NAC Flags Fly at Half-mast in Honour of Renowned Conductor and Composer Bramwell Tovey

It was with great sadness the National Arts Centre (NAC) learned of the death of Bramwell Tovey, a towering figure in Canada’s classical music world and an influential arts leader worldwide.

Maestro Tovey was a conductor and prolific composer with a body of work spanning more than 40 years.  The charismatic Tovey was known for his easy connections with audiences and musicians alike. He last appeared in Ottawa in March 2019 with the NAC Orchestra and violinist James Ehnes, a close friend of Tovey, who has performed music Tovey composed personally for him.  At the time of his death, Mr. Tovey was in the midst of writing a violin concerto commissioned by the NAC Orchestra for Ehnes.

The NAC’s flags will fly at half-mast this week in honour of Bramwell Tovey.


“Bramwell Tovey enriched Canada’s cultural life in so many ways,” said Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre. “He was a visionary who championed Canadian composers, and strengthened the orchestras he led to become a central part of the identity of the cities they worked in. Our most sincere condolences to his loved ones.”  

“Bramwell was a kind and generous man who built a remarkable musical career across continents,” said Alexander Shelley, Musical Director of the NAC Orchestra. “His tireless work nurturing the next generation of Canadian musicians has inspired me and many others. He will be missed.” 

Bramwell Tovey was born in the United Kingdom and it was during his mid-1980s tenure with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet that he made his Canadian debut on a tour at the National Arts Centre.

After emigrating, he became a driving force for music in Canada, as a conductor, orchestra builder, composer, music education advocate and passionate proponent of new music. He made major contributions to orchestras and opera companies across Canada:  18 years as music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of L’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, artistic director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and co-founder of its New Music Festival, among his work with many others.

Nelson McDougall, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra, remembers that “Bramwell was the epitome of the multifaceted musician.  Ballet, opera, orchestra – he conducted it all, accumulating Grammys and Junos along the way, and keeping up composing and playing piano alike. His programming for the Winnipeg New Music festival caught my attention as a young musician. To this day I hold that as a great example of commitment to today’s artists.”

He had regular conducting relationships with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, the BBC Concert Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For more information about Bramwell Tovey’s many contributions, please visit

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