Young Canadian composer sets Alice Munro's "Dear Life" to music

dear-life-naco.jpgPhoto of Alice Munro (left) by Derek Shapton, photo of composer Zosha di Castri (right) from Columbia University.

An orchestral imagining of Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro's short story "Dear Life" is set to premiere at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The performance features a score by award-winning Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri, photographs from legendary photographer Larry Towell, narration by actor Martha Henry and vocals by soprano Erin Wall. Author Merilyn Simonds wrote an adapted version of the story for Henry to read.

The concert will be the first by Alexander Shelley at the National Arts Centre Orchestra, where he begins his tenure as Music Director. It was Shelley's idea to commission an original work inspired by "Dear Life."

"I had always intended to open my first season with a new Canadian commission and in Munro's words an inspiration had been found. Taking poetry and literature and allowing them to be the source of inspiration for music is an age-old idea. But now we have far more media that we can work with," Shelley said in a press release. 

"When I first saw Zosha Di Castri's sensational score for 'Dear Life' I couldn't tear myself away. This is a concert that I know will be thought provoking."

The concert, entitled "Echoes of Childhood," draws upon Munro's autobiographical recollections of growing up in rural Ontario. "Dear Life" is the titlular story of her 2012 collection.

larry-towell.jpgOne of the photos by Larry Towell that will be featured in the conert. (Larry Towell/Magnum Photos)