NACO commissions Philip Glass for piece in honour of Peter Jennings

A new work by the American composer Philip Glass will get its world premiere at the NAC in the 2020-21 season.

When Alexander Shelley assumed the role of music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, one of his principal commitments was to increase the commissioning of new works. Well he’s really done it this time and during the 50th anniversary year of the centre.

NACO has asked the renowned minimalist composer Philip Glass to write a new work in honour of another icon — the broadcaster Peter Jennings, whose career was made in the U.S. as the anchor of ABC News but who was born and raised in Canada.

Peter Jennings.

In a media release the NAC says that the piece by Glass will be based on a theme of truth in these times of fake news and conspiracy theories.

It is “an ode to the freedom of the press.”

Over the past 50 years NACO has commissioned more than 80 works.

Glass heard the NAC Orchestra perform his music in 2016 in a concert marking his winning the Glenn Gould Prize. This commission will be his first for NACO and will  premiere in the 2020–2021 season.

“Philip Glass ranks among the most influential composers of our time, and is a unique and bold artist who has long explored themes of truth, honesty and justice through his work,” Shelley said in the media release.

Glass is considered a minimalist composer whose work features repetitive structures and sound explorations, but he is also notable for his explorations of world music styles and his work over the decades with many groundbreaking artists.

Interestingly, he wrote music for a documentary film that was led by Jennings.

“I was very impressed by the NAC Orchestra when receiving the Glenn Gould Prize, and was excited to receive this commission from them to honour the person, work and ethos of Peter Jennings, on a theme which is very close to my heart,” Glass said in the release.

Jennings delivered the news nightly for decades on ABC TV and he was a respected and influential journalist. He died in 2005 at age 67.

His sister Sarah is a respected Canadian arts journalist who has just published the second edition of her history of the National Arts Centre called Art and Politics (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.