, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley



A deeply rich program celebrating the connections made through music, this concert explores friendships old and new and pays tribute to the places and people that inspire us. Juan Pablo Contreras starts us off in Jalisco, Mexico, his birthplace, and the origin of mariachi music. This energetic homage highlights traditional mariachi rhythms accompanied by original melodies and places us in Plaza de Los Mariachis-feeling the vibrancy of song from the mariachi on every corner. A true champion of long-forgotten and diverse voices, pianist Lara Downes performs a pair of works for piano and orchestra by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, highlighting the lifelong musical partnership between the two. Ellington referred to Strayhorn as "My right arm, my left arm, and all the eyes in the back of my head." Rounding out the evening of celebrating relationships, Elgar's theme and fourteen variations are sketches of friends-full of admiration, deep seriousness, and humor. Each variation, a reflection of an individual, immortalizing their connection and friendship.

Joseph Young, Music Director


New World A-Comin
Lara Downes, piano

“A Lovesome Thing: Billy Strayhorn Suite” co-commission

Lara Downes, piano

Enigma Variations

*programming subject to change* 

A Note on COVID Safety
The health and well-being of our community of artists, audiences, staff, and volunteers is our number one priority. To learn about our COVID-19 Protocols, please click the button below.
Our Health & Safety Protocols

About the Artists

Lara Downes
“An explorer whose imagination is fired by bringing notice to the underrepresented and forgotten”-The Log Journal. Pianist Lara Downes is an iconoclast and trailblazer whose dynamic work as a soughtafter performer, a Billboard Charttopping recording artist, media personality, producer, curator, and arts advocate positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene.
Ms. Downes’ creative roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory, excavating the broad landscape of American music to create a series of acclaimed performance and recording projects that serve as gathering spaces for her listeners to find common ground and shared experience.Lara’s summer 2021 projects include appearances and residencies with the Ravinia, Oregon Bach, Newport, and Brevard festivals, and the release of her upcoming album New Day Begun, a musical celebration of heritage, a cry for freedom, a call to action, and a promise to the next generation.
Ms. Downes is the creator and curator of the Rising Sun Music series, producer and host of the NPR Music show AMPLIFY with Lara Downes, and Resident Artist for the KDFC/KUSC radio network. She is the inaugural Artist Citizen in Residence for the Manhattan School of Music. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Sphinx Organization, and Classical Recording Foundation Award, among others. She is an Artist Ambassador for Headcount, a nonpartisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy.
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Posted on

April 2, 2023