Montreal to honour jazz legend Oscar Peterson by naming public square after him

As part of the renovation project of McGill College Avenue in downtown Montreal, the city has announced it will create a public square and name it after world famous jazz musician Oscar Peterson.

Peterson's widow says she's overwhelmed by push to preserve late husband's legacy

The city has announced it will construct a new public square along McGill College Avenue and name it after Oscar Peterson. (City of Montreal)

As part of the renovation project of McGill College Avenue in downtown Montreal, the city has announced it will create a public square and name it after world famous jazz musician Oscar Peterson.

The square will be located along McGill College between Ste-Catherine Street and de Maisonneuve Blvd., next to the Eaton Centre.

Peterson's widow, Kelly Peterson, was on hand at the announcement on Tuesday, and said she was delighted that her husband's legacy would be honoured in such a central location.

"It really did give me goosebumps," she said. "So many people will walk through here every day.… I'm really having trouble finding the words to say how pleased I am and how joyful this makes me."

Kelly Peterson, Oscar Peterson's widow, poses with Oliver Jones following the announcement. (Radio-Canada)

Peterson was supportive of calls that came last year to rename a Metro station after her late husband.

She said she'd been in touch with the city and Mayor Valérie Plante many times as they weighed options for the best way to highlight the jazz legend's contribution to his hometown.

"There have been other proposals made and it really did mean a great deal to me that people were thinking so much about Oscar and wanting to find a way to honour him," she said.

Peterson added that her husband would have been amazed to see his legacy being cemented in this way.

"Oscar would be overwhelmed. He never expected to receive the honours he received during his lifetime," she said. "Since he's passed away, with the park and the mural, it would make him extremely humble and he would just be so pleased to know he's being remembered this way

WATCH | Friends and family of Oscar Peterson overwhelmed by city's tribute:

Friends and family of Oscar Peterson 'overwhelmed' by city's decision to honour the late jazz musician

1 year ago
Duration 1:21
Oscar Peterson's widow, Kelly Peterson, and longtime friend and collaborator Oliver Jones say they are happy to see Peterson's legacy being preserved in downtown Montreal.

Naveed Hussain, who started the petition to rename Lionel-Groulx Métro station after Oscar Peterson last summer, told CBC News that he was happy the jazz icon would be given his due recognition.

"I think it's a big win for the city," said Hussain. "I'm really happy and proud to be a Montrealer today."

'He was my inspiration,' says Oliver Jones

The announcement on Tuesday was attended by another renowned musician, Oliver Jones, who was mentored by Peterson and went on to collaborate with him.

Jones said he was very pleased with the city's decision to establish a place in honour of his friend.

"I think it's the ideal spot. It's the centre of the city," he said. "What he had done for Canada, for Montreal especially, I'm so very, very proud."

Jones said that placing a musician in a position of honour sends a signal to others in the music world about what they can achieve.

Oscar Peterson's name also graces a park and a concert hall in Montreal, and a mural honours him in the Sud Ouest neighbourhood. (CBC)

Mayor Plante said that the square will be designed to include immersive art installations inspired by Peterson's work.

She said not only is he being honoured for his virtuosity and talent, but as "a model for the city's cultural diversity."

"The racism he faced, like all Black musicians of his generation, did not prevent him from spreading joy and happiness through his music. But we can imagine he had to be very strong and resilient," said Plante.

"From nothing he reached the top of his discipline and marked the history of music and of Montreal."

 The city wants to start work on Oscar Peterson Place in 2023, and have it ready by 2025, In time for the 100th anniversary of Peterson's birth.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada


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