The National Arts Centre Orchestra’s 2018–2019 season included ambitious performances, exceptional guest artists, and an international tour that marked the NAC’s 50th anniversary with an unprecedented showcase of Canadian composers.
Alexander Shelley and the Orchestra kicked off the season in spectacular fashion with a Beethoven festival featuring each of the composer’s nine symphonies. It was the perfect way for audiences to experience the new Orchestra Shell in Southam Hall and its dramatically improved acoustic. The festival also offered a range of imaginative events, including Piano Marathons featuring Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in Peter Herrndorf Place; and Beers, Beats and Beethoven that melded beer from Collective Arts Craft Brewery with DJ Matt Tamblyn’s mixes of the composer’s work on the Wood Terrace.
In November, the NAC invited Germany’s national youth orchestra, Bundesjugendorchester (BJO), to perform in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. The outstanding ensemble joined the Orchestra for Benjamin Britten’s seminal War Requiem. In an echo of Britten’s intention for its 1962 premiere, the soloists and orchestra represented nations who fought in the Great War, with the Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova, the Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell, and the Canadian baritone James Westman. Following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial, Alexander Shelley led a free concert featuring BJO, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, OrKidstra, and a youth choir performing the world premiere of The World Remembers, co-commissioned by the actor R.H.Thomson.
Also in November, Conductor Emeritus Pinchas Zukerman and former Principal Cellist Amanda Forsyth returned to the Southam Hall stage. On November 14 and 15, led by guest conductor Elim Chan, Ms. Forsyth gave the world premiere of Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich’s Cello Concerto, an NAC commission generously funded by Charles Richard Harington. The following week, Maestro Zukerman conducted Elgar’s Enigma Variations and played viola on Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Viviane Hagner.
The Orchestra welcomed another former Music Director in January. The revered Baroque specialist Trevor Pinnock conducted a moving performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Cantata Singers of Ottawa and the Capital Chamber Choir, featuring soprano Lydia Teuscher, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, tenors Andrew Haji and Mauro Peter, and baritone Philippe Sly. On February 7 and 8, Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds and acclaimed pianist Yefim Bronfman gave exquisite performances of Beethoven’s fourth Piano Concerto. The concert began with Trisagion by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and ended with Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 5, a work not performed at the NAC since 1972.
Musicians of the Orchestra are among the best in the world, and on February 13 and 14, the Orchestra showcased Concertmaster and Associate Concertmaster — and married couple — Yosuke Kawasaki and Jessica Linnebach in Cobalt by Canadian composer Jocelyn Morlock. Conducted by Alexander Shelley, the program, which was also performed at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on February 23, included Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring French pianist David Fray, and Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, which was recorded for future release by the Montreal-based label Analekta.
In honour of International Women’s Day (March 8), Alexander Shelley and the Orchestra performed Qiksaaktuq, created and sung by Tanya Tagaq, in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Life Reflected, the multidisciplinary NAC Orchestra commission about four extraordinary Canadians — Alice Munro, Roberta Bondar, Rita Joe and Amanda Todd — composed by Canadian composers Zosha Di Castri, Jocelyn Morlock, Nicole Lizée and John Estacio. The Orchestra and Tagaq also performed in Kingston that week. And on March 20 and 21, Bramwell Tovey led the Orchestra and soloist James Ehnes in a program of Delius, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.
On May 1 and 2, guitar superstar Miloš Karadaglić joined Alexander Shelley and the Orchestra for the world premiere of The Forest, a guitar concerto and NAC commission by the acclaimed Canadian composer Howard Shore. The program included Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and an overture by German composer Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, and was recorded for release in 2020 on Analekta.
From May 10 to 26, the NAC Orchestra embarked on a European tour in honour of the NAC’s 50th anniversary. Supported entirely by generous donors to the NAC Foundation, the tour included eight concerts in Saffron Walden and London (U.K.), Paris (France), Utrecht (The Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden), as well as more than 60 community outreach events.
The tour showcased Canadian artists, music and stories. In London and Saffron Walden, Calgary-born Jan Lisiecki gave riveting performances of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and Korean-Canadian counter-tenor David DQ Lee sang Montrealer Ana Sokolović’s 2019 JUNO Award-winning Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes. Canadian soprano Erin Wall sang Lonely Child by Quebec composer Claude Vivier in Paris, Utrecht and Stockholm. And in Utrecht, Copenhagen and Stockholm, GRAMMY Award-winning James Ehnes brought audiences to their feet with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The Copenhagen concert was broadcast live on Danish radio, and later on CBC Music and on Radio-Canada’s Ici Musique.
