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 and comers.

“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 Childrens 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 his country.

“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 venture.

“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 result.”

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For more information:
Chris Cline
Media Relations Co-ordinator
Carleton University
613-520-2600, ext. 1391
christopher_cline@carleton.ca