Lara has joined the Advisory Board of Time In Children's Arts, a groundbreaking arts initiative that brings some of New York’s youngest, most at-risk public school children out of underserved classrooms in Harlem and the South Bronx, and into the world of the living arts every week of the school year as part of their normal school day. Founded in 2006, Time In transforms the lives of inner city children, as it inspires learning and engagement in a nurturing, multi-sensorial learning environment that enriches children’s lives and helps them reach their fullest potential. 

Join Lara for an intimate rooftop cocktail party and house concert in Harlem on September 29 to support this life-changing work!

Tickets at http://timeinkids.org/event-registration/?ee=16


 
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Lara Downes will release her next solo album, America Again, worldwide on Sono Luminus on October 28, 2016. The album’s title is taken from Langston Hughes’ poem, Let America Be America Again, written in 1938. America Again features pieces selected by Downes that explore the elusive but essential American dream, written by composers including Duke Ellington, Lou Harrison, Morton Gould, Amy Beach, George Gershwin, Angélica Negrón, Dan Visconti, Leonard Bernstein, Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, Florence Price, Aaron Copland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, David Sanford, and more.

Downes conceived of the album in June 2015, in response to the Charleston, SC shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Downes writes of the meaning in the album, “Today, as I write these words, we are living again in troubled times. For too many Americans, circumstance and skin color still keep the promise out of reach, the dream deferred. The hard-won rights and long-sought justice for which our parents and grandparents fought are too easily slipping away. The rifts and rivalries that divide us as a nation seem to run deeper than ever. But still, we dreamers keep dreaming our dream. This music is a tribute to the generations of Americans who dream the impossible: black and white, men and women, immigrants and pioneers. It tells the story of their journeys, their loves and longings, their hardships and their hopes. American music is made of everything we are, coming from so many different people and places, expressing so many different dreams.” 

Available for pre-order now on Amazon


Lara premieres New York Stories with Adam Gopnik at Symphony Space

Essayist Adam Gopnik joined Lara for a special evening of city conversation and cross-talk, in notes and in words, celebrating New York City: its anthems, its atmosphere, its ambitions. Video

 

 

 

 


Lara is honored at the U.S. Supreme Court with the Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence Award

Lara was honored with the 2016 Medal of Excellence from the Sphinx Organization. She accepted her award at a special gala celebration at the Supreme Court of the United States, hosted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.


San Francisco Classical Voice: Lara Downes Shows us How To Make Music Matter

Lara is profiled in San Francisco Classical Voice as a leading artist with an eye to the future.


Lara records Schumann Piano Concerto with Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Ballet Orchestra

In February 2016, Lara recorded the Schumann Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West conducting, at Skywalker Sound, with producer Adam Abeshouse. This project is generously supported by the Sorel Organization and is scheduled for release in 2017.


Lara is awarded the 2016 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence

Sphinx Medals of Excellence is a program which awards $50,000 career grants to extraordinary classical artists of color who demonstrate the following qualities:artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, great potential for leadership. Sphinx has announced the three artists that will be recognized with the 5th annual Medal of Excellence awards: soprano Julia Bullock, cellist Gabriel Cabezas, and pianist Lara Downes.


LISTEN MAGAZINE Fall Issue features Lara's essay But Beautiful: A life with Billie Holiday

Every Saturday morning, when I was a little girl, my sisters and I went to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for what we called “Saturday Classes”: piano lessons, theory, music history… serious classical music training for serious little musicians. Saturday afternoons, when we got home, we had a ritual. We’d get out our “dress-up” from the vintage steamer trunk that housed a collection of my mother’s 1960’s party dresses and my grandmother’s furs, and we’d go through my parents’ record collection - the Beatles, Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday  - and we’d dance around the living room. And the Billie Holiday records stopped me in my tracks. I was enthralled by Lady Day, her dark eyes shaded by the white gardenia, her world-worn voice, and by what I knew, even then, to be the totally, startlingly distinctive qualities of mood and phrasing, line and color that she brought to even the simplest tune.

In my diary, the year I was eight, I made a careful list, in perfect cursive, of all my favorite things. My favorite song: Billie Holiday - I Cover the Waterfront; such a sad song, about watching and waiting for a love that’s gone. That year was the last year of my father’s long, slow dying. And then he was gone, and I spent foggy afternoons at the window, looking out over the San Francisco Bay, waiting for the sadness to lift. I pulled out the old records at night. I cover the waterfront, Billie sang, I’m watching the sea, Will the one I love be coming back to me?


Bach and Beyond in Chicago

In October, Lara will be featured in The Bach Keyboard Festival, a monumental presentation of Chicago Classical Radio station WFMT. From September 18 - November 1, all of Bach's keyboard music will be presented in eleven live concerts featuring over 70 pianists and harpsichordists including Lara, Jory Vinikour, Winston Choi, Adam Neiman, and Anthony Molinaro. Lara's solo recital takes place Friday, October 16 at 7:30pm, at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Program and ticket information.