In all, the repertoire included music by six Canadian composers — an unprecedented number for a Canadian orchestra on tour. A centrepiece was Life Reflected, which the Orchestra performed to enthusiastic audiences at La Seine Musicale in Paris, and in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“An ambitious tour like this is fundamental to who we are,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “It’s about championing Canadian artists and allowing them to shine on the world stage. And it’s about making connections with audiences overseas as we share Canadian music, culture and stories.”
On June 2, the evening of the NAC’s 50th anniversary, the Orchestra performed a free concert that took the audience through its extraordinary history. Finally, the Orchestra had the great honour of being part of the national Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill, which was broadcast nationally on CBC/Radio-Canada. The Orchestra performed the JUNO Award-winning My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, and made music with many top artists, including hip-hop artist K’Naan, singer-songwriter Karim Ouellet and Mohawk pop singer Shawnee.
NAC Dance, led by Executive Producer Cathy Levy, featured extraordinary dance from across Canada and around the world, and demonstrated its commitment to new Canadian work through six exciting co-productions.
In October, Dance was proud to present the North American premiere of XENOS in the Babs Asper Theatre, a NAC Dance co-production and tour-de-force by the acclaimed British dancer and choreographer Akram Khan that marked his final performances in a full-length work. In another farewell, the legendary 70-year-old Canadian dancer and choreographer Paul-André Fortier performed Solo 70 in the Azrieli Studio, a NAC co-production and his final work with Fortier Danse-Création after 40 remarkable years. From November 1 to 3, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet performed its latest full-length ballet Vespers in Southam Hall. Choreographed by James Kudelka, the work featured the legendary prima ballerina Evelyn Hart in a role created especially for her.
In the New Year, Dance kicked off the NAC’s 50th anniversary celebrations with The National Ballet of Canada, a company that has performed at the NAC every year since its opening night on June 2, 1969. They danced Paz de la Jolla by Justin Peck, Apollo by George Balanchine, and The Dream by Sir Frederick Ashton in Southam Hall.
Face2Face, co-presented with Ottawa Dance Directive’s Series Dance 10 and La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins from February 21 to 23, showcased Canadian and international Indigenous artists, including Jacob Boehme’s solo produced by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, Maori dance artist Victoria Hunt, and Oji-Cree dance artist Lara Kramer, whose new work Windigo was co-produced by NAC Dance.
Two Dance co-productions were supported by the National Creation Fund, which invests in ambitious new work from across Canada —
Revisor by Vancouver’s Kidd Pivot, the latest creation by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young (February 28-March 2); and who we are in the dark by Peggy Baker Dance Projects (April 12-13), both in the Asper Theatre. The final Dance co-production of the season, Threshold by the ice dancing company Le Patin Libre, dazzled audiences at the Minto Skating Centre (May 10-11).
Four other renowned Canadian companies gave exceptional performances in Southam Hall in 2018–2019. Ballet BC’s mixed program included BEGINNING AFTER by Cayetano Soto, Enemy in the Figure by William Forsythe, and To This Day, a new work by Artistic Director Emily Molnar (March 23). Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal performed their glorious new interpretation of Giselle, choreographed by Artistic Director Ivan Cavallari (April 4-6). And Alberta Ballet danced Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and the Drum, choreographed by Jean Grand-Maître, to two packed houses (May 15-16).
NAC Dance offers the best dance from around the world. This year, that included Borderline by Company Wang Ramirez of France and Germany (November 7-8 in the Asper Theatre); the Canadian premiere of Sutra by U.S. company Alonzo King LINES Ballet (November 16-17 in Southam Hall); the Ottawa premiere of Malpaso Dance Company of Cuba with a mixed program (January 18-19 in the Asper Theatre); Bach and Gira by Brazil’s Grupo Corpo (February 9 in Southam Hall); and the Canadian premiere of Spanish Flamenco sensation Farruquito (March 4 in Southam Hall).
NAC English Theatre offered outstanding productions created by and featuring gifted theatre artists from various parts of Canada.
