sharing musical passion + embracing canadian culture

Alexander Shelley, photographed in Southam Hall at The National Arts Centre.

We have had the privilege of meeting and photographing Alexander Shelley, Music Director and Conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, on a few occasions since his arrival in our city in the fall. British-born Shelley is also Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany) and Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (England).

Whether chatting informally in his very unique, engaging fashion or enveloped in music and intensely focused while conducting, Alexander is a class act. Having attended and photographed some of his concerts, we have been fascinated by how he is able to captivate the audience, drawing us into his world, sharing composers’ stories and anecdotes as if they were old friends. Alexander brings, not only international experience to our orchestra, but also a very unique offering, as well as great respect towards Canadian culture. This musical season at the NACO promises to be rich and diverse under Shelley’s musical direction. One of the highlights will be Life Reflected, on May 19th, blending the music of four Canadian composers with literature, film, photography and dance, while sharing the stories of four Canadian women.

Our city is very lucky indeed to have such a talented and dynamic “maestro” who, in the few months since his arrival, has shone some wonderful light on our classical music scene. No doubt, he will inspire future generations.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

We love how you have brought a breath of fresh air to classical music in Ottawa . You connect so beautifully to your audience, allowing us to enter your unique world, and enjoy not only the classical genre, but many other styles and rhythms. Do you think we’ve been as good an audience as you have been an artist?

“Oh absolutely! I couldn’t be more moved and excited by the enthusiasm and warmth that has been shown at our concerts over the last 8 months. This city is home to such a great many sophisticated, inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving and generally rather brilliant people, that the pre- and post-show events have become something of a personal highlight. Having the opportunity to meet and talk to so many of our subscribers, as well a so many first-timers, has helped me to understand what it is that our audience tastes are, what it is that they enjoy and appreciate. Particularly exciting, and a wonderful opportunity for continued growth, is quite how varied and extensive those tastes are – from those that come to the NACO for the great classics, to those searching for the newest sounds and stories.”

Music in all its forms evokes so many different emotions, speaks over countless time periods, is so adaptable.  We have a feeling that with you as Music Director, we will be experiencing not only the world’s greatest classical music, but also some very new, contemporary productions, such as Dear Life.  We so enjoyed how you and your collaborators brought Alice Munro’s short story to life, giving it a musical voice, filling it with beautiful imagery.  Will we be experiencing more of that in the future?

“We will most definitely be experiencing more productions like Dear Life. In the month of May we premiere the most ambitious creative project that the NACO has ever undertaken. “Life Reflected” is a completely immersive show, without interval, with multi-media 3D projections on and around the symphony orchestra, relating and interpreting the stories of four astonishing Canadian women through the collaboration of four of Canada’s finest composers with stars from the worlds of literature, film, photography and dance. It will be truly exciting and represents my vision of what our National Arts Centre Orchestra can do to bring the extraordinary creative artists of this country together, in order to produce engaging, meaningful works of art for our audience.”

Your professional commitments take you from London to Nuremberg and to many other cities around the world on a regular basis. Does Ottawa seem small compared to other European cities? What do you most like about our city?

“I find that Ottawa has the advantages of a major world capital, mixed with the charm of a smaller city. Within minutes of my home I can be at the National Gallery or the NAC, soaking up some culture, in the Market buying some fantastic fresh produce, down Elgin glugging some delicious Ontario wine, jogging up the canal to the lake, or I can pop up to Gatineau Park and taste a real flavour of the countryside. There are not many cities that offer all of that in such a compact space. Love Ottawa!

Thank you, Alexander, for so graciously and generously affording us your time and company, and for sharing your musical passion with Ottawa.

For more information about Alexander Shelley:  And please follow Alexander’s very cool and insightful Instagram feed at: @alexander_shelley