lassical pianist Lara Downes knew she was onto something profound when audiences began to react to her show-closing rendition of “Fantasie Negre,” a 1929 composition by the African American composer Florence Beatrice Price. Instead of relying on motifs typical of the time period, Price injected a new musical influence by adapting the melody of the soulful spiritual “Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass.”
“People would go nuts,” recalls Downes. “It was this sound that people hadn’t heard before.” Although Price was the first black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra, her works remained outside the mainstream of classical concert music, not to mention beyond name recognition of the most casual classical music fan. Downes, who also hosts Amplify with Lara Downes on NPR, first came across Price’s music in the mid-aughts, in a dusty library copy of a collection of compositions by Price and her contemporaries.https://f5b75dc2984aef3359d367a668f8f3d5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Downes’ new project, Rising Sun Music, aims to reframe the history of American classical music by embracing its diverse origins and composers of color like Price, while building a more inclusive future for the genre.
Published by Smithsonian.com, February 5, 2021