As the National Arts Centre prepares to celebrate the launch of Indigenous Theatre this fall, NAC Presents will be helping celebrate with concerts featuring some aboriginal stars.
The legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie will be on the NAC stage once again this fall following the launch of a new biography of the seemingly ageless singer songwriter.
The rising star and 2018 Polaris Prize winner Jeremy Dutcher will be back at the NAC bringing his unique take on the music of his Wolastoq people.
Dutcher is a classically trained tenor turned composer and musicologist with the album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which blended traditional songs and stories of his community with contemporary composition and operatic vocals. Dutcher told ARTSFILE in an interview that he wanted to help preserve the Maliseet language when he began the musical journey that has become so important.
The Inuit throat singers Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory will be on hand in the fall to talk about the art they make.
Unlike the other departments in the centre, NAC Presents doesn’t sell a subscription package or a season per se. Instead Executive Producer Heather Gibson has a raft of concerts to announce for the fall as NAC Presents rolls along.
“It’s going to continue to roll along. We are not going to get into the season ticket game. I like to be more responsive than that.”
Pop, rock and folk performers aren’t planned two yers out like a large orchestra is.
She says she will “take the shows as they come.”
There are a few things that are planned out that aren’t announced.
“You’ll hear about those in the fall. I am going to get into a broader portfolio of contemporary music.” That means not just Canadian performers, she said. “You will see more international acts.”
She is also moving away for heavy dose of roots music and broadening the genres on offer. And she says the concerts will features those artists who are “the best at what they do.” An example of the kind of act is the Irish traditional band Dervish who will be making the trip to Ottawa. Without naming names, she said that one of the great kora players of the world is coming to the NAC.
I want to be able to broaden what we are doing. For Canadian artists I really want to have support for them internationally.” So making connections to arts programmers, managers and agents in places around the world is one way to do that, she said.
“It’s really so we can become more than a performance venue. I think the National Arts Centre has a greater role than just presenting a couple of hundred shows a year. If we can use our influence and prestige to help artists develop their careers (we should)” both coming to Canada and travelling from the country.
Inside the centre, Gibson’s role in programming the public spaces is evolving. She said that as that goes forward there will be such things as a speaker’s series and film screenings, such as a Bollywood weekend that is on the horizon.
“For me some of that is trying to find ways to respect and showcase other Canadians art.”
Inside the NAC, there is an on-going discussion about what the role of the centre is today and going forward in the Ottawa community and beyond, she said.
One of the most enjoyable things for Gibson is to watch artists come through the NAC every year or so and see their careers expand and blossom.
“It’s fascinating for me to watch any of the artists come through here, starting at the Fourth Stage. You’ll see a whole raft of them this year in the (Babs Asper) Theatre now. Their music has changed, their songwriting has matured.”
Coming to the NAC’s stages in the fall, in addition to Buffy Sainte-Marie and Jeremy Dutcher, are: Voices Rising, Raffi, Matthew Byrne, Robert Charlebois, Bellflower, Rob Lutes, Louis-Philippe Robillard, Megan Nash, John Wort Hannam, Erin Costelo, Tara Shannon, Irish Mythen, Madison Violet, Kellylee Evans’ Winter Song, David Francey, Port Cities, Caroline Savoie and Lou-Adrianne Cassidy. Piano man and personality Chilly Gonzales will be performing in early 2020. Expect another 75-80 shows to be announced over the coming weeks and months.
Looking farther down the line, expect the summer to be much busier in 2020, Gibson said, as the renovations to the NAC will finally be finished.
Popular features such as Fridays at the Fourth, the emerging music series, returns. And more NAC Presents Sessions will pair Canadian songwriters with the NAC Orchestra. September’s Session will feature Inuk singer Susan Aglukark as part of the celebration of the launch of Indigenous Theatre. The other concerts will be announced at a later date.