Carleton's James Wright Composes a Piece Commemorating Jack Layton
Carleton Music Prof. James Wright has
composed a piece of music to commemorate Jack Layton's final letter to
Canadians. Wright was asked by the Leading Note Foundation to write a piece for
an honouring Layton on Sept. 29, 2012. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson will present the
Honourable Olivia Chow with a posthumous Peace Award for Layton, her late
husband. Wright's composition is entitled To Young Canadians, and is a tribute
to the portion of Layton's letter where he addresses Canada's generation of up
"I am truly thrilled that Dr.
Wright will be composing something special in honour of Jack," said Chow.
Written for a two-part youth choir
and soprano soloist accompanied by piano and string orchestra, the piece will be
performed for the first time at the event by young soprano soloist Jenna Glatt
with instrumentalists and choristers from the Leading Note Foundation's
OrKidstra program, directed by Margaret Tobolowska and Jeannie Hunter. The
performance will also include members of the Cantiamo and Ottawa Children's
Choirs, directed by Jackie Hawley.
The text of the piece is adapted
from the letter Layton penned just two days prior to his death in August 2011.
Well aware of the outpouring of emotion that followed Layton's death, Wright
hopes to have engineered a tribute that conveys the essential optimism of his
final message to Canada.
"Layton's letter is a richly
textured and profoundly inspiring text for a composer," said Wright. "Moods and
sentiments such as serenity, courage, optimism and conviction are among those
that composers can readily convey with the expressive palette of musical
language. These feelings underlie almost every word in Layton's letter, and as
soon as I rolled up my sleeves to begin to work with his text, it became
apparent to me that I would simply need to identify its emotional core, and
strive to give it musical expression. I also wanted the melodies to be
memorable, a pleasure to sing, and as clear and accessible for the listener as
Layton's message was for all Canadians."
While writing To Young Canadians,
it was also Wright's intention to capture and embody Jack Layton's enthusiasm
and devotion to his public role, as well as the unabashed sentiment he held for
"Layton's letter expresses a profound love
of country, passionate conviction concerning the major issues of the day,
eternal optimism, and a belief that if Canada's youth engage their hearts and
minds, they will build a better Canada and a better world," said Wright.
Wright explains that contributing
to a meaningful event such as this has been both a challenging and validating
"It was deeply humbling -- if also
a bit daunting -- to be asked to write a tribute piece of this kind," said
Wright. "I felt a sense of responsibility to pay musical homage to Jack Layton,
without letting my music get in the way of his message. It will mean a great
deal to me if, on Sept. 29, the young singers sing their hearts out during the
performance, and will remember and reflect on Layton's inspiring message as a