It’s not the sort of place you expect to see members of the NAC Orchestra. But the Wind Quintet was at Villa Colombo, a retirement residence, that day for a very special reason. They were there to visit Mario Bernardi, the founding conductor of the NAC Orchestra, and perform a concert in his honour.
“We presented Mario with his favourite repertoire and he was hugely appreciative,” says Christopher Millard, principal bassoon. “He had a beatific smile on his face which was quite charming. I was glad for the chance to publicly thank him for everything he has done for me, everything he has done for both musicians and audiences.”
Mario Bernardi’s tenure at the NAC began in 1969 when the NAC Orchestra came into being. He became the Music Director in 1971, continuing until 1982. “Mario defined everything from the beginning,” Christopher explains. “He set a standard for precision, accuracy and balance. Out of that came a certain tradition that has remained at the NAC. There are enough players who have survived the transitions over the years that the legacy of Mario’s high standards has remained.”
In honour of his extraordinary contribution, the NAC has set out to pay tribute to Mario Bernardi during his lifetime with two initiatives; a bronze bust by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy, and a new full-length orchestral work commissioned by the NAC in his honour. The piece will be composed by Ana Sokolovic and receive its world premiere by the NAC Orchestra in a future season.
“When I was in my 20s and 30s, Mario was the pre-eminent Canadian conductor. We still have many patrons who remember him as music director,” says Christopher. “With this tribute, I’m glad Mario will see that he is still honoured and loved at the NAC.”
The NAC is currently accepting donations towards this permanent memorial and commission of a new orchestral work. Please visit our website nac-cna.ca/BernardiTribute or call 613 947-7000 ext. 315.
This article is from the Spring 2013 issue of Full Circle.