Tenor show explores being a black man in America

Lawrence Brownlee to perform concert written by two MacArthur genius grant winners


Tenor Lawrence Brownlee will perform the Colorado premiere of "Cycles of My Being," a work commissioned to explore, in song, the experience of being a black man in America.

Presented by Friends of Chamber Music, the concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, in Gates Hall, Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. Brownlee will be joined by pianist Myra Huang.

Brownlee has been hailed as “an international star in the bel canto operatic repertory” (The New York Times) and “one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today” (NPR), according to a news release. In addition to Cycles of My Being, Brownlee's debut performance with Friends of Chamber Music will include five arias as well as selections from Spiritual Sketches, his 2013 album featuring distinctive versions of familiar spirituals with elements of opera, jazz, ragtime and art song.

Cycles of My Being was written by jazz composer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey and the poet Terrance Hayes, both winners of the MacArthur “genius” grant.

“These are divided times,” Brownlee said in the release. “But the goal of this piece is neither to widen those rifts, nor to reopen old wounds; the goal is to foster mutual respect, understanding, and communication across races and generations.”

A passionate advocate for diversity initiatives, Brownlee engages civic entities in the cities he visits to create programs and experiences seeking to expand opera audiences.

Brownlee will present a free event, “The Spiritual as a Tool for Personal Reflection and Social Change” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 2201 Dexter Street, Denver. The evening of song and discussion will include members of the Spirituals Project choir, with the event moderated by Roger Holland, Spirituals Project director.

Tickets for the March 4 recital are available at friendsofchambermusic.com. Cost is $40 for adults; $10 for ages 30 and under.


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