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O Canada! - The National Anthem of Canada

Calixa Lavallée, a pianist and composer, was asked in early 1880 to write music for a national song to be performed at the French-Canadian National Festival. After the music was written, the festival president Ernest Gagnon asked Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier to write appropriate words for this new composition. It is also a fact that Gagnon suggested the first line to Routhier "O Canada, terre des nos aieux". Even before its first public performance, the Quebec press proclaimed: "at last we have a truly French-Canadian National Song".

Although originally intended for French-Canadians, it became popular all over the country and accepted as a national song. Following the first English performance in Toronto in 1901 there have been several English texts, the most widely used being the version by Mr. Justice Robert Stanley Weir written in 1908. The French lyrics remain unaltered from Sir Routhier’s version. In almost all instances, just the first verse is sung. Even though this song was written in 1880, it was not until July 1, 1980 that Parliament proclaimed this tune as Canada’s official national anthem.

listen the anthemO Canada! - The National Anthem of Canada (Listen)

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!
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.

"God Save the Queen" - The Royal Anthem of Canada

The words and music to this anthem have been attributed to a Dr. Henry Carey in 1740. This fact is heavily disputed. However, its first famous performance was on September 28, 1745 at Drury Lane Theatre in London when the Young Pretender to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, had just defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Drury Lane Theatre, arranged God Save The King for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly thereafter. This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting the Monarch with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

As the Royal Anthem of Canada, it is performed officially in Canada in the presence of members of the Royal Family but is not sung when played as a salute, only when used as the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or as a hymn or prayer. The Salute accorded to the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors is a combination of O Canada! and God Save the Queen. As with O Canada!, in almost all instances - even in the United Kingdom, just the first verse is sung.

listen the anthemCanadian Royal Anthem - "God Save the Queen" (Listen)

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen!

Maple Leaf Forever

Alexander Muir’s 1867 up-the-Empire standard, which was Canada’s unofficial national anthem until the arrival of O Canada, has new lyrics. The updated, politically sensitive Maple Leaf Forever, with lyrics by Romanian émigré Vladimir Radian, received its first full orchestral treatment on June 27, 1997 at a free concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Radian, a mathematician turned songwriter/actor/poet, came to Canada a decade ago, completely unaware of Maple Leaf Forever and its crowing lyrics. He discovered the song while listening to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show in Toronto when it ran a contest to replace the old lyrics, which were distasteful to some ears and merely comical to others.

listen the anthemCanadian anthem - "Maple Leaf Forever" (Listen)

O, land of blue unending skies,
Mountains strong and sparkling snow,
A scent of freedom in the wind,
O’er the emerald fields below.

To thee we brought our hopes, our dreams,
For thee we stand together,
Our land of peace, where proudly flies,
The Maple Leaf forever.

Long may it wave, and grace our own,
Blue skies and stormy weather,
Within my heart, above my home,
The Maple Leaf forever!

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