Centretown to kickoff royal visit to Ottawa

Two Centretown landmarks — one brand new and the other a century old — will be the first stops on the Queen’s royal visit to Ottawa beginning on June 30.

After Elizabeth and Prince Phillip arrive at the airport at 11:45 a.m., they will be driven directly to the Canadian Museum of Nature to re-dedicate the historic, castle-like building after its four-year renovation.

After spending an hour touring the museum, the royals will head to the National Arts Centre to unveil the new Oscar Peterson statue — a tribute to the late Canadian jazz pianist — recently installed at the corner of Elgin and Albert streets.

Montreal musician and broadcaster Gregory Charles will host the event.

The Queen is scheduled to arrive at 1:15 and be greeted by NAC president Peter Herrndorf. The Montreal Jubilation Choir, co-founded by Peterson’s sister Daisy Sweeney, will then sing Peterson’s 1962 civil rights anthem “Hymn to Freedom,” accompanied by Peterson’s close friend Oliver Jones.

The choir comes from Little Burgundy, the same Montreal neighbourhood where Peterson grew up.

Peterson preformed his famous hymn before the Queen in 2002 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert Gala.

Following the hymn, the Queen will pull a gold cord to unveil the new statue, which features Peterson sitting at a piano with room for those interested to sit beside him.

The Queen will then meet Peterson’s family — including his widow Kelly Peterson, daughter Celine Peterson — as well as the statue’s sculptor Ruth Abernathy and choir conductor Trevor Payne.

The Queen and Prince Phillip will then embark on a long walkabout. The Queen specifically requested that the barricades be set up in such a way that she move close to members of the public who attend the event.

NAC spokeswoman Rosemary Thompson said she expects thousands to turn up for the event, which officials have been planning for six months.

Another Centretown highlight will come the following day with the Queen’s appearance on Parliament Hill during Canada Day celebrations.

Other stops during the visit, the Queen’s 22nd Canadian tour, include Toronto, Winnipeg and Halifax.