NACO In A New Light

with the NAC Orchestra

2021-09-10 20:00 2021-09-10 21:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: NACO In A New Light

NAC Livestream

Our return to the shared concert experience, and the opening of our season, begins with a program moving from darkness to light.  Throughout the centuries, the trumpet has provided a clarion call to humanity—to fight, to worship, to acclaim, or to celebrate. Principal Trumpet Karen Donnelly has composed a moving hymn for solo trumpet which leads us into the beauty and sorrow of Trevor Weston’s “Ashes” for unaccompanied voices.  Commissioned in 2002 for the...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Fri, September 10, 2021
NAC Livestream

≈ 90 minutes · No intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: September 2, 2021


Karen Donnelly

To Rise

Throughout the centuries, the trumpet has provided a clarion call to humanity—to fight, to worship, to acclaim, or to celebrate. Principal Trumpet Karen Donnelly has composed a moving hymn for solo trumpet.

Trevor Weston


In the haunting sound world of Ashes (2002), a work for a capella choir, Trevor Weston sought to convey the “profound images resulting from the destruction of the World Trade Towers” on September 11, 2001. Among them, he notes, was a scene, shown on various news programs, of “individuals running toward a camera on a sunny New York street chased by a cloud of ashes and rubble. The cloud eventually envelops the street, the sky, and all in its way creating a haunting nuclear winter-like stillness.” “Sorrow itself,” he observes, “overtakes our being, leaving us frozen and still in disbelief.”

The text of Ashes consists of verses selected from Psalm 102 (see below). For Weston, “they present in a very poignant way the loneliness and isolation associated with suffering that is common to all humans. These verses at the same time combat loneliness by connecting our human emotional experiences with animal and natural imagery. ‘Misery loves company’ because sorrow is best dissipated when we no longer feel alone.”

I have watched, and am even as it were a sparrow, that sitteth alone upon the housetop.
I am become like a pelican in the wilderness,
and like an owl that is in the desert.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee. My days are gone like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. For I have eaten ashes as it were bread,
and mingled my drink with weeping;
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee.

Weston describes the unfolding of his piece as follows: “In an attempt to represent a universal expression of human sorrow, Ashes opens with chant-like material because unaccompanied vocal music is common to all cultures. The semi-chorus represents the direct inner thoughts of isolation that are amplified by the larger chorus. Within the drama of this work, the chorus builds a “tall” chord consisting of two notes for each part, symbolically the two towers, and then dissolves them with individual expressions of sorrow.”

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley

Vivian Fung


Composed in just a few days in June 2020, Prayer, Vivian Fung describes, is “in essence, an aberration, for under no other circumstance in the past (or probably in the future) have I worn my heart on my sleeve as transparently as I have with this piece. In times of crisis and peril, we have but the reliance of faith—from the profound faith in humanity, faith in love, and faith that we will persevere and get through this with dignity, to the mundane faith that I would complete the piece within the extraordinary conditions that faced me—with a young child at home 24/7, a bronchial infection, and a very tight timeline (ultimately, a matter of days) to complete the piece in a manner feasible for COVID remote performance requirements.” It was premiered online on June 22, 2020, by the CBC Virtual Orchestra representing 28 orchestras from 10 Canadian provinces, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Prayer (2020) begins with long static notes intoned by the lower instruments of the string, woodwind, and brass sections. Gradually, they—and as other instruments join in—unveil the main theme that is the inspiration and basis for the work: the chant melody “O pastor animarum” (“O Shepherd of our souls”) by 12th century composer Hildegard of Bingen, whom Fung calls her “composer heroine.” The original text is as follows:

O Shepherd of our souls, O primal voice, whose call created all of us;
Now hear our plea to thee, to thee, and deign to free us from our miseries and feebleness.

As the chant unfolds, rapidly oscillating motives are added to the texture, creating a shimmering effect. They gradually amass into a subtly vibrating entity that swells and subsides, like a sigh. The woodwinds and strings then take up an ascending motive, which becomes the backdrop to a brass chorale with the chant theme. A full orchestral scale leads to a massive climax, a mass plea, after which the strings release an anguished cry. Prayer concludes with final statements of the chant’s opening notes, subdued but hopeful.

