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Lawrence Brownlee shares songs by rising Black composers, and Italian opera

Lawrence Brownlee performs for the Tuesday Musical Club on March 5, 2024.
Nathan Cone
Lawrence Brownlee performs for the Tuesday Musical Club on March 5, 2024.

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee returned to San Antonio on March 5, 2024 for an amazing program that ranged from German art song to Italian opera, and modern music celebrating the words of the Harlem Renaissance.

It was also the final show of the Tuesday Musical Club's 100th annual Artist Series, so the crowd was in an especially celebratory mood! Congratulations to that long-running San Antonio organization, which you can find online at SATMC.org.

You can hear the full program using the audio player at the top of this page. The program is listed below, as is an excerpt from my post-show conversation with Lawrence Brownlee and his musical partner, Kevin Miller.


  • Joseph Marx: Nocturne | Selige Nacht | Die Elfe | Christbaum | Hat dich die Liebe berührt
  • Jasmine Barnes: Peace
  • Jeremiah Evans: April Rain Song
  • Brandon Spencer: I Know My Soul
  • Carlos Simon: Vocalise III
  • Damon L. Sneed: Beauty That is Never Old | The Gift to Sing
  • Shawn E. Okpebholo: Romance
  • Joel Thompson: My People
  • Gaetano Donizetti: Me voglio fa' 'na casa | Aria from Rita: Allegro io son
  • Gioachino Rossini: Aria from "L'occasione fa il ladro"
  • Vincenzo Bellini: La ricordanza | Aria from "Il Pirata," Nel furor delle tempeste
  • Giuseppe Verdi: Ad una stella | La donna è mobile
  • Otis L. McCoy: All Night, All Day

Interview Excerpt [Edited for clarity]

Nathan Cone I loved the program and I was so taken with the first half of the program and the sounds of the music. The chords were very jazzy, like there were almost Herbie Hancock chords in some parts. I was thinking about those held chords in “I Know My Soul” right there, when you're singing and you're holding those chords for what seems like four stanzas, and it was just really, really beautiful, the harmonies in the way those songs are put together. If you can talk a little bit about kind of the musicality of those songs.

Kevin Miller Well, “I Know My Soul” is Brandon Spencer. So most of, if not all of the composers from [our album] “Rising,” all grew up in the church. So the gospel idiom is in them. I'm sure that's how they just explored their musical ideas and things like that. I know Joel Thompson is a big fan--as well as Larry--of Take 6, so the harmonies are very intricate in that. Jasmine Barnes, you know, I always say her music is a jazz standard or a Billie Holiday number when she writes art songs, because they're all so singable, and the harmonies all lend themselves to that.

Nathan Cone The first half of the program was like 45, 50 minutes long. I kept thinking of the stamina and the energy that you guys are putting out there. It’s just incredible, and it's got to be draining.

Lawrence Brownlee It can be, but, you know, every piece you have to kind of find a focus, and oftentimes we'll talk about it. We understand and we learn what everything says, you know, and when we're doing the Joseph Marx piece and we're talking about like, a childhood, “Christbaum” was talking about a remembrance of childhood. You know, in him seeing all the things about children laughing in the silence of that and just the actual tree. [An audience doesn’t] understand what that means [because it’s in German], but you have to make sure that you're experiencing that in the moment so they can have that same experience. I'm assuming everybody doesn't speak fluent German here. So it is important for us to communicate to them. It takes stamina. And this is the reason why taking a little bit of a break [in the show is good]. But as long as you can kind of feel like you're telling a story, the time doesn't seem to pass so slowly and it goes because, you know, you're telling something.

Nathan Cone I love hearing you go in different voice throughout the program. You're using your chest some, and then you're coming into your head voice in a lot of the program as well. You're doing a lot of a lot of gymnastics in between different parts of your body.

Lawrence Brownlee Absolutely. And that's the thing about a vocal recital, it's just you and your collaborator. And so, I tell people that you want to use every part of your voice. I think you're going to have to be an expressive artist and to try to show who you are as a communicator and a performing artist. And so, yes, you want a varied program. It can't be all high, can't all be all low. So it needs to be mixed up. And so what we're trying to do, as you saw in the program, we started to shift things around because, you know, if you do too many things that are high all the time, that it can be taxing in a way that I don't think is necessarily healthy. And so that's the reason why I as we continue to do this recital, we try to find the right pacing. So it becomes, I don't know if we should say easier, because I don't know if that's a word we could use for this program. But…

Enjoying Lawrence Brownlee at the Tuesday Musical Club performance on March 5, 2024.
Nathan Cone
Enjoying Lawrence Brownlee at the Tuesday Musical Club performance on March 5, 2024.

Nathan Cone You find a rhythm to it?

Lawrence Brownlee A rhythm, and it seems to work well and more seamlessly, without too much difficulty.

Nathan Cone While you’re in town, you're going to be doing in a master class. What do you generally speak with students about when you're doing these with them?

Lawrence Brownlee My goal is to have them walk away with something that they can focus on. I think singers oftentimes are in different, places of maturation, different challenges from a vocal standpoint, from a technical standpoint. I don't say too much because I think it's really hard just kind of coming in really quickly, hearing five minutes and addressing something, perhaps that their teacher has been working on for six months or a year. So, some things are foundational. I will talk about breath. I will talk about support, I will talk about other things. But I try to think about them being an expressive artist, and I talk to them about what they're doing. So, I want them to leave feeling like I can go to my teacher or my practice room and work on something. Even in my own performance, I never think about being perfect because I don't think perfection is quantifiable. But just starting them off, trying to create something that's special, that's not cookie cutter, that's different than everybody else. And so that's what my approach always is with them when I have masterclasses.

Nathan Cone Thanks both of y'all, Kevin and Lawrence, for sharing your artistry today.

Lawrence Brownlee Thank you!