Many shows told stories of real Canadians. The season began in October with the Grand Theatre’s (London, ON) extraordinary production of Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell by Trina Davies, directed by former English Theatre Artistic Director Peter Hinton in the Babs Asper Theatre, featuring the Deaf actor Catherine Joell MacKinnon. Furthering English Theatre’s work in this area, the Points of View podcast interview with Joell MacKinnon and Artistic Director Jillian Keiley was recorded in video with ASL-interpretation and captioning.
Chasing Champions: The Sam Langford Story by Jacob Sampson, a co-production by Theatre Workshop and Tableau D’Hôte (Montreal) directed by Ron Jenkins, is about Sam Langford, a gifted but little known boxer in Nova Scotia (November 13-24 in the Azrieli Studio). Lorena Gale’s Angélique is based on Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave in New France who was sentenced to death for allegedly setting fire to the city of Old Montreal in 1734 (March 20-31 in the Asper Theatre). Both productions were very well received.
From April 24 to May 5 in the Asper Theatre, the Blyth Festival’s fascinating production of The Pigeon King, directed by Severn Thompson, centred on Arlan Galbraith, whose bird-breeding empire became one of the greatest frauds in Canadian history. Finally, Robert Chafe’s Between Breaths, an Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland production, told the tale of Jon Lien, who freed more than 500 whales from fishing nets (May 7-28 in the Azrieli Studio). Directed by Jillian Keiley, and with a score by the Newfoundland band The Once, the show was a hit with audiences and critics.
During the holiday season, The Hockey Sweater: A Musical by Emil Sher and Jonathan Munro based on Roch Carrier’s iconic story, delighted audiences with a dazzling cast of children and adults who sang and danced in roller skates. The Segal Centre for Performing Arts (Montreal) production, which received an investment from the National Creation Fund, was directed and choreographed by Donna Feore.
Kristen Thomson’s raucous The Wedding Party, a co-production from Crow’s Theatre (Toronto) and Talk is Free Theatre (Barrie) directed by Chris Abraham, had the audience in stitches (January 30-February 9 in the Asper Theatre). Rounding out the season was Prince Hamlet by Toronto’s Why Not Theatre, a highly acclaimed retelling of Shakespeare’s play adapted and directed by Ravi Jain (February 27-March 9 in the Azrieli Studio).
There were many stellar productions in the NAC French Theatre season, led by Artistic Director Brigitte Haentjens. They included two particularly strong productions at the beginning of the season, and at the end — the season opening Quills by Doug Wright starring the incomparable Robert Lepage; and the closing production of Pinocchio by the renowned French playwright and director Joël Pommerat.
In the fall, audiences were captivated by Laurent Gaudé’s Le Tigre bleu de l’Euphrate, staged by former French Theatre Artistic Director Denis Marleau and featuring a solo performance by Emmanuel Schwartz. And audiences were challenged and amazed by Christian Lapointe’s Le reste vous le connaissez par le cinéma, which received an investment from the National Creation Fund.
French Theatre was proud to present the ambitious trilogy AmericanDream.ca by Claude Guilmain, produced by Toronto’s Théâtre la Tangente, as well as the world premiere of the documentary Sur la corde raide, directed by Claude Guilmain and produced by the National Film Board. The season also included the memorable Ce qu’on attend de moi by Gilles Poulin Denis and Philippe Cyr, in which an audience-volunteer became the central figure in an extraordinary stage setting.
The Enfance/jeunesse series began with Pascal Brullemans’ Petite Sorcière, for which Nini Bélanger created two versions for different age groups. Mile(s)tones by Belgium’s Zonzo Compagnie invited young people to explore the fascinating world of Miles Davis. The season concluded with the premiere of Le Cheval de bleu, a poetic text by Marcel Cremer, directed by Milena Buziak and performed by a hearing actress and a Deaf actor. This show and Dis merci (produced by Joe Jack et John and presented in the fall) featured inclusive casts, allowing the audience to cultivate relationships with Deaf and hearing-impaired theatregoers in the region.
NAC Indigenous Theatre, led by Artistic Director Kevin Loring and Managing Director Lori Marchand, had a highly productive year as it prepared for its inaugural season in 2019–2020.
