Music: Belly of the beast

Every summer for two afternoons, the National Arts Centre Orchestra puts a few rows of chairs at the front of its rehearsal room so spectators can attend its New Music Readings. Last year it was so crowded that this year they’ve moved the whole thing into the big airy main foyer outside Southam Hall. I attended last year and will be sorry to miss it this year. If you’re in Ottawa, have some free time Thursday and Friday from 3:30 p.m., and want to see how an orchestra works, bear it in mind.

The idea is simple: composers too rarely get to hear their music actually played, so every year the NACO puts the call out. Established and budding composers submit their work. Composer-conductor Gary Kulesha, a congenial host, spends about an hour rehearsing each piece before giving it a performance-quality run-through. Polite applause, the composer takes a bow, on to the next piece. It’s charming. It costs nothing to attend. This year’s composers include one who impressed her profs at Queen’s last year; one who was a prof for decades; and one who’s written for one of the best bands around. Did I mention the NAC has air conditioning?

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