We opened the festival on Saturday, 22 February with the help of our ever-great, jazz arm: Bradley Kayser, Chuck & Anne Parrish, Sherry Layman and of course our very own, James Sanders!  President Eric Miller received The Lifetime Achievement Award for Chamber Music Patronage at the start of the program and his lovely wife Michelle and all three children were present on stage to share in this great honor!  The legend Charles Lloyd, born in 1938 visited San Antonio for the first time and was accompanied by the triple-Grammy nominated pianist, Gerald Clayton. A crowd of over 500 was transported to a place beyond words and was reluctant to return at the end of an enchanting premiere performance of the duo’s collaboration.

Traveling on a tight concert schedule, our Israeli-Palestinian duo landed at noon for their 3pm San Antonio debut! MBAW Development Director Suhail Arastu took the musicians downtown for a hearty brunch at Feast in Southtown which caused the duo to declare our town their “favorite US City!”  Warmed by sunshine, smiles and South Texas hospitality they were ready for their performance in Ruth Taylor Recital Hall. Calling themselves Amal, Arabic for hope, the duo opened with Schubert’s Fantasy for 4 Hands, from there the crowd was hooked.  Their playful renditions of Prokofiev, Shostakovich & Rachmaninoff were followed by a Q&A where audience members quizzed the skillful young men on everything from how they met, to how they decide who plays what part of which piece and then dug further into political queries of the conflict in their homeland.  Bishara Haroni & Yaron Kohlberg live in Berlin and continue touring, bound by their mutual love for music and demonstrating that notes resonate with the soul and transcend religious difference and political borders.

Tuesday morning over 1500 children were bussed to Laurie Auditorium for a history of Jazz from Africa to Brazil and New Orleans. They were mesmerized by Flamenco and bounced to Russian music from the Balalaika Brothers!  After hearing our very own Executive Administrative Assistant Diana Tatu on the radio, inspired volunteers from BJ’s Restaurant in Stone Oak joined the concert helping to chaperone and usher children to their seats.  The concert concluded with a universal chorus of “This Land is Your Land” improvised by all the musicians bringing the whole production to a spectacular, unified finale!

The following Friday took us back to Laurie where Founder & Artistic Director Anya Grokhovski stated that she and Board Member, Dr. Awilda Ramos had travelled all the way to Spain to find great Flamenco but upon returning to San Antonio were invited to attend a local performance by fellow Board Member, Dr. Richardson Gill. Convinced it was THE BEST Flamenco either one of them had ever seen, EntreFlamenco was invited to the Musical Bridges stage and proved that indeed often we need not look far as treasure is right here among us.  Estafania Ramirez & Antonio Granjero of Spain – spun, stamped and dazzled the crowd. Accompanied by striking visuals of Spanish Art, the spectacle was only enhanced by riveting live music for what was an unforgettable evening!

Saturday night we returned to the campus of Trinity University for Indian Fusion. Sandeep Das from YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble beat the tabla with fury (and a bloody finger!) as Urmi Samadar, having danced for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a child, twirled and swirled in the classical Kathak style of Indian Dance.  Joined by Texas favorite Amie Maciszewski on sitar and later the Grammy-nominated St Petersburg Quartet, the group presented the World Premier of this unique collaboration: Sulvasutra to critical acclaim! Croatian native Zlatan Redzic on double bass from our SA Symphony joined the group as the show stopping, swooning Syrian Clarinetist – Kinan Azmeh took the stage to first present an ode to his home country with “A Sad Morning, Every Morning” and then closing the night with the uplifting original “Wedding!”  A marriage of not just instruments but also cultures, sounds and memories past to those to come.

Between musicians being shuttled from hotels to rehearsals and fed at the Friedman’s, our loyal reviewer – Gregory Isaacson from Dallas overslept and missed his flight, so was fortunate to join us for two concerts instead of one – lucky happenstance!

We closed our festival Sunday afternoon at the historic San Fernando Cathedral. Resounding elegance of The St Petersburg Quartet filled the hallowed air; when Ukrainian Soprano Uliana Alexyuk stepped in front of the altar and opened her mouth, jaws dropped and tears began to flow. The audience was enthralled by her charm and spellbound by her voice – the combination of the two were overwhelming. Regular Musical Bridges attendee, Veronika Jirasek from Prague commented: “I’ve heard music in many of the best European Cathedrals – but never, ever have I attended a performance like this. It was simply breathtaking.” For days afterward we received calls and emails of praise, comments in person of reactions to the entire festival and especially the finale which so beautifully put into perspective our Music Without Borders theme.  The standing room only crowd joined us for a sumptuous Russian Supper catered with love and contributed openly to your generous matching donor campaign for Kids to Concerts!  Having received the final tally from Diana we are ecstatic to report $7,074 in donations to this invaluable cause.

We look forward to seeing you at our Arabian Night, Musical Evening at San Fernando Cathedral on March 30th as we bring back enchanting clarinetist – Kinan Azmeh!