By Owen Maxwell
While there will always be much discussion over the quantity of concerts Ottawa hosts compared to other metropolitan cities, the NAC’s latest addition should help those who think we have a concert drought in Ottawa.
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday the National Arts Centre is hosting the Canada Scene festival as part of its multifaceted sesquicentennial celebrations. Set to take place over six weeks from June 15 to July 30, the festival will host over 1,000 artists from across Canada on the many stages of the NAC as well as other venues in Ottawa.
All styles will be represented with music, theatre, dance, visual and even the culinary arts taking part. When it comes to genres, it seems like they’re trying to keep an open mind.
“We’ve never said no. The thing that’s different about this is we’re covering the entire country in a period of time,” said Heather Moore, producer and executive director of Ontario Scene. “We can’t go as deep into everything, in say Alberta Scene, if we only had four hip-hop shows.”
The 1,000-plus artist roster will see a show every day around 6 p.m. and allow the Canada’s Stage to showcase the new spaces at the freshly renovated NAC.
Although the full list won’t be announced until spring 2017, the organizers have announced several headliners. Buffy Sainte-Marie and Rufus Wainwright were among the big musicians announced, with Wainwright playing with NAC Orchestra.
Other concerts will include The Tenors and a tribute concert to Oscar Peterson, featuring a collection of Peterson’s friends and renowned pianists including Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, and Jon Kimura Parker. There will also be a production of Harry Somers’ opera “Louis Riel” as well as a performance from Montreal circus group Les 7 doigts de la main (The 7 Fingers) with a show that mixes cooking with its show’s story.
The programming as a whole is looking to showcase Canada as a whole which has the potential to garner Ottawa artists and the local scene more exposure.
“We’re showing the best artists both established and emerging from across the country, so it will be the same for artists here,” said Moore. “We’re already finding ways to collaborate not just in music but in theatre. For instance we have a show coming down from the Yukon involving two local artists and we’re looking for ways to do that.”
“I think it’s safe to say that Ottawa will be highlighted to varying degrees,” said Rolf Klausener, artistic director for the Arboretum Music Festival and board member of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC). “An unknown number of local acts will perform, our venues will serve as performance spaces, and our local media, writers, videographers, and photographers will have the chance to document it all.”
Given that the organizers are still assembling their overall roster, they are still looking for artists to join, and despite a lack of an application form for artists, they are eager for submissions.
“There’s no application process, but since we’re curating and programming it, we’re absolutely happy if people want to let us know who they are,” Moore said. “We’re always interested in finding new artists and they can send us their info and links, and we’ll be happy to give them a listen.”
The organizers are also looking to mix things up with some alternative shows and programming to differentiate them from the other local festivals.
“We’re looking for ways we can do something special. We have concept shows and other things brewing,” said Moore. “We want to find innovative ways to group people together and have them do something that wouldn’t normally fit into a normal festival schedule, similar to the Oscar Peterson show.”
More details will be revealed in March and there is a real opportunity for Ottawa to show the rest of Canada what we can do and Klausener says it’s all about how you look at it.
“I think the question isn’t so much ‘what can Canada Scene do for Ottawa?’” said Kalusener, “but how best can we harness this opportunity to transform national perceptions of our city in the long term?”
According to Heather Moore, producer and executive director of Ontario Scene, the best way to reach the NAC to submit your music for the festival is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and in the attention line Music, Canada Scene. Their programmers will be sure to get it that way.