Music Connects Us.
Notes from our Artistic Director
~ July 1, 2021 ~

A Dispirited Canada Day

July 1 – Canada Day.   My intention had always been to focus this newsletter on our national anthem.  We’ll get to that spotlight in a moment, but first, I feel compelled to reflect on the tragedies that are currently breaking our collective hearts and dimming the glow of what would otherwise be a stellar Canada Day.

Over our country – in fact, over us all as individual Canadians – hangs a pall that reminds us of the lost Indigenous children whose resting places are being found and respected up to a hundred years later. Let’s be honest and admit that the treatment of these youngsters is a stain on the goodness and the inclusivity that I hope marks Canada Day 2021. A pause of reflection and reverence for these lost young people – and their families and ancestors – is in order before this newsletter on Canada Day can proceed.

I’ve been searching for a fitting musical expression that relates to the sorrow of these discoveries, particularly in relation to the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.  I’ve not found a distinct selection arising from this crisis, but I have come upon a communication spoken, drummed and sung by two young men, Dancing Buffalo (Daryl Kootenay) and Black Cloud (Kyle Snow), to close National Indigenous People’s Day at the Banff Centre just ten days ago. Listen here.

I invite you to join me in privately expressing one’s heartache, as an individual Canadian, by taking time here to honour the children and to learn from what these young musicians express on behalf of their own fellow Indigenous Canadians. As Dancing Buffalo says, “Say a prayer in your own way, in your own language.”

Canadians have a beautiful national anthem.  This year I’ve come upon no finer panorama to accompany O CANADA than this version from a Calgary ensemble, Revv52, who are new to me but about whom I’d like to know more. I read that they re-imagine their version of the anthem to reflect a spirit of reconciliation. The opening Prelude features an original composition beginning with the Cree word Mâmawi, meaning Together. John Morgan is the Artistic Director and orchestrator; Richard Harrison is the poet whose words speak of Canada’s journey, potential, and hopes for the future. You should take in this interpretation. Watch here.

But really, how much do you know about O CANADA? Thanks to Robert Harris’s interesting book, Song of A Nation: The Untold Story of Canada’s National Anthem, (published by McClelland & Stewart, 2018), I’ve made a short quiz to check your familiarity with our country’s symbolic song. The answers appear towards the end of the newsletter.  Good luck!

1.  Who wrote the music for O CANADA?

2.   What organisation, totally opposed to the nation of Canada, commissioned O CANADA?

3.   What did Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier and Judge Robert Stanley Weir do for O CANADA?

4.   What popular, patriotic song was often in competition with O CANADA among English-Canadians to be another national anthem?  (A hint:  it’s not God Save The King.)

5.    When did O CANADA officially become our national anthem?

6.    From what famous composer’s opera might the opening bars of O CANADA be copied?

7.    Can you sing the official, gender-neutral, bilingual version of O CANADA?

Recently THE ELORA FESTIVAL shared a beautiful video featuring its professional choir, all masked for safety reasons, performing Long Road with music by a Latvian composer, Ēriks Ešenvalds, and an English text translation by Elaine Singley Lloyd from the original verse by the late Lithuanian poet, Paulīna Bārda.

Several times already I’ve been moved by this music – vocal and percussive – and this poetry rendered so beautifully by these choristers.  Its tone is another calming, longing, reflective experience that seems just right for me to share with you at this time.

Next month I’ll have more to outline about The Elora Festival and also about neighbouring Stratford Summer Music to encourage you to watch online or to take one-day trips to enjoy great music in these communities in August.  For now, here is Long Road, conducted by Mark Vuorinen who also artistically directs The Elora Festival.

Answers to the O CANADA Quiz:

1. Calixa Lavallée (1880) who, disillusioned, left Canada to live in Boston and tour USA as a black-faced minstrel show musician.

2.  The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of Quebec wanted a semi-religious hymn linking religion and its own concept of Quebec as a nation.

3.  Routhier wrote the original French lyrics (1880) which remain largely unchanged to this day.  In 1908, after dozens of other lines had been proposed, Judge Weir saw his poetry become the accepted English lyrics.

4.  The Maple Leaf Forever was written by Alexander Weir, a Toronto school principal, in 1867 to celebrate Confederation. It remained a major patriotic song in English Canada for decades.

5.  In 1967 Parliament officially accepted the music and the French lyrics though disagreements over the English wording continued for a further 13 years.  Finally, in January, 1980 the gender-neutral version we sing now in English ( …in all of us command )  became the law of the land.

6.  The opening bars of Mozart’s March of the Priests, which begins Act 2 of The Magic Flute, are identical to the opening bars of O CANADA. Mozart wrote his score in 1791.

7.   Here’s your chance to sing O CANADA, accompanied by The Toronto Symphony, along with sopranos Julie Nesrallah and Nathalie Paulin. You’ll find the audio files at the bottom of the Government of Canada’s Anthems of Canada page here. I’m sure you know the words, but just in case you want to follow along, here they are:

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command,

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits,

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

THANKS to everyone who met our June request to become monthly donors of $25. Contributions like these keep Huron Waves floating successfully this year. Our request still stands. Please consider supporting the music festival.  Here’s a link to our donation program.
Till we’re together again, stay safe and healthy.  And remember that Music Connects Us.

John A. Miller, Artistic Director                                                                            July 1, 2021