations to his own brand of percussive “woodbox.”
At one point he played three consecutive national anthems to describe his personal musical journey. He started with Israel’s “Hatikvah,” the first song he learned to play as a 5-year-old student in Margate, Florida. Then came Haiti’s national anthem; he told the crowd about how he came to embrace the voodoo traditions of his past despite the efforts of his Catholic parents to downplay them. Finally, with an unspoken nod to Hendrix (who two generations ago engaged in his own voodoo explorations and cross-genre collaborations, including with jazz trumpeter Miles Davis), he tore into “Star Spangled Banner”—delivering the anthem of his American homeland “on my own terms.” Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to hear all three anthems. (“Star Spangled Banner” starts two minutes and 30 seconds into the video.)
Six current Leadership Greater New Haven participants came up with the idea of launching Roumain’s visit at a Consiglio’s happy hour: Lauren Filberto, Cathy Velez, Diane Cook, Mary Grande, and Kellie Byrd (all pictured from left greeting people at the door) and Carrie Campo (not pictured).
Trish Perrotti, the third-generation owner of the restaurant, welcomed the crowd ...
... with trays of aromatic fresh-cooked Consiglio’s specialties ...
... while bartender Lauren Feiner poured the 2011 Bonacchi ...
... and NHSO Marketing Manager Nicole Gallego and GM Aric Isaacs sold tickets to Thursday night’s performance.
Modern classical music has of course been diving headfirst into other genres for decades now. (In New Haven we get to experience the cutting edge at Yale’s School of Music.) Why else would the newest member of NHSO’s staff, development assistant Dan Siepmann, have written his thesis on Brian Eno? Why else would he have so much to say when asked about Eno’s Music For Airports—with digressions on the influence of hallucinogenic drugs on composition? Click on the play arrow to watch him field the question before Roumain’s arrival at Consiglio’s.
Roumain simply took that longstanding genre-crossing discussion on a soulful detour. As he brings it to New Haven symphony-goers and public schoolkids alike over the next 20 days, Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” may get an updated refrain: “Roll Over, Hendrix.” And tell Francis Scott Key the news.
Daily Dose of DBR: Diary Day One (Monday)
The view from the Omni hotel, 9th floor
This is home
And new haven feels like history
And home, right now
I see a man with a cane walking at a quick pace down Temple Street
That’s not a contradiction, rather, it’s a moment of inspiration