Pioneering People is a bi-annual program celebrating pioneering artists across a range of disciplines, and includes a benefit performance. This year’s concert by Rufus Wainwright was sold out completely and was a great success, drawing more than 600 community members to our big old factory by the river!

The event began with a conversation between longtime friends Wainwright and Basilica Hudson Director and Co-Founder, musician Melissa Auf der Maur, who grew up together in the vibrant culture of Montreal. As Montrealers living in the US, both dual citizens who have made their careers in America, they share a strong connection to their home city and to the national values that make the arts an integral part of the social fabric of Canada, well supported by the government and the general public. Two weeks out from the US presidential election, these two artists pondered the existential question of what role the arts can and should play in these turbulent times.  

The conversation acted as a backdrop for the evening, advancing the organization’s mission and vision while setting the stage for an epic grand piano performance by Wainwright in our industrial church. Embodying the kind of free and fearless artistic path that Basilica Hudson strives to support, Wainwright’s singular musical gift is symbolic of the organization’s dedication to present an always-vibrant roster of art and community programs.  

Wainwright’s performance took the crowd back to his roots of raw, intimate performances in Montreal’s dark piano bars decades ago, a monumental period of creative freedom when Wainwright and Auf der Maur found themselves and their voices in music, propelling them into a lifetime of friendship and commitment to the performing arts.

The performance provided the audience with a stark juxtaposition to Wainwright’s recent extravagant performances of Judy Garland with full orchestra, and touring with his Prima Donna opera, as well as his newest album Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets

This event marked a turning point for the organization, the culmination of six years of effort towards building a sustainable nonprofit arts and community event space. Basilica Hudson successfully achieved formal 501(c)(3) non-profit status this fall, based on a dynamic roster of programs established since its founding in 2010. The Pioneering People benefits are the organization’s most important annual fundraising activity. Proceeds from the event help the organization to build sustainability for the long term, ensuring Basilica Hudson can continue to experiment, explore and reach further, and to always serve as an important local, regional and national platform for artistic expression, freedom and exploration.