Classical music fans in Canada's North are poised for a rare visit from the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Though the Ottawa-based NACO has had a relationship with young musicians across Canada, including the North, via educational initiatives such as the Music Alive program — the 2012-2013 season tour marks the ensemble's first performance in Nunavut.
The northern tour, which includes performances accompanied by violinist James Ehnes and throat singers Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik, gets underway with concerts and music sessions in Iqaluit beginning on Saturday.
There, the NACO will stage concerts at the Nakasuk Elementary School gymnasium — one of just two spaces in the Nunavut capital large enough for the event.
The orchestra's players are excited about the rare trip, including composer Alexina Louie, who created a new, northern-themed piece for the occasion: Take the Dog Sled.
"Some of the movements are actually about riding on a dog sled, which I haven't done before. But as you feel the rhythm of the dog sled and of the dogs and you hear the singing of the throat singers...hopefully I'm putting the audience right in that dog sled," she said.
Middle school students are among those most eager about the visit. Though many have never seen an orchestra in person, some will actually be sharing the stage with the NACO.
"I really want to see the orchestra because I think it will be cool seeing all the different instruments," said eighth grade student Hope Carpenter, a member of her school's choir.
After Iqaluit, the tour — comprising six concerts and more than 50 educational events — continues to Yellowknife and Whitehorse, through Nov. 4.
Next spring, from April 25 to May 4, more than 350 artists from Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut will travel to Ottawa to take part in the multi-discipline arts festival Northern Scene.
"We’re calling it the NAC’s year of the North," NAC president Peter Herrndorf said in a statement this week.
"We are thrilled to be celebrating the artistry and heritage of the extraordinary talent of Northern Canada by touring the North with the orchestra in the fall and by staging the biggest showcase of Northern artists Canada has ever seen in the spring."