When it became impossible to host a music festival during the pandemic, Bravo! Niagara turned its cancelled shows into a creative opportunity.
It’s $5,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation couldn’t be used to host and promote a concert as planned, so Bravo! Niagara’s executive director Alexis Spieldenner enlisted the help of a local digital production company and ended up reaching an even bigger audience.
The festival, which was established in 2014 by mother and daughter duo Christine Mori and Spieldenner, seeks to present jazz and classical music concerts that connect communities through the power of music and inspire lifelong music appreciation. Along the way, they want to foster intercultural dialogue and education.
The 2020 programming was intended to include Voices of Freedom: Sounds of Hope, consisting of two concerts and four outreach events, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Instead, Spieldenner worked with Niagara College film students and local production company Fourgrounds Media to record the concerts and share them on YouTube. The 13-minute Voices of Freedom features acclaimed soprano Measha Brueggergosman with a haunting rendition of “Above My Head I Hear Music in The Air” and the Blackburn Brothers with world premieres of “Freedom Train,” and of “Sister Wilma,” which commemorates Niagara Falls
historian Wilma Morrison, who died in April 2020 at 91.
“Menorah,” by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis and commissioned by Bravo! Niagara, is performed by violinist Marc Djokic and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, while “Robi Botos: Romani Experience,” commemorates the seldom-told story of the Roma genocide through the Holocaust.
The inspiring and moving concerts, which now have a combined total of almost 2,000 views, can be found on the Bravo! Niagara website along with the educational outreach events. While Spieldenner longs for the day when Niagara audiences can gather to experience live shows again, she is grateful for the opportunity to “create something beautiful and lasting.”