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Harper Tickles The Ivories At Black-Tie Gala

A year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed galas as the playground of elites, he decided to ham it up a bit at a glittering high society event in Ottawa Saturday.

Harper took to the stage, sat down at a grand piano and belted out the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” He was performing for one of the most elite of audiences: the black-tie gala at the National Arts Centre traditionally attracts the most powerful people in Ottawa society and movers and shakers in Canadian culture.

Harper, a Beatles fan, was accompanied by renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma.

The prime minister held his own musically, and the audience, succumbing to the playful spirit of the surprise guest appearance, rewarded him with a standing ovation.

Harper’s wife, Laureen, is the honorary chairwoman of the NAC gala, which raises money for arts education – this year’s tally coming to some $575,000.

And though the prime appeared to enjoy himself immensely, he chose not to linger in the limelight, and left the building before the curtain came down on the gala.

Harper’s dismissive attitude toward culture and the arts was blamed, in large part, for his party’s poor showing in Quebec in the 2008 election.

His stage act may have been timely, because on Sunday Harper called four federal bye-elections for November, including two in Quebec, one in Nova Scotia and one in British Columbia.