The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) announced internationally-renowned gospel music trailblazer Donald Lawrence as the headlining artist for its Classical Roots concert on Friday, April 14, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at Music Hall. Lawrence will make his CSO debut alongside his band, the Classical Roots Community Choir directed by Jason Alexander Holmes, and the CSO led by conductor John Morris Russell.
One of the pre-eminent figures of gospel music, Lawrence is a songwriter, record producer, music and choir director, recording artist, and guiding force behind chart-topping hits, like “Encourage Yourself,” “Back II Eden” and “The Blessing of Abraham.” He has won two Grammy Awards, six Dove Awards, 28 Stellar Awards, a Stellar Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Black Music Hall of Fame, North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and the Black Entertainment Walk of Fame. He has collaborated with a diverse roster of marquee artists, serving as the vocal coach to the hit-making R&B/pop female group En Vogue, the musical director for Broadway/R&B star Stephanie Mills, songwriter for The Clark Sisters, and collaborator with a host of artists, including Peabo Bryson, Kirk Franklin, Karen Clark Sheard, Donnie McClurkin, and Mary J. Blige.
No stranger to Cincinnati, Lawrence studied at the University of Cincinnati-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music. In collaboration with Worth Gardner, head of CCM’s musical theater department at the time, Lawrence also wrote the 1986 musical revue “Sing Hallelujah!,” which opened with rave reviews at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, where it would be sold out over the next three summers; the show would eventually tour across the country and make it to off-Broadway. Lawrence also served as the music director of CCM’s Gospel Choir Hanarobi and Cincinnati Choral Union, and music minister at Southern Baptist Church and New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Cincinnati.
“It is an extreme honor and privilege to return to Cincinnati and do a concert with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra featuring a few songs from my discography,” said Lawrence. “Cincinnati holds very special memories for me, CCM, New Jerusalem, Southern Baptist, The Choral Union, as well as Cincinnati Playhouse. The city was my second home. The discipline, professional training, and life experiences I received there prepared me for the career I have today. I am looking forward to this incredible event.”
“Donald Lawrence is a remarkable and multifaceted artist whose dynamism infuses everything he touches,” said conductor John Morris Russell. “I am thrilled to be a part of this joyous homecoming, along with our chorus and orchestra, to celebrate Donald’s music and music making with all of Cincinnati.”
Tickets for Classical Roots featuring Donald Lawrence are currently on sale with tickets starting at $15. To purchase tickets, visit cincinnatisymphony.org or call the Box Office at 513.381.3300, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A limited number of Pay- What-You-Wish tickets for this performance, reserved for those with financial need, will be made available beginning the week of the performance.