#646: “O Canada”

GETTING MORE TALE #646: “O Canada”

What’s the worst first impression you ever made?  Mine must be unique.

Every Canadian knows the national anthem.  The music was written in 1880, and the modern lyrics emerged in 1908, updated slightly in 1914.  Even so, it did not become Canada’s official national anthem until 1980 when it finally received royal assent from the Queen.  My dad remembers singing both “God Save the King” and “God Save the Queen” in his school days.  Today, true north strong and free, we are all taught “O Canada” from our youngest years.  We are brought up to know and respect the anthem, and in fact we always honour it every year at Sausagefest.  Before the festivities begin, hats are removed and we all stand for “O Canada”.

Controversially, the government of Canada just announced a lyric change.  The line “In all thy sons command” has been altered to the gender-neutral “In all of us command”.  Less poetic, yes.  How do you feel about that?

When I was in Catholic school, you really had to sing it.  The teacher would walk around the room, listening to make sure we were all singing, not just going through the motions.  This went for all the hymns we had to learn as well.  If you were just mouthing the words and not singing, eventually you’d get caught.  We all learned to belt it out.  A general rule of thumb at Catholic school was:  thou SHALT sing along.

Our anthem is far easier than the more complex “Star Spangled Banner” that our neighbours to the south must sing.  All the notes are generally within range, and the words are easier to remember, even the bilingual version.  (And we don’t have rockets and bombs in our anthem either!)

When I graduated grade 8, I went into the public school system.  I didn’t consider myself Catholic anymore, but I was more interested in putting some distance between me and some of the school bullies.  I would be making a fresh start in grade 9.

First day of grade 9, I arrived in class but didn’t know anyone.  I was seated next to a guy named Steve Van Der Veen, potentially my first new friend.  The national anthem came on, and I sang it as I was accustomed to.

 

“O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!…”

 

I thought I was doing a good job, until it was over.

 

“From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”

 

“If you’re going to keep sitting next to me, never sing again,” said Steve.

It was at that moment that I realized nobody else was singing.  Not one person.   Just me.  Apparently, in the public schools, you didn’t have to sing “O Canada” like you did in the Catholic system.  You just had to stand at attention.  I didn’t know, and I didn’t notice.

First day of class, first impressions, and I blew it!

 

 

Rene Rancourt is my favourite anthem singer of all time.  Enjoy your retirement, Rene!

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34 comments

  1. The Australian national anthem is alright, I think. I never sang it I just mouthed it so I wouldn’t know. Being in a non religious school meant I could get away with this

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I never did in primary or high school and i don’t have to now, so that would be a no

        And on a side note, it’s got a weird title. I mean, what on earth does “advance Australia fair” even mean.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The fact that I never sang the anthem didn’t have anything to do with unpatrioticness, rather it was because I am the worst singer on the planet.

        Like

  2. That was a great first impression. I hope you were at least in tune if you were the only one singing. I have sang along to “O Canada’ at many sporting events here in the States when ever the sports team plays a Canadian team. I don’t know it all, but will still at least hum along at the parts I don’t remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The line “In all thy sons command” has been altered to the gender-neutral “In all of us command”. Less poetic, yes. How do you feel about that?”

    The wording seems a little weird to me and I had to have it explained to me how it makes grammatical sense. (As if I have room to talk after that sentence.) But whatever – it’s more inclusive so I’m fine with it. The lyrics have changed a number of times in the past and there’s no reason we can’t do it again.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Singing it is awkward. The flow isn’t quite there.
        I agree with the sentiment as well. Though I have no problem with the previous lyrics, I also have no problem being inclusive.

        Like

    1. I had an argument with a lady today about that. She didn’t know French was an official language. She thought it was no different from German or Italian. Duh. She thought Canada was English-only. Dear God.

      I really only hear the bilingual version at hockey games.

      Like

    1. He hasn’t retired yet — maybe he was sick that night? His last scheduled appearance is April for the regular season home closer. So you can still hear Rene sing for a couple more months. I know I will be watching the season closer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for that. Sometimes the anthem is better than the game. I really like the old school guy in Chicago. Like Rene he gets the crowd pumped plus he really puts his soul into it. Can’t help being stirred. You’ve even got CB pulling for the leafs.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hahah right on!

          I confess I can’t remember the Chicago guy. I just loved Rene from day one. We watched a lot of hockey when the Leafs were in the playoffs against Boston and I always looked forward to Rene and the “fist pump”.

          There’s a young teenage girl who sings the anthems in Toronto now, and she’s really fantastic. She sings the anthems perfectly each time and consistently too.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’ll keep an eye out for the new girl. I might have heard her. The Chicago guy looks like an ex Marine. I’d follow the guy anywhere. They had Armed Services night in Vancouver last game and the young service woman did a great job. How cool is that, sticking with our musical vibe and talking anthem singers.

          Like

  4. How embarrassing for you.
    At sporting events (Blue Jays games) I sing along. I don’t care who else sings or doesn’t sing. I love my national anthem and when I hear it being played at the Olympics it brings a tear to my eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was in the public system all along and grades 1 to 8 we sang the national anthem. This led to some of us singing “Oh China” since we were never spied on by the teacher who always remained at the front of the class. So if you’re wondering why everything is made in China these days it’s because we were practically singing for it back then.

    Like

  6. Lyric change doesn’t bother me. Inclusion is more important than tradition in my book. I switched from Catholic to Public school in Grade 7 to get away from bullies. Got free from them for two years until we all ended up at the same high school. Good times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After thinking about it for the last day or so, it doesn’t bother me although I wish the new line was…better? I read a few online that I liked better. “In all our hearts command” was one I liked better.

      I’m sure we’ll all get used to it.

      Like

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