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The National Arts Centre Orchestra. Photo: Rémi Theriault.

National Arts Centre Orchestra celebrates 50 years of music with concerts, free activities and a gala—09.30.19 to 10.05.19

By Madeline Paiva on September 30, 2019

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To celebrate 50 years of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, there is a host of both concert events and free activities set to take place between September 30th and October 5th. Most notable are the two 50 Years of Music concerts, one on September 30th and one on October 3rd, along with the Golden Gala on October 5th. I spoke with Elaine Klimasko, a violinist of the NAC Orchestra, who has been there since its inauguration in 1969!

Klimasko has an incredibly impressive history. She said “it’s been an exciting and spectacular privilege to be with this orchestra for 50 years! Half a century! I started [here] at 19 years old; it’s been a long career. I absolutely love what I do and I’m very fortunate to be able to say that!” We spoke about those who dread going into work everyday and Klimasko said “I can’t image that kind of existence!”

It’s been an exciting and spectacular privilege to be with this orchestra for 50 years! Half a century!”—Elaine Klimasko, violinist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra

Klimasko’s personal life and musical history is nothing short of wholesome. “I come from a large family—we are 7 children, I’m number 3.” She said that her father “didn’t have a talented bone in his body in regards to music. It was my mother. Her parents bought her a violin from the Sears catalogue for $5. I’m #3 and the 4 oldest ones all studied violin and were all full-scholarship. Every Saturday, we drove to Toronto for music lessons. It was a busy childhood; there was no sort of hanging out. Three of them, including myself, are all still professional musicians.”

Elaine Klimasko

Being in the orchestra has provided her with a lot of opportunities: “It’s been an amazing 50 years and when I think about the opportunities—the travel is one of the biggest ones. Having said that, it’s also the people. I was sort of born in that golden era of music; the Yo-Yo Mas and Itzhak Perlmans and Henryk Szeryngs. The list goes on and on; I got to meet and play with most of them!”

She is an incredibly passionate, and very talented musician, who hopes that everyone can experience the life-altering affect of music. “If I could do one thing to change the world, I think music education should be available for every child,” she said. “Sometimes when I’m at the NAC, I peek into the audience to see faces. They just seem so happy and so calm,” Klimasko said. She also recounted a moment she witnessed at a performance: “there was one young man, he came to the concert and had the score and a pencil to mark in some fingering. Pinchas [Zukerman] started to play, and he put down his pencil and wept. The world wanted to come hear him—for a very good reason!”

When I asked her about some of her most memorable moments at the NACO, she immediately said “do you have 5 days? There have just been so many special moments.” She also said that there have been “just so many special performances. If you asked me to name the top 5, I just couldn’t do that! All I can say is I feel very blessed. And the fact I’ve been able to stay as long as I have!”

She recounted a beautiful moment she had in Russia: “I remember when we were in Russia the first time, 1973, if I recall. It was a very different world then. When we arrived in Moscow, the musicians from the Moscow symphony were there. They were searching garbage cans for old strings. They had nothing. Another lasting memory of that trip. A very old lady with a babushka on, came to congratulate me and had a flower for me, clutched it in my hand and told me how much she loved the concert. For all the things that were wrong in the Soviet Union at the time, music was so important. That made a very strong impression for me.”

She said, though, that one of her personal favourites was “the introduction to opera. I would give anything for opera to come back to this city. There was an opera festival every summer.” When she spoke about the orchestra, she mentioned their first conductor, Mario Bernardi, was “a huge lover of opera who had come from opera. In those days, my goodness, the who’s who, they all came and we did world famous opera productions. We, of course, had the canal outside; people would pull up in their yachts in their ball gowns. I loved opera so passionately, I told my colleagues that if I ever took a year off I would do a year of opera in the Met Opera in New York.”

“The concerts are going to feature our 2 conductors; John Storgårds, and Alexander Shelley. Interesting programs.” The first concert on September 30th will start with the “Prelude for Bass by Sunleif Rasmussen, followed by a Haydn symphony [Sinfonia Concertante] which will feature 4 soloists, followed by Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra. That will be conducted by Storgårds,” said Klimasko.

On October 3rd, the orchestra will be conducted by Alexander Shelley. The first piece is “Dark Angels Suite by Kevin Lau. Then we have the Concerto for Flute and Oboe in C Major from Salieri, which will feature our 2 phenomenal soloists, Joanna G’froerer [Flute] and Charles Hamann [Oboe]. They are both remarkable . It will end with Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which is fiendishly difficult!”

Not only will there be noon-hour concerts, talks, and performances (listed here), “the whole Arts Centre is going to have memorabilia from the last 50 years. There are going to be interviews and podcasts, and a fabulous display of old photographs! Some fantastic memorabilia from our tours. The orchestra really has toured the world extensively, playing in the great concert halls, not just small theatres. You don’t forget that,” said Klimasko.

Come and be moved by these beautiful celebratory concerts! Don’t miss out!


The NAC Orchestra performs 50 Years of Music on September 30th, tickets available here and October 3rd, tickets available here. Both performances run approximately 2 hours, including intermission. Tickets range from $35 to $83. Live Rush and student tickets are available for these performances.


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