The best of Canadian artists are on stage at Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards
“I’m very attracted to exploring…what makes us tick in our deepest hearts. To me, art - the creating of it - in whatever form, is something you aspire to. It’s something that you keep wanting to achieve.” – Diana Leblanc
Traveling and art go hand-in-hand. If you want to learn more about a culture and its people, what better way than to immerse yourself in the arts? Through various mediums – dance, music, film, theatre – we learn the stories of a people; their history, values, conflicts and dreams.
My husband and I are avid patrons of Canadian film, music and television – our bucket list of artists we want to see has grown in recent years. In our travels throughout Canada we have always sought out the local music scene, and my favourite thing to do in larger cities is score tickets to musical theatre!
“Birds sing, bees dance, we tell stories.” - RH Thomson
From a young age, my grandmother would take me to the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, and my involvement in music gave me the opportunity to play at Roy Thompson Hall! Our children are following in our footsteps, and have loved attending shows such as Blades on Stage and The Nutcracker.
Living in Ottawa, we don’t have to go far to experience the best in Canada’s performing arts. Not only will you find beautiful theatres for musicals, dance, and stage plays, but there are countless festivals year-round to showcase our musical talents.
One of these not-to-be-missed events is The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. Created in 1992 under the patronage of the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, 24th Governor General of Canada, and his wife Gerda, the awards introduces the talents of our country to our own people, and to the world. French and English, Western and Eastern, Northern and Southern – in a country so vast, the awards gala brings together a nation of artists in the same room for one incredible evening.
In our beautiful capital city of Ottawa, the awards gala is produced and hosted by the National Arts Centre (NAC), Canada’s stage for the performing arts. Every year, six recipients (or laureates) are chosen through nominations from the community – which means anyone can submit a nomination! If you know an artist or volunteer who deserves recognition, consider submitting their name online.
Expressing yourself is what makes you a really interesting human being, as opposed to being just a person you know, who has blood circulating in his body. That distinguishes us from some of the other quadrupeds you see around.” – Michael M. Koerner
The Gala (which takes place the evening after the awards are presented to each recipient at Rideau Hall) is open to the public, and this year my husband and I got to check out this glamorous event. Men were decked out in tuxedos, and women in long or cocktail dresses. Dazzling jewels sparkled under the lights of the mezzanine. The Canadian wine was flowing, and plates of hors d’oeuvres towered over the crowds.
The laureates walk the red carpet, to be flanked by two of the Governor General’s foot guards. Some of the laureates were dwarfed by the tall guards in their bearskin hats! The excitement of being so close to some of the best Canadian artists was palpable. As well, special guests love to make an appearance, and this year we rubbed elbows with former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien!
The Gala brings together a whole host of artists, and the show (which runs about two hours) honours each laureate separately through films directed and produced by the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada. Inspiring and funny, I urge you to check out the NFB’s blog to view these short films.
In addition to the films, guest appearances from well-known Canadian artists add an element of surprise to the evening. This year, Colm Feore, Eric Peterson, Kellylee Evans and Serena Ryder (among others) made their way onto the stage to perform and honour the six laureates. The show is entirely bilingual, with presenters switching between French and English. The NAC orchestra accompanied several of the performers, and we were blown away by Serena Ryder’s version of “I Will Remember You” in a tribute to laureate Sarah McLachlan.
The evening finishes in a splash of celebration, with scrumptious desserts and champagne. All in all, this is an event not to be missed – you’ll leave the NAC humming a tune and inspired to do a little dance down the hall of past laureates.
Meet our guest writer
Misty Pratt is health researcher, birth doula and mother of two girls. She blogs at Kids in the Capital, and in her spare time, dusts off her piano and guitar for some music making.
Who do you think should be on next year's list of honorees?
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Disclosure: Tickets to the Governor General's Performing Arts Award were provided to TurnipseedTravel at no cost.