Alexander Shelley, Music Director
The NAC Orchestra is a world class ensemble of outstanding classical musicians from across Canada and around the world, under the inspiring leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley. Since its debut 50 years ago at the opening of Canada’s National Arts Centre, the Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its groundbreaking educational programs, and its leadership in nurturing Canadian creativity.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the NAC, each season has featured world class artists including James Ehnes, Evelyn Glennie, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Stewart Goodyear, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Jan Lisiecki and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds, the Orchestra regular tours throughout Canada and around the world. In 2019, for the first time in its history the Orchestra played on Parliament Hill for the Canada Day noon concert, which was broadcast live on CBC.
The Orchestra has toured widely and regularly throughout its history, across Canada and including China, the US, Mexico, and Israel. In May 2019 it championed Canadian artists and six Canadian composers across Europe, in London, Paris and other major cities, including a live radio relay from Copenhagen which was rebroadcast on CBC and Radio-Canada. An ambitious cross-Canada tour in 2017 marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, presenting concerts and outreach events for thousands of Canadians. The full Orchestra took its multi-media interpretation of the late Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk home to her community in Eskasoni First Nation.
The Orchestra is also dedicated to fostering the next generation of musicians and classical music fans. The NAC Summer Music Institute was founded by Pinchas Zukerman in 1999 and provided advanced training to an elite group of student musicians until 2019, and the Music Alive program brings musical education to children of all abilities and backgrounds in rural and remote communities across Canada. NAC musicians perform for schools and families, in care homes and hospitals, and teach students around the world via videoconferencing through the cutting-edge Hexagon Studio. Partnerships with local and national youth orchestras have seen young musicians enjoying close collaboration with their NAC Orchestra mentors.
Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 80 new works, acting as a catalyst for Canadian musical creation. It experiments to create new modes of bringing great music to audiences, such as the multi-media, immersive Life Reflected (2016), which uses music, live and recorded visuals, and words to tell the stories of four exceptional Canadian women; and Encount3rs (2017), which paired composers with choreographers and their dance companies over the course of two years to create three original one-act ballets.
The NAC Orchestra has recorded many of the 80+ new works commissioned since its inception, for radio and on over 40 commercial releases. These recordings include Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos; the groundbreaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year; and from the 2019 JUNO nominated New Worlds, Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year.
As Principal Guest Conductor of the NAC Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Storgårds is also an acclaimed violin virtuoso and is widely regarded for his creative flair for programming. In addition, he is Artistic Director of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra.
Storgårds’ award-winning discography includes recordings of works by Schumann, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn, as well as rarities by Holmboe and Vask, which feature him as violin soloist. His most recent recording with the BBC Philharmonic comprises works by American avant-garde composer George Antheil.
Highlights of Storgårds’ 2019–2020 season include his return to the BBC Proms with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which includes the world premiere of the NAC co-commission Midnight Sun Variations by Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen, and with whom he will embark on a major European tour this autumn. Following debut appearances last season with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Münchner Philharmoniker, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden as well as his subscription debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he returns to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the St Louis and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, Oslo Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphoniker, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin as well as Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien at the Konzerthaus in Vienna as well as on tour to Asia.Read full NAC bio ›
Yosuke Kawasaki currently serves as Concertmaster of the NAC Orchestra. His versatile musicianship allows him to pursue a career in orchestra, solo and chamber music that spans five continents. He collaborates with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Seiji Ozawa, and has appeared in the world's most prestigious halls such as Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall and The Royal Concertgebouw. Kawasaki plays with Trio Ink and the Arkas String Quartet and is Music Director of the Affinis Music Festival in Japan. He is also an artistic advisor to a chamber music festival in Bulgaria called The Unbeaten Path.Read full NAC bio ›
Described as a “pure chamber musician” (Globe and Mail) creating "moments of pure magic" (Toronto Star), Canadian cellist Rachel Mercer has appeared across five continents. Grand prize winner of the 2001 Vriendenkrans Competition in Amsterdam, she is Principal Cello of the NAC Orchestra, as well as a member of the Mercer-Park Duo, Ensemble Made In Canada and AYR Trio. Rachel is also Artistic Director of the “5 at the First” chamber music series in Hamilton. An advocate for new Canadian music, she has commissioned over 25 works for solo cello and chamber groups.Read full NAC bio ›
Charles “Chip” Hamann was appointed to the principal oboe chair of Canada’s NAC Orchestra in 1993 at age 22. He is also Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa School of Music. Hamann has been guest principal oboe with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Les Violons du Roy. He released an acclaimed solo recording, Canadian Works for Oboe and Piano, with pianist Frédéric Lacroix in 2017. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, he studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Eastman School of Music.Read full NAC bio ›
Christopher Millard joined the NAC Orchestra in 2004, after 29 years with the Vancouver Symphony and the CBC Radio Orchestra. He has just returned from a summer spent at the National Orchestral Institute in Maryland, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and as Principal Bassoon for the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra. A distinguished teacher, Millard’s former students now hold positions in orchestras across North America. This JUNO-winning recording artist is a recognized authority on the acoustics of reed making and a skilled woodwind technician, and he harbours an endless fascination with quantum physics.Read full NAC bio ›
Born in Sandur, Faroe Islands, March 19, 1961
Now living in Sandur and Copenhagen