August 15, 2005 13:30 ET

Canada Post: Happy Birthday Oscar! Oscar Peterson Unveils Canada's Newest Postage Stamp

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 15, 2005) - When jazz aficionados speak of Oscar Peterson, words like "legendary ability", "greatest jazz pianist in the world", "brilliant technique", "unparalleled talent" are often used. Their list of descriptions give a glimpse into the incredible talents of one of the greatest musicians our country has ever produced. After today, that list will include the phrase, "honoured on a postage stamp."

Canada Post today unveiled the country's newest postage stamp commemorating the life and achievements of composer and musician Oscar Peterson. The date coincides with Dr. Peterson's 80th birthday. Internationally renowned, Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson has entertained the world with his mastery and prowess for more than 50 years.

The stamp was officially unveiled today by the musician himself at a special birthday celebration held in Toronto. Dr. Peterson was joined by family, friends and fans at the HMV store at 333 Yonge Street for the ceremony. Every birthday needs a surprise, and Dr. Peterson received his at the event when Diana Krall arrived to sing a special birthday tune to him.

"This stamp is a fitting tribute to a great Canadian. Dr. Peterson's musical legacy is all-encompassing and Canada Post is honoured to showcase his talent for all of Canada and the world to experience," said Bob Waite, Senior vice-president, Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Canada Post.

Dr. Peterson, speaking at the unveiling, thanked the crowd for celebrating this special day with him and added that he was, "very honoured and proud that jazz has brought me to this acclaim by the Canadian people."

"Universal Music Canada has had, through various labels, the very blessed fortune of working with the celebrated genius of Dr. Oscar Peterson for almost 50 years," commented Randy Lennox, President & CEO, Universal Music Canada. "As one of the most heralded and distinctive pianists of our time, Oscar has become one of Canada's true ambassadors to the world through his championed musical works. It is fitting that Canada Post has chosen to immortalize Oscar's achievements with this, the highest of all honours."

Pianist and composer Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was born 80 years ago, on August 15, 1925. He first learned music from his self-taught father, a West Indian immigrant who worked as a railway porter, then studied under both a classical pianist and old-time jazz musicians. Oscar Peterson's break came when he won a CBC amateur contest, followed by appearances on a weekly Montreal radio show and with The Happy Gang. In 1949, he played Carnegie Hall, formed the Oscar Peterson Trio soon thereafter, and later performed or recorded with many of the greats of American jazz. Dr. Peterson has recorded close to 200 albums, but his best-known works remain the "Canadiana Suite" and "Hymn to Freedom", the unofficial anthem of youth choirs throughout the world.

Oscar Peterson's awards are numerous and include: multiple Grammy and Juno winner, Companion of the Order of Canada, recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize (whose namesake is considered Peterson's only rival among Canadian pianists of international renown), the UNESCO International Music Prize, member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and recipient of the "lifetime achievement" award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, parent body to the (US) Grammy Awards. Additional information about Dr. Peterson and his career can be found at .

The stamp is a collage of two photographs that showcase the talent and capture the essence of Canada's musical treasure, including Peterson's trademark smile. The primary image is a portrait of a relaxed Peterson leaning against an open piano. The second image is a close-up of his hands on the keyboard. The treatment was executed in duotone rather than four colours. The portrait is in sepia while the keyboard image has a bluer, cooler hue.

Designer Tiit Telmet explained it was important to focus on Oscar Peterson, so he deliberately kept the design monochromatic in tone and the typography to a minimum. "The stamp is simplistic in its design, not cluttered. The keyboard says he is a pianist and the portrait captures his warmth and compassion. It is a simple, elegant statement of a remarkable man."

The 50 cents stamp is available at post offices across the country today, August 15, 2005. It measures 32 mm x 32 mm, and will be sold in a pane of 16 stamps, as well as in a special souvenir sheet of four stamps. Canadian Bank Note printed 4 million of the stamps and 500,000 souvenir sheets, using 7 colour lithography and P.V.A. gum, on Tullis Russell Coatings paper. The stamp is general tagged on all four sides with 13+ perforations. The Official First Day Cover will read: Montreal, Quebec.

Additional information about Canadian stamps can be found in the Newsroom section of Canada Post's website, and a downloadable high-resolution photo of the Oscar Peterson stamp and souvenir sheet are in the Newsroom's Photo Centre. Stamps and Official First Day Covers will be available at participating post offices, can be ordered online by following the links at Canada Post's website, or by mail-order from the National Philatelic Centre. From Canada and the USA call toll-free: 1-800-565-4362 and from other countries call: (902) 863-6550.

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