Affairs of the Heart

with the NAC Orchestra

2020-11-07 20:00 2020-11-07 21:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Affairs of the Heart

NAC Livestream

Original broadcast date: Saturday November 7, 2020 With works spanning 1957-2018, by composers from Canada, the UK and the US, this concert is full of the sounds of contrasting cultures and moods, and pure musical virtuosity. American composer Jessie Montgomery’s Coincident Dances is a musical snapshot of a walk through New York City, with layers of texture, colours, and cultures.  Following the energetic opening work, the brilliant young trombonist Hillary Simms, from Torbay,...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Sat, November 7, 2020
NAC Livestream

≈ 90 minutes · No intermission

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Coincident Dances for orchestra

Acclaimed American composer Jessie Montgomery (b.1981) is also a violinist and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Since 1999, she has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African American and Latinx string players and has served as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, the Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and a former member of the Catalyst Quartet, Jessie holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a PhD Candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University. She is Professor of violin and composition at The New School. In May 2021, she began her three-year appointment as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

According to her biography, Jessie’s music, which includes solo, chamber, vocal, and orchestral pieces, “interweaves Western classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st century American sound and experience.” The Washington Post has described her works as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life”—words which, in fact, wholly apply to her orchestral piece, Coincident Dances. Commissioned by the Chicago Sinfonietta in 2017, it is a vibrant sonic street party that Jessie explains “is inspired by the sounds found in New York’s various cultures, capturing the frenetic energy and multicultural aural palette one hears even in a short walk through a New York City neighbourhood.”

Beginning with a rhapsodic double-bass solo, the work then moves through several different sound worlds, fusing music as varied as English consort, samba, mbira dance music from Ghana, sing, and techno. “My reason for choosing these styles,” Jessie notes, “sometimes stemmed from an actual experience of accidentally hearing a pair simultaneously, which happens most days of the week walking down the streets of New York, or one time when I heard a parked car playing Latin jazz while I had rhythm and blues in my headphones. Some of the pairings are merely experiments. Working in this mode, the orchestra takes on the role of a DJ of a multicultural dance track.” 


Trombone Concerto (Hillary Simms, trombone)


Verdala (Canadian premiere)

Marjan Mozetich

Affairs of the Heart (Duncan McDougall, violin)



I. Andantino ma energico
II. Larghetto piacevole
III. Allegro molto con brio

Canadian composer Violet Archer relished writing music for orchestra. Although trained as a pianist and organist, she spent nearly eight years (1940–1947) as the percussionist for the Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra, playing all percussion instruments except the timpani. She credits the experience for her interest in—and understanding of—writing for the orchestral medium. “Being in that orchestra was a great learning experience in the ‘inside’ of orchestra sound,” she said in an autobiographical essay. “It also made me conscious of the importance of the dynamic value of percussion instruments in the orchestral fabric.”

Archer’s Sinfonietta from 1968, originally commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, is a fine display of her signature style and craft in writing for large instrumental ensemble. In each of its three movements, groups of instruments are assigned various melodic motifs, which they present, develop, and recombine in dialogue with each other. With the textures being relatively spare rather than dense, the distinctive timbres of the instruments—as well as the artistry of the orchestra’s musicians—are allowed to shine.

The energetic first movement has a somewhat grand, ceremonial quality about it with its trumpet fanfares and the ratatat of the snare drum throughout. It progresses, first by individually highlighting in turn three main sections of the orchestra and their respective motifs—strings, then dialoguing woodwinds, and later, the brass with bold proclamations. In between, there are episodes of playful counterpoint. As the motifs develop, the sections gradually combine, building intensity and volume of sound to culminate in a boisterous final shout.

The second movement is a tender serenade, with a lyrical melody whose phrases are passed from instrument to instruments. Silvery touches of triangle evoke a dreamy nighttime atmosphere. In the middle, the strings introduce a haunting chant-like motif that they take to an impassioned peak. Afterwards, the serenade resumes, the triangle now more prominent, before fading out with the flute at the close.

Lighthearted and full of humorous touches, the finale includes a scampering tune, a quirky motif of alternating notes, and a majestic phrase of repeated sustained notes against vigorous tremolo. A rather ominous climax is reached that stops the orchestra in its tracks, giving space for a solo clarinet cadenza. But the violins soon interrupt the clarinet’s rhapsody with a reprise of the scampering tune, ultimately leading to a bold ending on the motif of alternating notes.


  • Trombone Hillary Simms
  • montgomery-jessie-copy
    Composer Jessie Montgomery
  • Composer Henri Tomasi
  • Composer Hannah Kendall
  • mozetich-marjan
    Composer Marjan Mozetich
  • mcdougall-duncan
    Violin Duncan McDougall
  • Composer Violet Archer
  • bio-orchestra
    Featuring National Arts Centre Orchestra
  • Conductor Alexander Shelley

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