Brave Hearts Keep Beat To The Music – Come Experience A Celebration Of Human Courage & Inspiration

Niagara, Ontario’s Momentum Choir In Concert May 15 and May 18, 2016

By Joanne McDonald

Posted May 1s, 2016 on Niagara At Large

It’s a brave heart that will carry the beat of every song when Momentum Choir singers take the stage to share their talent and the courage to make a positive difference during two year-end concerts, May 15 and May 18 at Bethany Community Church in St. Catharines.

Kristen Smeets - a powerful profile of bravery

Kristen Smeets – a powerful profile of bravery

This year’s theme, ‘Be Brave’ marks the choir’s ninth-season finale for Momentum – both the mantra for the choir’s 50 singers who live with disabilities and the magic they bring to audiences who pack concert halls every time they sing.

Executive and Artistic Director Mendelt Hoekstra talks about real fortitude. “The audience will witness musicians with Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Learning Disabilities and Cerebral Palsy who are proving that being brave is something that they live with every day. It isn’t easy to perform well. Audience members will tangibly feel what being brave means for those who live with a disability.”

For two-year choir member and brave soul Kristin Smeets of St. Catharines, it was a long journey through complications that followed surgery to mend a heart condition. And while a surgeon healed her physically, Smeets says it was Momentum Choir that brought her heart back to life.

It was during a Momentum concert she attended at St. John Church in Thorold, and a song of courage and strength performed by Jacklyn Wall that she found real inspiration. Wall sings the Fight Song by Rachel Platten and will also take the lead on Born this Way by Lady Gaga. “I wanted to be part of this.”

Niagara, Ontario's Momentum Choir in concert. File photo

Niagara, Ontario’s Momentum Choir in concert. File photo

Two years and a couple of her own Christmas concert solos later, Smeets said she has really started to believe in herself.

“I feel like I can talk to Mendelt about my singing,” says Smeets. “It feels like he has faith in me, like I can do anything I put my heart to.” Often she was nervous to talk to people because she didn’t know how they would react to her. “I don’t feel like I have a disability when I’m here. I feel accepted and I’m not judged.”

Kristen’s mother Debbie Smeets has watched her daughter gain new confidence. “She was really brave through the whole experience of the surgery, but now she also has her positive spirit back and has less fear for the future.”

Hoekstra says he is personally and permanently impacted by the brave-hearted singers in Momentum. “Trust, hope, courage and strength are equal to everyone, we can all take part in that.”

Wrapping up a successful season – the Year in the Life concert last fall drew a crowd of almost 900 – Momentum is looking forward to its 10th anniversary. “We have six new members this year including Nathan Dobson who plays a full drum kit,” said Hoekstra. Performances over the past year have opened all kinds of new doors to provide personal growth for the members and Hoekstra is thrilled that Momentum Western New York “our brandchise” started their first season.

Rehearsals are in full swing for the two upcoming concerts and promise a high energy, inspirational, moving and entertaining show filled with hit songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and the theme song for the concert, Brave by Sara Bareilles.  The concert will feature brass instruments from local professional musicians as well as an opening from Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School student Afina Ahyia.

Hoekstra has continued to blaze the path, nurturing the musicians who live with disability since the vision was first established in 2007. He has been nominated for a prestigious 2016 City of St. Catharines Arts Awards and the winners will be announced later this month.

“Many people have told me that to witness Momentum is to witness the joy of humanity that propels them to be better people.  It’s a glorious thing.”

Concert dates are Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m. and Wednesday, May 18 at 7 p.m. at Bethany Community Church, 1388 Third Street, St. Catharines.

Tickets are available at the door of the church or online at  The cost is $10 per adult; $7 per supported individual; kids 12 and under free. For more information contact

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