The National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducted by music director Alexander Shelley, will perform its Philip Glass commission at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall on April 28, 2021. The new work, a salute to freedom of the press, is dedicated to the memory of the Canadian-born journalist and ABC News anchor Peter Jennings.
Though the NAC Orchestra needs no help with directions to Carnegie Hall (having performed there 14 times since 1969), next year’s concert featuring the U.S. premiere of Glass’s latest orchestral creation will be its first visit there in two decades.
Prior to the Carnegie concert, the yet-to-be-titled piece will receive its world premiere at NAC’s Southam Hall. Ironically enough, given that the theme of the symphonic work is "truth in our times,” that unveiling happens on April Fool’s Day in 2021.
After its initial April 1 showcase at Southam Hall, the Glass commission will be featured in a full concert program at the same venue on April 21 and 22. Titled Truth in Our Times: A Musical Exploration to Spark Dialogue, the performance will open with Canadian composer Nicole Lizée’s Zeiss After Dark, followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 and Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The evening closes with Glass’s piece.
After Carnegie, the orchestra will perform the program at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on April 30, 2021.
The Glass commission was funded by the Jennings family, which has enjoyed an enduring relationship with the National Arts Centre. Not only was the urbane Jennings a pillar member of the “Big Three” American news anchors who included NBC’s Tom Brokaw and CBS’s Dan Rather, he sat on the board of Carnegie Hall and was a founding member, in 2001, of the Friends of the National Arts Centre (U.S.), a division of the NAC Foundation fundraising body. He died of lung cancer at 67, in 2005.
In 1998, Jennings was the narrator for a performance of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow that raised money for the NAC and Ottawa’s Opera Lyra. In 2003, Jennings and his wife, Kayce Freed Jennings, played host to an evening in their home to promote a tour of the NAC Orchestra in the United States and Mexico. After Jennings died, the NAC commemorated his life and work with a concert in his memory. The late journalist’s sister, Sarah Jennings, wrote 2009′s Art and Politics: The History of the National Arts Centre.
Glass, known for minimalist music with repetitive structures and sound exploration, provided a melancholic score to a 1990 television documentary on gun-related violence by Jennings’ production company. Describing himself as “very mainstream,” Jennings once said that he was “committed to good works in my life.” Now he’ll have a work on his life.
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