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Music for all Concerts and classes fill Niagara region's July schedule

The Niagara region is alive with the sound of chamber music.

At Niagara University, the BRAVO Chamber Music Workshop is presenting a series of concerts and master classes featuring world-renowned artists and open to the public.

And Tuesday marks the start of the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival. This creatively conceived set of concerts takes place in picturesque churches, wineries and public spaces in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Here's a look at what to expect.

>BRAVO Workshop

BRAVO is the creation of Roman Mekinulov, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's principal cellist, and pianist and music educator Mary Handley.

Two years ago, they had the idea to welcome high-school and college-age string players to the beautiful campus of Niagara University for an intensive week of chamber music instruction. The workshop was such a success that now it has grown to include almost 40 students from all over the country, as well as a wide variety of faculty.

This year's distinguished guests include BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta, Concertmaster Michael Ludwig and Principal Violinist Antoine Lefebvre, as well as violinist Atis Bankas and cellist Igor Gefter, both from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Mekinulov and Handley are also thrilled to welcome the world-renowned St. Petersburg String Quartet and also Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint. A favorite at BPO concerts, Quint plays a Stradivarius lent to him by Clement and Karen Arrison of Buffalo.

The public is welcome at BRAVO concerts. Tickets are available at the door, and the suggested donation is $10. Recitals include Q&A sessions, which Mekinulov says can be fascinating.

"The kids ask smart questions," he said. "They ask, what if there's a conflict in the group? How do you choose repertoire?"

Unless noted, events are in Dunleavy Amphitheatre on the NU campus:

* 7:30 p.m. Monday: Faculty Recital, with violinists Ansgarius Aylward and Jacqueline Galluzzo; BPO Principal Violist Valerie Heywood; and Mekinulov

* 7:30 p.m. Tuesday: St. Petersburg Quartet Recital

* 7:30 p.m. Wednesday: Participants Recital

* 6:30 p.m. July 28: BRAVO Workshop Chamber Ensembles Recital at Artpark, preceding the BPO's Summerfest concert. (Call 885-5000.)

* 2 p.m. July 29: BRAVO Participants Final Recital

For info on BRAVO events and sponsorship opportunities, call 834-2266.

>Niagara International Chamber Music Festival

Headed by violinist Atis Bankas, who is also part of BRAVO, the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival is welcoming over 90 musicians, singers, dancers and actors this summer to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Forty-five concerts will be held at eight different venues.

One guest artist of note is veteran Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti. Concert categories include Music at Historic Churches, Music and Wine, Behind the Scenes of Music and Niagara Pocket Opera, offering a creatively adapted version of "Madama Butterfly."

The festival ends Aug. 15.

For info, check out the Web site www.niagaramusicfest.com, or call (905) 468-5566.

Here are some July events.

* 7:30 p.m. Monday: At St. Mark's Anglican Church, 41 Byron St., an opening gala features music by contemporary composers and by Mendelssohn.

* 7:30 p.m. Wednesday: At St. Mark's, a Beethoven Evening features pianist Shoko Inoue, cellist Elspeth Poole and Bankas. $25.

* 7:30 p.m. Thursday: In the Loyalist Room of the Queen's Landing Hotel, music by Raykhelson and Piazzolla. $25.

* 7:30 p.m. next Friday: At the Pumphouse Visual Arts Center, 247 Ricardo St., Pocket Opera's "Madame Butterfly." $25.

* 7:30 p.m. July 28: At St. Mark's Anglican Church, Anton Kuerti plays Mozart, Beethoven, Czerny and Chopin. $25.

* 10:15 p.m. July 28: At the Epicurean Restaurant, 84 Queen St., John Sherwood, Dave Young play jazz. $10.

* 10:15 a.m. July 29: At the Market Room at the Court House, Mozart opera arias. $15.

* 2 p.m. July 29: At the Market Room at the Court House, Pocket Opera's "Madame Butterfly." $25.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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