Home 9 Composers 9 James Wright

James Wright (b. 1959) has pursued a broad-ranging career as a composer, pianist, musicologist and choral director. He is perhaps best known as a composer of vocal and choral music whose works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by choirs and soloists throughout North America.  In 2002, he completed a Ph.D. at McGill University, where his dissertation on Schoenberg and Wittgenstein was awarded the Governor-General’s Gold Medal, the first time in McGill University’s history that this distinction has been conferred upon a musicologist.  


Dr. Wright has taught harmony, counterpoint, composition, choral arranging, 19th- and 20th-century music history and post-tonal music theory and analysis at Wilfrid Laurier University, McGill University and the University of Ottawa, and he is currently a professor of music theory and composition at Carleton University, where he also serves as Supervisor of Performance Studies in the School for Studies in Art and Culture.   

Dr. Wright has collaborated with a number of prominent Canadian authors and poets, including Sheree Fitch, Alan Cumyn and Stephen Michael Berzensky. A number of his works involve integration of music with poetry, dance and visual art. His nine-movement A Gallery of Song: Spirit of the Land, for example, was inspired by the works of the Group of Seven and their circle, employed poetic responses to the art by young Canadian authors, incorporated choreography and provided performance-specifications for the projection of the artworks above the choristers and dancers.  He recently completed a cycle of art song settings of excerpts from Beethoven’s passionate and mysterious love letters of 1812, to a woman unknown. Letters to the Immortal Beloved was premiered by mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah and the Gryphon trio on July 27, 2012, at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.  James Wright is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre.

To Young Canadians

by Dr. James Wright

SSA  with piano (optional strings)  –    CP 1236    – 4:30   
SATB with piano (optional strings)  –    CP 1227
SAB  with piano (optional strings)  –    CP 1239 

To Young Canadians is a message full of hope and promise, to young people everywhere, from the late great Canadian politician – Jack Layton. Dr. James Wright has set the text to music which carries the uplifting message. Choirs, young and old, will love this approachable choral composition.

Instrumental parts – (optional and not available through retailers) 

• -$50 – (Strings only – full set sent via PDF files)

– $100 – (Standard Orchestra – all parts sent via PDF files)

“My family and I are deeply touched by James Wright’s beautiful new song, ‘To Young Canadians,’ and by the moving performance given by Jenna Glatt and so many wonderful young choristers on the newly released music video. This song captures the spirit and sentimental essence of Jack’s letter, and he would have been thrilled to know that his words inspired its creation. Jack had an unshakeable belief in Canada and Canadians. I hope his words will continue to inspire young people to ‘stand on guard’ for Canada’s future, and that this song will be sung and enjoyed by Canadians from coast to coast, for years to come.” 
– Olivia Chow (Jack Layton’s wife)

The “Canadian Friends for Peace Award” is presented annually to Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of peace and harmony.  On September 29, 2012, the Honorable Olivia Chow accepted the award posthumously for Jack Layton, her late husband.  I was approached by the Leading Note Foundation of Ottawa to write “To Young Canadians” for the occasion.  “To Young Canadians” was first performed by members of the Leading Note Foundation’s OrKidstra, KidPlayers and KidSingers Programs (directed by Margaret Tobolowska and Jeannie Hunter), soloist Jenna Glatt, and the Cantiamo and Ottawa Children’s Choirs (directed by Jackie Hawley), at the ceremony at Ottawa City Hall.

John Gilbert “Jack” Layton (1950-2011) was a Canadian social democratic politician. On May 2, 2011, he led the New Democratic Party of Canada – a party he had led since 2003 – to the status of Official Opposition for the first time in its history. The text of “To Young Canadians” is a lyrical adaptation of excerpts from the “Letter to Canadians” that Layton penned two days prior to this death on August 22, 2011. Jack Layton’s legacy will live forever in the hearts and minds of all Canadians, but perhaps especially for youth. “To Young Canadians” is a tribute to a great Canadian, whose message it aims to spread through the universal language of music.






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