Lara Downes on drawing courage and joy from women composers and artists / WFMT Q&A
Pianist Lara Downes is passionate about casting light on forgotten and unsung figures in classical music's history. Downes' discography signals this - A Billie Holiday Songbook, 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg, Exiles' Cafe, and multiple records focusing on different traditions of American music denote a keen interest in reimagining the canon.
Downes' latest record, entitled Holes in the Sky, continues this exploration: the release is the first of a triptych of albums focused on music by women (with albums dedicated to the music of Clara Schumann and Florence Price to come over the next year). It's an album made by women that celebrates music composed by women and features collaborators like pianist Simone Dinnerstein, singer and instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, plus Chicago-based artists Rachel Barton Pine, Musicality, and cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing (who appeared on WFMT's Introductions in 2018). Part of this celebration is a drive to help women and women artists - not only through representation, but also through campaigns with nonprofits such as Plan International and the Lower Eastside Girls Club of NY. Reflecting on these partnerships and her ongoing mission to spotlight music by women, Downes remarked that "it feels like there's a lot of expansion in this project. There's a lot of potential."
Photo: Jiyang Chen