Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009 - 2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
Each season, the NAC Orchestra features world-class artists such as the newly appointed Artist-in-Residence James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds. As one of the most accessible, inclusive and collaborative orchestras in the world, the NAC Orchestra uses music as a universal language to communicate the deepest of human emotions and connect people through shared experiences.
From a young age, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser turned to orchestral music to bring light, beauty, and healing to his personal and professional life. He isn't your typical conductor — Daniel has the vision and process to disrupt the traditional ways orchestral music is experienced.
The CBC/Iron Bay Media documentary Disruptor Conductor captures what has been the biggest year of Daniel’s life, resulting in four concerts that include playing in a women's prison; conducting an Afro-fusion concert with an artist from the blockbuster film Black Panther; putting on the first orchestral drag show with “RuPaul's Drag Race” celebrity contestant, Thorgy Thor; and creating a concert for people on the autism spectrum.
Daniel earned his Bachelors in Music Performance and Education from the University of Calgary, and received his Master of Philosophy in Performance from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. He’s been awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Jean-Marie Beaudet Prize for Orchestral Conducting and has served as Assistant Conductor of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and Associate Conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.
Daniel has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Hamilton Philharmonic, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and Eastern Sierra Symphony. The 2019/2020 season is an exciting one for Daniel; he will debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and will serve with the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Centre as Cover Conductor.
Currently holding a coveted position as the Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador at Symphony Nova Scotia, Daniel has recently been appointed to the Board of Orchestras Canada and is the chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility committee.
The young Canadian Bass-Baritone Joel Allison has been praised for his “ beautiful, rich, ringing tone….exceptionally promising.” (Musical Toronto). He has performed throughout Canada with leading ensembles including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Saskatoon Opera, Saskatoon Symphony, National Academy Orchestra, Theatre of Early Music, Talisker Players and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir.
Joel’s operatic roles include “Basilio” in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Saskatoon Opera; “Prince Gremin” in Eugene Onegin with Opera Muskoka; “Antonio” in Le Nozze di Figaro with Boris Brott Music Festival; and the title role in Imeneo by Handel with UofT Opera.
Joel holds a BMus. in vocal performance from the University of Ottawa and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Opera Performance at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of Daniel Taylor. He was the winner of the 2016/17 Jim and Charlotte Norcop prize in Art Song.
Errollyn Wallen (Born in 1958)
Errollyn Wallen—"renaissance woman of contemporary British music" (The Observer)—is as respected as a singer-songwriter of pop-influenced songs as she is a composer of contemporary new music. The motto of Errollyn’s Ensemble X, “we don’t break down barriers in music… we don’t see any”, reflects her genuine, free-spirited approach. Commissions have ranged from the BBC to the Royal Opera House, for BBC’s The Last Night of the Proms (2020), the London Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Ballet, and, most recently, the pop band, Clean Bandit. Her new EP Peace on Earth has just been released by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Errollyn has won numerous awards for her music including the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music. In 2007 she was awarded an MBE and in 2020 awarded a CBE, both for services to music.
Julia Perry (1924–1979)
Julia Amanda Perry was an American composer, conductor, and teacher. She achieved acclaim for works that blended 20th-century European techniques with the music idioms of her Black American heritage. Her compositions include three operas, 14 choral works, 12 symphonies, many vocal works, and several chamber works for eclectic instrumental combinations.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky on March 25, 1924, Perry grew up in Akron, Ohio, playing violin and piano. She went on to study piano, voice, and composition at Westminster Choir College, where she earned her bachelor and master of music degrees, and received conducting training at The Juilliard School. Her works from this period are mostly songs and choral music, which are heavily influenced by spirituals. Some short pieces incorporate aspects of the blues.
Perry also spent summers at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, where in 1951, she studied composition with Luigi Dallapiccola. The following year, she received a Guggenheim fellowship to continue studies with him in Florence, Italy; another Guggenheim fellowship in 1954 enabled her to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, France. While in Europe, Perry developed an abstract style of which dissonant harmonies, shifting rhythms, and contrapuntal textures are prominent characteristics. She also became active as a conductor.
In 1959, Perry returned to the United States. During the 1960s, her works were performed by the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras to critical acclaim. She received numerous awards and accolades, including a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1964. In response to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Perry sought to reference Black American musical idioms more explicitly in her compositions. Works like A Suite Symphony (1976), for example, draw on rock and roll and rhythm and blues.
