Watch Lawrence Brownlee and Jason Moran Sing for Life in Harlem Church

By Ian Holubiak on Feb 17, 2016 05:48 PM EST
Watch Lawrence Brownlee and Jason Moran Sing for Life in Harlem Church Demonstrators march on Ontario St. on December 29, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo : Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

When the spheres of classical and jazz collide the effect is astounding. Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee and jazz pianist Jason Moran, who gathered for a performance in a Harlem crypt, united to sing a piece in tribute to the senseless deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and scores of others.

Mr. Brownlee is often associated with performances of kings, princes and the regal echelon of the like. But now, Brownlee channels his connection to the Black Lives Matter movement through a performance of "There's a Man Going 'Round Taking Names."

The piece has been recorded by previous artists such as Paul Robeson and Lead Belly, but neither have performed with such fervor like that of an unparalleled operatic star like Lawrence Brownlee.

In a video at NPR, Tom Huizenga wrote:

"A crypt, they thought, would be an appropriate setting to perform their version of the song. So we took our cameras and microphones - and a lovely piano - deep into the active crypt below the historic Church of the Intercession in Harlem. The 1915 structure at 155th Street and Broadway is a New York City landmark and a dramatic setting for occasional concerts, including a December 2015 recital by Brownlee."

The arrangement is solemn and the performance is impactful, which is fitting for the venue. The doldrums of a century old church in Harlem, which contains the ashes of parishioners, adds an element of eeriness but also of legitimacy.

In keeping with Kendrick Lamar's topical performance at the Grammys, Brownlee and Moran's performance of the folk classic illuminates the divisive racial climate in the U.S. and how it continues to escalate by perpetuating violence between the black community and the police forces throughout the nation.

Check out the video below.

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TagsLawrence Brownlee, Jason Moran, Black Lives Matter, Church of the Intercession, There's a Man Going 'Roung Taking Names

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