On today’s date in 1929, Guelph native and Metropolitan Opera tenor Edward Johnson sang on the final evening of the first music festival ever held in Guelph, Ont.
In 2006, Canada Post featured Johnson on a 51-cent stamp (CSN # 2182) as part of a five-stamp issue celebrating great Canadian opera singers. It was printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell coated paper using 11-colour lithography. It was tagged on each side and had a print run of 600,000. Its official first-day cover was canceled in Toronto.
On May 8, 1929, Johnson was accompanied by the Vogt Choir of Guelph and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Guelph’s first music festival. In the early ’20s, he donated $25,000 to establish music classes in local schools, and this festival was an early product of that donation.
He was billed outside of North America as Edoardo Di Giovanni and eventually became general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.
In Harriette Brower’s 1917 book Vocal Mastery: Talks with Master Singers and Teachers, Johnson is quoted as saying: “Of course the ear is the most important factor, our greatest ally. It helps us imitate. Imitation forms a large part of our study. We hear a beautiful tone; we try to imitate it; we try in various ways, with various placements, until we succeed in producing the sound we have been seeking. Then we endeavor to remember the sensations experienced in order that we may repeat the tone at will. So you see Listening, Imitation and Memory are very important factors in the student’s development.”