Brilliant tenors Donald Braswell II. Timothy Birt and William Chapman travelled north to Horseshoe Bay, TX to perform a special concert on February 24, 2012, at The Church at Horseshoe Bay. The church overlooks Lake Lyndon B. Johnson and is a wonderful mix of stain glass and natural glass with a view that goes on forever.
With a backdrop of the lake, blue sky, and a lazy circling buzzard, Gli unici (the name of the trio) held the packed church spellbound for two hours; from the moment they opened with “Notte di luce” to the demanded encore. Operatic and crossover pop selections were the treats of the concert.
The Church regularly provides first-class concerts at no cost to the community. Endearing locals welcomed many in the audience on this day who were from outside the Horseshoe Bay area. Some even flew in from other states, just to experience the magnificent divos.
Gli unici (pronounced Ylee oo Neechee) is Italian for “The Only Ones” and they truly are the only ones to see. All three tenors have remarkable range. The show was stunning to many, as if they’d accidentally stumbled into a concert with Franco Corelli, Luciano Pavarotti, and Caruso all on stage together.
Their performance enthralled the audience. The concert goers were so impressed, they greeted the tenors on their return from intermission with another standing ovation. This led the singers to take some time to introduce themselves and the history of their musical careers.
Braswell’s history is well known. His parents were Broadway stars and he grew up onstage. His successful opera career was ended on a road in Wales in 1995 when he was hit by a car while bicycling. The damage he sustained rendered him mute for nearly two years.
He was told he would never sing again and might never even speak normally. He credits his faith (and family and training) with the miraculous recovery over the next decade. He relaunched his full-time singing career in 2008.
Chapman was a football player in college in New Mexico when both his knees were taken out in one play. With his ambitions dead ended, he searched for other avenues. After overhearing him singing in church, a friend suggested vocal training and he followed that advice.
The voice teacher introduced him to a Franco Corelli recording and he fell in love with opera. Pavarotti ultimately became his idol. An interesting note is that Braswell was a student of Corelli. Even Franco commented that Donald looked and sounded like him.
It’s been said that Chapman’s pressurized technique was also the style of the incredible Richard Tucker, a good friend and colleague of Franco Corelli who followed a path similar to William from athletics to operatic stardom.
Birt, whose voice has been compared to the greats Beniamino Gigli and Johan Jonatan “Jussi” Björling, originally was a rock and roll singer. Music was always part of his life. The strain that rock and roll songs took on his voice began taking a toll. He sought out a vocal expert to help him protect his voice.
That coach introduced him to classical techniques. Tim learned he had a natural gift for opera and he turned his direction that way. As luck would have it all three exceptional vocalists live in San Antonio where Gli unici was born.
The entertainers sprinkled the two hours with comedy and lighthearted selections like Sway. Braswell is an accomplished impersonator. His imitation of Dean Martin during “O sole mio“ was special.
The Horeshoe Bay concert ended with cheers and pleas to have the men return. At the meet-and-greet afterwards everyone raved about the show. Many were disappointed to learn the men haven’t recorded an album together. Braswell has recored three albums, so they didn’t have to go away empty-handed.
One guest purchased one of Donald’s CDs at the urging of her granddaughter. The young girl told her “You always listen to Bach and Beethoven, Grandma. Now you can have Bach, Beethoven, and Braswell.”