Dreams of Hope has its national premiere at Birmingham’s Alabama Theatre Feb. 6, 7PM—why it matters.

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Lutier Amnon Weinstein
Violin-maker Amnon Weinstein at work. Photo via Amnon Weinstein’s Facebook page

UAB Medicine and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham are hosting the national premiere screening of Dreams of Hope: Birmingham’s Historic 16th Street Baptist Church Welcomes Violins of Hope. The show is Thursday, February 6, 2020 at the Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham. Put your name on the waitlist here.

1. This is the national premiere of a documentary that will be available on PBS across the country throughout February.

The documentary is called Dreams of Hope: Birmingham’s Historic 16th Street Baptist Church Welcomes Violins of Hope, and weaves together threads from the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Era with the power of music to bring people together.

2. The film was made by two Birmingham-based African-American men.

David L. Macon, Director and Creative Producer at Day 22 Films, LLC. Photo supplied

Anyone who’s been paying attention should know by now that Birmingham is a city brimming with lots of talent. And every day, we here at Bham Now learn about even more talent in this city.

David L. Macon is the writer and co-director. Dr. Henry Panion, III, is co-director and producer. Both are based here in Birmingham.

If their names sound familiar, here’s why:

David L. Macon is Director and Creative Producer at Day 22 Films, where he specializes in “creating impactful and emotionally charged video content that is both sonically and visually beautiful.”

Dr. Panion is a Professor of Music at UAB whose long list of accomplishments includes conducting and arranging for Stevie Wonder. He’s also worked with India Arie, Aretha Franklin, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and American Idol winners Carrie Underwood and Ruben Studdard. He’s won loads of awards (Grammys and others), and he’s in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. This is a very. partial. list, y’all.

Here’s what Dr. Panion has to say about the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Violins of Hope:

“The story of these violins and the Jewish people is of survival, hope, and triumph, one that so parallels the story of the 16th Street Baptist Church and its people. Having suffered the worst fate imaginable, the church and these violins have been beautifully restored and are now magnificent relics for all to behold.”

Dr. Henry Panion III, PhD. Photo courtesy of UAB

3. It features both the story of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and Israeli violin-maker Amnon Weinstein, founder of Violins of Hope.

More than 50 years after the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church killed four African-American girls, there was a historic performance at the church.

Thanks to Violins of Hope, lovingly restored violins from the Holocaust featured in the performance, symbolizing “resilience in the face of hate, discrimination and racism.”

Dreams of Hope: the story

“Dreams of Hope is a documentary-concert celebrating the power of music, with a captivating storyline written by filmmaker David L. Macon.

Centered around Birmingham’s historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the city welcomes world-renowned Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein, founder of Violins of Hope, and his family.

With acclaimed composer, arranger and conductor Dr. Henry Panion, III & Orchestra, Birmingham native Caitlin Edwards returns home to perform the world premiere of Dreams of Hope for Solo Violin & Orchestra on the Auschwitz Violin (circa, 1850), one of the many violins discovered and restored by Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshi from the infamous concentration camps of the Holocaust.

Also featured in this concert-documentary are performances by vocalists Valerie Smith and Lenora Goodman-Panion, Dancer Kelsey Ebersold, and the Miles College Choir.”

16th Street Baptist Church
16th Street Baptist Church. Photo via Kara Kennedy

4. Caitlin Edwards, who began with Birmingham’s Music Opportunities Program, plays “the Auschwitz violin” in the documentary-concert.

The ultra-talented Caitlin Edwards makes an appearance in the film, playing “the Auschwitz violin.” The film includes concert footage from a concert at 16th Street Baptist Church that took place April 11, 2018, along with a number of interviews, including the following:

  • Richard Arrington, Jr., Birmingham’s first African-American Mayor of Birmingham.
  • Jeffrey and Gail Bayer, Co-chairs of Violins of Hope Birmingham.
  • Chris Hamlin, former Pastor of 16th Street Baptist.
  • Amnon and Assi Weinstein.
  • Dr. Henry Panion, III.
  • Sallie Downs, who spearheaded the initiative to bring Violins of Hope to Birmingham.

5. The event at 16th Street Baptist Church brought people together across all their differences through the power of music.

Concert footage in the film features the premiere of “Dreams of Hope for Solo Violin & Orchestra” by composer and conductor Henry Panion, III, commissioned especially for the April 2018 concert at 16th Street Baptist Church.

Other performers included the following:

  • Dreams of Hope Orchestra.
  • Vocalists Valerie Smith and Lenora Goodman-Panion.
  • Dancer Kelsey Ebersold
  • The Miles College Choir.

So many people from all walks of life came together in Birmingham to experience the healing and unifying power of music. And now the rest of us get to experience this through the concert documentary.

6. There’s a waitlist for the Feb. 6 event.

Tickets may be free, but they’re long gone at this point. So, if you want a shot at being in the room where it happens, get your name on the waitlist ASAP. Once all ticket holders have been seated, they will begin to seat people on the waitlist. There’s still a chance.

When: February 6, 7-9PM
Where: The Alabama Theatre

7. Catch Dreams of Hope on PBS this month in most major media markets.

Dreams of Hope
If you miss Thursday’s performance at the Alabama Theatre, you can still see the film on APT. Photo via Alabama Public Television

Dreams of Hope will air on public television stations nationwide in February 2020.

In Birmingham, you’ll be able to see it February 13 at 8PM and February 23 at midnight.

Now tell us, Birmingham, were you at the Violins of Hope Concert? Will you be watching Dreams of Hope, either at The Alabama Theatre or on APT? Tag us on social @bhamnow and let us know!

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Sharron Swain
Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference
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