Friday, January 1, 2010

The Canadian National Anthem

"O Canada" was written in 1880 and was sung for the first time later that year at a banquet in the Pavillion des Patineurs in Quebec City. The French words have remained the same to this day. The English version, however, has a more interesting history. When Routhier's lyrics were first published in Toronto, a doctor named Thomas Bedford Richardson translated the words into English and to fit the melody. Two years later, the first edition of the Canadian version of Collier's Weekly held a competition to write English lyrics to the song. Mercy E. Powell McCulloch won the competition with her entry. The words were rewritten again and again, but one version gained the most popularity. It was written by Montreal lawyer Robert Stanley Weir, and only slightly differs from the English version used since "O Canada" was officially declared the national anthem in 1980, one century after it was composed.

Before the official adoption of "O Canada" in 1980, the official national anthem of Canada was "God Save the Queen", yet "O Canada" was used on an unofficial basis, as well as the patriotic song "The Maple Leaf Forever"

Canada, being a former British colony (and "O Canada" being composed not that long after independence was granted), has its anthem in the "Western hymn" style of anthem.

For the past few decades, there has been an on-again/off-again movement to once more slightly alter the English lyrics of the national anthem, from "In all thy sons command" to "In all thy hearts command", to be more inclusive.

It is interesting to note that, while having both English and French lyrics (Canada is an officially bilingual country), and both languages' version of the anthem share the same melody, each official language has different words for the anthem.