Remember Me To Harlem: New Music from Lara Downes on Classical Tulsa

Feb 17, 2021

To call pianist Lara Downes “busy” is an understatement. In just the past year, she’s released three albums, including one of my favorite new releases of 2020, Florence Price Piano Discoveries. She also launched a new interview series for NPR Music, Amplify, where she hosts revealing conversations with compelling music makers, like clarinetist Anthony McGill and the multitalented Rhiannon Giddens. And to top it all off, she just founded her own record label, Rising Sun Music, with the express goal of reshaping how we think of our American musical heritage.

Lara’s first release on her new label, Remember Me To Harlem, was just singled out by The New York Times as one of three great new records celebrating the music of Black composers. The EP pays tribute to one of America’s most vibrant cultural melting pots with a pair of piano pieces by jazz legends Benny Golson and Eubie Blake, a song by William Grant Still in a rare transcription for oboe and piano, and a spiritual-inspired setting of a Langston Hughes poem by Margaret Bonds.

You can hear this new release in its entirety on Classical Tulsa this Friday (Feb. 19), as Lara joins me from her home in Sacramento for an hour of gorgeous music and fascinating conversation. We’ll play some highlights from two of her 2020 albums, including her poignant Some Of These Days, and hear some of the stories behind the music on her newest EP.

If you’d like to learn even more about Lara’s NPR interview series, her quarantine year discoveries, and her plans for the new label, you can hear my interview with Lara in its entirety on my Classical Tulsa Podcast. Get to know one of today’s most versatile and fascinating classical artists, right here on Public Radio Tulsa. 

Jason Heilman hosts Classical Tulsa, Fridays at noon on Classical 88.7 KWTU HD-1.