Review: Philadelphia Orchestra and Davóne Tines in “Sermon” song cycle premiere

Posted on: May 12, 2021

“At its earthshaking best, a meaningful encounter with art leaves you with the sensation that it’s saying something you’ve been feeling but didn’t quite know how to say,” writes Peter Dobrin in Saturday’s (5/8) Philadelphia Inquirer. “With the creation of Sermon, Davóne Tines speaks for many. Sermon is actually not one piece but three, and the grouping, featured on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Digital Stage series this week, adds up to something that comes right on time.” Each of the three pieces—“Shake the Heavens” from John Adams’s El Niño, Tines and Igee Dieudonné’s Vigil, dedicated to the memory of Breonna Taylor; and “You Want the Truth, But You Don’t Want to Know” from Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X—“has been performed before, but Sermon … is receiving its premiere…. As Schubert used the reflection of one’s self in a brook to examine the big questions of existence and reality, so does Tines in this assemblage of works that, collectively, hold up a mirror to where America is on race.… The three pieces—interspersed with spoken texts by James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou—add up to 20 minutes, including Tines’ beautiful pre-curtain commentary.”