The First World War often is described as Canada's coming of age into true nationhood, for which it paid a price of more than 240,000 dead, wounded and missing. To commemorate both that emergence and that sacrifice, the National Arts Centre Orchestra will announce on Thursday that it will undertake a 10-day performance and education tour of the United Kingdom in October, 2014.
Bankrolled largely by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation and RBC, the orchestra, led by veteran music director Pinchas Zukerman, will perform five major concerts, including dates in London and Edinburgh, and participate in more than two dozen educational and outreach activities between Oct. 21 and 31. Prince Charles confirmed in August that he will serve as royal patron of the event.
"This is not, for us, a tour about a war," NACO managing director Christopher Deacon explained in an interview, "but a tour about the friendship between Canada and the U.K. and the emergence of Canada through our role in the war. It's a nuanced message.
"The idea, too, was to try as closely as possible to align our appearance with the date, 100 years earlier, of the first arrival of young Canadians at Salisbury Plain [in central southern England] for on-site training and mustering," Mr. Deacon said.
The orchestra, Mr. Deacon added, is partnering with several organizations, including the Canadian War Museum, the Imperial War Museum and London's Royal Festival Hall, to develop educational projects and initiatives to involve, in part, young people in Canada and the U.K. Plans also are under way for NACO performances in British schools and a high-speed video conference linking young British and Canadian musicians. Each tour venue will display interpretive panels about the Canadian war effort.
Included in the orchestra's touring repertoire will be Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and works by two Canadian composers, Brio: Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra by John Estacio (2011) and A Ballad of Canada (2011). The last, composed by Mr. Zukerman's late father-in-law, Malcolm Forsyth, includes a setting of John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields.
Mr. Deacon noted that Britain will be going all-out to mark the centenary of its participation in the First World War. So "one of the challenges we face is cutting through all the other activity to have a place in the sun for Canada's story."