I'm thrilled to introduce my Sony Classical debut album FOR LENNY, celebrating the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein with a special friends-and-family tribute to the man behind the music.
Today I'm sending this album out into the world with joy, thrills and humbling gratitude. Making this record has been a journey of discovery and a labor of love. I've learned so much, about Leonard Bernstein, man and musician, and about the legacy we're celebrating now on the 100th anniversary of his birth. This is a celebration of his creativity, humanity, generosity of spirit, and courage of conviction. All of these things live on in Bernstein's music, and in the work he did, tirelessly and passionately, to share truth and beauty as broadly and deeply as possible.
This track, this song, represents everything I am hoping to express about Leonard Bernstein and about American music - about inspiration and collaboration, tradition and innovation.
American music brought us together, Tom and me, and it's magic. What he does with A Simple Song began back in the day with LB. I feel so lucky, so blessed, to be making music today, with Tom.
And this is our journey - American music, American musicians - passing a torch, sharing a story, walking down this long road of history, singing a simple song.
Singing at the piano - it's what I love to do. No words, just my 10 fingers and my 88 keys. The magic of telling a story through melody and harmony and the spaces between the notes - this is where I find my truth and my ability to reach out and communicate.
On this album are many songs, some of them sung by great singers, others translated into songs without words. Lenny wrote beautiful, brilliant songs, and some of them are here for you. And then there are songs that remind me of him - a song by Sondheim, another by Ned Rorem, and this exquisite song "What Shall We Remember?" by Ricky Ian Gordon.
For Lenny, with love...
Leonard Bernstein was Mr. New York. Standing ovations at Carnegie Hall, the toast of Broadway... he even lived for a while at the Dakota for godsake. And he loved this town.
"New York, New York, a helluva town - The Bronx is up but the Battery's down - The people ride in a hole in the ground - New York, New York, it's a helluva town".
LB was an activist at heart and in action. He used his art to speak out for social change, against injustice, and to the bigger picture of truth, beauty and humanity. He made music in the world. That has been a tremendous inspiration to me as an artist, making music as we are now, in troubled times. Bernstein's example keeps me fighting the good fight, out on the road and the airwaves, taking American music to communities where it matters and where it can create dialogue, understanding, and maybe some healing of divides. Joining me this week is Rhiannon Giddens, another American artist who never hesitates to speak out strongly through her music, and to examine the truths of American culture, no matter how painful and complicated. As always, LB said it best: "It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams
This week I'm focusing on the private life of a very public man. Bernstein held family and friendship at the center of his world, and he relied on the quiet place he found at home with those he loved. The music this week was written in tribute to family - three pieces dedicated to LB's children: Alexander, Jamie and Nina - and one for his wife Felicia.
And in sharing the story of Lenny's life, I turn to "The Story Of My Life", an unknown gem of a song, written for the show Wonderful Town. Warning: you won't be able to stop humming this tune!
"West Side Story"! It's my favorite musical and my favorite movie. I can literally lip-sync the whole show. And it's a piece of American music that changed everything - the future of Broadway musicals, American opera, the way we tell American stories and the kinds of stories we tell... This week I'm showcasing the collaboration between Bernstein and Sondheim that brought West Side Story to life, and I'm thrilled to introduce a rising star - Mexican/American clarinetist Javier Morales-Martinez, who joins me for a very cool new version of "Cool" from West Side Story.
Call this track "When Lenny met Billie"... Big Stuff is a song that Bernstein wrote for Billie Holiday to sing in the ballet Fancy Free. Two American artists who lived and breathed music, who broke the rules and changed the game, who are both iconic and iconoclastic.
This week you'll hear four brand new pieces of music composed in honor of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday, by musicians whose lives and work are profoundly linked to his legacy. This music comes from the heart, with devotion, admiration and much love.
The first pre-release Episode of For Lenny, featuring a collaboration with the absolutely incredible beatboxer Kevin "K.O." Olusola on "Something's Coming" - hear the track, watch a behind-the-scenes video, and listen to a podcast about the experience!
Watch a Bernstein centennial celebration with Lara Downes, Thomas Hampson, Ailyn Perez, J'Nai Bridges and Theo Bleckmann.
PRESS AND MEDIA
Given the amount of coverage the event has received, it is hard to imagine that anyone reading this site (or probably just about any other source) is not aware that this coming August 25 will mark the centennial of the birth of composer (not to mention conductor, pianist, author, and lecturer ...
Lara Downes is one of the finest pianists working today. Her virtuosity and interpretive skills are well established. She is well versed in the standard repertoire of classical piano music but has chosen to blaze her own unique path in her recorded legacy. Here she pays homage in her own unique manner with help from...
Pianist Lara Downes has assembled a collection of miniatures and songs by, and inspired by Leonard Bernstein, to help commemorate his hundredth birthday. In the album , she includes the musical portraits that he wrote for friends, and in turn, tributes to him in the same spirit by those who knew and admired him.
Week of February 26, 2018. Pianist Lara Downes has put together a fascinating tribute to Leonard Bernstein, celebrating the 100th birthday of the conductor/composer/pianist. The album For Lenny: An Intimate Tribute to Leonard Bernstein and his American Legacy features Bernstein's aptly-named Anniversaries for Piano, new arrangements of his songs, and world premieres of works dedicated to Bernstein by leading American composers.
by Dacia Clay This year, Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old. To celebrate, pianist Lara Downes took on a massive project called For Lenny that involves arrangements of Bernstein's songs, new works dedicated to him, collaborations with artists from diverse genres, and an online compon
Classical pianist Lara Downes collaborated with several of her friends and musical heroes to create "For Lenny," an album dedicated to the 100th birthday of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. The record features guest artists like opera baritone Thomas Hampson, bluegrass artist Rhiannon Giddens and Pentatonix beatboxer Kevin Olusola.