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News Release


March 21, 2018

Work is the first of the National Arts Centre’s “Southam Commissions”

March 19, 2018 – OTTAWA (Canada) – The NAC Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Alexander Shelley, will give the world premiere of Earworms by JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung on March 22 and 23, 2018 at 8 p.m. in Southam Hall.

The fascinating and whimsical new work is inspired by the phenomenon of earworms – pieces of music that, for whatever reason, get stuck in your head. Ms. Fung has said that the piece is a reflection of a world in which music, sounds and media permeate our lives throughout their day.

Earworms includes a number of recurring phrases, including portions of Ravel’s La Valse, and The Wheels on the Bus – a favourite of Ms. Fung’s three-year-old son – combined into a playful arrangement.

Earworms is the first of a series of five new works called the “Southam Commissions” – new works that will be produced by the NAC starting in 2018. The initiative was announced in December 2016 to mark what would have been the 100th birthday of Hamilton Southam, the NAC’s legendary founder. It was his vision and drive that led to the NAC’s creation as a Centennial Project and a new national home for the performing arts in Canada. He oversaw the construction of the building and in 1967 was named its first Director General. 

The Orchestra concerts on March 22 and 22 will also feature Boris Giltburg performing Piano Concerto No. 2 by Shostakovich, as well as Symphony No. 2 by Brahms. The NAC Orchestra will then travel to Toronto to perform this program at Roy Thomson Hall on March 24, 2018.


British conductor Alexander Shelley is Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and he was Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009 - 2017). Unanimous winner of the 2005 Leeds Conductor’s Competition, 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. Mr. Shelley’s operatic engagements have included The Merry Widow (Royal Danish Opera); Le nozze di Figaro (Opera North), Così fan tutte (Montpellier), and Somers’ Louis Riel (National Arts Centre). Alexander Shelley recorded for Deutsche Grammophon as well as for Montreal’s Analekta label on which he and the NAC Orchestra released Life Reflected and Encount3rs, two landmark creations by Canadian artists and 2017’s “New Worlds”, featuring works by Ana Sokolović and Antonin Dvořák.

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. Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers.

Previous NAC Orchestra Music Directors include Pinchas Zukerman, Mario Bernardi, and Trevor Pinnock. The 2018/19 season features Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly completing the strong artistic team.




Allison Caverly
Communications Officer
NAC Orchestra
613 947-7000 x335