An Epic Of the Most Brilliant Feats


Sunday, January 21st, 2007 — 12:41pm PST
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I’ve watched more sports on TV in the last year that I have ever before. It helps when you are the co-host of a hockey podcast, but I’ve been watching Canucks games my entire life. The difference this year is that I’m watching more football than I ever thought possible, that’s what I get for marrying an American.

One tradition before most sporting competitions is to sing the national anthem. Of course, if the teams are from different countries, both anthems will be sung as in the NHL. As a result, I now find myself walking around the house singing the Star Spangled Banner [wiki].

Now, it’s not that I’m a patriot (or even American), the song just gets stuck in my head. I’m still not sure if John knows all the words to O, Canada! [wiki] but as soon as he does master it, I’ll be teaching him the French version. Discovering that I knew all the words to the American anthem prompted him to fill me in on the history of the tune, which in turn prompted me to look up the origins of Canada’s song.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States of America, with lyrics written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. Key, a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, wrote them as a poem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. [wiki]

“O Canada” is the national anthem of Canada. Calixa Lavallée composed the music in 1880 as a patriotic song for that year’s St. Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. The first lyrics that were composed for the song were written in French by Sir Adolphe Basile Routhier in 1880 for the same ceremony. An English translation did not appear until 1906… [wiki]

Both anthems have several versions and verses [gov], and both are to the tune of drinking songs from the UK. Whether it’s asking for God to keep our land or describing the bombs bursting in air, both are criticized for their un-PC-ness as well.

Regardless, it still gives me chills when O! Canada is sung during the NHL playoffs and the person singing moves their microphone away to hold it up and capture the song flowing from the mouths and hearts of the spectators. It also reminds me of elementary school, when we would sing half the anthem in English then half in French. That was around the same time we had a Principal who would walk around with an acoustic guitar during assemblies. The anthem was usually followed by the entire student body being lead in singing “One Tin Soldier” [wiki] or “What Shall We do With a Drunken Sailor” [wiki].

History always fascinates me and when my little search for information pertains to something that conjures up so many memories and emotions (no matter how silly), it’s always worth the trip down memory lane via a blog post. I just hope John doesn’t feel disrespected when I sing his nation’s anthem while cooking breakfast in my pajamas… in a funny voice… really off-key.

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  1. GZ Expat says:

    I am 100%, patriotic American. But, growing up in Portland, I attended several years of Winterhawk games at a time when Portland was the only US based team int he WHL. As you say, when teams play, both anthems are sung. I learned it over time.

    O! Canada has grown on me. It is a great song of love of country. For whatever reason, the Star Spangled Banner is about war…which seems odd to me, since the USA is supposed to be about peace. Frankly, I prefer God Bless America over the Star Spangled Banner. But, hey, Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have been able to do his version had it been that (although he did a great version of God Save The Queen as well).

    Off the top of my head…O! Canada still sticks with me…

    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

    Is that right?? Great song…be proud of it.

    And continue to ‘stand on guard for thee’

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