20th Annual NAC Gala Brings a New Energy to the NAC
Gala images by Ernesto Distefano and Andre Gagne.
Saturday October 22ND, 2016 marked the 20TH Annual Natioanl Arts Centre Gala, featuring performances by five-time Grammy-winning Canadian artist Diana Krall, in collaboration with Music Director Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
This year’s Gala raised almost $725,000 in support of the National Youth and Education Trust, which provides programming to encourage youth participation in the arts, assist emerging artists, and help build young audiences.
Over the past 20 years, this evening alone has raised over $12.3 million and Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC Foundation and lead in the fundraising efforts for the Gala since 2009, is incredibly grateful to each and every avenue of support, from individuals to major sponsors.
“This is our one big event and people understand that it is really important to support the NAC, “ said Ms. Watson. “What a great way to do it by coming to this event and having a wonderful evening, but also knowing that your money is going to support a great cause.”
This year’s theme was Autumn Brilliance and the evening was just that.
Upon arrival, guests enjoyed Pelee Island wines and delicious hors d’oeuvres as they took in autumnal centerpieces and the colorful graffiti interpretations of Anita Kunz’s piece, The Kiss, commissioned in celebration of the recent Beethoven and Schumann Festival.
Once the lights began to flash, the audience moved into a newly renovated Southam Hall, serving as a small peek into what to expect from the unveiling of the new NAC in 2017. However, this latest renovation is more than just aesthetics. “[Southam Hall] has more wood on the floors, new seats, cross aisle, center aisle, more accessibility and it is just going to be a better experience aesthetically and artistically,” explained Ms. Watson.
“[Southam Hall] has more wood on the floors, new seats, cross aisle, center aisle, more accessibility and it is just going to be a better experience aesthetically and artistically,” explained Ms. Watson.
This is Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s first year as Honourary Chair, and as Ms. Watson explains, it is a great fit. “She loves the arts and understands that there is a link between the arts and mental health. For the kids that we work with, especially in remote communities, [music] is key to cultural identity and its really important in terms of young people to have access to the arts. So it is a great marriage between [Mrs. Gregoire Trudeau’s] interests and what we are doing tomorrow evening.”
“She loves the arts and understands that there is a link between the arts and mental health. For the kids that we work with, especially in remote communities, [music] is key to cultural identity and its really important in terms of young people to have access to the arts. So it is a great marriage between [Mrs. Gregoire Trudeau’s] interests and what we are doing tomorrow evening.”
After the formalities from the podium, audiences were delighted by a combination of the NAC Orchestra, led by Alexander Shelley, and Diana Krall and her quartet. Their set list included a number of jazz favourites, including George Gershwin’s “Do It Again”, which for jazz newcomers is best understood as the early 20th century version of Justin Beiber’s “What Do You Mean?”
Orchestral collaborations with artists like Diana Krall, and making classical music more accessible and appealing, is exactly what Music director Alexander Shelley is hoping will bring more young people to the theater.
“One of the great myths is that [classic composers] were these grey old men in grey wigs writing for old people,” says Mr. Shelley. “A great majority of great classical works were written by men and women who were under the age of 35. They were young passionate people writing about things that they were passionate about.”
This makes the support of the National Youth and Education Trust even more important, not to just enjoy music, but build skills to last a lifetime.
“Through all our work that we are doing with young people…I want them just to engage in stories and engage in ideas through music because they learn a lot of skills that are very useful in life,” Mr. Shelley continued. “Playing music in a band or orchestra is a microcosm for a lot of skills that are very useful and transferable in a lot of other professions.”
Having been involved with the NYET for years, Ms. Watson has seen the difference their programming makes first hand. “For me personally the real joy I get is when we get to see some young artists we have invested in over the years and see them really come to fruition as a great talent.”
Many times during the set, Ms. Krall repeated that she felt “very much at home” on the NAC stage and wished she had more time. Her incredible talent was matched by her effortlessness and likability. As Mr. Watson puts it: “She is very low-key, charming, very Canadian with no big ego, but obviously a big, big talent.”
Following the performance, many guests continued on to a glamorous dinner on the Southam Hall stage that included a menu of Canadian delights.
The rest of the crowd still left incredibly satisfied and ready to buy their tickets for next year.
Diana Krall’s setlist:
1. Love Being Here With You
2. Dot It Again
3. Let’s Fall In Love
4. Deed I Do
5. Walk On By
6. Love Letters
7. I Was Doing Alright
8. Quiet Nights