Friday 29 June 2018

O Canada!

In honour of Canada Day, we wanted to post some early English versions of “O Canada” that we found in our archives. O Canada was the de facto national anthem of Canada since 1939, but only became the country's official national anthem on July 1, 1980 after Canada's National Anthem Act received royal assent.

O Canada was initially written to honour the Quebec National Holiday, St. John Baptiste Day. In 1880, the Honorable Theodore Robitaille, Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, commissioned Adolphe-Basile Routhier to write lyrics and Calixa Lavallée to compose the music for a song to commemorate the holiday.

The song was performed for the first time on June 24, 1880 under the original name "Chant National". O Canada quickly spread through French Canada, but it would take another twenty years before the song would gain popularity in English Canada.

The earliest published English version of O Canada was written by Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson in 1906. We found the typed lyrics of Richardson's version within Archbishop McNeil's fonds:

Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson's English version of O Canada. Though Dr, Richardson's version of O Canada was beautiful in its own right, it was not a true translation of the original French text

MN AS05.01

Archbishop McNeil Fonds

There have been several English versions of O Canada since Dr. Richardson's was first published. The English version we sing today is based largely on the lyrics written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, however even these lyrics have been revised several times since then.

We were also interested to find a version of O Canada from 1917 that was approved by Sir Routhier as being an "exact English rendering of the original text."

An English translation of the original French Song, authorized by Sir Routhier. 15 March 1917

MN AH06.22

Archbishop McNeil Fonds

There are now three official versions of O Canada: French, English and Bilingual. You can find out more about the history, lyrics, and proper etiquette surrounding anthem use here.

Happy Canada Day!

No comments:

Post a Comment