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National Arts Centre 50th anniversary Golden Gala, Ottawa

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Arts Centre and the annual NAC gala, held on Oct. 5, saw arts supporters from across Canada gather in the capital for a golden celebration. Sarah McLachlan was the headliner, but it was a taste of the company’s past that kicked off the program. Those who packed Southam Hall took a walk down memory lane via memorable costumes from past productions, including the all-Indigenous King Lear (2012), The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (2009) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2014). Karen Kain took to the stage to introduce National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson, who performed The Dying Swan; later David Hein, co-writer of the hit show Come From Away, introduced actor Mani Soleymanlou, who performed an excerpt of a work centred on identity and belonging. The director of the NAC’s just launched Indigenous theatre, Kevin Loring, introduced Cree and Métis singer-songwriter iskwé, who performed a trio of songs that reflected Indigenous experiences in Canada. Post-intermission, the stage was McLachlan’s. She peppered her melancholic repertoire – “I love sad songs, the darker the better,” she said – with lighthearted between-song banter, which touched on everything from heartbreaks and breakups to politics and the climate crisis. And the highlight of the evening for many was the NAC orchestra, lead by Alexander Shelley, which beautifully accompanied and underscored the entirety of the program.

Following the performances, a dinner was given for a couple hundred NAC supporters, notably Earle and Janice O’Born, of Toronto, who it was announced that morning had made a monumental gift of $10-million to the centre – the largest ever donation in NAC history. The couple were joined by Galen and Hilary Weston, and their son, Andrew, and his wife, Erica, for the occasion.

My host, Jayne Watson, CEO of the NAC’s foundation, had French ambassador to Canada Kareen Rispal and her husband, Nicolas de Rivière, France’s permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the table, and at skirted rounds nearby sat others who hold the NAC near to their hearts, including philanthropists Gail Asper, Susan Glass and Arni Thorsteinson of Winnipeg, Alice and Grant Burton of Toronto, Thomas and Susan d’Aquino of Ottawa, and Bonnie and John Buhler, also of Winnipeg, who served as the evening’s honorary patrons. Out, too, was Adrian Burns, chair of the NAC’s board of trustees and the NAC’s chief executive, Christopher Deacon, and his wife Gwen. The evening raised north of $750,000, funds that will benefit the National Youth and Education Trust, which provides resources for youth and education programming across Canada.

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Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane and his wife, Kaoru.

Nolan Bryant

Bonnie Buhler.

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Susan Glass.

Nolan Bryant

NAC's Christopher Deacon.

Nolan Bryant

Earle O'Born.

Nolan Bryant

Janice O'Born.

Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

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