Increasing awareness of the new department in the Algonquin nation and across Canada was a priority. Kevin Loring travelled widely to meet Indigenous artists and producers, and the Indigenous Theatre team consulted with the Algonquin Advisory Council to keep them abreast of the department’s plans.
The programming announcement on April 30, 2019 was a celebratory affair in Peter A. Herrndorf Place, with hundreds from the Indigenous community and the community at large in attendance.
“We are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance,” Kevin Loring said. “The work that has been done over the decades in Indigenous performing arts is coming to a point where we are reaching a critical mass, where artists are bringing forward new ways of thinking about the work in relation to old ways of telling our stories. Our stories are medicine.”
The season will celebrate the beauty, strength and resilience of Indigenous women, with nine of the 11 works written and created by women. The productions will include emerging and established artists from across Canada and around the world, and feature more than 10 Indigenous languages.
Mòshkamo: Indigenous Arts Rising festival in September 2019 will take over the NAC with performances in each of the NAC’s programming streams. Opening night will feature The Unnatural and Accidental Women by the esteemed Métis-Dene playwright Marie Clements, and Where the Blood Mixes, for which Kevin Loring won a Governor General’s Literary Award in 2009.
Other highlights include legendary singer-songwriters Buffy Sainte-Marie and Susan Aglukark; Mînowin by west coast dance company Dancers of Damelahamid; Unikkaaqtuat by Igloolik circus company Artcirq (with Montreal’s The 7 Fingers); Kinalik: These Sharp Tools featuring Evalyn Parry; and the outrageous Hot Brown Honey from Australia.
The all-Canadian music series NAC Presents, led by Executive Producer Heather Gibson, offered audiences a stellar season that included 109 performances, a new series with the NAC Orchestra, and the debut of a world music festival.
The wide range of artists included Inuk singer-songwriter Elisapie Isaac; Nova Scotia’s Port Cities; Ottawa folk singer Jeremy Fisher; Montreal singer-songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright; the GRAMMY Award winning pianist Chilly Gonzales; and the legendary Blue Rodeo, among many others. The second year of the after-work Fridays at the Fourth concerts in the Fourth Stage was popular once again, with talented emerging artists like Tanika Charles, Laetitia Zonzambé, Mehdi Cayenne and more.
NAC Presents introduced two new initiatives this year. The first was Sessions, which paired Canadian singer-songwriters with the NAC Orchestra. On October 4, Ottawa singer-songwriter Lynn Miles took the stage, followed by folk rocker Tom Wilson with a set called “Beautiful Scars” — the same title as his best-selling memoir.
“Many artists are looking for something different in their careers such as the opportunity to perform with an orchestra,” Heather Gibson said. “Sometimes they come with charts, sometimes, as in Lynn’s case, we commission them. This adds another layer to an artist’s repertoire in that they now have those arrangements to perform with other orchestras.”
Finally, from May 24 to 26, in collaboration with Lula Music, the Arts Centre and Axé WorldFest, NAC Presents presented the first edition of Vivafest, a festival of concerts, workshops and free events with some of Canada’s most acclaimed Latin, Brazilian and global roots artists, including Kobo Town, Aline Morales, OKAN and many more.
The NAC offers a wide range of artists and performances under its Variety stream. A particular high point was Andrea Gibson, one of the most captivating performers in the spoken word poetry scene, and one of the most important in the queer community (April 15 in the Azrieli Studio).
Many artists and hit performances chose Southam Hall as the ideal venue to connect with audiences in the National Capital Region, including a sold-out run of the Francophone musical Notre Dame de Paris in the 20th anniversary year of its Quebec premiere (October 16-21); Préfère Novembre by the Quebec comedian Louis-José Houde (January 26); two sold-out shows by Jerry Seinfeld (April 12); and the Canadian hit musical Come From Away from Broadway Across Canada (August 20-September 8).
Finally, the NAC is proud to host exceptional community programming in the Fourth Stage. Notable performances included two sold-out shows by Afro Cuban-jazz performers OKAN and Cuban-born Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas (October 13-14); a Gospel Holidays show by London Trio+ (December 22); and Latin-classical guitarists Alejandro Vega and Gabriela Iznardo (May 29).
The National Creation Fund has so far invested $4.8 million of privately raised money in 30 projects by artists and arts organizations from across Canada. In 2018–2019, many of those projects triumphantly came to life on stages across Canada and abroad, showing what a significant difference this kind of investment can make in creating ambitious new work.
