Two Orchestras, One Symphony: A Groundbreaking Tour and Recording Project Celebrating Late Composer Jacques Hétu

Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and Orchestre symphonique de Québec unite on stage to present concerts featuring Canadian piano sensation Kevin Chen and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir 

February 13th, 2024 – OTTAWA – Under the direction of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (OSQ) will perform at Le Grand Théâtre de Québec (February 28), Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto (March 2) and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (March 7-8). 

The foundational building block for this program is Symphony No. 5 by the internationally renowned Québecois composer Jacques Hétu (1938-2010). Hétu’s final work, one of his most significant achievements, takes inspiration from Paul Éluard’s poemLiberté”, exploring themes of freedom and hope. Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and premiered posthumously in 2010, Hétu’s masterpiece will be reprised by the combined forces of NACO, OSQ, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMChoir).  

“We are tremendously excited to unite with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to perform the incredible music of renowned Québec composer Jacques Hétu”, says Nelson McDougall, Managing Director of NACO.  “Together, and with the young Calgarian Kevin Chen as our featured soloist, we will celebrate Canada’s remarkable artistic talent – past, present and future. This collaboration will also strengthen connections between Canadian arts organizations, artists and communities to continue to support their renewal and regrowth after a very challenging pandemic.” McDougall continued: “The tour will culminate in the recording of Hétu’s symphony for worldwide release on the Analekta music label, ensuring that the impact of this extraordinary collaboration will resonate beyond its live performances, reaching an international audience and adding to the legacy of Canadian orchestral music.”   

The Orchestre symphonique de Québec, founded in 1902, is the oldest orchestra in Canada and has a history that has closely paralleled that of Québec City. The orchestra participates in a host of national and international events and produces major pieces from the symphonic repertoire, as well as pieces by Quebec, Canadian and foreign composers.  

Helmed by music director Jean-Sébastien Vallée, TMChoir was established over 125 years ago, and is one of Canada’s oldest and largest choral ensembles. This partnership marks the first collaboration between NACO and the JUNO-winning and GRAMMY-nominated choir. 


  • Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - Grand Théâtre de Québec, Québec 

  • Saturday, March 2, 2024 - Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto 

  • Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8, 2024 – Southam Hall, Ottawa  


The upcoming tour also showcases the exceptional young pianist, Kevin Chen, who at just 18 years old will make his orchestral debuts in Québec, Toronto, and Ottawa, performing the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). Chen’s extraordinary talent, marked by recent accolades at prestigious competitions such as the Rubinstein Competition and the Geneva International Piano Competition, brings Canada's youngest generation of classical artists to the fore.  

“These are some of the highest accolades you can receive as a young pianist. To receive them in his very young years is extraordinary,” says Alexander Shelley. “It’s going to be my first time working with Kevin [Chen], I’m so excited about it. The soloist that we’re taking with us on tour is one of the most exciting young artists in the world—and he happens to be Canadian.” 

In anticipation of the tour, Kevin Chen expresses his excitement, saying, “It is such a great honour to be invited on this tour with two amazing orchestras and the terrific Alexander Shelley. Performing with such esteemed musicians in this celebration of Canadian orchestral music inspires me greatly. I’m very much looking forward to my orchestral debuts in Québec, Toronto, and Ottawa, and hope the audiences will enjoy this Canadian tour!" 

Opening the concert program is Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe, a debut commission for NACO by prominent Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy (1964-), which premiered at Southam Hall in 2023 with a free livestream that is available on-demand on the NAC website. 

NACO, OSQ and TMChoir will partner with several organizations in Québec City and Ottawa to connect with music lovers of all ages through meaningful learning and community engagement events including masterclasses, workshops, pre-concert talks and pre-concert performances. Partners include the Conservatoire de musique de Québec, the Faculty of Music at Université Laval, the University of Ottawa School of Music, the Ottawa Children’s Choir, and OrKidstra. 


 KELLY-MARIE MURPHY Dark Nights, Bright Stars, Vast Universe (NACO commission)  

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2  

JACQUES HÉTU Symphony No 5, Op. 81 


The National Arts Centre Foundation would like to thank Mark Motors Group, Official Car of the NAC Orchestra, and the Janice & Earle O’Born Fund for Artistic Excellence. The NAC Orchestra Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LLD (hc). 

Programming at the National Arts Centre is made possible through the support of many generous individuals and organizations from across the country. For a list of our donors, please visit: 


Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.  

Since its inception, the NAC Orchestra has recorded for radio and more than 40 commercial recordings many of the 100+ new works it has commissioned, primarily from Canadian composers. These include:  

  • Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart piano concertos;  

  • The ground-breaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by the late Jocelyn Morlock (winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year);  

  • Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year (from the 2019 JUNO-nominated New Worlds);  

  • The 2020 JUNO-nominated The Bounds of Our Dreams, featuring pianist Alain Lefèvre;  

  • Clara, Robert, Johannes, a multi-album series including Lyrical Echoes, nominated for Classical Album of the Year at the 2023 JUNO Awards.  


The National Arts Centre (NAC) is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams — the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety — and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation.   



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