The NAC Orchestra officially marks its 50th anniversary in October 2019. In a half-century, it has grown into a major international ensemble and has found its voice as a community partner that continues to champion orchestral music as a powerful human connector.

March 17, 2019 – OTTAWA (Canada) – The NAC Orchestra marks its 50th anniversary in October 2019. In celebration of this milestone, Music Director Alexander Shelley unveils a legacy program for the 2019-2020 season that capitalizes on the NAC Orchestra’s evolution over half a century. One of the key features of the season is that each concert manages to showcase the skillful brilliance of the orchestra as an ensemble of truly world-class instrumentalists.

“This season, with our 50th anniversary, we celebrate orchestral music, musicians, and the wide range of expression possible in this complex, compelling art form. We perform music from different periods and feature many instrument groups in fresh and exciting ways. We feature composers from diverse nationalities and welcome to the stage a multi-ethnic group of soloists.  Our concerts can be entertaining or heartwarming. They can offer up intense, cerebral music that will inspire you and take you to places you have never been before. In essence, you could attend a handful of performances and each time enjoy a fundamentally different experience.”- Alexander Shelley, Music Director, NAC Orchestra.

The season also speaks to the NAC Orchestra’s long-established identity as a voice for the community, encouraging connectivity through music and the shared experience of raw, visceral emotion. Among the most important themes in the program are the significant contributions women have made to classical music over the centuries, demonstrated by unprecedented numbers of works by women composers and women conductors on the podium.

Mr. Shelley adds: “We honour the powerful voices of women artists in our 50th anniversary season.  The range of musical styles and eras is very exciting – from Odawa First Nations composer Barbara Croall, to the 19th century voices of German composers Emilie Mayer and Clara Schumann.  Our guest conductors include the young Finn Dalia Stasevska in a North American debut, and the return of Chinese-American Xian Zhang, who was an immediate favourite guest of the orchestra last season.”

The season delivers quintessential classical repertoire, including works by  Mozart and Tchaikovsky and welcomes standout guest artists Joshua Bell, Jan Lisiecki, two-time Juno-winning Inuk musician Susan Aglukark and more. Several NAC Orchestra members will step into the spotlight as soloists throughout the season, celebrating and highlighting how the orchestra has drawn some of the finest instrumentalists in the world over the last 50 years. Fun-loving music fans and families can continue to count on Pops and Family Adventures concerts to brighten their spirits throughout the year with exciting performances including The Music of John Williams, Mary Poppins and Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood.

Season Highlights


  1. Croall’s Zasakwaa (There is a Heavy Frost), Sep 19, 2019
  • Alexander Shelley, conductor
  • Joanna G’froerer, flute
  • Marion Newman, mezzo-soprano
  • Members of the vocal program at the University of Ottawa
  • Laurence Ewashko, chorus master

Celebrate the works of Canada’s Indigenous composers, with music by Andrew Balfour, Ian Cusson and Barbara Croall.  Métis composer Ian Cusson offers a moving new lullaby, Dodo, mon tout petit and Odawa First Nations composer Barbara Croall greets the coming winter with Zasakwaa (There is a Heavy Frost), featuring the NAC Orchestra’s principal flutist, Joanna G’froerer and mezzo-soprano Marion Newman.

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s wonderful Peer Gynt narrates the story of Gynt, a lovable but imprudent scoundrel who fantasizes that he might someday become ruler of the world.

  1. Music of John Williams, Oct 17-19, 2019
  • Jack Everly, conductor   

The musical forces will be with you for this spectacular evening of music from GRAMMY- and Academy Award-winning composer John Williams, arguably the best known film score creator of all time.

Schindler’s List, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and of course, Star Wars: In a career spanning six decades, John Williams has composed unforgettable music.

  1. Chooi plays Tchaikovsky, Oct 30-31, 2019
  • Timothy Chooi, violin
  • Dalia Stasevska, conductor

In her North American debut, Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska leads a night of exceptional music beginning with Mussorgsky’s delightfully sinister Night on Bald Mountain, recognizable from Walt Disney’s Fantasia –and a perfect way to start your Halloween! From Victoria, BC, guest violinist Timothy Chooi Chooi has won a wide range of violin competitions worldwide. He performs the passionate Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. The program also includes Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6, Pathétique”, one of the most heartbreaking and romantic musical compositions ever written.


  1. Montero and Schumann, Jan 15-16, 2020
  • Gabriela Montero, piano   
  • Alexander Shelley, conductor      

Join us for an intimate evening of romance with music by one of history’s first and most enduring musical partnerships, Clara Schumann and Robert Schumann. Venezuela’s brilliant Gabriela Montero performs Clara Schumann’s gorgeous Piano Concerto in A minor. We also perform Robert Schumann’s bittersweet Symphony No. 3 and Emilie Mayer’s dazzling Faust Overture.



  1. Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain, Feb 6, 2020
  • Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
  • Carolyn Sampson, soprano
  • Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano
  • Jonas Hacker, tenor
  • Philippe Sly, bass-baritone
  • Orchestre Métropolitain Chorus

Québec superstar Yannick Nézet-Séguin is one of the world’s most sought-after conductors, acting simultaneously as music director of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Under Nézet-Séguin’s baton, Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain presents the late Jacques Hétu’s Symphony No. 5 by the late Jacques Hétu. Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, it is by turns playful as a child, then a portent of the gathering storm, easily capturing the spirit of Paris in the 1930s and ‘40s.

In Part 2 of our program, Mozart’s celebrated Mass in C Minor comes to life with chorus and four acclaimed soloists. Known as the Great Mass, this work is considered one of Mozart’s grandest creations for orchestra and choir, truly almost too beautiful for this world.

  1. Evelyn Glennie’s Percussion, Apr 8-9, 2020
  • Dame Evelyn Glennie, percussion            
  • Alexander Shelley, conductor      

Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra welcome virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie to Southam Hall to perform the percussion concerto The Shaman, an NAC co-commission, by Ottawa-born composer Vincent Ho. Profoundly deaf since the age of 11, Glennie is regarded as one of the finest solo percussionists in the world. Ho composed The Shaman especially for Glennie, and the work has been unanimously acclaimed for its originality and spectacular power.

From its exhilarating opening notes, Brahms’s Symphony No. 3 is deeply romantic and lyrical, illustrating his mastery of both tradition and innovation.

Listen for the subtle nod to Canada’s national anthem in Launch!, a brief, sparkling fanfare from JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung. Swirling woodwinds, strings, and brass make way for a fantastic percussion solo that brings this dynamic work home.


  1. Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood Jun 26-27, 2020
  • Alexander Shelley, conductor
  • Giants are Small, production company
  • Big Screen animated projection with live orchestra

Saint-Saëns calls the dead from their graves to dance a jig for one night of the year with his delightfully rambunctious Danse Macabre while Debussy’s Clair de lune, is a sublime and enchanting work whose beauty never fades.

The main attraction features Brooklyn-based production company Giants are Small presenting Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood, a magical, funny, and touching reimagining of Prokofiev’s 1936 masterpiece, complete with a “prequel” set in modern-day Hollywood. The story is filled with timeless lessons about family, friendship, bravery, and heroism. Featuring the music of Prokofiev, Elgar, Mahler, Wagner. The performance combines puppetry, symphonic music, animation, and a live Foley artist.


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, New Worlds and Bounds of our Dreams, each championing landmark creations by Canadian artists.

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.