“A lot of my work has dealt with what it’s like being a Black person in contexts that aren’t traditionally welcoming,” the singer told WTOP. “In engaging, thinking about and trying to deal with all that was going on with the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I felt a very strong need to make something that connected to healing.”
Now, Tines joins Vocal Arts DC for a virtual concert that streams starting Thursday.
“I drew a lot upon my experience growing up in and working in different religious contexts,” Tines said. “I went to Providence Baptist Church in Orlean, Virginia, and had a very strong-rooted experience in the church singing hymns, singing spirituals and singing music that really is the bedrock of African-American music in this country.”
The result is “Recital No. 1: Mass” with Julliard pianist Adam Neilson.
“All of this exposure to different ways of engaging spirituality showed me that everyone is trying to say the same thing,” Tines said. “I really wanted to find a way to synthesize the breadth of my musical interests and experiences into one thing, so I decided to use the Catholic mass as an inspiration because it’s a pretty known form and structure.”
The show includes world premieres by Pulitzer Prize-winning violinist Caroline Shaw.
“I talked with [Shaw] about what she could do to introduce these sections,” Tines said. “Instead of writing a huge Catholic mass, which sometimes can be on the order of 30 to 60 minutes, each [intro] of the five movements is only a minute long. … She wrote a short curia about mercy and a short gloria about showing gratitude and so on.”
You’ll also see renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey.
“I wanted him to rip the sheen off of these songs and take them out of their singsong or mistakably happy sounds and really show the darker psychology underneath them,” Tines said. “He takes a standard spiritual like ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ and changes it from something that might be lilting to something that talks about asking for mercy.”
It also features works by three Black composers: Margaret Bonds, Julius Eastman and Moses Hogan. Tines will arrange “Amazing Grace” and a chorale by Igee Dieudonné.
The concert is available to stream through Feb. 1 on Vocal Arts DC’s website.
“We have a really wonderful videography firm called Arts Laureate,” General Director Peter Russell said. “Their chief videographer filmed Davóne at a church on the east side of New York City called the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. … It turned out to be a perfect place, because looking at photos, it’s a really striking church.”
The organization hopes to stream nine total concerts this virtual season.
“The other venues range from a mansion that was built in Los Angeles by a tycoon who inspired Upton Sinclair to write his novel ‘Oil’ — we did one at a recital hall in Berlin, one at the Guildhall School of Music in London,” Russell said. “They’re all over creation, but they all involve the singer and piano in the same location with our videographer.”
It’s all timed with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday and Inauguration Day on Wednesday.
“We are waiting until Jan. 21 before we upload Davóne’s program, because we thought there might be some kind of unrest and turmoil in the country,” Russell said. “I doubt that even [Tines] could have guessed how prescient [it] was all going to turn out to be.”
“It’s a crazy time, maybe one of the craziest times my generation will see,” Tines said. “I hope that situations like this don’t become normalized [and] that people can actually emotionally connect. That’s the work I’m trying to do to make things real emotionally in people’s lives so it can inform some sort of change.”