The National Arts Centre's Ideas of North Festival: October 3 to 14

The National Arts Centre celebrates the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and Finland’s centennial year by presenting the Ideas of North Festival from October 3 to 14. Audiences are invited to see and hear the North through a five-part program featuring seven concerts and a series of free events – including noon-hour concerts and pre-concerts chats on music and Nordic architecture – taking place in the National Arts Centre’s stunning, new public spaces.

“When one considers the music and landscapes of Canada and Finland, our similarities are striking,” said Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra. “The intrinsic nature of being part of the North links our two countries in very primal, emotional ways. Finland’s legendary composer Jean Sibelius, in particular, represents a desire – be it of a nation or of an artist – to craft a unique, individual identity. The symphonies and tone poems of Sibelius anchor the orchestra’s festival programming and provide the background for a fascinating array of contemporary Canadian and Finnish composers and performers.”

Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra open the festival on October 3 with Canadian composer Alexina Louie’s Triple Concerto, written for the three concertmasters of the NAC Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony. Yosuke Kawasaki, Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan perform this three-partner commissioning project. The concert pairs the Louie concerto with Sibelius’s first symphony and his final major orchestral work, Tapiola, giving the audience a taste of the musical evolution of the iconic Finnish composer. Jean Sibelius wrote his symphony as the Russian Empire tightened its colonial grip on Finland. The work expressed his people's desire for freedom and brought worldwide attention to the composer – and to the cause of Finnish independence. (Throughout the Festival, audiences can also visit the free World of Jean Sibelius exhibit located in the NAC’s Canal Foyer.)

On October 4 and 5, one of Finland’s leading cultural exports, Tero Saarinen Company, graces the Babs Asper Theatre stage with a muscular and poetic work entitled Morphed featuring seven male dancers.

On October 5, Ideas of North presents Lintu and Hewitt. Hannu Lintu, Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, leads the NAC Orchestra in Sibelius’ symphonic poem The Oceanides and his ever popular Symphony No 2. Another highlight of the evening is Juno-award winning pianist Angela Hewitt, who will give the world premiere of the piano concerto Nameless Seas, a co-commission written for her by Canadian-Finnish composer Matthew Whittall. 

On October 6, Finland’s double-platinum a capella sensation Rajaton will perform an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, classical and folk tunes in Southam Hall. The genre-defying sextet is known the world over for its close harmonies honed by razor-fine pitch.     

The Festival presents Twin Flames: Tracks in the Snow on October 8 on the NAC’s Canal Lobby Stage.  Winners of the Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriters of the Year, the captivating ensemble Twin Flames will take you on a musical journey across Canada and the Arctic to discover the beauty of Indigenous and Inuit cultures. This fun and interactive show features traditional hand drumming, Inuit throat singing, and sing-alongs in English, French and Inuktitut.

On October 10, NAC Presents, the all-Canadian music series, presents Whitehorse-based, Western Canadian Music Award-winning artist Sarah MacDougall, an up-and-coming artist known for her honest and poetic songs, passionate performances, and unique voice. The publication 24 hrs Vancouver called the Swedish-born Canadian musician “one of the most promising exports out of Sweden since ABBA.”

On October 11, the NAC Orchestra takes the Southam Hall stage for Finnish Legends under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds, and featuring Soprano Helena Juntunen. The program includes Jean Sibelius’s symphonic poems and Scandinavian ballads evoking the Finnish creation-goddess Luonnotar, the celestial Maiden of Pohjola who spins golden threads in the sky, and the hero Lemminkainen, who meets death and resurrection in the netherworld of Tuonela.

On October 12, the Festival presents the Lapland Chamber Orchestra’s  first-ever North American concert, under the direction of its music director John Storgårds. Hailing from Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle, the 18-member orchestra boldly brings contemporary Nordic music to listeners in Finland, and the world. This concert juxtaposes Canadian works with Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Symphony No. 14, written for the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Canadian director/choreographer Michael Greyeyes has created a new dance piece on Claude Vivier’s “Zipangu”, which will have its world premiere on this concert.  On October 13, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra Wind Quintet will offer a free noon-hour concert in the Glass Thorsteinson Staircase located in the beautiful new NAC Atrium.

Also on October 13, renowned Canadian violinist Karen Gomyo explores Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in performance with Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra, as part of the NAC’s Casual Fridays. The concert includes the final movement of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, and music by Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Ideas of North Festival culminates on October 14 with Shelley and Storgårds

in Southam Hall with the NAC Orchestra. Alexander Shelley conducts this immensely inspiring program of Sibelius’s Symphony No 7 and Symphony No. 5, and the modern masterpiece “Graal Theatre”, a violin concerto by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, performed by soloist John Storgårds. 

For more information, please visit the Ideas of North Festival page at  Listen to Alexander Shelley discussing the festival on NAC Podcast:



Carl Martin
(613) 947-7000, ext. 560

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