NAC Orchestra’s biggest ever creative project inspired by lives of four Canadian women

Life Reflected

NAC Orchestra

7 p.m. Friday, Southam Hall, National Arts Centre

Tickets: $35 and up, accessible at and

Life Reflected, the biggest creative project ever undertaken by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, didn’t begin out as a feminist manifesto, in accordance with musical director Alexander Shelley.

“Back when we created it, our question was how to commission music and narratives that tell a story about Canada that is interesting and deep and meaningful,” Shelley stated of the formidable multi-media manufacturing that premiered in 2016, toured Canada in 2017 and might be remounted on Friday, International Women’s Day. It was additionally carried out in Kingston on Wednesday, and might be introduced in Paris and Gothenburg when the orchestra excursions Europe in May as half of its 50th-anniversary celebrations.

Life Reflected. Handout photograph.

Fred Cattroll /


Life Reflected consists of four items of modern classical music, each composed by a Canadian and inspired by the life of a Canadian lady. Dear Life is predicated on a brief story by Alice Munro with music by Zosha Di Castri, whereas I Lost My Talk is predicated on a poem by Mi’kmaq author Rita Joe with music by John Estacio.

Composer Jocelyn Morlock wrote the music for My Name is Amanda Todd, based mostly on the story of Amanda Todd, the Port Coquitlam, B.C. teenager who took her personal life after being cyber-bullied, and Nicole Lizée composed the music for Bondarsphere, inspired by Canada’s first feminine astronaut, Roberta Bondar.

Life Reflected.

Fred Cattroll /


“The four stories came to us in different ways and we believe each one is important,” Shelley stated. “Each has elements in them that speak to Canadian themes but also that can be translated and understood universally. We then came to realize the core of each piece is a strong woman, although it wasn’t conceived that way.”

What units it aside from the same old orchestra expertise is the multi-media side of every bit, with a mixture of theatre, track, dance, pictures, graphics and video. That half is the imaginative and prescient of producer/director Donna Feore, the Stratford-based director identified for creating hit musicals.

“Donna is a force of nature,” Shelley stated. “It wouldn’t have been what it is without her. She is absolutely key in bringing the whole thing together.”

While Feore had labored with orchestras, composers, video creators, and of course, actors, singers and dancers, bringing them collectively was a giant problem.

“What I hadn’t done is bring them all together in a room,” Feore stated. “I call it a mashup of great artists because you’re putting people together who would normally never work together, maybe in their entire lives. On paper, it’s a crazy idea. Halfway through it, I thought I’d never get them together. But it did come together and I’ll never forget the first time we ran through it. It was like, ‘Wow, we really did this.’”

Feore hasn’t heard of every other orchestra on this planet tackling a project of related scope. It pushed NACO properly out of its consolation zone, she stated, noting that it was championed at each step by former NAC president and CEO Peter Herrndorf. Private donations helped with the funding.

“I put the orchestra on stage with five or six projectors. We hit them with front light projected onto a scrim. It’s three-dimensional and they’re immersed in it, with screens in the front, back and sides. And they have to play this really difficult new orchestral work. I cannot say enough about this orchestra. They’re probably one of the best in the world,” she stated.  

From Feore’s perspective, the four items collectively make a press release on women discovering their voices.

“The piece is a sum of all the parts,” Feore says. “Although each one can stand alone, when you put them together, you go on that journey through four women’s lives, and the overriding theme is really finding their voice. It was tragic in Amanda’s case but she did find a forum for her voice.”

Life Reflected.

Dwayne Brown Studio Inc. /


Both Feore and the composer, Morlock, labored carefully with Carol Todd, Amanda’s mom, in telling her daughter’s story. “It’s so hard to find anything but sadness in it. But Carol inspired us to find the joy and hope in the music,” Feore stated. Morlock, by the best way, gained the 2018 Juno Award for finest classical composition for the piece.

Feore additionally travelled to Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton to satisfy the household of poet Rita Joe, and shoot a movie inspired by her life, an expertise she describes as “pure joy.”

She and composer Nicole Lizée additionally met with Dr. Bondar and have been in a position to delve into the astronaut’s private video archives for Lizée to make a movie to accompany her music. For the Alice Munro piece, which distills the brief story right down to 600 phrases, they used dozens of black-and-white photographs by celebrated Canadian photographer Larry Towell.

There’s additionally a brand new addition to this system for the live shows this week in Kingston and Ottawa: Indigenous singer Tanya Tagaq will carry out a lament for lacking and murdered Indigenous women.

As for the upcoming European tour, each Shelley and Feore are thrilled on the alternative to current Life Reflected to a world viewers.

“Touring something of this scale and also something in which the narratives are challenging, it’s not like you can sell out a hall every night for 100 days,” stated Shelley. “But I’m so looking forward to seeing how people react. I know it will create discussion and opinions and I think a lot of people will be blown away by it.”

Adds Feore: “Orchestral work doesn’t often get second showings, let alone four or five, so I’m very grateful. This orchestra should be seen doing this kind of work.”

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