May 3, 2020

The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) will kick off a big month of music in May with Music Monday @ Home on May 4th, 2020. Produced annually by the Coalition for Music Education, the event consists of day-long activities and performances across the country, connecting youth, artists and educators. This year, Music Director Alexander Shelley will open Music Monday by leading NACO, MusicFest Canada’s Ellison Canadian Honour Choir, Newfoundland’s Shallaway Youth Choir and musicians from Canadian orchestras in a virtual performance of O Canada. Shelley will also lead a virtual choir in a video-broadcast performance and sing-along of the Music Monday anthem, Oscar Peterson’s iconic “Hymn to Freedom”. The choir performance will be broadcast on theCoalition’s website, YouTube and Facebook pages at 9:00 A.M; 12:30 PM; and 6 PM (ET). The entire 12-hour webcast will run on those same digital channels from 9 am-9 pm ET, and will include live, virtual, and recorded performances, plus special activities, messages and greetings from prominent Canadians.

“Since the inaugural Music Monday in 2005, the Coalition for Music Education in Canada has enjoyed a close partnership with the National Arts Centre. We are grateful for their continued support as we bring the country #TogetherInHarmony for our first fully virtual Music Monday @ Home Celebration. Music and the arts have the power to console, to bring people together, to celebrate and to heal. Now more than ever, Canadians need music in our lives and especially in our schools. Thank you to the NAC for helping us protect and celebrate music education,”  said Eric Favaro, Chair of the Board for the Coalition for Music Education in Canada

The complete Music Monday program consists of a 12-hour digital broadcast featuring Canadian music and musicians in communities from coast to coast to coast and will showcase the diversity, creativity and resilience of the nation through live performances, favourite memories, and special messages from prominent Canadians, ending with an epic virtual afterparty. Since 2004, Music Monday has shone a spotlight on the phenomenal work of teachers, students, community allies, and arts organizations, while advocating for equitable access to quality music education within Canadian schools. Its ever-expanding growth has proven Music Monday to be one of the largest nationwide celebrations of our time. 


That same week, on May 8th, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra is set to release a new album as part of a recording cycle themed “Clara, Robert, Johannes” under label Analekta. The release comes a day after the anniversary of Johannes Brahms’ birthday and follows a September 2019 digital-only teaser that marked the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birthday. The album is the first of four to be released over the next two years as part of a cycle that explores the closely intertwined personal and artistic connections between three musical giants: Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. This release includes Clara’s Piano Concerto, played by Venezuelan virtuoso Gabriela Montero, and Robert and Johannes’ first symphonies. The album is linked together with brilliant solo improvisations by Gabriela, based on themes by Clara. Excerpts from the recording will be shared on May 6th to listeners of NACO’s Home Delivery concerts, a new digital performance format launched recently in times of physical distancing. Anyone can sign-up to receive these free concert recordings in their inbox.

Music Director Alexander Shelley worked with Clara Schumann scholar Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers, and Brahms biographer Jan Swafford, to shape an insightful narrative illustrating the lives and works of these three Romantics. Robert Schumann’s and Johannes Brahms’ symphonies are paired and combined with Clara Schumann’s chamber works and extant orchestral pieces, including some special gems. Alexander Shelley says: “I have always loved these symphonies and saw many links between them. It was a real pleasure performing them with this Orchestra in 2016, and it’s always been my dream to record them and release them together. No story of these two composers is complete without Clara, much more famous in her lifetime than her husband, and a strong influence on both Robert and Johannes.  We crafted this vision with Clara Schumann scholar Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers, to combine the symphonies with pieces by Clara in ways that provide an insightful narrative to the intertwined lives and works of these three Romantics.”

Analekta was founded in 1987 by François Mario Labbé and is the largest independent classical music record company in Canada. It has produced more than 500 albums and recorded more than 200 of the country’s most prominent musicians, winning multiple awards in the process. In early 2019, Analekta achieved the impressive feat of having the works in its catalogue streamed 130 million times on international streaming platforms.

The album will be available for purchase through iTunes, Amazon, Archambault, ArkivMusic, and Presto Classical; and for streaming through Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. Tracks are available at Analekta;Spotify; Apple Music; iTunes Store; and Archambault.



May used to see a flurry of activity surrounding NACO’s ongoing partnership with MusicFest Canada. For the first time in 48 years, MusicFest Canada was forced to cancel its annual Nationals scheduled for May 18-23, 2020, in Calgary AB because of COVID-19. Of the 5,500 students whose ensembles earned invitations to attend this year’s national competition, 80 of the finest students were selected through an audition process to form the Denis Wick Canadian Wind Ensemble and the Thomastik-Infeld Canadian String Orchestra. MusicFest Canada approached the NAC to see if the NAC Orchestra could offer their most talented high school students, conducting fellows, and high school music teachers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be coached by world-class musicians. Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra enthusiastically agreed and close to 200 private and group zoom lessons have been arranged. The partnership will culminate May 28th when virtual performances of the students led by Alexander Shelley will be shared as part of the NAC Orchestra’s popular noon-hour lunch break series.

MusicFest Canada annually engages the participation of over 400,000 young musicians, parents and volunteers in 104 affiliated festivals nationwide for an opportunity to perform at the national festival. It is North America’s largest annual event dedicated to developing young musical talent.  “MusicFest Canada is thrilled to work in tandem with the National Arts Centre Orchestra to provide students with top-notch coaching and an innovative virtual performance opportunity.” – Neil Yorke-Slader, Associate Director, MusicFest Canada.


May will wrap up with the launch of the NAC Orchestra’s Music Circle guidebook and accompanying videos demonstrating how people with autism and other exceptionalities can immerse themselves with family and care providers into a world of music through multi-model learning and sensory-friendly activities.  Educators working with special needs populations can learn how to create a sensory-friendly environment, work through behavioural challenges, adapt to varying communication needs and more.

The resources are inspired by the NAC Orchestra’ Music Circle program that was launched in 2012 in partnership with the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education.  The program, led by Dr. Erin Parkes and NACO Second Horn Elizabeth Simpson, and featuring ensembles from the NAC Orchestra, has introduced hundreds of people with special needs to orchestral music.  It gives the team great joy to be able to share these resources especially during this time of confinement.  The enhanced Music Circle web feature will launch on May 30th.



Canadians who stay at home can continue to experience more digital content and recommendations from the NAC Orchestra. Throughout May, the weekday Lunch Breaks will continue to feature performances by NACO musicians who offer their thoughts on a piece of music, share one of their hobbies and perform for the at-home audience. In addition, every Wednesday night in May, Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra, will send a NACO Home Delivery by email, sharing an audio recording of a concert from the NAC Orchestra archives. Everyone can sign-up online for free home deliveries.