Operatic tenor Lawrence Brownlee returns to his gospel music roots with his latest project, Spiritual Sketches. The album is a compilation of traditional spirituals freshly arranged by acclaimed conductor, pianist and composer Damien Sneed.
Brownlee, whose voice has earned a stellar reputation in the bel canto repertoire, decided to explore the gospel music genre that set him on his musical path when he was a child.
"My musical background started with exposure to church music; I come from an extremely musical family, with both parents being gifted soloists,” Brownlee said. “There was a love of music that my parents passed on to me and my five siblings. That early exposure in addition to a strong music education throughout all my years of schooling allowed me to be influenced by so many styles of music including classical, jazz, gospel. As a singer of color, I felt the unique responsibility not only to carry a torch that has been passed on by my predecessors, but to expand on the traditional Negro spirituals."
“All Night, All Day,” has received rave reviews and is being positioned as the standout among the compilation of 10 traditional spirituals that blend gospel, jazz and classical elements. Already making its mark from the highly anticipated Spiritual Sketches, the song will touch listeners with the tenderness of a heartfelt embrace. The album is simultaneously a re-imagining of and a love letter to a traditional art form.
“Our aim and goal was to pull from the incredible historical legacy created by composers such as Harry T. Burleigh, Hall Johnson, Margaret Bonds and even Moses Hogan while including elements of American jazz music and gospel music from the African-American church experience,” said Sneed, who arranged each of the songs featured on Spiritual Sketches, and like Brownlee, got his musical start in his local church. “My hope is that these arrangements expand the listening audience of this art form while simultaneously bringing attention to its rich heritage.”
Sneed and Brownlee’s stirring rendition of the classic “All Night, All Day” has been met with standing ovations at each performance and the New York Times called the arrangement “striking” – a testament to its brilliance. The song, as well as other arrangements from the transgenerational project, made their debut at Carnegie Hall in March as part of Brownlee’s solo recital tour. While Sneed and Brownlee have performed the arrangements for classical audiences in Asheville, N.C., Cincinnati, Ohio and Utica, N.Y., Spiritual Sketches has the ability to connect with all listeners.
It will feature original arrangements of Every Time I Feel The Spirit, Deep River, Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, Sinner Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass, Down By The Riverside, Soon I Will Be Done, There Is A Balm In Gilead, Come By Here, Here’s One and All Night, All Day.