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News about Oscar Peterson


9 of 13


The unveiling ceremony was a most memorable occasion. So many people gathered at “Oscar's Corner” for the event, and to share in the excitement as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II pulled the golden cord to reveal the sculpture to everyone.

Rain had threatened, but the sun shone brightly. The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir sang, among other songs, Oscar Peterson's “Hymn To Freedom,” accompanied by Oliver Jones on piano.

Céline and Kelly Peterson wish to express their deep gratitude to all of the National Committee members, the staff of the National Arts Centre, Master of Ceremony Gregory Charles, the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir conducted by Professor Trevor Payne, Pianist Oliver Jones, Minister James Moore, Rosemary Thompson, Julia Foster and Peter Herrndorf for their tremendous efforts in making this an unforgettable event. Thanks also go to all those who gathered to share this moment.

Special thanks go to Sculptor Ruth Abernethy, for her great gift of capturing Oscar Peterson in bronze. Here are her thoughts about the creation of this sculpture:

My intent in portraiture is to present a set of familiar features within a 'living moment' that rings true for a particular character.  I begin by poring over all available reference in order to absorb the physical and emotional intricacies of my subject.  With observations to inform my imagination I begin engineering the actual anatomical proportions.  This of course, is a mathematical exercise and in every portrait one particular number begins to appear again and again.  Imagine my astonishment and delight when, in this particular portrait, the resonant number was 3.14!  There could be no better symbol for Oscar's musical inventiveness.

The piano was such a constant touchstone in Oscar's life that it had to be an element in this portrayal.  Integral to the composition is the actual realization of the stretched perspectives seen through a camera's fish-eye lens.  All components of the piano and bench are enlarged toward the south-side viewer and the resultant keyboard is actually curved, as is the contour of the piano lid.  Oscar demanded that we re-imagine the piano repertoire and the bronze keyboard looses its distinctions between individual notes to become a runway, a point of departure; music beyond  notes.  This instrument suggests 97 keys, just like the Austrian, Bösendorfer Imperial, Oscar's piano of choice.  The additional bass octave is finished with all black keys and this was too unique and interesting to ignore.  'Bösendorfer' is subtlety embossed on the fronstpiece.

Oscar adapted himself to a life in the public eye though never developed or presented a stage persona.  For this lengthy 'public engagement' at the corner of Albert and Elgin Streets I wanted Oscar to be truly comfortable.  I'd imagined him finishing Hymn to Freedom, pushing back his piano bench and taking a moment to welcome his audience and watch the city pass by.  His left foot is turned inward just slightly; a hint of self-conscious acceptance of his public life.  Oscar's hands are gently clasped with a single left forefinger on top.  This is not a docile chorister's clasp nor the intertwined gesture of a business deal.  I hoped to hint at Oscar's lifetime commitment to balancing artistic pioneering and personal vulnerability.

Ruth Abernethy
July 4th, 2010