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Lara Downes explores roots music on 'Some of These Days' / San Francisco Classical Voice Q&A

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In liner notes for her new album, Some of These Days, pianist Lara Downes expresses the 14-track CD's origins and significance. A line in an African-American spiritual, "Welcome Table," provides the album's title and the final track is an adaptation by Downes of the composition by African-American composer Florence Price (1887–1953). Following a pull quote from the refrain, Downes reveals her purpose and shares a personal narrative:

"All of God's children gonna sit together, some of these days." ("Welcome Table")

The conviction in these words - the hope and faith in them - is why I'm even here at all. I was born because my parents believed these words.

They met at a sit-in, my mom and dad. San Francisco, in the late 1960s. He was a Black man from Harlem and she was a Jewish girl from Akron. They fell in love and got married and had three golden-brown babies, all in the hope and faith that their daughters, and all the children, of all shades of black, brown and beige, would sit together in freedom and fairness - some of these days."

The albums' spirituals and freedom and protest songs trace a dark history of oppression, but sing forward to hope, courage, strength, faith, and enlightenment. Downes says in an interview this multigenre collection that intermingles the songs with classical, jazz, folk, country, and R&B musical traditions expands an authentically American story. Spirituals, she suggests, are the first examples of original, indigenous American folk music. Collaborations on the CD feature guest artists: Toshi Reagon, Howard Fishman, PUBLIQuartet, and the Chapin Sisters, in arrangements by Downes, H. T. Burleigh, Hall Johnson, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Nina Simone, and Billy Taylor.

Downes spoke about the album, slated for release on April 3, and her ongoing My Promise Project, which has had her traveling nationwide to engage with young people and through music, spark and support their activism and agency in the pursuit for social justice.

READ THE San Francisco Classical Voice Q&A