It was billed as “An Afternoon of Great Music” and the billing, clearly, lived up to expectations — even exceeding them — as three Black internationally-acclaimed singers on Sunday brought Carnegie Hall to St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush, Brooklyn.
In a two-hour performance, Paul Grosvenor (baritone), Geraldine McMillan (soprano) and Taiwan Norris (tenor), with David Mayfield on piano, enchanted a highly-appreciative audience in the sanctuary of the church that was founded in 1836.
“I felt like I was at Carnegie Hall with these phenomenal artists,” proclaimed Registered Nurse Judith Lewis, a member of the organizing committee, in a Caribbean Life interview afterwards. “The ambience was contagious.
“I felt like I was in Heaven,” she added, echoing the sentiment of a patron, Brenda, who only wanted to be identified by her first name.
Carlyn Christie, another patron, said it was “an evening well-spent.”
The artists sang individually and collectively in opera, oratorio, spirituals and narration in five segments, breaking for 10 minutes after the first two.
Norris rendered Donizetti’s “Quanto e Bella;” Handel’s “Every Valley;” Hall Johnson-arranged “Witness;” Lovland/Graham’s “You Raise Me Up;” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess.
Grosvenor performed Gounod’s “Avant de Quitter;” Mendelssohn’s “It is Enough;” Moses Hogan’s “Deep River;” Flaherty’s “Make Them Hear You”; and Porgy and Bess’s “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin.”
McMillan sang Verdi’s “Pace, Pace, Mio Dio;” Faure’s “Pie Jesu;” Hall Johnson-arranged “Fi-ya, Fi-Ya;”;Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Joy;” and Porgy and Bess’s “Summertime.”
The artists also collaborated with trios in Gounod’s “From the Finale;” Saint-Saens’s “My Soul Doth Magnify;” and Porgy and Bess’s “I’m on My Way.”
In addition, Grosvenor and McMillan sang “Bess, You is My Woman Now.”
“I was very pleased with the attendance,” concert producer Carlos Prescod, a Panamanian native told Caribbean Life.
“It’s been very encouraging to get a very good attendance ever since we started (raising funds for the church’s organ),” added the organist and director of music.
Prescod, who traces his roots to Jamaica and Barbados, said the event was the second in a series of fundraising events. The first was a Jazz and Fashion Show earlier this month.
The next fundraiser takes place on the first Sunday in November, featuring “gospel and spiritual music of the Black Church experience,” Prescod said.
About the artists, Grosvenor made his operatic debut as Don Alfonso in Cosi fan Tutte with the Opera Theatre of the Rockies. He then went on to perform the role of Colline in La Boheme with Tri-Cities Opera and the role of the Commendatore in Don Giovanni at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.
Grosvenor was a resident artist with the Toledo Opera for its 2016-17 season.
He has performed the role of Frank in Die Fledermaus and Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance.
Grosvenor holds a master’s degree in voice performance from the University of Michigan.
McMillian received acclaim for her highly-dramatic and vocally-accomplished performances in such operas as Aida, Tosca, Don Giovanni (Donna Anna and Donna Elvira), Madama Butterfly, Don Carlos, Suor Angelica, Dialogue of the Carmelites (Madame Lidoine), Porgy and Bess (Serena, Bess and Clara) and Das Rheingold (Fricka).
Her frequent orchestral performances include: Chicago Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Simon Bolivar Symphony (Caracas), NDR Sinfonieorchester (Hamburg), Orquesta del Nuevo Mundo (Mexico City), Eesti Riiklik Sumfonieorchester (Hamburg) and Orquesta del Nuevo Mundo (Mexico City).
McMillian was a featured singer for the PBS Great Performances production of Aida’s Brothers and Sisters.
She studied at the Juilliard School where she worked with Eleanor Steber.
Norris is internationally hailed for his rich-voiced, lyrical tenor the world over.
He has graced such stages as the Grand Theatre de Geneve, Komische Oper Berlin, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Dvorak Hall in Prague and Teatro Petruzelli in Bari, Italy.
He recently made his debut at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.
Norris also performed the lead role of Paul Laurence Dunbar in the world premiere of A Mask in the Mirror: The Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore with Trilogy, an Opera Company in NJ.
Other recent performances include roles in Treemonisha, The Three Mayors and Emmitt Till.
His performances have taken him to Quito, Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires and other South American cities.
Norris has also appeared in numerous productions with Opera Philadelphia, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Norris travels internationally as a soloist with the renowned American Spiritual Ensemble.
In 2008, he was selected as a finalist in the Harlem Opera Theatre Vocal Competition at the Apollo Theatre.
Norris has also appeared as an actor in Dreamgirls at the Prince Music Theatre.
This fall, he will appear at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.