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This year’s Gesher Music Festival bridges divides over immigration using chamber music

J Freivogel, Sara Sitzer and Dana Hotle discussed the Gesher Festival on "St. Louis on the Air."
Mary Edwards | St. Louis Public Radio
J Freivogel, Sara Sitzer and Dana Hotle discussed the Gesher Festival on "St. Louis on the Air."

In Hebrew, the word “gesher” means bridge. The theme of this year’s Gesher Music Festival, which runs through Aug. 21, is taking that title to heart by bridging divides over immigration using chamber music.

This is the festival’s sixth year and features a variety of events, including three main concerts around St. Louis all around the theme “American Dreams.”

“It is really relevant to the conversation worldwide about immigration right now,” said Dana Hotle, a clarinetist and director for the festival. “Through these three concerts, we’re going to tell this story that’s America’s story of people being displaced or people by choice moving and what happens to them and the place they have. And, the effect they have as artists and the effect they have on their new home. It is stories of failure, success, loss, love and incredible risk-taking. We can all get something out of these stories.”

Hotle was joined by violinist J Freivogel and cellist Sara Sitzer, who also serves as the festival’s artistic director, on St. Louis on the Air with contributor Steve Potter to discuss the festival.

The festival features music from composers and musicians around the country, who all have some connection with Judaism.

“My passion is chamber music and, specifically about chamber music is the ability that chamber music gives you to communicate with people,” Freivogel said. “That can happen in the concert, with your fellow musicians or brining the music out into the community.”

The festival features three distinct concerts in three different venues. The first, which will be held at the Missouri History Museum next Thursday is called “Route 66 Mixtape” and features music that contributed to the American sociopolitical landscape. It is a free concert.

The next concert, held on Aug. 20 at the 560 Music Center, will tell the story of immigrants coming to America. On Sunday, the festival will close with a concert at the Jewish Community Center titled “The Great (Jewish) American Songbook,” which will feature the work of composers you know — like Gershwin, Kern and Bernstein — with their more serious works displayed alongside the famous, fun songs you know them for.

“There’s just so much that you could do, there’s enough for several more festivals but I’m excited for these themes of immigration, of Americana,” Sitzer said.  “It’s music people will absolutely recognize and music they probably won’t have heard before but will absolutely love.”

Related Events

What: Gesher Festival Presents "The Route 66 Mixtape"
When: Thursday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Boulevard St. Louis, MO, 63112
More information.

What: Gesher Festival Presents "Welcome to America"
When: Saturday, August 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Avenue University City, MO
More information.

What: Gesher Festival Presents "The Great (Jewish) American Songbook"
When: Sunday, August 21 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: The Wool Studio Theater, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63146
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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