SPHERE: Listening to the Earth with NACO

© Curtis Perry
© Curtis Perry
Your Temper, My Weather © Diane Borsato
Your Temper, My Weather © Diane Borsato
PIQSIQ (Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay)

Music creates important and empathetic bonds with human beings, connecting through the auditory senses. The eco-world also communicates through the senses, creating an interdependence with people globally. 

From September 22-25, SPHERE, co-curated by NACO Music Director Alexander Shelley and interdisciplinary artist Dr. Angela Rawlings, will thread the climate throughout the story of the National Arts Centre Orchestra – the Orchestra as an eco-system, and the Orchestra’s sustainability, both as an art form and in terms of the shape of the sound it creates.

“The orchestra is a human eco-system. In our SPHERE festival, we will explore listening to the Earth through the experience of deep time and a meditation of sound with music by iconic living composers like John Luther Adams, Max Richter, Alexina Louie, Anna Clyne, and Outi Tarkiainen, performed by exciting artists like Indigenous mezzo-soprano Marion Newman, and Norwegian violinist, Mari Samuelsen. I am thrilled to invite you to join us on this journey.” 
Alexander Shelley, Music Director, NAC Orchestra

Beyond NACO, SPHERE presents a myriad of unique performances, including Your Temper, My Weather, by Toronto-artist Diane Borsato: a procession of regional beekeepers in a walk from the Canadian Museum of Nature to the NAC’s rooftop garden and apiary, and a shimmering ornament of silt by composers rebecca bruton and Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir, an audio installation with live musical activations, which sifts through ancient soil and sediment to consider what the silt carries to meet us in the present, as well as various visual arts exhibitions and scientific displays. The festival’s four days are themed and linked to planet Earth’s interconnected spheres: Lithosphere, Biosphere, Hydrosphere, and Atmosphere.

Hello Earth!: Lithosphere

In this festival-opening concert, NACO presents The Eternal Earth, a program where the Orchestra explores the Earth and Lithosphere, and the perseverance of life against increasingly difficult odds, by performing works by three very different composers: Outi Tarkiainen, Max Richter and Alexina Louie, featuring Indigenous mezzo-soprano Marion Newman and Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen. The Eternal Earth embraces the pure sounds of nature, from the lion’s roar to the seagull’s cry.

“Part of the job of the artist is to be a dreamer… My music reflects who I am as a person on this Earth.”
Alexina Louie, composer of The Eternal Earth 

Hidden Worlds: Biosphere

On the second day, NACO presents a WolfGANG Session, our popular new music concert series, in its new home at Club SAW. Enjoy an intimate evening of lively music about the Earth and our Biosphere performed by NACO musicians, including works by Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, Brian Nabors, Kristine Tjøgersen and iconic Canadian composer, R. Murray Schafer. Two Inuit style throat singers, Kayley Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik, known as PIQSIQ, will also be performing at the NAC’s Fourth Stage.

Bodies of Water: Hydrosphere

Become Ocean, one of NACO’s highlighted concerts under Hydrosphere, will honour the voice of water and ice with music dedicated to critical ecological milestones our planet faces from various composers.  The concert's closing work, John Luther Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Become Ocean, is an all-encompassing sonic seascape that will engulf the audience in “roiling waves of sound, curling up and out… not so much ebbing as subsuming everything else” (npr.org).  Written for large orchestra, spatially separated into three groups, each group moves on its own sonic journey before meeting as one in crucial moments. If the ocean of our planet has a song, then Become Ocean is it.

Sustain-ability: Atmosphere

Lastly, under Atmosphere, Tune into Nature will celebrate the art and importance of listening with empathy – to our environment, our elders and each other – in a NACO family concert led by Principal Youth Conductor and Creative Partner Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser featuring music inspired by nature and creative responses to our world, the climate crisis, and the times we live in.  

To help offset the carbon footprint of the festival and sustain the Earth’s atmosphere, Canada’s Forest Trust (CFT) will be planting trees throughout the country. CFT boosts the green economy while learning from Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, which in turn purifies the air, improves soil quality and controls, filters and moderates water flow. 

For more information, please visit the Canada Forest Trust’s website. 

NACO and the Canadian Museum of Nature

NACO is delighted to partner with the Canadian Museum of Nature and feature events in both buildings, including pieces from the Museum’s collections at the NAC. Along with the CMN’s mission of “saving the world through evidence, knowledge, and inspiration”, the NAC and CMN will bring Earth and the climate crisis to centre stage together, reflecting on how art challenges how we think about environmentalism.

“We’re delighted to partner with the NAC Orchestra for this unique festival, which will celebrate nature and underscore some critical environmental challenges facing the planet. As Canada’s national museum of natural history, we look forward to sharing our knowledge about nature and to listening and learning from Sphere’s creative programs that blend music with art and science.” 
John Swettenham, interim co-CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature

Arctic Imagination

Co-presented with the Royal Danish Library, Arctic Imagination will feature public conversations throughout SPHERE. Themes surrounding a warming North, biodiversity, sustainability, and “response-ability” will be explored throughout debates, conversations, and public dialogue. From moss and mycelia to humans and whales, a warming climate impacts all species. Learn how you can create impactful change and share your thoughts throughout these crucial conversations. 

Within the context of listening, SPHERE acknowledges the importance of Indigenous ecological praxis and the philosophical contributions of composers. Immerse yourself in nature through music to advance our understanding, engagement and activism for the new environmental reality that is upon us, while also transforming the preconception of a symphony orchestra in our current environmental reality.

As an ecosystem of interdependent players, NACO embraces multiple tempos and temporalities—threading together historic repertoire with new music compositions. How might you apply knowledge from the past to sustain diversity? How might we create space for a symphony of human and non-human voices to compose a future survivorship? Come to SPHERE and find out. 


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