Funeral for Canadian conductor Boris Brott celebrates a ‘beautiful creative life’

A string ensemble plays for those gathered to mourn the loss of Boris Brott, who was killed in a hit-and-run last week. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

“How could this have happened?”

Those were the final words of Denis Brott’s eulogy for his brother, renowned conductor Boris Brott, as he bowed his head in grief.

Hundreds of people attended Brott’s funeral at the Temple Anshe Sholom on Sunday, while countless more watched a live stream of the event celebrating Brott’s life.

Brott died last Tuesday after he was hit by a vehicle in Hamilton’s Durand neighbourhood. He was 78.

Denis called his brother’s death “senseless” and “beyond belief”.

“Everyone that knew Boris or was touched by him is in a state of shock — incredulous at this sudden loss,” he said. “None more so than we, his family.”

“In an awful instant, this beautiful creative life was taken before his time.”

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An ensemble of strings, including Denis on cello, began the service with “Adagio For Strings” by Samuel Barber.

Among the others delivering eulogies and sharing memories of Brott was Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger, journalist Steve Paikin, and Taras Kulish, executive director of the Orchestre Classique de Montréal (OCM), where Brott served as conductor and artistic director.

Eisenberger spoke of the impact Brott had on the people of Hamilton, saying he leaves behind a legacy of musical excellence and a void in Hamilton that will be difficult to fill.

Kulish joked that he was Brott’s “other wife” and reminisced about the decade he spent working closely alongside Brott at the OCM.

Despite his age, Kulish said, the 78-year-old never stopped innovating and creating.

“I would sometimes say to Boris, ‘Aren’t you thinking of retiring at some point?’ He would look at me as if I was from Mars, and say, ‘And do what?’ So of course I laughed because I knew immediately that he had no intent of slowing down at any point. He was truly a kid at heart with a never-ending source of energy.”

Brott leaves behind his wife Ardyth and his children Alexandra, David, and Benjamin, as well as grandchildren Isabella, Jonah, Everett, and Remi.

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Read more: Reaction, tributes for famed conductor Boris Brott roll in after tragic death in Hamilton

David delivered remarks on behalf of the family, saying he’s been trying to find ways to be close to his father since he died.

“Wearing his clothes, hanging out in his office, cracking terrible jokes. Music helps. A lot.”

He spoke of his father’s impact on people, and how he brought people together with music.

“He physically got people out of the house and into the concert hall, to feel the sacred intangible vibrations and vivid nuances of a shared musical experience.”

Brott died in hospital on Tuesday after suffering life-threatening injuries during a hit and run in the area of Park Street South and Markland Street.

The driver, a 33-year-old man, is facing charges of failing to stop at an accident causing death, and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.

The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the interaction between Hamilton police and the driver, which ended in his arrest on the mountain on Elmwood Avenue near Garth Street.

Read more: Music icon Boris Brott killed in Hamilton hit-and-run under investigation by police, SIU

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Since his brother’s death, Denis said he’s been waking up in the night with the image of Edvard Munch’s The Scream in his head.

“You see the pain, but you hear nothing. That is how I feel.”

He recalled Brott’s predilection for wearing bowties that began at the age of four when their mother set up his teddy bears in the living room as the audience for his first-ever concert — each teddy bear wearing a different colour bowtie.

“Boris was an unstoppable force, a geyser, a tidal wave, a well from which water never ran dry. He was inexorable. He passionately believed in his mission and the power of music to change us all for the better and nothing would stop him in his quest.”

The service ended with another performance from the string ensemble, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. It sparked a round of applause from those in attendance.

Brott will be buried in Montreal, where he grew up, at a later date.

His family is asking anyone who wishes to make a donation in his memory to contribute to the Brott Music Festival.

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