Calixa Lavallée, composer, O Canada

Calixa Lavallée, composer, O Canada.

O Canada, the Canadian National Anthem, was composed by Calixa Lavallée, a well-known French-Canadian composer from Québec. O Canada was first sung on June 24, 1880, and a little over a hundred years later, on July 1, 1980, was declared Canada’s national anthem. The French lyrics were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

English versions

There have been several English versions of the anthem.

O Canada was most likely heard by English Canada in 1901, when school children sang it for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (later King George V and Queen Mary) toured Canada.

In 1906, Whaley and Royce in Toronto published the music with the French text and an English translation by Toronto doctor Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson.

Adolphe-Basile Routhier, Composer French lyrics, O Canada

Adolphe-Basile Routhier, Composer French lyrics, O Canada

Richardson’s version:

O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old
Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.

In 1908, Colliers Weekly magazine launched their English edition with a competition to write English lyrics to go with Lavallée’s music. The winning entry was written by Mercy E. Powell McCulloch.

McCulloch’s version :

O Canada! in praise of thee we sing;
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring.
With fertile plains and mountains grand
With lakes and rivers clear,
Eternal beauty, thos dost stand
Throughout the changing year.
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore
Bless our dear land this day and evermore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore.

Mr Justice Robert Stanley Weir. Composer English lyrics, O Canada

Mr Justice Robert Stanley Weir. Composer English lyrics, O Canada

Many other versions were written, but in 1908, Mr. Justice Robert Stanley Weir wrote the one the official lyrics are based on.

O Canada – English Version

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.

O Canada – Version Française

O Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

The official English version includes changes recommended in 1968 by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons. The French lyrics remain unaltered.

Recordings of “O Canada” in MP3 format:

Note: To listen to the MP3 file, simply left-click on the link. To download the file, simply right-click, select “save target as,” and choose a location to save the file.