A bronze sculpture of the late jazz icon Oscar Peterson is in hiding, waiting for its unveiling by Queen Elizabeth in downtown Ottawa on June 30.
"You know, you do get this sense of the week before Christmas when you know you've got the perfect thing stashed away for people," said Ruth Abernethy, the Canadian sculptor who created the larger-than-life-sized bronze grand piano and the accompanying likeness of the great pianist seated nearby.
Abernethy oversaw the installation of her work Wednesday into an exterior wall of the National Arts Centre on Elgin Street. There is space for visitors to sit down next to Peterson on the piano bench.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the sculpture was hidden behind a large sign until the moment of its royal debut.
"What started as an initiative by close friends has morphed into this immense celebration.… The Queen is just another whole level of 'Oh my goodness!'" Abernethy said with a laugh.
The artist, who also created the statue of celebrated classical pianist Glenn Gould in front of the CBC building in Toronto, was convinced by friends two years ago to present the National Arts Centre with the idea of honouring Peterson with a sculpture.
The NAC raised $300,000 in private donations to pay for it.
NAC spokeswoman Rosemary Thompson said there's a huge connection between Peterson and the arts centre. He played there during its opening in 1969, she said.
"He received the Governor General's performing arts award here," she added. "He's played here many, many times. And you know, he's a great icon of jazz music in this country."
Peterson, who grew up in Montreal, died in December 2007 at age 82 after a 65-year career as a piano virtuoso, recording artist and composer. He had more than 200 recordings to his name.
For the last half of his life, Peterson lived in Mississauga, Ont.
Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will be in the National Capital Region from June 30 to July 3 as part of a nine-day tour of Canada that begins on June 28.