News

October 31, 2020

The NAC Orchestra makes a triumphant return to Southam Hall tonight, October 31st!

This livestream concert heralds a new era for NACO, throwing wide open the doors of the orchestra experience. We offer you music for reflection, contemplation and celebration.

The concert opens in a quiet and prayer-like fashion with George Walker’s Lyric for Strings. It was originally titled Lament, and composed in 1946 when the composer was only 24 years old. Walker was the first Black American composer to win the Pulitzer and his incredible artistry seems as relevant now as when it was first written.

After offering somber thought to what the world has experienced in 2020, we then explode into an expression of hope, drive and ambition with Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst. It’s fast, extroverted and bright, just as its title denotes. This piece was originally commissioned by the Sphinx Organization, a crucial organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Our first soloist is classical guitarist Christ Habib who chose to perform Jacques Hétu’s Concerto for Guitar and Strings – championing this Quebecer’s work, which Christ feels should be part of the guitar’s standard repertoire.

Next, Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Hand-picked by soprano Jonelle Sills, this lyrical piece, with its free-form, childlike impressions of the sounds of a small town summer evening, is a beautiful and poignant musical statement. Jonelle heard it first when studying at the Glenn Gould School, and leapt at the chance to perform it for us.

Jonelle also narrates Carlos Simon’s Portrait of a Queen. It weaves tales of Black women from royalty in Africa, via slavery, Jim Crow laws, and church matriarchy. The narrative is written by the composer’s friend Courtney Ware, who explains: “Although Queen represents black womanhood in America and in Africa, she is not one dimensional. Her story is a mixture of pain and struggle, hope and triumph.” You can learn more here.

The concert closes with a contemplative and quiet piece intended to offer Solace to us listening. JUNO Award-winning composer Jocelyn Morlock wrote this piece with beautiful solos by two of our brilliant orchestra members: Yosuke Kawasaki on violin and Julia MacLaine on cello.

Jocelyn says:

“In my first year of university, having made a sudden jump away from a planned career in sciences and towards composition, I heard all kinds of music that I’d never known existed before. It was thrilling, like seeing a new colour for the first time. In particular, the profound joy and beauty of Josquin’s Missa L’Homme Armé is what inspired me to write my piece, Solace, some years later.

“Unlike most string orchestra works, “Solace” requires the group to be divided into three smaller sub-ensembles:

1. the “early music” ensemble, consisting of two violins, two violas, cello and double bass, playing music that is partially derived from the Agnus Dei of Josquin’s L’Homme Arme (sexti toni) Mass.

2. the more ethereal sounding group of five violins, positioned above the rest of the ensemble, playing very long, slow harmonics.”

3. the violin and cello soloists, whose music is meant to be a response to that of the “early music” ensemble.”

Watch the free livestream concert right here at 8 pm on Saturday, October 31.