O Canada: a History of Our Anthem

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The history of our national anthem has more to it that one might think! For example, did you know that the lyrics were first originally French and that the official English version we use today is actually the second translation of those lyrics? Though the music was originally composed in 1880, the song was not officially recognized as our national anthem until 1980. And our anthem might have inadvertently plagiarized of Mozart’s “March of the Priests” from his opera The Magic Flute. Give it a listen—the resemblance is remarkable!

In addition to the official English and French renditions, our anthem has been translated into many different languages, both official and not. In the sheet music here, you’ll see that the bottom language is the lyrics in Inuktitut. Two years ago, celebrating Canada’s 148th birthday, the Canadian Arab Institute released a video of Miriam Khalil, an opera soprano, singing the anthem in Arabic. Following suit, the Huffington post released an article with links to videos highlighting thirteen different performances of the anthem in various languages, including Ojibwe, Punjabi, Cantonese, Tagalog, Cree, and even American Sign Language.

Canada’s cultural diversity is one of its most celebrated attributes, and one of the ways that it is highlighted is in the many languages people have given the anthem voice to. Canada is a nation made up of many cultures, faiths, and creeds living together and accepting our differences. The common language of music has transcended barriers that separate us and created a mutual understanding between us. Our anthem is one of the many characteristics that makes our country so exceptionally extraordinary.

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