San Fernando Cathedral in Main Plaza during the 2014 Fiesta San Fernando, April 23, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.

We’ve all – at one time or another – professed the need for connection with someone, the building of a bond that dissembles differences and unites us upon our search for happiness. As long as there have been ears to hear it, and yet well before, music has brought beauty to the world and offered that connection to so many. It is also proven a worthy substitute (and in many cases a replacement) for language as we know it, rendering words useless when the chord is struck and hearts are stilled.  

Harmoniously, the conversation was accentuated with the poignant anecdotes of true barriers broken and hands holding different colored hands.

“America is a melting pot, and San Antonio is a smaller version,” said Anya Grokhovski, artistic director and CEO of Musical Bridges Around the World. “We’re just trying to reach everywhere we can.”

Stories from every continent shone radiance with vibrancy upon the mission of this performing arts 501 (c)3 nonprofit, which aims to unite people one concert at a time by highlighting cultural diversity.

“Muslim women found us and said ‘Anything we can do to help you, tell us, it is done.’ Councilman Nirenberg is offering programs to help African refugees reconnect to their roots through musical and cultural exchange. Hispanic students are witnessing Russian musicians and saying ‘I want to go visit their country,’” Grokhovski said, convinced of the powerful way authentic representation of culture can move people.

Musical Bridges Around the World Artistic Director and CEO Anya Grokhovski
Musical Bridges Around the World Artistic Director and CEO Anya Grokhovski

Currently in their 17th season, Musical Bridges Around the World makes it a point to bring as much music as possible, to as many people as possible. The Kids To Concerts series brings musicians of the highest caliber from across the globe into classrooms that receive the benefit of a music, history, and cultural lesson.

“A majority of the children have not witnessed a culture outside of their own,” Grokhovski said. “It’s great to see the way they interact, and what impressions are left on them.”

Outside of the school yard, the series “Musical Evenings at San Fernando Cathedral: History, Spirt and Music Meet” takes place several times a year, and gives the hoi polloi of San Antonio the opportunity to witness world-class music. The experience is absorbed in one of the Alamo City’s most historic and architecturally-prodigious landmarks in the heart of Main Plaza. (Confession: I had never been inside the cathedral until I discovered a concert there last spring, and I’ve been in San Antonio since 2006.)

According to Grokhovski, these shows really do bring people out from the woods, reaching a totally untapped demographic.

“Those who come out have been left in a state of awe from the combination of beautiful music and beautiful architecture,” Grokhovski said. “The history of the cathedral is brought to life by the music.”

Cellist Nicholas Cannelakis and pianist/composer Michael Brown. Courtesy photo.
Cellist Nicholas Cannelakis and pianist/composer Michael Brown. Courtesy photo.

This Sunday, admirers of classical music, piano, cello, Greece (or all of them together) can share in a feast for their eyes and ears in the cathedral, as cellist Nicholas Cannelakis and pianist/composer Michael Brown join spirits to perform “Strauss & Golden Greece.”

“I met these two at the Chamber Music Conference in New York, and they are fantastic professionals,” Grokhovski said. “Very charming guys and they have their own show on YouTube which makes classical music more accessible to a wider audience.”

The show is a very witty, “Between Two Ferns“-esque skit that pokes fun at classical musicians and their art.

The free, hour-long concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and will feature Sonatas from Strauss and Chopin, as well as folk interpretations of Greek music performed by Canellakis on the cello.

“We want to get away from academics, present high quality products in a way that is easy to comprehend,” Grokhovski said.

The artistic fees for the concerts are sponsored by the Russell Hill Rogers Fund For the Arts, and feature a reception afterwards in the adjoining parlor room with cake and punch. Here is where the audience members that may have come from disparate locations in the city (or the world) speak to the power of what they have just witnessed, and for if only a moment, have the same understanding and speak the same language with the same heartbeat.

“It is our mission to put positive faces on places that are dealing with international crises,” Grokhovski said, referring to countries such as Syria, Russia, and Greece which have all brought musicians to San Antonio through Musical Bridges Around the World. “We want people to see Greece by looking at this young, talented, charismatic player.”

For those who want to get a more intimate look at the musicians and are MBAW members, you can witness the Cannelakis-Brown Duo in a performance Saturday evening at the Roosevelt Library at 7 p.m. there will be a wine reception and cocktail supper preceding the performance.

For a complete list of performances and insight into the powerful miracles MBAW is performing through music within concert halls and classrooms alike, please visit www.musicalbridges.org.

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*Featured/top image: San Fernando Cathedral in Main Plaza during the 2014 Fiesta San Fernando, April 23, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.