Donal Leace

Folk (Music) – Folk Music
Jazz (Music) – Jazz
Pop (Music) – Pop
Pop (Music) – Soft Rock

Age Demographics: All

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Singer-songwriter master craftsman Donal Leace has been a fixture in the Washington, D.C. folk community for more than 30 years. During the 60s, he was known as Washington's Favorite Folk Singer, and the famed Cellar Door nightclub was called "The Home of Donal Leace".

Leace is known for his extraordinary instrument his voice which resonates and vibrates like a hollow steel drum, then rings clear as a crystal bell. An engaging performer, Leace mixes soul, pop and jazz with a dash of humor. He writes about contemporary people, and weaves stories that he calls "little snapshots in time".

Since his first professional solo appearance in 1959 at New York's Carnegie Hall, Leace has performed all over the world with such greats as Muddy Waters, Joe Williams, Judy Collins, Big Mama Thornton and Odetta. He has recorded for Franc, Gateway, JBL and Atlantic Records, and has toured with Roberta Flack and Nancy Wilson.

Leace moved to Washington, D.C. from Philadelphia in 1960, and put himself through school by playing in bars and nightclubs. He had a steady job at Charlie Byrd's Showboat nightclub, but was lured to the Cellar Door in 1962. That job lasted nine years. Leace said, "There was an apartment above the club where I lived", so the Cellar Door was literally the home of Donal Leace.

Leace's mentors included Dave van Ronk, who taught him how to play guitar, and Roberta Flack, who was his vocal coach and helped him get his recording contract at Atlantic Records. Leace has recorded four albums and is working on a fifth.

Leace is a graduate of Howard University, and holds graduate degrees from The George Washington and Georgetown Universities. He teaches theater at Howard University, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Georgetown University.

Leace, whose career spans five decades, has performed with some of the best talent the music business has had to offer. They include Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Ramsey Lewis, Take 6, John Denver and the Staple Singers among others.

I have been listening to Donal Leace for over 30 years. He is one of those rare artists whose voice just gets better -- reflecting not just its increasing richness musically, but also the growing strength of his passions, most notably for social justice and civil rights. Leace is an artist who can sing it all, but is at his best singing the slow, melodic ballads that have become his trademark. His roots are in West Virginia and in traditional American folk music. But in more recent years, his work has become more international as he has sought to incorporate the musical traditions of countries such as South Africa and Cuba . The songs he has written about those countries bristle with his strong, political views about contemporary political developments there. Donal Leace is quite simply an American treasure whose music speaks to all the world. – David Pitts, Journalist.
   Spring 2002

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