Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra

Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra

The NAC Orchestra is a world class ensemble of outstanding classical musicians from across Canada and around the world, under the inspiring leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley. Since its debut in 1969 at the opening of Canada’s National Arts Centre, the Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its groundbreaking educational programs, and its leadership in nurturing Canadian creativity.

Hailing from London, England, Shelley developed a reputation for musical insight and a flair for taking creative risks through his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009–2017) and as Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  He brings those qualities to the helm of an outstanding NAC creative team that includes Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds,  Principal Youth and Family Conductor Alain Trudel, Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly, and Conductor Emeritus Pinchas Zukerman.

The Orchestra gives about 100 performances a year with internationally renowned artists. The 2017/18 season features virtuoso violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell, sensational conductors Xian Zhang and Karina Canellakis, legendary saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and piano superstar Emanuel Ax.

Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 80 new works, acting as a crucible for Canadian musical creation. It experiments to create new modes of bringing great music to audiences, such as the multi-media, immersive Life Reflected (2016), which uses music, live and recorded visuals, and words to tell the stories of four exceptional Canadian women; and Encount3rs (2017), which paired composers with choreographers and their dance companies over the course of two years to create three original one-act ballets.

In 2017 the Orchestra made an ambitious cross- Canada tour to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation, presenting concerts and outreach events for thousands of Canadians from Newfoundland to Victoria, Toronto to Iqaluit. The full Orchestra took its multi-media interpretation of the late Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk home to her community in Eskasoni First Nation. The Orchestra regularly tours internationally, most recently the UK (2014) and China (2013).

The Orchestra is dedicated to fostering the next generation of musicians and classical music fans. The NAC Summer Music Institute (founded by Pinchas Zukerman in 1999 as the Young Artists Program) provides advanced training to an elite group of student musicians, while the Music Alive program brings musical education to children of all abilities and backgrounds in rural and remote communities across Canada. NAC musicians volunteer with local youth orchestras, and teach students around the world via videoconferencing through the cutting-edge Hexagon Studio. The Orchestra provides teaching resources through its educational website ArtsAlive.ca.

The Orchestra has made over 40 commercial recordings, including Angela Hewitt’s JUNO© Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Con­­­­certos. Listeners can enjoy the Orchestra’s live performances of some 200 works, including 80 original Canadian commissions, for free through the website NACmusicbox.ca. In 2017 Montreal-based Analekta label released the recordings of Life Reflected and Encount3rs, and in March 2018 New Worlds featuring Dvorak’s 9th symphony and NAC commission Golden slumbers kiss your eyes by Ana Sokolovic.

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