The Hockey Sweater: A Musical opened to rave reviews on December 7 as part of the English Theatre season. With support from the Fund, the creative team of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts production refined the original script and score, and added new songs and choreography.
On January 9, Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre premiered The Full Light of Day, described by the Vancouver Sun described as “a tour de force of multimedia inventiveness.” Two weeks later, Counting Sheep by Mark and Marichka Marczyk began a two-month run in London, U.K. as part of the Vault Festival, to widespread acclaim. Thanks to the Fund, the creators were able to collaborate with Belarus Free Theatre to enhance the production.
On February 20, Kidd Pivot’s Revisor, the latest creation from choreographer Crystal Pite and writer Jonathon Young, premiered in Vancouver and is now touring internationally. The next night, Peggy Baker’s who we are in the dark opened in Toronto. For the first time, her work will tour internationally. Peggy called the Fund “a game-changer. I have never been able to work at that level before.”
A number of other Fund projects secured notable international engagements. Dancers of Damelahamid’s new production Mînowin will be presented at the Cervantino Festival in Mexico after it premieres at the NAC in September 2019 as part of the inaugural Indigenous Theatre season. And Stanford Live will present the world premiere of Volcano Theatre’s Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha in Palo Alto, California in April 2020.
Three of the Fund’s Alberta projects were busy with workshops and world premieres in the spring. Ghost Opera by Calgary’s The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, in collaboration with Calgary Opera and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, then opened in Banff followed by a two-week run in Calgary. Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre premiered The Invisible – Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare in April, followed by three weeks of performances in Calgary. And Citadel Theatre had two weeks of workshops on its new musical Prison Dancer, which will premiere in Edmonton in 2020-2021.
The National Arts Centre strives to be open, welcoming and accessible to everyone. Through free programming and events in partnership with local organizations, the Public Spaces team are successfully attracting a greater diversity of communities to the NAC.
In partnership with the Indigenous Theatre department, Public Spaces hosted Adàwàning: Indigenous Women’s Art Market (December 15). More than 40 Métis, Inuit and First Nations women artists and artisans took part in a day-long market that was attended by several thousand visitors over the course of the day. And a new partnership with SouthAsianFest, Canada’s largest South Asian event, resulted in the festival’s first-ever event at the NAC (August 9-18).
In addition, the NAC was delighted to partner with CBC Ottawa on Project Give, which rallies the local community to support the Ottawa Food Bank through radio and television broadcasts featuring live music. Broadcast from the NAC Public Spaces all day and into the evening, the event raised a record-breaking $197,845.
Learning Highlights 2018-2019
On March 11, the Music Alive Program and NAC Indigenous Theatre, in partnership with Symphony Nova Scotia, the Canada Council for the Arts and eight local partners, produced Apiksiktuaqn, a day of music and theatre workshops on the theme of forgiveness at Alison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia. The day included instrumental clinics led by NAC Orchestra and Symphony Nova Scotia musicians; a conducting workshop for teachers led by Alexander Shelley; a composition workshop led by Métis Carrefour composer Ian Cusson; and theatre creation workshops led by the Sobey Award-winning Eskasoni performance artist Ursula Johnson. More than 200 students from six Cape Breton schools attended the event, which included the world premiere of Ian Cusson’s band arrangement for the song Forgiveness/Apiksiktuaqn by Mi’kmaq singer-songwriter Richard Poulette. The visiting musicians also had the opportunity to attend workshops led by Eskasoni artists.
In honour of its 50th anniversary year, the NAC hosted the first-ever North American edition of BIG BANG, an innovative festival for children and families about the world of music, sound and the arts. More than 8,000 young people and their families explored the festival’s imaginative installations and performances throughout the building, including the backstage areas.
Alexander Shelley and the Orchestra presented a special concert for the occasion — Nimble Fingers, in which puppets and inanimate objects came to life through whimsical light and shadow effects accompanied by Canadian composer Jocelyn Morlock’s Oiseaux bleus et sauvages. The concert featured Canadian puppeteer Marcelle Hudon and NAC Orchestra Principal Flute Joanna G’froerer.
