Rising, Lawrence Brownlee's new album, sees the tenor commission six of today's leading African American composers to set poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to song. Warner Classics releases the album on 2 June to celebrate Black Music Month.
The programme will be toured throughout the United States with pianist Kevin J. Miller.
Rising showcases new works from African American composers Damien Sneed, Brandon Spencer, Jasmine Barnes, Joel Thompson, and Shawn E. Okpebholo. Inspired by poetry of the great African American writers of the Harlem Renaissance like Alice Dunbar Nelson, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson, the compositions revolve around themes of joy, empowerment, faith, love, and strength in the face of challenge.
These past years have been a trial, both for humanity as a whole, and the African American population here in the United States. But through all these many challenges we have faced, I have also seen moments of strength, inspiration, hope, and great beauty. It is those themes of uplift, elevation, and rebirth that we have tried to focus on with this new project Rising, taking poems from the giants of the Harlem Renaissance, and working with some of today's most talented African American composers, to create something that speaks not just to our struggles, but to our triumphs.
Brownlee has also collaborated closely with Dr Louise Toppin, soprano and vocal professor at the University of Michigan, to revive select works from well-known composers Margaret Bonds and Robert Owen, in addition to works from composer Jeremiah Evans.
I hope this project inspires other performers, scholars and students to give African American art song full consideration for concerts and recording as there is much variety, breadth and depth found within this body of work and yet to be explored. I am honoured to have been asked by Larry to suggest some of the composers that now appear on this album and it is thrilling to hear the work of our modern day concert hall “griots” who continue to carry forward stories from the Black experience for years to come. Bravo to Larry, the composers, and the poets for such a wonderful project.
Brownlee and pianist Kevin J. Miller will tour the Rising programme throughout the United States in March and April 2024 with tour stops for the Celebrity Series in Boston, Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, among others.
Robert Owens – Desire Song Cycle (6 min)
Robert Owens – Silver Rain Cycle. (9 min, 33 sec)
In time of silver rain
Margaret Bonds – “Songs of the Seasons” Cycle
Young Love in Spring
I Know My Soul
Dance of Love
Beauty That Is Never Old
The Gift to Sing
Shawn E. Okpebholo
Rising Tour Dates
March 5, 2023
Celebrity Series of Boston
March 8, 2023
March 17, 2023
Schwartz Center for Performing Arts
March 19, 2023
March 23, 2023
New York, NY
March 26, 2023
March 29, 2023
April 1, 2023
April 4, 2023
Ball State University
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.