• By: Keith Whittier

NAC Canada Scene Highlights With Heather Moore

Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series is back! We'll provide a unique look at some of your favourite events.
We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on
the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. 

Your city! Your festivals!
Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

Photos courtesy of Canada Scene / Feature photo La gigue en souvenir (Credit: John Lauener)

When looking at Ottawa’s festival landscape over the summer 1000 artists and 100 events would seem like a pretty good numerical overview of what’s to come until you realize that this is all going down at one festival. From June 15 to July 23, the biennial Canada Scene returns to the National Arts Centre to exemplify its mandate of becoming “a living portrait” and “eclectic reflection of contemporary Canadian arts and culture.”

New Canadian Global Music Orchestra (Photo credit: Nicola Betts)
Canada Scene’s Producer and Executive Director Heather Moore

Canada Scene’s Producer and Executive Director Heather Moore tells Ottawa Life the first steps of putting together such a large amount of programing, events, concerts and workshops actually begins a few years before contracts are inked, lineups are announced and artists start flying into the capital. As the festival  has always strived to bring an eclectic, well-rounded mixture of talent from across the country, reps venture out to see new shows early in an effort to discover new artists while establishing networks of artistic advisors who are experts in the culture of their regions.

“It then becomes a kind of 3-D jigsaw puzzle, marrying talent with availability, balancing work that entertains and work that challenges,” says Moore, quick to acknowledge that bringing in such diversity from various parts of the country just wouldn’t be possible without the help of her team and 150 volunteer arts lovers.

To Moore, programming the festival has been a way to capture the whole of the country in Ottawa’s backyard by sharing music, stories and art. She says she has learned more about the North or Prairies from the singers, playwrights and artists she has met than what was taught in school. These people, she says, are what bring the Canadian landscape to life.

Natalie MacMaster (Photo credit: Rebekah Littlejohn)

“A major part of the Scene festivals has always been to help Canadian artists present their works for new audiences beyond the festival and Canada’s borders” said Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre.

“Heather and her team have spent the past few years with their collective ear to the ground, experiencing the astonishing work of Canadian artists from coast to coast to coast and assembling a spectacular lineup for the festival.”

This landmark year for Canada was not lost on her. Though the festival has always been a gathering of Canadiana, for the 150th Canada Scene seems even more steeped in ways to experience our arts. You've got 100 plus ways to see for yourself. For example, this year the festival spotlights Canadian history with Harry Somers’ classic opera Louis Riel, brings in icons like Buffy Sainte-Marie and tributes legends like Oscar Peterson.

“After having produced Scene festivals from every region of the country, from Atlantic Scene in 2003 to Ontario Scene in 2015, it seemed natural to focus on the entire country for the Sesquicentennial,” says Moore adding the festival is “a great chance to revisit artists who may have been emerging when we first presented them, and to discover a whole new group of talent.”

Ben Caplan (Photo credit: Stoo Metz Photography)

With so much to take in including multiple free programs and shows, new art installations and even a merger with the TD Jazz Festival for a series of concerts, Ottawa Life asked Heather Moore for some of her personal highlights.

She began with what may just big the biggest party of the fest. Cape Breton fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster is no stranger to the NAC stage (having recently performed a toe-tapping Christmas show a few months back) but this time she’s bringing along a fiddler lover’s dream lineup of guests.

JUNO winners Karrnnell Sawitsky and The Fretless will get the kitchen party going with an all-star group of fiddlers including Ottawa’s own April Verch and Saskatchewan’s master of the Métis fiddle John Arcand. The night will be a showcase of styles from one end of the country to the other. Need more proof? Northwest Territory’s Wesley Hardisty and PEI’s Cynthia MacLeod will also be part of the fiddle frenzy July 8.

Café Daughter (Photo credit Ed Ellis)
Amanda Rheume (Photo credit: Jen Squires)

“If you are interested in hearing more Indigenous voices,” Moore says, you’ll want to see Kenneth T. Williams’ Café Daughter (June 16-18).

Based on the life of Chinese-Canadian neuroscientist and Senator Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, the 90-minute play “maps the hierarchy of racism in Canada, asking questions that any Canadian of mixed heritage might ask: Who am I? Who are my people? Who can I lean on when times are tough?”

Moore also recommends the all-woman music show Anishnabe:kwe with artists like Tanya Taqaq, Shoshona Kish, Sandy Scofield and Ottawa’s Amanda Rheaume (July 22). Shows like Old Stock featuring Ben Caplan (July 13-15) and the New Canadian Global Orchestra (on July 23) will also bring to life stories of refugees old and new. 

After many months of construction, those curious about what was unveiled inside the NAC on Canada Day will want to visit the new Atrium. Canada Scene has given you very little reason not to. Inside the new area, from July 2-23, festival goers can take in multiple free activities that includes family programming daily at 11am and an opportunity to get more hands-on with the Northern Craft Workshops. Here you can carve, bead or make some jewelry. Who knows, you may just create a new fashion craze. 

If that wasn't enough, free concerts by Amelia Curran, Old Man Luedecke, Quantum Tangle and Sarah MacDougall, to name a few, will take place nightly in the Atrium.   

“I really must have the best job in the country – I’ve had the privilege of traveling to all corners of the country and meeting passionate artists at every turn,” beams Moore. “Bringing them to audiences in the nation’s capital is just a thrill.”