Alexander Shelley is coming to town

Before there were convoys and honking horns, it used to be said that living in Ottawa gave you advantages, because of your proximity to the seats of power.

Yet maybe there’s still some truth to it when we look at the National Arts Centre Orchestra and their Music Director Alexander Shelley.

Last year the NACO enlisted CBC to make four short music films that can still be seen on GEM.

A tiny sample of Lizée’s brilliant creation. The Copyist (missing in action) still hasn’t been found…

I wrote about the witty creation from Nicole Lizée

She is one of
“four curators who were given an orchestra, a film crew, and huge creative freedom. UNDISRUPTED is the title of this series.

Part 1: Measha Brueggergosman: Forgotten Coast, as the soprano rediscovers her Black Loyalist heritage in Nova Scotia, evoking the Maritime traumatic experience.

Part 2: Ana Sokolovic: Iskra, a 30-minute symphony dedramatizes the COVID-19 pandemic by contextualizing it in the history of humanity.

Part 3: Nicole Lizée: A Guide to The Orchestra
Composer and film-maker Nicole Lizée wrote the music, screenplay and directed her episode, which features NAC Orchestra in a magic realist documentary.

Part 4: Shawnee Kish: Music Is My Medicine, as The Mohawk and Two-Spirit singer-songwriter collaborates with young Indigenous artists who have never performed on a stage before.

Yet come to think of it, it’s not fair to say that this project happened only because Shelley and the NACO are in Ottawa. Back in 2017 I recall that Luminato presented Life Reflected, also a work from the NACO and Shelley, produced and directed by Donna Feore who also collaborated on the UNDISRUPTED projects on CBC- GEM.

Who is this Alexander Shelley, you may wonder. That question was partially answered today as Shelley hosted This Is My Music on CBC radio. Now if there were ever a case where we might want someone to go on the radio to tell us of their musical influences, it might be Shelley, who is a genuine curator of music. Sometimes he speaks of the music he heard in childhood, even if it becomes music he makes as an adult professional.

The immediate reason for Shelley’s presence on CBC was the impending Truth in Our Time tour of the NACO that begins with a concert Wednesday night at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, featuring a world premiere of a symphony by Philip Glass, the Korngold violin concerto, and Shostakovich Symphony #9.

In April they’ll be playing at Carnegie Hall and then back to home base aka Southam Hall.

Shelley is a fine conductor and a bold curator who clearly makes things happen. I’m looking forward to hearing him lead the NACO at Roy Thomson Hall Wednesday night.

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