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley

Gabriel Dharmoo


Gabriel Dharmoo’s Ninaivanjali was originally composed in 2012 for 10 instruments, but the version performed tonight is for orchestra, which was completed in 2015. As Dharmoo explains, the title of the work is “a Tamil expression meaning ‘In memory of’, used to pay tribute after someone’s death. This piece is dedicated to ghatam virtuoso N. Govindarajan, my Indian rhythm teacher, who passed away in May 2012. In addition to being an excellent teacher, fully devoted to sharing his knowledge, Govind was an endearing and admirable man, full of goodness and joie de vivre.”

For Ninaivanjali, Dharmoo notes, “I was inspired by the three main sound sources of South Indian Carnatic music: melody—flexible, sophisticated, and ornate; rhythm—complex and subdivided; and drone—stable harmonic reference point in the background.” Throughout the work, these elements are combined, often playfully, with various techniques and avant-garde sound effects of contemporary Western art music.

Dharmoo is particularly fascinated by the expressive qualities of melody, and all of those in Ninaivanjali, he explains, “with the exception of the last, are freely inspired from the behaviour of the lines in Carnatic music. The final melody is directly based on the section in Sree raga from Patnam Subramaniam Iyer’s Navaragamalika, a work that has marked my last trip to India in 2011.” On the same trip, he also learned many rhythmic formulas from his teacher Govind, to whom he pays homage by creating “rhythmic drones” built on these patterns in camouflage, to form the backdrop for the melodies of Ninaivanjali.

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley


Symphony No. 4

I. Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima
II. Andante in modo di canzona
III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato
IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco

Tchaikovsky composed his Fourth Symphony in 1877, amidst a major turning point in his life. The movements were sketched in May and June, but their completion was interrupted by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Milyukova; the composer, who was homosexual, suffered a nervous breakdown. He eventually emerged out of the crisis, no doubt helped by Nadezhda von Meck, an extremely wealthy widow and an enthusiast for Tchaikovsky’s music, who began to provide him with an annual allowance that enabled him to focus entirely on composing without financial concerns. Under this arrangement, Tchaikovsky completed his Symphony No. 4 in January 1878.

The work follows an emotional journey of “darkness to light” or “victory over struggle”, not unlike Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; indeed, Tchaikovsky admitted, in a letter to composer Sergei Taneyev, that his Fourth was obviously “a reflection” of Beethoven’s C minor symphony. It opens with an ominous brass fanfare (“Fate”, as Tchaikovsky described it to von Meck), which becomes a recurring “motto” in the work. Notably, in the first movement, it returns dramatically at key moments; listen throughout for its brutal intrusion, just when the music seems to become more optimistic and overcome its nervous anxiety. The second movement begins as if resigned over what has come before—a melancholy melody first presented by the oboe. But all does not seem to be lost, as a hopeful new theme in the middle section develops into a passionate orchestral outpouring.

The Scherzo, plucked entirely by the strings, offers a playful respite. It frames a central Trio, featuring an elegant dance for the woodwinds that becomes awkwardly fast when it is humorously interrupted by the brass playing the Scherzo’s theme as a march. The finale starts with a full-orchestra crash (cymbals and bass drum included!); a running whoosh of a theme follows, and then a naïve though somewhat sombre tune, based on the Russian folksong “In the field a little birch tree stood”. Alternating with returns of the first theme, the folk tune is developed in extended episodes, the second of which breaks into the menacing motto fanfare of the first movement. This time, however, it poses no more threat, and the symphony rushes, unfettered, to an exuberant close.

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley


  • Featuring NAC Orchestra
  • Featuring Alexander Shelley
  • Featuring Karen Donnelly
  • Featuring Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal

Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal Choir Roster

Soprano 1
Stephanie Manias*
Megan Chartrand

Soprano 2
Marie Magistry
Geneviève Gates-Panneton

Alto 1
Marie-Andrée Mathieu
Alexandra Asher

Alto 2
Josée Lalonde*
Elizabeth Ekholm

Tenor 1
Michiel Schrey*
Kerry Bursey

Tenor 2
Jean-Sébastien Allaire
Justin Jaela

Bass 1
Normand Richard*
Alain Duguay

Bass 2
John Giffen
François-Nicolas Guertin

*Chorus soloist

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees