NEW YORK (AP) — The Park Avenue Armory has a different kind of weapon in its arsenal these days: music.
The massive Manhattan brick building was constructed by the first militia that had answered Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to fight slave-owning states. On Friday evening, the armory hosts an African-American tenor singing songs and talking about his experiences as a black man.
Lawrence Brownlee grew up with gospel in Youngstown, Ohio. He’s now one of the world’s top classical singers on stages from Carnegie Hall to those in London, Paris, Moscow and elsewhere. But the Niceville, Florida, resident hasn’t forgotten his heritage.
The Armory program by the Grammy-nominated artist starts with classical pieces, followed by a discussion touching on the topic of “Black Lives Matter,” with accompanying songs. Also featured is jazz pianist Jason Moran, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient.
The program reaches back to standards such as Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness Of You” and the old spiritual “There’s a Man Goin’ Round Taking Names” that Brownlee sang last year in the crypt of a Harlem church where the ashes of past parishioners are buried.
His aim is to “express what it is to be a black man living in America today,” he says, and with his voice, to reflect “the world around me and provide some solace to those in turmoil.”