OTTAWA (Canada) – On June 18, 2017 as part of the Luminato Festival (June 14—25), Music Director, Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra will share the stories of four remarkable Canadian women through music, motion and word, in Life Reflected.

Life Reflected comes to Toronto for one night only as part of the NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour. Support for this production comes from Tour Patrons Janice and Earle O’Born and Official Rail Partner VIA Rail

Artistic Director Alexander Shelley brought together four of Canada’s best composers to collaborate with Creative Producer and Director Donna Feore and an ensemble of extraordinary performers and multi-media artists to create Life Reflected, a unique symphonic experience that first premiered in Ottawa in 2016, and has been described as “A powerful, overwhelming creation” by Christophe Huss, of Le Devoir.

In its first decade, Luminato has become one of the preeminent arts festivals in North America, having commissioned close to 100 new works of art, with over 3,000 performances featuring more than 13,000 artists. 82% of participating artists were Canadian, and 18% were from over 40 countries around the world.

As CEO Peter Herrndorf explains, “We are thrilled Life Reflected will be showcased at the Luminato Festival. As the most ambitious, multidisciplinary commission in the Orchestra’s history, Life Reflected embodies the National Arts Centre’s commitment to creation. We look forward to sharing this inspiring production with a wider audience.”



In 2013, when he accepted the position of NAC Music Director, British-born Shelley immersed himself in Canadian arts and culture and soon discovered the rich tapestry of stories and incredible artists this country has to offer. He has chosen to celebrate the stories of four fascinating women through this innovative live performance: Alice Munro; Amanda Todd; Roberta Bondar; and Rita Joe. 

“What inspired me was looking at these four women who have found their voices, through different sacrifices and challenges,” said Alexander Shelley. “Canada is a country whose stories have captivated audiences worldwide. And it got me thinking... these are beautiful human stories, how can we share these stories in a new way,” he added.

Shelley brought together four of Canada’s best composers to collaborate with Creative Producer and Director Donna Feore and an ensemble of extraordinary performers and multi-media artists to create a unique symphonic experience.

“My basic wish was to create a collaborative immersive show that would have no interval. Where it’s an experience from the moment you go in to the moment you leave,” says Shelley.

“The idea was that we would bring artists together, artists at the top of their game, that were truly excited to do something new and innovative,” says Donna Feore.

The four composers are: Zosha Di Castri (Alice Munro), John Estacio (Rita Joe), Jocelyn Morlock (Amanda Todd) and Nicole Lizée (Roberta Bondar).  A key technical and creative partner in this project is a Visual and Stage Design company from Montreal called Normal, who have designed and created screens that surround the Orchestra and immerse the audience in a virtual 3D environment. Photography, graphic design and film are interchangeably projected on these screens in synergy with the musical work.

The program will begin by profiling Alice Munro, then Amanda Todd, followed by Roberta Bondar and will conclude with Rita Joe.

“Dear Life” a semi-autobiographical short story by Alice Munro, is a reflection on memory, childhood and the formative stages of life, and was interpreted by composer Zosha Di Castri in a 20-minute orchestral work with the same title. This work originally premiered at the NAC in September 2015.  This work features the photography of Larry Towell, recorded voice of legendary actor Martha Henry, and the live voice of soprano Erin Wall.

My Name is Amanda Todd, is a 10 minute orchestral work composed by Jocelyn Morlock.  Amanda Todd, was a vibrant 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia who loved singing and expressing herself through music. Todd tragically took her life on October 10, 2012 after suffering for years from cyber abuse, harassment and bullying at school. Prior to her death, Todd, posted a poignant video on YouTube, using a series of flash cards, speaking out against bullying and sharing her story. The message of hope, empathy, tolerance she expressed in her video, has since caused a worldwide groundswell of support, and is now being used by educators and parents to support anti-bullying measures. Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, continues to spread Amanda’s message through The Amanda Todd Legacy. 

“Amanda loved music, and found her voice through music, art and multi-media,” says Carol Todd. “We believe this performance will inspire hope, and is a message about humanity and how we must treat each other to be better people.”  

Bondarsphere a 15-minute work, traces Dr. Roberta Bondar’s inspiring life as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, and photographer and has been interpreted by composer Nicole Lizée with orchestra score, soundtrack and video of eye-witness footage and recordings.

“I spent many hours immersing myself in her world and I am deeply moved by her courage. There are very few people on this planet who could do what she’s done. She’s a pioneer. I mean she’s gone to places that very few people have gone to. So to bring her into the concert hall as a symphonic work is very exciting for me,” says Nicole Lizée.

I Lost My Talk a 20-minute orchestral work, composed by John Estacio, with film by Barbara Willis Sweete and choreography by Tekaronhiáhkhwa San­tee Smith is based on the titular poem by Mi'kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe C.M., who recounts her experience at Residential School in Nova Scotia. I Lost My Talk was commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of The Right Honorable Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E. by his family.

Although the subject matter for these works is challenging, ultimately Shelley and Feore are interested in starting a dialogue and pushing the conventional limits of the concert experience.

“We wanted to create a communal experience so the audience can share something together. One of our great responsibilities as artists is to keep a dialogue going.  And to provoke a conversation for all demographics,” explains Feore.

“My hope is that while some of this subject matter is born from painful memories, that ultimately this performance will be a redeeming and hopeful experience for the audience,” adds Shelley.

Life Reflected premieres at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on June 18, at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Luminato Festival! Tickets start at $45 and are available online at


In September 2015 Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director with the National Arts Centre’s Orchestra. Shelley has an unwavering reputation as one of Europe’s leading young conductors, notably as Chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and most recently as the Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Formed in 1969 at the opening of Canada's National Arts Centre, the NAC Orchestra gives over 100 performances a year with renowned artists including Itzhak Perlman, Renée Fleming, James Ehnes, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. It is noted for the passion and clarity of its performances and recordings, its ground-breaking teaching and outreach programs, and nurturing of Canadian creativity. In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, tours are undertaken to regions throughout Canada and around the world.

Since its inception the Orchestra has commissioned 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers. In 2001 it inaugurated the National Arts Centre Awards for Canadian Composers and the recipients thus far have been Denys Bouliane, John Estacio, Peter Paul Koprowski, Gary Kulesha, Alexina Louie and Ana Sokolovic.

Previous NAC Orchestra Music Directors include Pinchas Zukerman, Mario Bernardi and Trevor Pinnock. The 2015-16 season features Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds , Alain Trudel as Principal Youth and Family Conductor and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly completing the strong artistic team.

In 1999, Pinchas Zukerman founded the NAC Young Artists Program, part of the wider NAC Summer Music Institute, which provides elite training to talented young musicians. Students all over the world are also taught via videoconferencing in the NAC's cutting-edge Hexagon Studio. The Orchestra also created and continues to pioneer education work locally and in indigenous communities in northern Canada.

The NAC Orchestra has made over 40 commercial recordings, including Angela Hewitt’s 2014 Juno Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos conducted by Hannu Lintu. Many more concerts are freely available through on the NAC's performing arts education website These include many of the 100 new Canadian works commissioned by the NAC Orchestra in its 45 year history.






Andrea Ruttan
Communications Officer

National Arts Centre Orchestra

613 947-7000 x335

Cell: 613 220-5487


Rosemary Thompson,
Director, Communications

Public Affairs

National Arts Centre

613 947-7000 x260

Join our email list for the latest updates!