I hope this finds you staying warm and dry, and enjoying time with family and friends this holiday season.
"Beautiful to take a chance" was my mantra this year - a quote from the Billie Holiday song But Beautiful. For me, 2015 has been a year of change, of challenges met and chances taken. I'm very grateful for the many beautiful moments along the way.
The New Year promises exciting things. I've recently received the tremendous honor of being awarded the Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence for 2016. I'm beyond thrilled and grateful for this recognition, and I'm so looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to the mission and vision that Sphinx brings to the world of classical music and the arts in America.
To that end, my new recital project America Again is a program inspired by Langston Hughes' poem Let America Be America Again. It's a collection of solo piano works that span centuries and, I hope, reflect the incredible range of voices and stories that make up American music "beyond category" (in the words of Duke Ellington).
America Again will come out as a recording on the Grammy award-winning Sono Luminus label next fall. Project trailer
This was my year of adventures with Lady Day, celebrating the centennial of Billie Holiday's birth with my Steinway & Sons release A Billie Holiday Songbook. The project stretched me in new ways, introduced me to new friends and listeners, and taught me some truths about my own life in music, which I shared in this essay, recently published in Listen Magazine and The Rumpus (and coming soon to Readers Digest!). The record was so warmly received by jazz and classical audiences alike, made some "Best Of" lists, and enjoyed lots of success. But best of all I think it's made a lot of people happy. The giant smile on this little girl at one of my concerts pretty much says it all.
It's been beautiful, to take a chance.
I'm looking forward to a holiday break. I have a lot of cookies to bake and movies to watch. Then things get busy very quickly. January takes me to New York and London. In February I have the great pleasure of recording the Schumann Concerto with San Francisco Ballet Orchestra at Skywalker Ranch, with Adam Abeshouse producing. This is for a 2017 release TBA, supported by the Sorel Foundation. February also sees the first performances of my recital Love, Madly, featuring the world premiere of Daniel Felsenfeld's Mad Love, at Mondavi Center (on Valentines Day as it happens), and back in NYC at Bargemusic.
In March I'm back with my wonderful Sono Luminus team at their beautiful studios in VA to record the America Again album, and then in DC for the Sphinx award ceremony at Kennedy Center and a special gala at the Supreme Court (!!) hosted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (!!!).
Quick morning flight back to CA the next day to join my friend Chris O'Riley for a special taping of From the Top, featuring alums of the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition.
All good things! As always, I feel ridiculously fortunate to live this life in music. Looking back at this year of many miles flown, many notes practiced, I'm remembering the new places and old friends I've seen along the way.
More on Instagram...
I need to end on a quiet note. As many of you know, I've spent the last month close to home, looking after my mother who has been ill. Your friendship and support have meant so much. My mom has made an amazing recovery, truly incredible. Here's something I wrote about mothers and daughters, and the language of love. As hard as this time has been, I feel grateful for the chance to be close to family and to learn some important lessons about strength and courage. Beautiful, to take a chance.
May 2016 bring health, happiness, and much-needed peace on earth, for all of us.
Comment by email:
You are the best! Have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year, Bill!
Best L [Lara Downes]