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Historical link in Anthem singing

The singing of the National Anthem for the Canberra Racing Carnival this year will extend an important historical link for the Canberra Racing Club.  The Carnival will be held over two days with the Black Opal run on Sunday 13th March and the Canberra Cup run on Monday 14th March at Thoroughbred Park in North Lyneham.

This year the National Anthem will be sung by Jess Manclark whose great grandfather, Alf Stafford, was a founding member and life member of the Canberra Racing Club.  Alf Stafford is very well know in Canberra’s history as he was an indigenous man who was the personal chauffer for Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, for many years. 

Alf Stafford was also the captain and opening batsman for the ACT Cricket team.  Alf and Sir Robert Menzies were both cricket tragics and formed a close lifelong friendship.   When Alf’s wife died Menzies created a position, cabinet officer, at Parliament House for Alf where he worked until his retirement.  Alf’s two younger children, David and Diana, lived at the Lodge following their mothers death, being cared for by Dame Pattie Menzies.

Jess Manclark has had over 12 years of classical singing training and was in the ANU’s Music Development Programme for 6 years.  She has performed in musicals in Canberra including We Will Rock You and Jesus Christ Superstar. 

Jess is presently in her 2nd year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she has been selected for the Conservatorium’s Chamber choir.  Jess is currently in rehearsal to appear in the opera Peer Gynt for a festival in Sydney.  Jess was recently recalled to Canberra to join the ANU’s Chamber quartet Choir to back Marcia Hynes and sing the National Anthem at the Australia Day Awards Ceremony at the National Arboretum. 

Diana Griffiths who is Alf Stafford’s daughter and Jess’s grandmother has been a continuous member of the Canberra Racing Club for nearly 60 years and is now a Veteran Member of the club.