In 1971, Perry suffered the first of several strokes that left her paralyzed on the right side. Undaunted, she taught herself how to write with her left hand. She continued composing until her death, at age 55, on April 24, 1979, in Akron, Ohio.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
Arguably the most important English composer of his generation, Ralph Vaughan Williams was a key figure in 20th-century British music. He wrote music encompassing a huge range of genres, from works for stage, orchestra, band, choir, and chamber ensembles, to folk song arrangements, hymn tunes, carols, and songs, to scores for theatre, films, and radio. His works are characterized by a distinctive and emotionally powerful style that combines a reinvention and extension (rather than rejection) of developments in form and harmony in 19th century European art music with melodic writing shaped by the English folksong idiom. Beyond composition, he took on many roles during his life and career, including as conductor, teacher, and writer—fields in which his presence was deeply influential.
Born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire on October 12, 1872, Vaughan Williams learned to play violin (later switching to viola), piano, and organ from a young age. He went on to study music at the Royal College of Music (RCM) and at Trinity College, Cambridge, including composition with Hubert Parry, Charles Wood, and Charles Villiers Stanford, as well as with Max Bruch in Berlin (1897), and with Maurice Ravel in Paris (1908). He had long desired to be a composer but his progress was slow and arduous, inhibited, not least, by unsupportive mentors and teachers. Eventually, he found his personal voice, emerging fully in what became one of his masterpieces: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) for double string orchestra. By this point, he was also a leading activist in the collection of English folksong, and had established the Leith Hill Musical Festival, where he was principal conductor from 1905 to 1953.
After serving in WWI, Vaughan Williams’s musical career resumed, and during the interwar years, he rose to prominence as a teacher (he joined the RCM’s staff), and was in demand as a composer-conductor. His compositions from this period also reflected a renewed vigour in their quality and sheer variety, with simple songs completed alongside important large-scale works for the stage and symphonies for orchestra. Alongside this work, his activities as educator, music activist, and arts administrator also continued, through WWII and afterwards. He died in London on August 26, 1958, revered and beloved by English music-lovers.
Sri Lankan-born Dinuk Wijeratne is a JUNO, ECMA and SOCAN award-winning composer/conductor/pianist described as “exuberantly creative” (New York Times) and as “an artist who reflects a positive vision of our cultural future” (Toronto Star). He is a lively disrupter who crosses traditionally held musical boundaries, equally at home with symphony orchestras and string quartets, Tabla players and DJs. He has worked in international venues as poles apart as the Berlin Philharmonie and Amsterdam’s North Sea Jazz Festival.
Dinuk has twice performed in Carnegie Hall with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and alongside tabla legend Zakir Hussain. Dinuk has also appeared at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Bastille, The Lincoln Center, Teatro Colón, and in venues in Sri Lanka, Japan, and the Middle East. He was featured as a main character in What Would Beethoven Do? – the documentary about innovation in classical music featuring Eric Whitacre, Bobby McFerrin, and Ben Zander. Dinuk has composed specially for almost all of the artists and ensembles with whom he has performed, to name a few: Suzie LeBlanc, Kinan Azmeh, David Jalbert, Sandeep Das, Ramesh Misra, Ed Hanley, Eric Vloeimans, Buck 65, the Gryphon Trio, the Apollo Saxophone Quartet, the Afiara and Cecilia String Quartets, and the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Nova Scotia, Buffalo, and KwaZulu Natal (South Africa).
Dinuk grew up in Dubai and then studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music (U.K.). He subsequently joined the Juilliard studio of Oscar-winner composer John Corigliano. Conducting studies followed at Mannes College under David Hayes, and doctoral studies with composer Christos Hatzis at the University of Toronto.
He is the recipient of the Canada Council Jean-Marie Beaudet award for orchestral conducting; the NS Established Artist Award; NS Masterworks nominations for his Tabla Concerto and piano trio Love Triangle; double Merritt Award nominations; Juilliard, Mannes & Countess of Munster scholarships; the Sema Jazz Improvisation Prize; the Soroptimist International Award for Composer-Conductors; and the Sir John Manduell Prize – the RNCM’s highest student honor. His music and collaborative work embrace the great diversity of his international background and influences.