Lara Downes

Leave it to Lara Downes to get out the vote with style and grace and great music.

On Sept. 22, in honor of National Voter Registration Day, the pianist and activist released a video of Leonard Bernstein’s song “Take Care of This House,” from the musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Collaborating with Downes in the clever production is a virtual who’s who of leading American singers and instrumentalists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Judy Collins, Rhiannon Giddens, opera greats Thomas Hampson, Angel Blue, Isabel Leonard, Ailyn Pérez, and Lawrence Brownlee, Mexican-American jazz diva Magos Herrera, Shereen Pimentel, who stars as Maria in the new Broadway production of Bernstein’s West Side Story, and young musicians from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and NPR’s From the Top.

Downes, who also produced and directed the video, conceived the project as a way to help drive voter participation, as well as raise awareness and support for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

Downes says of the video:

This year of disruption and division has kept artists offstage and off the road. But even from here at home, we can reach out to join forces and offer our music where it matters the most. I’ve looked to Leonard Bernstein throughout my career as the model of a true artist/citizen, a musician who always showed up and spoke up, in good times and bad. He gave us so much inspiration, including this perfect song that speaks to our American past, present and future in such a powerful way. So here we are, from our homes to yours, pledging to take care of this house together. It’s the hope of us all.”

The project embodies Bernstein’s history of fusing art and activism, and continues Downes’s longstanding connection to the composer, most recently through her Sony Masterworks album For Lenny.

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