Well today, July 1st, is Canada Day, until 1982 known as  “Dominion Day” and celebrates the Confederation of the various parts into one country or dominion in 1867.

So Happy Canada Day, my fellow Canucks!


But you didn’t think I was just going to leave it there…? No way, no how!

And since I am a musical kind of guy, I’m going to talk a little about Canada’s national anthem: “O Canada” and a little about its “almost national anthem (not God Save the Queen/King).

You might be asking yourself what does “O Canada” have to do with watches?

Well not much really; but as with any music, one must keep proper time. There is, for example, a time signature such as ¾ for marches and waltzes and even a great deal of opera music. And one even has a metronome as a kind of regulator.

The music of the Canadian anthem which is more like a hymn than a march is not as original as many believe.  Indeed, composers tend to borrow from each other and even from themselves and music history is replete with such instances.


The song which was originally commissioned in Quebec to celebrate St. Jean Baptiste Day. 

The words were written earlier by the French-Canadian poet Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier

and set to music by Calixa Lavallé in 1880. It wasn’t until 1908 that what became the official English lyrics

were written by Robert S. Weir. And although the English lyrics, patriotic but a little bland,

have been modified slightly over the years, the French version has never been changed.

It has a grandeur missing in the English version and still has what some might consider,

“politically incorrect” references the sword and the cross. See for yourself (Courtesy of Wikipedia).

Official English

Official French


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.

Ô 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.

O Canada!
Land of our forefathers,
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As is thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits.
Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights


Now getting back to Calixa Lavallée:

Lavallé was born in Quebec but moved to the U.S. and thence back and forth between the two to further his music carrier. He served as an officer in the Union Army during the civil war and married an American women of French-Canadian ancestry. He worked and taught in Montreal and in various parts of the U.S. including New York, California and Louisiana. He wrote several operettas during his life and was quite familiar with the form. And this is where the patriotic song which became the national anthem began.

Lavallé was certainly familiar with Mozart’s wonderful opera Die Zauberflaute or the Magic Flute. Within that work is a small hymn-like piece called the March of the Priests and it was to this short segment of the opera that Lavallée turned for his inspiration.

Here is a clip which opens and closes with the Mozart excerpt and includes the Royal Anthem (God Save the Queen) and O Canada, the National anthem


But as I mentioned, there are several anthems which have “borrowed” their melodies from other’s music.

The melody of the Star Spangled Banner was originally a British drinking song popular in the colonies at that time, “To Anacreon in Heaven”.

The German national anthem, Deutchlandlied, uses a melody composed by Franz Joseph Hayden for Francis II of the holy Roman Empire. He used it again in the second movement of his Emperor  or Kaiser string Quartet.

The melody of Israeli National anthem, Hatikva, “The Hope” is derived from Bedrich Smetana’s (Czech composer) tone poem Ma Vlast, or part of it, “Vltava”. But it’s origin go back to a 16th century Italian song composed by Giuseppe Cenci and which became very popular in many European countries.

Well, you get the idea.

Back across the Atlantic to Canada and of course today: Canada Day,

we come to a song which was an “also-ran” for the National anthem and

which many, feel should have been the “top song”: The Maple Leaf Forever.


This patriotic song was written by Alexander Muir in 1867, the year of Confederation and was inspired by a large maple tree which stood outside his home in Toronto. While the song is certainly pro-British, it was regarded by some French-Canadians as anti-French because of its reference to Montcalm’s defeat by Wolfe. Muir added the “Lily” in the first verse as a nod to French although some believe it was in his original lyrics. There are also references to battles in  the War of 1812, Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane. But this stanza is rarely sung.

Neverthless, there are some quite stirring lyrics in the second and third stanzas:

“Our brave fathers, side by side,
For freedom, homes and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died;
And those dear rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never!”


“May peace forever be our lot,
And plenteous store abound:
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever,
And flourish green o'er freedom's home
The Maple Leaf forever!”

There have been a few attempts at re-writing the lyrics but they never really caught on (Maybe lyrics with too many smiling rivers and singing mountains…that sort of thing).

Anyway, it is a lovely tune which is a successful combination of hymn and patriotic song, and the lyrics do echo the heritage of the country, albeit not perfectly.

It was a tough choice deciding which version to show. Only one had the second verse, but I liked the images best in this one. So here it is “The Maple leaf Forever”


Happy Canada Day, Everyone!!

HAPPY CANADA DAY JB and all of our other friends in the "Great White North"!
07/01/2014 - 14:17

Dean, this definitely includes you and all other Canadian Vacheronistas!  heart

Happy thoughts for Tick Talk on this day :)
07/01/2014 - 14:36
Happy Canada Day!
07/01/2014 - 15:17

I am grateful for our Canadian Loungers.yesheart



Happy Canada Day!
07/01/2014 - 15:50

Happy Canada Day my Canadian friends.  And the American Independence Day comes up this week as well.  A big week for North America!

As an aside, I often wondered how a Quebecois with good conscience could celebrate both St. Jean Baptiste Day and Canada Day, but I guess I can accept the cognitive dissonance in exchange for a day off of work.  I have much learning ot do on the Quebecois Separatist Movement..  I must confess, a brief review of Wikipedia (clearly the definitive source for historical truths) made me wonder if Joseph and Dean are not main contribtors.  Actually, this would be overstating the case for Wikipedia, for Joseph's and Dean's material is better researched and far better better presented.  Plus... the Wikipedia show a major dearth of Horology!

Interesting that music and lyrics come from French speakers! Happy
07/01/2014 - 16:02

Canada Day Joseph, Dean, Francois and all anonymous Canadian Loungers


Interesting that music and lyrics come from French speakers! Happy

Am I the only one...
07/01/2014 - 18:33

who, upon hearing the Canadian National Anthem, no matter what the context, envisions the start of a hockey game?

It must be my upbringing so close to the border and my frequent travel across it.  I always figured there was more meaning and history to it than (roughly translated) "It's time to play hockey."

Strike up the music...
07/01/2014 - 18:33

Joseph, thank you for the research behind this very special day - most interesting and enlightening.yes

With music in my soul, you've reminded me of Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin - published in 1899.

I've just polished up my pumps and cleaned the spats...........Let the music begin!heart

Enjoy the day!

Kind regards


Happy Canad Day JB and to all Canadians on the HL. And as
07/01/2014 - 19:26

always JB, I am astounded by your various interests, and superb research.


07/02/2014 - 15:37

Many thanks for all the kind wishes, everyone!

It turned out to be a fabulous day!

Next year your all invited to my place in Toronto for a barbeque, swimming and watch talk!


Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph
07/02/2014 - 17:39

Your story reveals some fascinating aspects of our national anthem, which can so easily become empty tradition if not for a thoughtful reminder on this special day smiley

Sorry for my late reply but Canada Day was a hectic time for us as well, starting at dawn with a drive to the countryside for retriever dog trials.  I volunteered as a "gunner", tossing decoy birds into the air with a catapult contraption.  In true Canadian fashion, no firearms were involved whatsoever, only wooden prop guns and starter pistols!

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

As you can see it was a sunny day and I'm quite pink from overexposure blush.  No time to lose, hurry home for the big fireworks display.  A new gimmick was the installation of programmable LED lighting on one of our landmark bridges, which were red and white all night long to reflect the colors of our flag.  A decade or so ago, there was a waterfall installed on the same bridge but that was deactivated for cost reasons...still, it was very impressive.  Here are a few pics of this year's fireworks.

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Thanks for this illuminating post, Joseph

Happy Canada Day!

Thanks again Joseph, for sharing Canada Day with our forum friends heart