Queen of Haitian Song
Our Haiti advance trip concluded just over a month ago, and I’m finally writing about it. Here’s what kicked me into focus: attending an amazing concert Thursday night in Connecticut, by the “Queen of Haitian Song” (and part of the Center StageSM entourage to Haiti) Emeline Michel at New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
Yes, I was familiar with Emeline before our May 9-13 trip—a very accomplished artist who left her country 15 years ago to pursue her career, but whose spiritual ties to Haiti are strong. In fact, on our trip, Emeline gave our entourage credibility. She made certain we met with a range of artists of Port-au-Prince, including younger musicians. We had dubbed her our cultural advisor for the trip, but we came to see that we were traveling with a star. Because of her warm and generous spirit, strangers could come up to her in public, to express admiration, or inquire when she was going to perform again in Haiti. Once we walked through the lobby of a restaurant and a small crowd of men murmured to each other, “Emeline Michele!”
But I had never heard Emeline perform live, so I was off to New Haven, a 140-mile drive from Boston. The house was full, everyone there for “Emeline the Queen.” From the moment she walked on stage, Emeline and her band offered song after beautiful song. Her voice was rich, the band was tight, the theater alive with music and dance. Emeline often spoke of Haiti’s rich culture as the impetus behind this song or that movement. The audience loved her and the standing ovations were real.
From the stage, Emeline commented that it seems nearly impossible these days for the media to present anything positive about Haiti. She was referencing the steady coverage of the country’s political and economic quandaries, earthquakes, and epidemics. Emeline had offered during a festival panel earlier in the week in New Haven that the inclusion of Haiti in the Center StageSM program is especially good news.
I see this concert as proof of interest in the people and arts of Haiti. I am thrilled we will be bringing forward an exciting program for American communities.
Front photo of Emeline Michel by Rebecca Blunk.
Top photo Center Stage advance team meets with Cie. de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin; L to R, Kathering Garcia/Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Lisa Booth/LBMI, Inc., singer/songwriter Emeline Michel, Jonathan Secor/MCLA, and choregorapher Jean-Rene Delsoin.