The National Arts Centre Orchestra has revealed details of its first-ever tour of China, including concerts in seven cities and pop-up performances at landmarks like the Forbidden City.

The NACO announced the ambitious tour slated for this fall — the first time it will travel to China in its 43-year history — in Ottawa today.

"Through presenting new Canadian orchestral music, and our pioneering work in technology and education, this tour promises to deepen the ties that bind Canada and China," NAC president Peter Herrndorf said in a statement.

As part of the landmark tour, which takes place Oct. 4-20, 70 NACO musicians will travel to seven cities across China for major concerts, musical showcases, workshops and educational events with Chinese music students and outreach activities.

Cities on the schedule include:

  • Hong Kong.
  • Guangzhou.
  • Chongqing.
  • Fuling.
  • Tianjin.
  • Beijing.
  • Shanghai.

Along with nine major performances at concert halls, theatres and cultural centres, the NACO is planning pop-up performances at famed public spaces around China, like the imperial palace inside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Planned educational events include concerts for and alongside Chinese schoolchildren as well as workshops with music students at leading conservatories.

As part of the tour, NACO officials will establish permanent broadband video links at several of these music institutes and at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing. The long-term plan is to mentor Chinese students through teleconferencing and give them the opportunity to learn from international teachers at the Canadian orchestra's Ottawa studio.

"We are hoping to share what we do best," said NACO music director and celebrated violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

"I look forward to sharing what I've learned in sessions with talented young students from China."

China-inspired music

Canadian composers John Estacio and Alexina Louie will accompany the orchestra, which will perform their works. Louie, who is of Chinese heritage, said she is especially excited to be returning to China after having last visited the country with her family in the early 1970s.

"To have my music performed in China is remarkable," she said, noting that her piece Bringing The Tiger Down From The Mountain II, which will be performed in Hong Kong, was inspired by a Tai Chi movement.

"To me, it evokes an image of power and lyricism from China."

The tour will coincide with the annual general meeting of the Canada China Business Council in Beijing.

As part of the Canadian orchestra's recent cultural exchange agreement with China's National Centre for the Performing Arts, the NACO will also host the NCPA orchestra in Canada in the fall of 2014.

Last week, the Philadelphia Orchestra — which in 1973 became the first major American orchestra to tour China  — announced it would be returning this spring to mark the 40th anniversary of its historic visit.