Oscar Peterson’s widow thrilled by petition to change metro station name

Oscar Peterson’s widow thrilled by petition to change metro station name

MONTREAL — The widow of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson says she is heartened by a petition calling for Montreal to rename a metro station in his honour.

Kelly Peterson told The Canadian Press that as trustee of the late musician’s estate, she’s always looking for ways to further his legacy and welcomes the effort by a Montreal man to see her late husband recognized.

A petition launched last week by Naveed Hussain calling on the city to rename the Lionel-Groulx metro station after Peterson, who grew up in the nearby Little Burgundy neighbourhood, has been gaining steam with more than 15,000 signatures.

“I love the idea, I love the idea of Oscar being honoured,” Peterson said on Thursday. “It always really warms my heart and thrills me to see him being remembered … and to have so many people in the neighbourhood in which he grew up wanting to honour him and remember him that way is really overwhelming.”

But the City of Montreal and the city’s transit agency have said that renaming a metro station is complicated and not likely to happen.

The Montreal Transit Corp. has had a moratorium on name changes since 2006 and has only ever made five name changes since opening. A spokesman said stations are typically named after the streets or nearby landmarks.

A previous grassroots attempt to rename the station for Peterson in 2008, shortly after the musician’s death, did not succeed.

In Montreal, a concert hall at Concordia University bears Peterson’s name as does a park not far from the Lionel-Groulx station. There’s also a mural across from the green space in Little Burgundy near the metro station inaugurated in 2010.

A city spokeswoman indicated this week officials would be open to finding a different way of honouring the jazz legend whose career spanned more than 60 years.

Just last year, the city honoured Peterson’s late sister, Daisy Peterson-Sweeney, an accomplished music teacher, with her own park in the neighbourhood.

“I would be delighted and thrilled and honoured if the city wanted to do something to honour Oscar even more,” Peterson said. “It’s not something I ever expect from anyone — I don’t just mean Montreal — Oscar was always humbled by every honour he received, and I feel the same way.”

Kelly Peterson’s focus has been on promoting his musical legacy — the songs that he recorded and played, but more recently, those he composed himself so that people can see a more complete version of Oscar Peterson.

“People play Bach, people play Beethoven, I want people to play Oscar Peterson,” she said. “I’ve always felt that his music will outlive all of us: People will be listening to Oscar’s music 100 years from now, so it would be nice if there are other things that represent him as well.”

Oscar Peterson does have schools named for him in the Ontario communities of Mississauga and Stouffville, as well as a small square in Toronto’s financial district.

But Kelly Peterson, who lives in southern Ontario, added it’s not for her to get involved in Montreal city politics or change its policies.

“I don’t live there, I don’t feel I have the right to get involved in something that has an impact on the residents, and I’m not one of them,” she said. “But the honour? Absolutely, I love it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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