The National Arts Centre Orchestra is hoping to entertain and educate during its cross-country tour commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday.
The first leg of the tour starts in Atlantic Canada, running from April 26 to May 7, before heading back onto the road this fall with stops in Central and Western Canada from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2.
The Atlantic portion of the tour will include 80 education and community events aimed at forging connections between the orchestra and local residents.
“The tour for us—for me personally—is definitely not about just performing concerts,” said music director Alexander Shelley.
“That’s of course at the core of what we do. But it is about also deepening our relationships with the respective communities and saying: ‘We’re here for you, what would be interesting for you to have from us as a resource?”
The orchestra will perform alongside artists from Sistema New Brunswick, an organization that promotes social change through music, and host a four-day summit for young indigenous musicians as part of the expansion of its Music Alive program to Atlantic Canada.
Shelley will also conduct local choirs and the Singing Strings orchestra in Charlottetown, and will join orchestra members in leading a professional development day for educators in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Teachers do extraordinary work across the course of a year helping (students) and teaching them and broadening their horizons. On top of that, (if) they could meet people that could potentially be mentors or they can aspire to emulate, then that’s even better,” said Shelley.
“A young kid (who) plays hockey who meets a great hockey player, he’s excited to see a game firsthand—and the same thing here. When they hear the orchestra live, they’ll be inspired.”
The tour will also share the spotlight with other local performers, such as the Shallaway Choir in St. John’s, N.L., while hip-hop artists MAJE and Shevy Price will lead a musical evening in Halifax highlighting artists and youth from the African Nova Scotian community.
One of the works featured in the orchestra’s multimedia presentation “Life Reflected” will also be the centrepiece of the spring leg off the tour.
Each Atlantic Canada performance will include “I Lost My Talk” by Canadian composer John Estacio, accompanied by a film presentation and live narration by actor Monique Mojica.
The work is based on the poem of the same name by the late Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe, in which she disclosed her childhood pain of being forbidden to speak her own language while at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia.
On May 3, the orchestra is slated to perform the piece at Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island, home to Joe’s family and what is billed as the largest Mi’kmaq community in the world. The day will also include a music and art celebration for 500 Cape Breton students.
Central and Western Canada tour stops this fall will include visits to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. Additional stops are also being arranged in the Yukon in November, as well as for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.