Gospel Legend Donald Lawrence Performs with Soulful Symphony in Say Amen Somebody, May 2-3
Program features Donald Lawrence originals with classic gospel repertoire
Baltimore, Md. (April 3, 2008)- Acclaimed African American orchestral and vocal ensemble Soulful Symphony will perform an all-gospel program with legendary singer and producer Donald Lawrence, Friday, May 2 at the Music Center at Strathmore and Saturday, May 3 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Led by Soulful Symphony founder and artistic director Darin Atwater, the program features award-winning original compositions by Grammy award-nominee Donald Lawrence, including "Blessing of Abraham" and "Giants." The program also features popular gospel tunes, including hits by Kirk Franklin and Richard Smallwood. Lawrence will join the choir on this program. See below for complete program details.
Known for his mix of urban hip-hop, smooth R&B and soulful gospel ballads, Donald Lawrence is one of the top gospel composers in the industry. As music director of the world-renowned Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers from 1993 to 2006 (the group retired in 2006), the gospel choir earned a Grammy and NCAAP Image Award nomination, was named one of Billboard's Top 10 Gospel Groups and received several Stellar Awards. Today, Lawrence continues to lead the gospel scene as a singer, songwriter, producer and vocal coach. He has worked with several popular artists such as En Vogue, Mary J. Blige, Peabo Bryson and Kirk Franklin.
Wrapping up the 2007-2008 season for Soulful Symphony, Say Amen Somebody combines Lawrence's compositions with other well-known gospel arrangements, for a hand clappin' and foot stompin' celebration. The program opens with Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers hit single, "Blessing of Abraham," which combines praise and worship with a funky orchestral groove. From soulful ballads, to hip hop and R&B, to traditional gospel, Lawrence displays a diverse range of compositions on this program, many of which are featured on Tri-City's greatest hits album, Restoring the Years. Atwater arranged the orchestrations for all Lawrence's compositions especially for this program. Atwater and Lawrence previously collaborated on Lawrence's 2004 hit "I Speak Life", featuring an orchestral work arranged and conducted by Atwater.
The other composers featured on this program have all inspired Donald Lawrence in his successful career. Featuring traditional gospel arrangements, Soulful Symphony will perform selections from Kirk Franklin, Anthony Wilkins, Richard Smallwood and Carol Cymbala.
About Soulful Symphony
Founded in 2000 by composer and artistic director Darin Atwater, Soulful Symphony is among the nation's most prominent African-American symphony orchestras. Featuring a culturally diverse ensemble of 75 musicians and vocalists, Soulful Symphony blends rhythm and blues, jazz and gospel music all within a symphonic framework for orchestra.
As a not-for-profit arts organization, Soulful Symphony is dedicated to the preservation of African-American cultural expression and to the presentation of symphonic music. Soulful Symphony is a repository for the exploration of diverse musical expressions: classical, jazz, gospel and popular forms capturing a universal language that gives all cultures common ground.
In 2004, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra forged an historic joint venture with Soulful Symphony, partnering with the organization to bring their unique brand of music to new and diverse audiences throughout Maryland. Since partnering with the BSO, Soulful Symphony has performed to sell-out houses at both the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore and the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.
Darin Atwater, conductor and Soulful Symphony Artistic Director
Composer, conductor and pianist Darin Atwater is regarded as one of the leading artists of his generation. His skills in the idioms of classical, jazz and sacred music have earned him a distinguished international reputation. Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Prince George's County, Md., Mr. Atwater made his orchestral debut as both composer and pianist in May 1995 with the National Symphony Orchestra, premiering Maschil for piano and orchestra. Engagements with major orchestras, a European tour and world premieres of his numerous compositions followed. In June of 1998, Mr. Atwater, welcomed by former President and Mrs. Clinton, performed with the Morgan State University Choir in a celebration of gospel on the south lawn of the White House.
February 2000 marked the premiere of Song in a Strange Land, a contemporary exploration of Spirituals that featured Wynton Marsalis, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kim Burrell and the debut of Soulful Symphony. Praise has been unanimous: The New York Times described Mr. Atwater as a composer with a "muscular imagination," and The Baltimore Sun wrote that "Atwater has an uncommon ear for instrumental coloring and the urban beat."
Mr. Atwater is the founder and artistic director of Soulful Symphony. Among his many honors and recognitions, Ebony magazine dubbed him one of the "30 Leaders of the Future," and the Baltimore Business Journal placed him on their exclusive "40 under 40" list. Mr. Atwater is a trustee for Maryland Citizens for the Arts and also serves on the music team at Celebration Church in Columbia, Md.
Donald Lawrence, guest artist
Donald Lawrence was a child born with a love for music, later earning bachelor's of fine arts degree from Cincinnati Conservatory. Anticipating a career in musical theater, his plans were abruptly changed a year after his graduation when pop and R&B superstar Stephanie Mills met the rising young prodigy and quickly hired him to be her music director.
By the mid 1990s, Mr. Lawrence had spent almost 10 years working and touring with Mills, and had produced two of her albums. He has established himself as one of gospel music's most esteemed producers, with a sterling résumé comprising work with gospel superstar Kirk Franklin, hit-maker Peabo Bryson, and gospel giants Daryl Coley and the late Thomas Whitfield. Other entries on his diverse list of credits include writing and directing several highly successful gospel musicals and plays, and serving as vocal coach for En Vogue. The latest addition to his list of credits comes as writer and producer of "Ultimate Relationship (In the A.M.)" from Mary J. Bilge's album, Love & Life.
Mr. Lawrence began his association with the Tri-City Singers, one of the most successful gospel choirs in the county, in the early 1990s. He was instrumental in signing the Tri-City Singers to their first major-label recording contract, which yielded the 1993 hit album A Songwriter's Point Of View. Nominated for numerous Stellar and NAACP Image Awards, that debut was followed two years later with Tri-City's number one breakthrough album and stage production, the Grammy-nominated Bible Stories.
COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION
Soulful Symphony: Say Amen Somebody
Friday, May 2, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.-The Music Center at Strathmore
Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.-Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Darin Atwater, conductor
Donald Lawrence, guest artist
Donald Lawrence: Blessing of Abraham
Donald Lawrence: Bless me (The Prayer of Jabez)
Donald Lawrence: Giants
Donald Lawrence: Encourage Yourself
Donald Lawrence: And Yet I'm Still Saved
Donald Lawrence: I am Healed
Anthony Wilkins: Grace
Kirk Franklin: My Life Is In Your hands
Lari Goss: Holy, Holy, Holy
Richard Smallwood: We Worship You
Tye Tribbett: Hallelujah to Your Name
Carol Cymbala: Bless Your Name Forevermore
Carol Cymbala: Hallelujah to the King
Soulful Symphony is presented by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The BSO does not appear on this program.
Media sponsorship for this program is provided by Magic 95.9 FM and WAVA 105.1 FM.
Tickets for this program range from $15-$55 and are available through the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Ticket Office, 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org.