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Redemption And Connection: Lara Downes Talks With Davóne Tines

Davóne Tines' instagram handle is @alsoanoperasinger. It's apt because he is many things: scholar, composer, writer, producer, entrepreneur, activist. He's also one of the most fascinating opera singers of his generation. His taste runs towards uncharted territory; he creates new roles with an expressive intensity of voice and body to reveal the complex humanity of each character he inhabits.

I met Davóne last February, just before the world shut down. I'd been on the road for weeks with a lingering cold, pulling into Boston on the last slow train out of Penn Station late on a bitter winter night. In the morning, I dragged myself to rehearsal, bedraggled as a stray cat. It was a hectic schedule — new music to rehearse, staging and light cues, a complicated show — so it wasn't until our lunch break that Davóne and I really had a chance to say hello.

It took about five minutes for us to become friends — for many reasons. We're both adventurous artists who make strange, beautiful things. We're highly disciplined breakers of rules. We both have 100 ideas every 10 minutes, and we act on 97 of them. We're opinionated and outspoken. We both care quite a lot about clothes.

But what cemented our friendship was a song. I had with me the sheet music of a newly-discovered song called "When The Dove Enters In," composed by Margaret Bonds to a text by Langston Hughes. Close friends and collaborators, their creative connection was powerful; Bond's music revealed new harmonies and rhythms in Hughes' poems. This song is about the strength of human connection — about redemption and salvation. I showed it to Davóne and we read through it together, finding immediate and true friendship in its notes and words.

We've been working on this song for a while now, through all the changes this year has brought, and we were inspired to make a music video in collaboration with the visual artist Leila Victorin.

This is a conversation about revealing and embracing the fullness of our humanity, in our music, in our intentions and actions. You find us at the end of a long, hard year, looking back with all the longing that comes with isolation, grateful for a song we read together before the world shut down, and mindful of its meaning.

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Lara Downes is among the foremost American pianists of her generation, a trailblazer both on and off the stage, whose musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family and collective memory. As a chart-topping recording artist, a powerfully charismatic performer, a curator and tastemaker, Downes is recognized as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene.