Two Orchestras, One Symphony (Québec City)

2024 Tour: NAC Orchestra & Orchestre symphonique de Québec

2024-02-28 20:00 2024-02-28 23:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Two Orchestras, One Symphony (Québec City)

In-person event

The National Arts Centre Orchestra joins forces with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (OSQ), the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and sensational guest pianist Kevin Chen for this exciting multi-city tour. Canadian composer Jacques Hétu’s Symphony No. 5 was his last work and “a hymn to liberty” ( It portrays Nazi-occupied Paris and concludes with a choral setting (a musical piece based on a poem or story)...

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Grand Théâtre de Québec
Wed, February 28, 2024

Last updated: February 26, 2024

A Note from the President and CEO, National Arts Centre 

The past few years have been challenging for the performing arts worldwide. At the National Arts Centre (NAC), we aim to revitalize our sector by working with outstanding partners from across the country. As part of that vision, we are dedicated to partnering with Francophone artists and arts organizations to support the expression of Francophone culture. 

In February and March 2024, the NAC Orchestra, led by Music Director Alexander Shelley, is honoured to be collaborating with two exceptional arts organizations—the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Together they are joining forces to offer superb performances to audiences at le Grand Théâtre de Québec (Quebec City), the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and Roy Thomson Hall (Toronto). At the heart of the program is Symphony No. 5 by the internationally renowned Quebec composer Jacques Hétu—his final work and one of his most significant achievements.

Canadian artistry is at the heart of this tour. In addition to the exceptional orchestral musicians and choristers on the stage, the brilliant Canadian pianist Kevin Chen is making his debut with the NAC Orchestra and OSQ. 

Beyond performances in every city, learning and engagement activities, in partnership with the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique and with the Faculty of Music at Université Laval, will allow artists to engage with young artists. Finally, the music on this tour will be recorded, enabling audiences everywhere to experience the performances. 

On behalf of the National Arts Centre, we thank all our partners on this wonderful collaboration. Most of all, we thank you, our audiences, for joining us to celebrate Canada’s extraordinary classical music artists, and for supporting music in your community. 

Enjoy the concert.

A Note from the President and CEO, Orchestre symphonique de Québec

Two Orchestras, One Symphony is a phenomenal project resulting from our collaboration with National Arts Centre Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley during the pandemic, when he led the Orchestre symphonique de Québec three times as a guest conductor. Over the course of our meetings, Alexander made an exciting suggestion: why not have the two capital city orchestras join forces to perform the fifth symphony of the late Quebec composer Jacques Hétu? Alexander saw this historic encounter as a way to promote the musical heritage of Quebec and Canada. Befittingly, the concert will open with a moving piece by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy. Also featured to showcase our unique cultural strengths will be young pianist Kevin Chen and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Our shared goal is to hold a series of concerts all across Canada that will further strengthen the musical bonds that unite us.

Astrid Chouinard                                                                             
President and CEO, Orchestre symphonique de Québec

A Note from the Music Director, NAC Orchestra

I have long been beguiled by the almost tectonic power of the meeting of cultures in this country. It is a force of great energy that seems to invigorate and stimulate the artistic, linguistic, and political soul. This meeting of cultures—the inspiration and friction, the finding of common ground and recognition of differences—adds to the great tapestry that is Canada. And this project celebrates by doing: we conjoin the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and welcome the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to perform a masterpiece by one of the greats of Canada’s recent past, Jacques Hétu. His Fifth Symphony renders in its opening movements musical paintings of Paris before, during, and after the Nazi invasion, while the Finale unites chorus and orchestra, intoning Paul Éluard’s poem “Liberté”. The first-half celebration of two of today’s most exciting Canadian musicians—Kelly-Marie Murphy and Kevin Chen—underscores the vibrancy and health of musical life in this country. Bringing all of these musicians, these great institutions, and immense talents together will mean doing more of what orchestras do best: listening, empathizing, understanding, communicating, leading, following, and inspiring. Each individual giving their all for the service of the whole. A microcosm of culture and society in action.


KELLY-MARIE MURPHY Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe* (9 min)

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 22 (23 min)

I. Andante sostenuto
II. Allegro scherzando
III. Presto

Kevin Chen, piano


JACQUES HÉTU Symphony No. 5, Op. 81** (40 min)

I. Prologue: Allegretto
II. L’Invasion (The Invasion): Vivace
III. L’Occupation (The Occupation): Adagio
IV. Liberté (Liberty): Andante

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

*NAC Orchestra commission
**Toronto Symphony Orchestra commission

Text and Translation for Hétu’s Symphony No. 5

 Texte de Liberté par Paul Éluard

Sur mes cahiers d’écoliers
Sur mon pupitre et les arbres
Sur le sable sur la neige
J’écris ton nom 

Sur toutes les pages lues
Sur toutes les pages blanches
Pierre sang papier ou cendre
J’écris ton nom

Sur les images dorées
Sur les armes des guerriers
Sur la couronne des rois
J’écris ton nom

Sur la jungle et le désert
Sur les nids sur les genêts
Sur l’écho de mon enfance
J’écris ton nom

Sur les merveilles des nuits
Sur le pain blanc des journées
Sur les saisons fiancées
J’écris ton nom 

Sur les champs sur l’horizon
Sur les ailes des oiseaux
Et sur le moulin des ombres
J’écris ton nom

Sur chaque bouffée d’aurore
Sur la mer sur les bateaux
Sur la montagne démente
J’écris ton nom

Sur la mousse des nuages
Sur les sueurs de l’orage
Sur la pluie épaisse et fade
J’écris ton nom

Sur les formes scintillantes
Sur les cloches des couleurs
Sur la vérité physique
J’écris ton nom

Sur les sentiers éveillés
Sur les routes déployées
Sur les places qui débordent
J’écris ton nom

Sur la lampe qui s’allume
Sur la lampe qui s’éteint
Sur mes maisons réunies
J’écris ton nom

Sur le fruit coupé en deux
Du miroir et de ma chambre
Sur mon lit coquille vide
J’écris ton nom 

Sur le tremplin de ma porte
Sur les objets familiers
Sur le flot du feu béni
J’écris ton nom 

Sur toute chair accordée
Sur le front de mes amis
Sur chaque main qui se tend
J’écris ton nom

Sur la vitre des surprises
Sur les lèvres attentives
Bien au dessus du silence
J’écris ton nom

Sur mes refuges détruits
Sur mes phares écroulés
Sur les murs de mon ennui
J’écris ton nom

Sur l’absence sans désir
Sur la solitude nue
Sur les marches de la mort
J’écris ton nom

Sur la santé revenue
Sur le risque disparu
Sur l’espoir sans souvenir
J’écris ton nom

Et par le pouvoir d’un mot
Je recommence ma vie
Je suis né pour te connaître
Pour te nommer


Text from Liberty by Paul Éluard

On my schoolboys’ copybooks
On my desk and on the trees
On sand and snow
I write your name

On all pages read
On all pages blank
Stone blood paper or ash
I write your name

On the gilded images
On the arms of warriors
On the crown of kings
I write your name

On the jungle and the desert
On nests on gorse
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On the wonders of the nights
On the white bread of the days
On seasons betrothed
I write your name

On the fields on my horizon
On the wings of birds
And on the mill of shadows
I write your name

On every whiff of daybreak
On the sea on the ships
On the raging mountain
I write your name

On the foam of clouds
On the labour of storms
On the dense and tasteless rain
I write your name

On gleaming shapes
On bells of colour
On physical truth
I write your name

On awakened paths
On spreading roads
On overflowing squares
I write your name

On the lamp that kindles
On the lamp that dies
On my houses joined
I write your name

On the fruit cut in two
On the mirror and my room
On my bed empty shell
I write your name

On the threshold of my door
On familiar things
On the surge of blessed fire
I write your name

On all accordant flesh
On the foreheads of my friends
On every hand held out
I write your name

On the windows of surprises
On attentive lips
High above the silence
I write your name

On my ruined shelters
On my extinguished beacons
On the walls of my fatigue
I write your name

On absence without desire
On barren solitude
On the steps of death
I write your name

On health returned
On vanished risk
On hope without remembrance
I write your name

And by the power of a word
I begin my life again
I was born to know you
To name you



Kelly-Marie Murphy

Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe (NACO commission)

With music described as “breathtaking” (Kitchener-Waterloo Record), “imaginative and expressive” (The National Post), “a pulse-pounding barrage on the senses” (The Globe and Mail), and “Bartok on steroids” (Birmingham News), Kelly-Marie Murphy’s voice is well known on the Canadian music scene. She has created a number of memorable works for some of Canada’s leading performers and ensembles, including the Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, The Gryphon Trio, James Campbell, Shauna Rolston, the Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets, and Judy Loman. 

Kelly-Marie Murphy was born (in 1964) on a NATO base in Sardegna, Italy, and grew up on Canadian Armed Forces bases all across Canada. She began her studies in composition at the University of Calgary with William Jordan and Allan Bell, and later received a PhD in composition from the University of Leeds, England, where she studied with Philip Wilby. After living and working for many years in the Washington, D.C. area where she was designated “an alien of extraordinary ability” by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, she is now based in Ottawa, quietly pursuing a career as a freelance composer.

Commissioned by the NAC Orchestra and composed in 2023, Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe is Murphy’s response to Richard Strauss’s orchestral work Don Juan. As she reveals in her note to her piece, “in considering how to respond to this iconic tone poem, I decided to look at what else was happening in the world while Strauss was composing. One significant event for me was Vincent van Gogh’s painting Starry Night in 1889. Another was the discovery of the Horsehead Nebula by Williamina Fleming in 1888. Mrs. Fleming was one of the “Harvard Computers”, a group of women who were taught to analyze stellar spectra and catalog stars for astronomers at the Harvard College Observatory. Her extraordinary life became the subject of my tone poem.”

Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe has a few main themes throughout,” she further describes: “questioning, searching, and curiosity; perseverance and determination; and the beauty of the starry sky. The piece begins with a questioning theme in the harp, answered by solo woodwinds. As the questioning and searching intensifies, it leads to the driving themes of perseverance and determination. This is fast and relentless and, at times, turbulent. Doubt creeps in for a moment with trumpet and oboe solos. Gradually, confidence and strength are regained, and a calm focus is revealed with a brass chorale. The main theme of perseverance returns, eventually leading to success and discovery. Throughout the piece, we are aware of the stars: shining, calling, guiding.”

Biography and program note provided by the composer


Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22

I. Andante sostenuto
II. Allegro scherzando
III. Presto

The Second Piano Concerto is Saint-Saëns’s (1835–1921) earliest work still in the active repertoire. It serves as a perfect example of the composer’s polish, neat formal proportions, clarity of texture, and classic elegance of style. The story of how the work came to be written is an interesting one. Saint-Saëns and the pianist-composer Anton Rubinstein had met in 1858 and had been close friends ever since, often playing piano duets together and sometimes performing in concert with Saint-Saëns on the podium and Rubinstein at the piano. One day in 1868, Rubinstein commented that for all his appearances in Paris as a soloist, he had never conducted there. So, he and Saint-Saëns exchanged hats, so to speak, and just three weeks later, on December 13, Rubinstein mounted the podium at the Salle Pleyel to conduct the concerto Saint-Saëns had written in the interim (it took just 17 days!)

The Concerto opens with an elaborate piano solo—a free-form, fantasia-like passage that shows Saint-Saëns’s debt to J.S. Bach’s organ music. After the initial orchestral statement, the piano presents a lyrical theme that Saint-Saëns lifted from a Tantum ergo for voice and organ by a former pupil of his, Gabriel Fauré. The pianist Alfred Cortot said that Fauré, “with absolute sincerity, congratulated himself on the honour his master had done him by using his theme.” Glittering cascades of notes, thundering octaves, and dazzling passage work are used to great effect. In a surprise gesture, the opening material returns at the end of the movement, but now in hushed, subdued tones with “a poetic quality of something remembered from the depths of the past.”

The scherzo trips along gaily, light as a feather in the best tradition of Felix Mendelssohn, except for the jaunty second theme that brings images of dancing horses to some minds.

The third movement employs the furious tarantella rhythm in a whirlwind tour de force. Everything points to a master craftsman. To quote Cortot again, “the music displays neat and even brilliant rhythms, more intelligence than sensibility, more verve than feelings.” The concerto ends in a blaze of fiery virtuosity.

Program note by Robert Markow

Jacques Hétu

Symphony No 5, Op. 81

I. Prologue: Allegretto
II. L’Invasion (The Invasion): Vivace
III.L’Occupation (The Occupation): Adagio
IV. Liberté (Liberty): Andante

Jacques Hétu (1938–2010) is one of the most performed Quebec composers, both at home and abroad. Born in Trois-Rivières, he studied composition with Clermont Pépin at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal and later in Paris with Henri Dutilleux and Olivier Messiaen. Jacques Hétu’s style is a happy mix of classical forms, romantic sensibility, and modern musical languages. His works are solidly built and generally quite lyrical. They often generate considerable power and his orchestrations are especially colourful and sparkling. Hétu composed more than 80 works in every classical genre, including chamber music, symphonic music, and vocal music.

Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Hétu’s Symphony No. 5 was premiered by the TSO conducted by Peter Oundjian for the New Creations Festival in February 2010. Here is how Hétu described his work:

I. Prologue (Paris before World War II): The city slowly awakens and gradually becomes something resembling a giant merry-go-round. Noisy children, murmuring throngs, joyous processions, and the confusion of an approaching fun fair interact and blur into one.

II. The Invasion (The War): Breathless, agitated, violent, dramatic music. A motif is heard in the unison winds with continuous embellishment from the strings. This culminates in dense polyphony in which different sections of the orchestra compete for prominence. The short and somewhat calmer passage of this scherzo is a lament that will be developed in the following movement. The opening section is heard again in abridged form.

III. The Occupation (The German occupation): A sort of funeral march. The music proceeds slowly, in a supplicating manner. This is halted by an anguished cry consisting of the overtone series of the note C piled up in an enormous tutti. Unison strings lead to an expressive motif that will become the subject of a series of developments while accelerating. A more tranquil episode is heard in the winds, followed by an abridged return of the opening march material. A final transformation in the brass leads to the coda, where the anguished cry is amplified.

IV. Liberty (The hope for liberation): Thousands of copies of Paul Éluard’s poem “Liberté” were dropped over Occupied France by RAF planes during 1942. The poem expresses the desire to write the word “liberté” in every way possible at every stage of life. This incantatory poem, a hymn to all periods of a person’s life, still has universal reverberations today.

Musically, each stanza is treated in the manner of a short dramatic scene. The orchestral colour and vocal treatment vary from stanza to stanza. The last line of each stanza, “J’écris ton nom” (I write your name), serves as a recurring motif.

The first main section comprises the stanzas concerning recollections from childhood: “cahiers d’écoliers” (schoolboys’ copybooks); “images dorées” (gilded images)—and communion with nature—“chaque bouffée d’aurore” (every whiff of daybreak); “sueurs de l’orage” (labour of storms).

The second, more intimate section opens with the a cappella choir evoking, first, the gentleness of night—“Sur la lampe qui s’allume” (On the lamp that kindles); next, tenderness, sensuality—“toute chair accordée” (all accordant flesh)—and hope. Then the tone becomes discouraging, with “refuges détruits” (ruined shelters) and “marches de la mort” (steps of death).

In the powerful final section, “Sur la santé revenue… par le pouvoir d’un mot” (On health returned … by the power of a word), the word “liberté” surges forth like a victory march.

Program note by Claude Ricignuolo; translated by Craig Schweikert


  • Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • mmexport1683343214308-cropped
    Piano Kevin Chen
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra
  • Featuring Orchestre symphonique de Québec
  • tmc
    Choir Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
  • jean-sebastienvallee-tamphotography-9-cropped
    Artistic Director Jean-Sébastien Vallée
  • Stage Manager Tobi Hunt McCoy


NAC Orchestra

First Violins
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Emily Kruspe
Marjolaine Lambert
Emily Westell
Manuela Milani
Carissa Klopoushak

Second Violins
*John Marcus (guest principal)
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Frédéric Moisan
Leah Roseman
Zhengdong Liang
Edvard Skerjanc
Mark Friedman
**Karoly Sziladi
**Winston Webber

Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Paul Casey
Tovin Allers
David Thies-Thompson

Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Leah Wyber
Marc-André Riberdy
Timothy McCoy

Double Basses
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier

Joanna G’froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin

Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice

Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau

Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Lawrence Vine
Lauren Anker
Louis-Pierre Bergeron

**Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
*Alexandre Jolly

Colin Traquair

Bass Trombone
Zachary Bond

Chris Lee (principal)

Jonathan Wade
*Andrew Johnson

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On leave

Orchestre symphonique de Québec

First Violins
Catherine Dallaire (concertmaster)
Julie Tanguay (associate concertmaster)
Caroline Béchard (assistant concertmaster)
France Vermette
Simon Boivin
Ethan Balakrishnan
Élise Caron
Michiko Nagashima
Mireille St-Arnauld

Second Violins
Pierre Bégin (principal)
Anne-Sophie Paquet, (assistant)
Inti Manzi
Justin Li
Mélanie Charlebois
Zhixin Ouyang
Estel Bilodeau
France Marcotte

Lambert Chen (principal)
Frank Perron (assistant)
Claudine Giguère
Mary-Kathryn Stevens
Sébastien Grall
Étienne Chénard
**Véronique Vanier
*Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh

Blair Lofgren (principal)
Ryan Molzan (assistant)
Carmen Bruno
Jean-Christophe Guelpa
Diliana Momtchilova
Marie Bergeron
**Susanne Villeneuve

Double Basses
Jean Michon (principal)
Jeanne Corpataux-Blache (assistant)
Graham Kolle
Ian Simpson

**Jacinthe Forand (principal)
Geneviève Savoie (second flute and piccolo)

Philippe Magnan (principal)
Hélène Déry (second oboe and English horn)

Stéphane Fontaine (principal)
Marie-Julie Chagnon (second clarinet and bass clarinet)

Marlène Ngalissamy (principal)
Mélanie Forget (second bassoon and contrabassoon)

Mikhailo Babiak (principal)
**Marjolaine Goulet
Lorenzo Robb
Anne-Marie Larose

Andre Dubelsten (principal)
Trent Sanheim

Nick Mahon (principal)
Vladislav Kalinichenko
Scott Robinson (principal bass trombone)

Zachariah Dietenberger (principal)

Marc-André Lalonde (principal)

Bryn Lutek (principal)
*Jean-Luc Bouchard

Isabelle Fortier (principal)

Orchestra Personnel Manager
Tristan Lemieux

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator
Mélanie Charlebois

Production Manager
Alexandre de Grandpré

Artistic Administration Director
Joël Brouillette

Artistic Administration Coordinator and Assistant to the Music Director
Isabelle Lépine

Assistant Conductor
Marie-Claire Cardinal

*Additional musicians
** On leave

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

Soprano 1

Catherine Alberti
Tia Andriani
Ann-Marie Barrett-Tandy
Leslie Bradshaw
Ada Chan
Amy Chen
Laureen Choi
Maria Farrier
Leslie Finlay
Marina Galeano
Rebecca Genge
Alice Liu
Claire Luc
Emily Parker
Olha Movsessian
Hannah Silverberg
Jaclyn Siou
Chong Tan
Sinéad White
Sophya Yumakulov

Soprano 2

Jocelyn Belfer
Lesley Bouza
Louise Boyden
Marlo Burks
Rayna Crandlemire
Kim Finkelstein
Alison Haines
Gabrysia Kowalik
Alysha Ladha
Jocelyne Lussier
Lindsay McIntyre
Michele Pearson
Ariane Prescott
Michelle Prunier
Mary Ridgley
Sylvia Romanowska
Heather Rowe

Alto 1

Julia Barber
Adrienne Eastwood
Claudia Lemcke
Gillian Grant
Simon Honeyman
Heather McGrath
Annie Odom
Parnian Parvin
Jan Szot
Jennifer Ujimoto
Tarquin Wongkee
Virginia Wright
Ashley Wu

Alto 2

Jane Agosta
Marlo Alcock
Renee Ardiente
Rebecca Claborn
Kristin Crawford
Ryan McDonald
Bethany Jo Mikelait
Susan Mumford
Kiley Venables
Patti Vipond
Susan Worthington
Jessica Wright

Tenor 1

Mitch Aldrich
Omar Flores
Nick Gough
Alejandro Guerrero
Charles Im
Clement Kam
Daniel Meeks
Nicholas Nicolaidis

Tenor 2

Samuel Broverman
Tom Bishop
Michael Clipperton
Peter DeRoche
Ryan Valdés-Doyle
John Gladwell
Nathan Gritter
Lucas Jin
Ben Keast
Eric Lee
Timothy McPhail
Neil Payne
David Serber
Terrence Tsang

Bass 1

Jeffrey Baker
David Chan
Steven Foster
Paul Genyk-Berezowsky
Michael Harrison
Timothy Khoo
John Lemke
Matt Lozinski
Joseph McGowan
Magnus Mee
David Peer
Graham Robinson
Albert Wong
David Yung
Bruce Yungblut

Bass 2

Neil Aronoff
Yoosik Choi
Peter Eratostene
Kieran Kane
Frederick Mei
David Powell
Milovan Prelevic
Michael Qin
Jordan Scholl
Gavriel Rhys Swayze
Karl Tomczak
Sean van Wyk
Jonah Wall
Isaiah Yankech