Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts has just announced a new matching campaign in an effort to raise up to $40,000.
It’s the latest philanthropic donation from local residents Carol and David Appel, who have promised to match in full up to $20,000 in donations from the community at large in support of the Niagara-on-the-Lake based organization.
“We are absolutely awed by the brilliant programming of Bravo Niagara!” said the Appels in a statement, “and we are committed to helping make it happen.”
Through the matching campaign, the Appels are carrying on a tradition for which their family has long been known, and through which organizations across the country have benefited. When it comes to the arts in Niagara, you would be hard-pressed to find an organization that the Appel family hasn’t supported.
Locally, Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara Symphony Orchestra and Music Niagara Festival are some of the groups whose programs have benefited from the Appels’ largesse. A quick glance at each organization’s website will unveil the Appel name in no time at all. And a Google search will also reveal hospitals and organizations such as the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, which have been recipients of gifts from the family.
The love of and support for the arts is something the Appel children, David and Mark, certainly learned from their parents.
The estate of parents, Bram and Bluma Appel, is still an important contributor to the Shaw Festival’s endowment fund. Shortly before losing her battle with lung cancer in 2007, Bluma Appel received an honorary doctorate from Brock University for her dedication and contribution to the arts in Canada as a volunteer, board member, fundraiser and philanthropist. She was also named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, and the Canadian Stage Company’s main theatre in Toronto bears her name. In 2006, she and her husband contributed $50,000 toward the restoration of a barn at the School of Restoration Arts at Willowbank.
Over the years, Carol and David have contributed more than $750,000 to the Shaw. David’s brother Mark and his wife Gail have also been significant donors to the theatre.
Alexis Spieldenner, executive director and co-founder of Bravo Niagara!, says, “we are honoured to have the generous support of Carol and David Appel. Their incredible philanthropic commitment will help make it possible for us to present exciting new initiatives for our 2020/21 season.”
With the pandemic still hindering the ability of such organizations to bring larger groups of people together to enjoy the arts, Bravo Niagara! has had to shift to online programming through its new Amplified series. In May, past Bravo Niagara! performers, as well as newcomers, teamed with children’s choirs from Chorus Niagara, Laura Secord Secondary School and Fern Hill School in Oakville, to present a new version of the classic song, We Are the World. The video has since been viewed almost 5,000 times on YouTube.
And the Amplified series grows this month with a series of online presentations for the annual Voices of Freedom Festival.
“This fall we are committed to creating inspiring and compelling legacy projects through our virtual recordings and musical short films,” says Christine Mori, artistic director and co-founder. “The series includes three world premieres of newly commissioned works by Bravo Niagara!”
The first entry is a musical short film highlighting the legacy of the Underground Railroad in Niagara, to debut later this month. Featured artists include superstar soprano Measha Brueggergosman and the JUNO Award-nominated Blackburn Brothers, descendants of freedom seekers. Shot at such significant Niagara sites as the BME Church in St. Catharines, the Nathaniel Dett Chapel in Niagara Falls, and the Voices of Freedom Park in NOTL, it will feature the songs Freedom Train, and Sister Wilma, an original composition commissioned by Bravo Niagara! to honour the late Wilma Morrison, known as the keeper of Black history in the region.
The overall theme of this year’s Voices of Freedom Festival is Sounds of Hope, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. The two musical films to debut in November follow this focus. Written by Juno-winner Robi Botos, Romani Experience focuses on the history of the Roma genocide during the Holocaust. And Bravo Niagara! composer-in-residence Christos Hatzis presents a stirring new composition for violin and piano called Menorah, performed by Marc Djokic and Christina Petrowska Quilico. All three videos will debut via the Bravo Niagara! website and YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, Mori and Spieldenner encourage supporters of the festival to consider a donation this fall, especially in light of the Appels’ matching promise, which winds up Dec. 31. All donations $25 and above will be recognized with an official tax receipt. To make a contribution, please visit bravoniagara.org/match2020.