February 22, 2023

Newly Commissioned Songs By Black Composers, Writers

CELEBRATING BLACK COMPOSERS: Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, left, and pianist Kevin J. Miller perform at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on March 8.

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee returns to Princeton University Concerts (PUC) to premiere a new program, “Rising,” on Wednesday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium.

Alongside pianist Kevin J. Miller, Brownlee will perform newly commissioned songs by Black composers, including Jasmine Barnes, Margaret Bonds, Shawn Okpebholo, and Damien Sneed, which utilize texts drawn from Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Georgia Douglas Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, and other great Black writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

“These past years have been a trial, both for humanity as a whole, and the African American population here in the United States,” said Brownlee, “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.”

“When Lawrence Brownlee made his PUC debut in 2018, he focused part of his program on traditional spirituals,” said PUC Director Marna Seltzer. “It is exciting to have him return to Princeton with a new project that focuses entirely on celebrating Black artists from the Harlem Renaissance through a contemporary lens. Creating space for music to speak to our history — past, present, and future — is at the heart of PUC’s mission, and I am grateful to Larry for using his glorious voice in support of this goal.”

As part of his time at Princeton, Brownlee will also visit Trenton Public Schools with Trenton Arts at Princeton to work with middle school music students as part of PUC’s Neighborhood Music Project. He will perform for and rehearse with students, as well as facilitate discussions around music.

Tickets for the concert are $10-$40, and are available at puc.princeton.edu or by calling (609) 258-9220.