The following day, Saturday October 17 at 3pm, Lara joins the Grammy award winning contemporary chamber music sextet eighth blackbird in their Residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago for a special performance of her acclaimed solo project 13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg: Bach Reimagined.

This concert is free with museum admission.


Downes’ rhetoric not only captures the wide variety of different moods that can be mined from this music but also explores different possibilities of transition, from abrupt to hesitating, from one mood to another. Thus, even though this is a recording, the listener can appreciate her own in-the-moment thoughts that unfolded over the course of her performance. This is definitely an addition to the many recordings of “Rhapsody in Blue” that is worth considering.
— Examiner.com

A BILLIE HOLIDAY SONGBOOK: Available now!


Possibly the most intriguing Holiday tribute may be this one by pianist Lara Downes. The adroit pianist goes solo in interpreting songs associated with the vocalist. At times she gives rococo hints of Art Tatum, other times a classica straightforwardness comes in. The tunes such as “Yesterdays” “Blue Moon” and “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” come and go before you know what happened, clocking in between 1-2 ½ minutes. Most of the tunes are concise like this, but “Strange Fruit” and “I Cover The Waterfront” are patiently drawn out, with space making wonderful sounds. A focus on the lyrical side of the Holiday Songbook that works well.
— Jazz Weekly
Here Lara Downes evolves the songs with absorbing lyricism that evokes the eternal artistry of Lady Day.

“I Cover the Waterfront” was Lara Downes’ favorite Billie Holiday song as a child. She honors both the original melodies and phrasing while coloring the song in tones of her own virtuosity. On the Duke Ellington classic “In My Solitude,” she places both spirits (Holiday’s and Ellington’s) in soulful communion with her interpretation as a soloist in a secluded spotlight. The program concludes with “But Beautiful,” which assures Downes’ listeners that she has indeed captured the essence of Billie Holiday…beautifully.

Because many of these songs are so engrained in our collective memories as Billie Holiday’s, it can be difficult for pianists to capture Billie Holiday’s soulful messages on the keyboard. However, on A Billie Holiday Songbook, Lara Downes achieves this impressionist musical journey with self-confidence, reverence and creativity.
— Paula Edelstein: AXS.com

As always, Ms. Downes plays each piece lovingly, caressingly, soulfully. I suppose one could say that it is something of overkill to have a classical concert pianist play popular tunes, but when you hear the results, you have to concede that no one could do them any better. And for most of us music is music; we just want it rendered as well as possible, and that’s what Ms. Downes does.

Favorites? Yep. “God Bless the Child” displays Ms. Downes’s ability to convey a high emotional content along with an abundance of showmanship. “Blue Moon” is a perennial favorite, and in its original piano arrangement it projects a wonderfully upbeat yet bluesy quality nurtured by Ms. Downes’s playing. “Body and Soul” is predictably fine, with the piano performance reflecting Ms. Holiday’s vocal style remarkably well. We practically hear Holiday behind the piano.

”Billie’s Blues” bubbles over with the kind of jazz mannerisms we’ve come to expect from Ms. Holiday herself. “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” is simply a favorite song of mine, so I was delighted to hear Ms. Downes do it such credit in a smoky nightclub style. “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a song I personally associate more with Jimmy Durante than Billie Holiday, but in any case Ms. Downes gives it a sweet, lovely new life, as she does with all of these songs. It’s a lovely album.
— John Puccio: Classical Candor

A Billie Holiday Songbook, Lara's newest release on Steinway & Sons Records, is now available!

AMAZON

ITUNES

Lara's performance of Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor with San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, reviewed in San Francisco Classical Voice

Downes stepped off into the cadenza as if she were confidently descending a tightrope from dramatic heights into a delicate, sensual conversation before the orchestra rejoined her.

Read full review


A review of Lara's performance at Samsung Hall from A Beast in a Jungle

Who says classical music isn't sexy?

Read full review


Kind words from the Washington Post for Lara's recent recital at the Czech Embassy's Mutual Inspirations Festival

Pianist Lara Downes gives insightful performance of Czech composers

Read full review



Lara is September's Guest Editor for The Piano Forum, with a series called Women (Pianists) Who Rock



Lara's new release with cellist Zuill Bailey on the Steinway & Sons record label is called "luscious, moody and dreamy" by the New York Times.

The New York Times Classical Playlist 5/8/14

Some Other Time
By Zuill Bailey, Lara Downes

‘SOME OTHER TIME’: Barber, Copland, Bernstein and Foss
Zuill Bailey, cellist; Lara Downes, pianist
(Steinway & Sons)
“Simple Gifts” is the title of a Shaker song from the mid-1800s here arranged for cello and piano, but it could also serve as the title of this luscious, moody and dreamy recording of American songs, many of which just happen to pose as instrumental works by Bernstein, Barber, Foss and others. Zuill Bailey’s soulful cello and Lara Downes’s clean and sensitive piano playing prove perfect travel mates. (Fonseca-Wollheim)