Friday, February 3, 2017

Akron Beacon Journal: Timing perfect for poet Rita Dove to join pianist [Lara Downes] in Akron performance [Sunday, Feb. 5, 3 PM]

Rita Dove

Akron Beacon Journal

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal arts writer

February 1, 2017

It was a matter of perfect timing: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove and her husband just happened to have planned a stop in Akron on their way back from Chicago to Virginia to visit her aging parents the same weekend that pianist Lara Downes would be performing in a concert there as part of a project inspired by Dove’s poetry.
On Sunday at the Akron-Summit County Library, Steinway artist Downes will perform America Again: My Promise Project, one of a national series of performances and community engagement projects that explore identity, diversity and promise by connecting poetry, music and history.
Downes normally integrates spoken word poetry along with her piano playing in these concerts. But in Akron, Dove herself will join Downes to read her poem Testimonial at the 3 p.m. performance.
Testimonial is the poem that inspired David Sanford’s Promise, which Downes plays as part of her My Promise Project, which was also inspired by Dove’s poem. It showcases her new album America Again with music by diverse American composers past and present; male and female; white, black and brown; straight and gay and rich and poor, according to a news release on the concert. The artists include Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Scott Joplin, Angelica Negron, Sanford, Dan Visconti and more.
The concert is co-sponsored by the Lippman School and Tuesday Musical Association. Downes is returning to her roots with the Akron visit: Her mother, Ruth Downes, was a Jewish civil-rights lawyer in Akron whose family was close to Lippman founder Jerry Lippman and his wife, Goldie. Downes’ late father was from the Caribbean and Harlem and her mother’s family came from Eastern Europe. After her father’s death, Downes and her family moved to Europe when she was 9 but she now lives in the United States.
“I think American music is the thing that makes me feel most American. It’s kind of where I root my American identity,’’ Downes says on her website,
Downes and Dove have connected via email correspondence, in which Dove described listening to America Again as a “wondrous experience.”
“I’ve played it over and over, continually surprised by a turn of phrase I hadn’t heard before,’’ she said by email to Downes.
The women will be meeting each other for the first time at the concert.

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