alexander shelley

conductor

SPECIAL PROJECTS

"a natural communicator both on and off the podium"

DISRUPTED

ground-breaking series

“We wanted to create a project that engages in a profound way with the Canadian public and demonstrates how a symphony orchestra can become a vehicle for powerful storytelling and a tool for social inclusion. Our society has been confronted with fundamental questions about equity, representation, accessibility, and we at the NAC were interested in how an orchestra can be driving forward the conversation and become a catalyst for change. UNDISRUPTED serves to underscore the strength, the breadth and diversity of creative voices in this country.”

Alexander Shelley

The Vision

Almost overnight, the COVID-19 crisis had a devastating impact on the performing arts sector, disrupting plans for creative artists round the globe. Deeply concerned about the enormous challenge artists were facing, NACO Music Director Alexander Shelley, NACO Managing Director Arna Einarsdóttir, and Creative Producer Donna Feore came together to create a project that would give voice to artists in an “undisrupted” way.

 

 

Through UNDISRUPTED, the NAC Orchestra (NACO) is throwing open the doors to the symphonic experience. This four-episode series takes the audience on a musical and visual journey with powerful, diverse and contemporary stories. Visionaries Measha Brueggergosman, Ana Sokoloviċ, Nicole Lizée and Shawnee Kish were each invited to draw on their own unique experiences using NACO as a megaphone to share their stories – stories that come to virtual life with the inclusion of mixed reality visual designs created by Montreal’s Normal Studio.

 

 

These four leading artists were offered a blank canvas to curate their 30-minute episode in which they each explored compelling narratives, offering unique and personal perspectives of the world. They were each empowered to collaborate with a wide variety of performing and visual artists to amplify their stories.   

More than a filmed performance, UNDISRUPTED immerses the audience with the orchestra and the concert hall with multiple camera angles captured by audiovisual production company ProdCan Inc. and mixed reality effects created by Montreal-based Normal Studio. Normal merges the real and the virtual worlds together to bring NAC’s Southam Hall to life in a way that has never been done before. 

 

UNDISRUPTED shows a reconfigured orchestra with conductor Alexander Shelley and musicians on risers placed overtop sections of the audience seating. This repositioning allowed for the nine cameras to capture unique viewpoints, thus inviting the audience to experience the Orchestra up close and personal.

On May 19, 2016, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra performed the world premiere of Life Reflected. It was the most ambitious concert in the history of the Orchestra, for many reasons. It was created by multiple composers, in collaboration with multiple artists, across many disciplines. Its multimedia presentation challenged the convention of what an orchestra concert could be.

But the work’s true power lies in its subject matter – stories that present the female perspectives of four remarkable Canadians: Alice Munro, Amanda Todd, Roberta Bondar and Rita Joe. Each faced great challenges in their lives, yet each spoke with a strong, distinct voice that made an impact on our world.

 

Life Reflected was performed to great acclaim in cities across Canada during the Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour in 2017 and subsequently for international audiences in 2019 during its European Tour in honour of the NAC’s 50th anniversary.

Peter and the wolf

Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood rediscovers and reinvents Prokofiev’s timeless masterpiece for the next generation.

 

Deutsche Grammophon, Giants are Small, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and I teamed up to create a recording, app and live show that introduces a brand new prequel story alongside the original children’s classic for the first time. 

Prokofiev’s tale is set in modern-day Los Angeles and anchored with a thrilling prequel – set off by the wolf’s escape from the local zoo – that takes Peter on a journey of robot building, a helicopter chase, and some melancholic introspection, all before he enters the forbidden meadow where he finally captures the wolf.

 

Giants Are Small’s trademark style combining magical visuals, touching characters, and tone-perfect comic timing opens a fresh view of Peter’s adventure — and a fresh hearing of Prokofiev’s classic score, which is performed in full, preceded by a wide selection of works by classical music legends such as Wagner, Schumann, Mahler, and Satie.

Next Generation:
Youth and Education

Alexander Shelley and Germany's National Youth Orchestra (Bundesjugendorchester) during recording of their album 'Peter and the Wold in Hollywood'

Alice Cooper says that narrating Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood took him back to his childhood. “I first heard this back in Detroit, when I was six or seven years old. My mom put the record on and I was instantly transported to another world,” he recalls. “And it has been huge fun for me to do something new after nearly 50 years in the business.” He’s also delighted with the story’s modern-day twist. “I love the fact that it’s moved on, and that Peter has come to Los Angeles to meet his grandfather, who turns out to be an old hippie! That gives the story a fresh dynamic. And I like that he’s not in the least bit terrified by the wolf, when everybody else is freaking out.”

combined disciplines

ENCOUNT3RS

An image from a performance of 'Encount3rs' - three new ballet scores and choreographies commissioned by Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra

ENCOUNT3RS will allow audiences to discover new and exciting contemporary works.

Creation is at the core of the National Arts Centre. “One of the key things we’re trying to celebrate all the time is our Canadian artists,” says Cathy Levy, Executive Producer of NAC Dance.

ENCOUNT3RS is a landmark NAC Commission that pairs three of Canada’s outstanding choreographic talents (Emily Molnar, Jean Grand-Maître and Guillaume Côté) with three of the country’s most exciting composers (Nicole Lizée, Andrew Staniland and Kevin Lau). Three remarkable new one-act ballets, each with an original orchestral score, will be performed en première by dozens of dazzling dancers together with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, under the baton of music director Alexander Shelley.


“I think multi-disciplinary performances like this are very exciting, because in the best-case scenario, the two forms augment one another,” says Music Director Alexander Shelley. “My hope is that those individuals who’ve come for dance will leave the hall saying ‘I loved the dance, but wow that music was amazing.’ And vice versa.”

Future Lab

Unlocking potential through music

The decision to move the orchestra’s rehearsal rooms to the building of the Bremen East Comprehensive School (Gesamtschule Bremen-Ost) was one of the most momentous steps in the history of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.

 

For over ten years, orchestra, school and local community have formed the nucleus of the Future Lab, where the building of relationships stands at the heart of its work in music education. Musicians, schoolchildren, teachers, parents and the multinational residents of the local high-rise community of Osterholz-Tenever meet in the most diverse circumstances, projects and on all levels. The unique collaboration between school and orchestra has been honoured with numerous awards, including the 2007 Future Award for the Best Social Innovation. In 2009, the Future Lab was declared a nationwide pilot project by the Minister of State for Culture.

Alexander Shelley was Artistic Leader of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen's Future Lab

OrKidstra

I have had the privilege of serving as an OrKidstra Ambassador for several years now and continue to be inspired by the dedication, vision and passion of everyone involved.

They truly empower kids and build community through the universal language of music.

Alexander Shelley is an OrKidstra ambassador

They carry out this mission by giving children from under-served communities free instruments, along with free group and individual music lessons. This gives children the chance to grow important life skills such as respect, compassion, teamwork, and responsibility through playing and working together.

On September 26th 2018 OrKidstra and I performed for assembled dignitaries in front of Canada’s Parliament Building at the One Young World Summit.