Healing and hope through the beauty of music

Spectators observed one minute of silence at the beginning of the evening. © Fred Cattroll

The NAC Orchestra’s UK Tour of performance, remembrance and education has seen the Orchestra perform beautiful concerts and engage in meaningful education events.

In the week since the tour began, there have been many highlights. 

In Edinburgh, Orchestra musicians rehearsed with Big Noise Orchestra, an organization that gives children the opportunity to be part of a symphony orchestra, and learn about life while they’re at it.

“In some cases, these are children that come from communities that are fairly damaged,” said George Anderson of Sistema Scotland. “The symphony orchestra is the perfect alternative society, where you learn to be a citizen, and you become part of this huge cooperative. They learn these life lessons from being musicians. So that if life throws them an opportunity – and we hope that it will – they’ll be able to grab that.”

Ensembles of Orchestra musicians also performed a recital at St. Giles' Cathedral, a church that dates back to the 14th century and located on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Hollyrood Palace. The repertoire included the gorgeous Trio in G for Violin, Viola and Cello, composed in 1931 by English composer Ernest Moeran.

“To do a concert in a place like St. Giles is really incredible, because the acoustics are really nice,” said Associate Principal Horn Julie Fauteux. “Churches can be extremely rensonant, but here, the acoustics are such that the horns are still very clear. And then there’s the physical environment, which is so beautiful that it’s really inspiring for us to play in a place like this.” The concert began with a moment of silence for Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Canadian soldier and father who was killed in Ottawa on October 23.

In a spirit of condolence and remembrance, the Orchestra also dedicated its Edinburgh concert to his memory. At Usher Hall that night, Pinchas Zukerman turned to the audience and said that he wanted to respond to the horrible events in Ottawa through the beauty of music. Spectators were asked to observe one minute of silence at the beginning of the evening.

In its review, The Herald Scotland said: “At every stage of its concert on Thursday night in Edinburgh, the first stop on a 10-day UK Tour, the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada, with its director and soloist Pinchas Zukerman, delivered performances that were never less than enthralling.” The reviewer also praised Brio, an NAC commission by Alberta composer John Estacio, calling it “a sensational, wide-screen, colourfully- filmic extravaganza: a fabulous piece.”

And in London last night, Maestro Pinchas Zukerman, who serves as Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra’s Music Director and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, brought these two powerful music forces together at London’s Royal Festival Hall for a magnificent performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which culminates with the awe-inspiring “Ode to Joy”. The concert was attended by HRH The Prince of Wales.

The concert also included another NAC commission – A Ballad of Canada by the late Canadian composer Malcolm Forsyth, which incorporates imagery from the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. John McCrae, and a beautiful performance of Erbarme Dich from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion by Pinchas Zukerman and mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon.

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