Another New Work by DBR

Courtesy: University of Maryland Wind Orchestra

The Importance of Ritual

Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) has another new work!

The Order of An Empty Place premieres on March 29th, as DBR joins Rabbi Joy Levitt and the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra conducted by Michael Votta. Co-commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan (where DBR also serves as Artist-in-Residence), the work is scored for rabbinical narrator, solo violin and wind ensemble. Based on the Haggadah (the text that sets the order of the Passover Seder), the libretto was developed by writer Margaret Lynch.

“Zachary Daniel Roumain was born on June 21, 2009, at 1:03 am.” DBR shares. “It was Father’s Day…Just months prior, I attended Passover with [my in-laws], and at that table, we talked about the first official Passover at the White House, the “Blessing of the Sun” (Birkat Hachama), and Zachary’s coming birth all happening within months of one another. We could not have known then what specific day Zachary would be born, but at that time I [talked about writing] a new work for an ensemble of musicians, solo violin, and Rabbi—one that would express the ritual [of the Passover] feast.”

Listen to the silence of the night. What do you hear? Love? Regret? Indifference? Suffering? Stand ready to build a place of peace. Listen and say: here I am. — Margaret Lynch, librettist


Courtesy: University of Maryland Wind Orchestra

DBR continues, “As Zachary’s father, I felt a particular responsibility towards the complex nature of his DNA…He embodies all of the hopes and dreams of his ancestors…[My residency at the JCC gave me the opportunity] to spend two years attending workshops, classes, round-table discussions, and private dinners and conversations with Rabbi Joy Levitt. Those months of study proved invaluable in helping me understand the importance of Passover [in] Jewish life and learning, and the importance of ritual and repetition in my own life and family.

The Order of an Empty Place takes its title from Rabbi Levitt’s father’s call to his family, ‘I want to remind everyone that seder means order.’ This [was] in response to the ‘chaos’ of his children, grandchildren, and their parents running around the home in excited anticipation of the night’s ritual and conversation. These words appear throughout the work narrated by the Rabbi, [along with] traditional Jewish folk music (the Dayenu) [which is] fragmented and re-imagined for the ensemble. Additionally, there are antiphonal speaking roles for the ensemble and audience, extended instrumental passages for violin and ensemble, and a reliance on repetition in the use of a passacaglia motif that appears in the first few measures of the work.” Afterwards, DBR heads north to the JCC where, on March 31st, he culminates his artist residency and presents the New York premiere.

This [score] reflects DBR’s diverse musical background with hip-hop, jazz and classical influences. At several moments, the musicians speak in addition to playing their instruments. Rabbi Jean Levitt recites her own words, which are reflections on Passover with her family. The music gives everyone a chance to make a statement. The role of the violin is not to be the star; it makes commentary. DBR sometimes speaks, but the violin is also his voice.

— Michael Votta, Music Director, University of Maryland Wind Orchestra


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