A Gift to Canada: The Right Honourable Joe Clark’s family commissions major orchestral work

Clark 2473 by michelle valberg
© Michelle Valberg

It’s not easy to surprise a former Prime Minister, but that’s exactly what the Right Honourable Joe Clark’s family did on June 5 at the National Arts Centre when they announced that their gift to him for his 75th birthday is a new piece of music commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra that will be shared across the country and the world.

Mr. Clark, who served as Canada’s 16th Prime Minister, celebrated his 75th birthday at the NAC and was seated in the audience for a performance with his wife Maureen McTeer, his brother Mr. Justice Peter Clark and several family friends, when his daughter Catherine Clark emerged on the Southam Hall stage.

“He believes wholeheartedly in Canada and its place in the world, and music, of course, is a very powerful ambassador for our country.” – Maureen McTeer

“Dad, you have dedicated your life to this nation, to its purpose and potential. So we’ve commissioned a piece by one of Canada’s most celebrated composers written specifically for you for your 75th birthday.”

The work will be written by Edmonton-based composer John Estacio, and will be premiered by the NAC Orchestra in the 2015-2016 season. Mr. Estacio recently toured with the NAC Orchestra to China where his beautiful work, Brio: Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra, was chosen by NAC Music Director Pinchas Zukerman as one of the signature pieces during the NAC’s Performance and Education Tour in that country.

Mr. Estacio was recently commissioned by the Cincinnati Ballet to compose the orchestral score for its new full-length ballet, King Arthur’s Camelot. His orchestral works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“John Estacio is one of Canada’s most gifted and prolific composers, and, like Joe, he is an Albertan,” said Maureen McTeer, author, lawyer, and wife of former Prime Minister Joe Clark.  “Joe is a son of the Alberta Foothills who became a statesman on the world stage, whose entire career has been characterized by an inclusive, outward-looking philosophy. John Estacio’s music is known for being lyrical and uplifting, qualities that we feel make him ideally suited for this commission.”

“I had been thinking for some time of a way to mark my husband’s 75th birthday,” McTeer continued. “This seemed the perfect opportunity to have a living memory created to capture the essence of Joe – proud, optimistic, generous, honest and strong – qualities that also reflect this country,” she notes.

“Catherine and I knew that Joe would most appreciate a gift that could be shared by people everywhere. He believes wholeheartedly in Canada and its place in the world, and music, of course, is a very powerful ambassador for our country.”

Mr. Clark was born in High River, Alberta. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1972 and won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party four years later. In 1979 he became the youngest and only Alberta-born Prime Minister in Canadian history, and later went on to serve as one of this country’s most distinguished Foreign Ministers, and as Minister of Constitutional Affairs.

Mr. Clark now serves on several charitable and corporate boards, and is the Vice Chairman of the Global Leadership Foundation.  He recently authored the book How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change.  He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and is a proud recipient of twelve honourary degrees from Canadian and American universities.  Mr. Clark continues to work actively with key international organizations on issues of governance, democratic reform, peace and security.

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