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O Canada November 15, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Accents, Canada, English, French.
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Last week, I was compiling a collection of more than 25 different versions of the Canadian nation anthem “O Canada” for my daughter. The anthem is her favourite song besides, of course, the Alphabet song. I had been singing the anthem to her since she was 3-months old. Somehow, the tune worked great for a lullaby when sung with my dull voice. Now she is almost 2 years and a half, and she can sing the complete anthem by herself.

A few quick facts about “O Canada”:

  1. The song officially became the nation anthem only very recently, in 1980.
  2. The French and English lyrics of the anthem have nothing to do with each other. Their meanings are completely unrelated.
  3. In fact, the French lyrics came out first.
  4. The anthem is often sung by mixing the lyrics of the 2 languages. One reason for doing this is to demonstrate the bilingualism of the country. Another reason, rather more subtle, is to avoid some ‘sensitive’ words. So, if there is a sensitive word in one language, they would switch that line to the other language. How ridiculous!

In one version of the anthem, I found the pure English French-accent perfectly rendered. When I first heard it, I thought it was sung by some folks from the US (for it was from an NBA game). But then I found out it was sung by the Canadian A Capella-turned-rock-band (then disbanded) group – the Moffatts.

I was amazed how well the parts were harmonized. These 4 brothers had been singing A Capella since they were kids. I was more amazed that even their English French-accents were so harmonized too!

Out of the many versions of the anthem I have collected, the most beautifully sung French version I find is one posted by the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary on YouTube. In my opinion, it was sung better than the Celion Dion’s version.

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