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Pianist Lara Downes' Vision of the American Dream / WRTI Radio

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WRTI: Philadelphia - Arts Report part 2
WRTI: Philadelphia - Arts Report part 1

LISTEN TO Susan Lewis piece for WRTI - Philadelphia.

Transcript - The hope in the "American Dream" is heard in America Again, the new CD by pianist Lara Downes. WRTI's Susan Lewis has the story.

Listen Listening...8:26 Pianist Lara Downes talks about how music expresses the hope and resilience of the American Dream.

Radio script: 

[MUSIC: Ernest Bloch, "At Sea," from America Again]

Susan Lewis: Lara Downes, an American pianist with Jamaican-American and Jewish-Eastern European roots, plays jazz, classical, and music that crosses genres. The American dream is a recurring theme.

Lara Downes: Our American story, most of the time, begins with someone's journey to America, journeys made across the ocean and over mountains.

SL: Her CD, America Again, references the 1935 poem by Langston Hughes.

LD:  The poem opens, "Let America be America again, let it be the dream it used to be." I just honed in on this notion of the American dream and what it really means. It led me to a lot of different music and a lot of different stories.

SL: Music rooted in places, from the Shenandoah Valley to New York City; music informed by different cultures that make up America.

[MUSIC: "Shenandoah," from America Again]

[MUSIC: Morton Gould, American Caprice, from America Again]

And what Downes calls the conversation between generations: as in Art Tatum's arrangement of the Irving Berlin song, "Blue Skies."

LD: I digested it, re-interpreted it, re-imagined it from a classical background.

SL: Music expressing the hope and resilience of the dream.

LD: We have this spirit to us that keeps us trying big things, and  falling down, and getting up again. I think for me, the music is really reconnecting us with what is beautiful and true and essential about American life.

[MUSIC: "American Caprice" from America Again]

SL: The music of America Again spans the 20th century and beyond, and includes three world-premiere recordings.