Community engagement and partnerships are hallmarks of NAC Orchestra tours. During the 50th Anniversary European Tour, Alexander Shelley and the Orchestra musicians engaged with more than 3,000 people through 60 education events in five countries. Highlights included new children’s shows designed and animated by students from Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, and performed by NAC Orchestra ensembles for elementary students; Orchestra musicians performing with the Catching Cultures Orchestra and Muzik Route — two organizations in Utrecht that celebrate cross-cultural dialogue; and Sistema Södertälje performing with NAC Orchestra musicians at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
Throughout the year, NAC Dance Education Associate and Teaching Artist Siôned Watkins led workshops throughout the Ottawa area, giving hundreds of elementary and secondary school students unique dance experiences. On November 2, she led a workshop for 18 ESL students at Ridgemont High School. On March 28 and 29, she gave six dance workshops, assisted by dance artist and choreographer Geoff Dollar, at Elgin Street Public School. And in April, Siôned Watkins and dance educator Allison Carrier created an over-the-top, high-energy choreography for 22 Earl of March Secondary School students in honour of comedian Rick Mercer during the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards on April 27.
Dance also gave invaluable training opportunities to aspiring dancers through masterclasses and events with visiting dance artists. A particular highlight was Tea with a Ballerina featuring the iconic Canadian prima ballerina Evelyn Hart. The masterclass lineup featured Johanna Faye of Company Wang Ramirez; Meredith Webster, Ballet Master for Alonzo King LINES Ballet; Osnel Delgado, Artistic Director of Malpaso Dance Company; Marina Villanuava, Ballet Mistress for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and many more.
English Theatre has long been a champion of Deaf artists and has taken many steps to make its productions more accessible to the Deaf community. On March 8, Deaf teaching artist Dawn Jani Birley led a workshop for Deaf students at Ottawa’s Woodroffe High School. Ms. Birley played the pivotal role of Horatio in Why Not Theatre’s groundbreaking production of Prince Hamlet, presented by NAC English Theatre and performed entirely in ASL and English. After attending the student matinee performance on March 5, the students were thrilled to meet Dawn and learn about her career as a Deaf performer and advocate. Many of the students recently arrived in Canada as refugees, and their visit to the NAC was their first time attending theatre.
English Theatre also nurtures the next generation of artistic leaders. From September 24 to October 19, Artistic Director Jillian Keiley mentored two emerging artistic directors — Brendan Howlett (Toronto) and Kate Smith (Ottawa). Over the course of four weeks, they shadowed her and watched her day-to-day activities.
NAC French Theatre’s major learning initiative this year was the BIG BANG festival on February 17 and 18. The team collaborated with Music and many other NAC departments to bring this ambitious project to life.
Several activities complemented the programming, including NOMAD, an initiative linking a group of teenagers or children with a guest artist. Indigenous students from Hadley and Philemon Wright Secondary School in Gatineau worked with multidisciplinary Métis artist Moe Clark and Mexican-born musician Ahau Marino, and performed during the festival. BIG BANG also created an unforgettable personal development experience for 10 energetic, bilingual students who ranged in age from 10 to 14. They became ambassadors and acted as the public face of the festival. In addition to greeting and guiding the audience to events, these impressive young people also honed their journalism skills by interviewing artists and visitors.
To enrich enjoyment of NAC programming and the performing arts, the Digital Engagement team produces podcasts hosted by NAC artistic leaders, scholars and journalists that are downloaded by listeners from around the world. A particular highlight this year was a special series marking the 50th anniversary of the NAC Orchestra. The English version was hosted by the acclaimed broadcaster Eric Friesen, while the French version was hosted by esteemed music critic and academic Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer. Other highlights included NAC Presents Executive Producer Heather Gibson’s conversation with Yellowknife singer-songwriter Leela Gilday; Maclean’s senior writer Paul Wells’s interview with composer Howard Shore about the NAC commission The Forest; and NAC Dance Executive Producer Cathy Levy in conversation with choreographer Peggy Baker about who we are in the dark, an NAC co-production that received an investment from the National Creation Fund.
The Digital Engagement team enabled Canadian students and a wide online audience to engage with the NAC Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary European Tour. In partnership with the Royal College of Music and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director Alexander Shelley and the acclaimed trumpet soloist Alison Balsom hosted ConneXXions 2019. Violinist Esther Abrami from the Royal College of Music performed, while the Brent District School Band in London, England and Orkidstra in Ottawa made music and connected with each other in real time.