Philip Glass to Create New Work for the NAC Orchestra in Memory of Peter Jennings

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The newly commissioned work will be themed on truth in our times to honour the memory of Canadian-born and US-based news anchor and television journalist Peter Jennings.

DECEMBER 12, 2019 – OTTAWA (Canada) – The National Arts Centre (NAC) and the NAC Orchestra are honoured to announce a new commissioned work from Philip Glass, one of the most acclaimed and renowned classical composers of his generation. This new orchestral piece will be developed around the theme of truth in our times, an ode to freedom of the press that will honour the memory of Canadian-born Peter Jennings, one of the most revered and respected journalists, news anchors and broadcasters of his generation.

The NAC Orchestra, which is celebrating 50 years of extraordinary music-making in 2019, has commissioned more than 80 works from many composers throughout the years.

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American composer Philip Glass heard the NAC Orchestra perform his music at the NAC in

2016 during a special concert in honour of his receiving the Glenn Gould Prize.  The new commission will be his first for the Orchestra – a testimony to its high calibre and growing international reputation. The work will receive its world premiere during 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,” said NAC Music Director Alexander Shelley. “It is a thrill and a privilege that he will be creating a new piece for Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, honouring Peter Jennings’ legacy and scrutinizing a theme which has never seemed more important or relevant.”


As societies face turbulent changes in how information is sourced, shared, promoted or distorted through “alternative facts” or fake news, the theme of truth in our times has become crucially important. Freedom of the press is tested every day and cannot be taken for granted.

With an impressive career spanning more than five decades, Philip Glass is known for his music with repetitive structures and sound explorations, making him one of the most forward-thinking contemporary composers. He composed music for a documentary led by Peter Jennings a few decades ago, and will now honour his legacy by exploring the theme of truth in our times.

“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,” Mr. Glass said.


Peter Jennings was a proud Canadian-born broadcaster who had an exceptional journalism career. He was a long-time anchor and reporter on ABC, one of the most important TV networks in the U.S. He delivered the news each night for decades, and his years of international reporting experience made him one of the most respected and influential journalists of his time. He died in 2005 at age 67.

Long-time and strong supporters of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Jennings family is rooted in Canada’s national capital, as well as in the U.S. They supported the idea of a new work in honour of Peter Jennings that would resonate with social issues and changes facing today’s world.

“We are truly grateful to the Jennings family for bringing this work to life as it has such a strong and poignant message,” said Arna Kristín Einarsdóttir, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra. “It’s already creating excitement and attracting international attention. Working with Philip Glass is a testament to the world-class reputation of the NAC Orchestra, and we look forward to the journey on which this work is sure to take us.”


The NAC Orchestra is an international ensemble of outstanding classical musicians, under the inspiring leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley. Since its debut 50 years ago at the opening of Canada’s National Arts Centre, the Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity.

Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, succeeding Pinchas Zukerman’s 16-year tenure. In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season featuring world-class artists such as James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds, the Orchestra regularly tours throughout Canada and around the world. In 2019, for the first time in its history the Orchestra played on Parliament Hill for the Canada Day noon concert, a live broadcast for CBC television.


The National Arts Centre raised its curtains for the first time in 1969. A bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams — the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre and NAC Presents. The Centre’s national role is reflected in its motto: “Canada is our Stage.”

The NAC collaborates with artists and arts organizations across the country, acts as a catalyst for performance; invests in ambitious new works by artists and arts organizations nation-wide; and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. Situated on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation, the NAC is accessible and welcoming to all, and offers a variety of free programming and events.

Photo Credit: Peter Jennings/ Michael O’Neill, ABC News


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