As we were busily celebrating Canada Day on Wednesday – well actually fairly quietly with two friends on a peaceful corner of the Island – I missed posting something musical. But mercoledi or venerdi any “di” is a good “di” for singing a song. And in keeping with celebrating Canada and our nationhood I thought I’d dip into an old favourite – Prima Donna on a Moose. Oh dear that doesn’t sound right but I meant the 1997 recording by Mary Lou Fallis of music inspired by our country and by Canadian composers of an earlier generation. Canada’s own Prima Donna Mary Lou has championed the cause of the Canadian “art song” as the corner stone of many of her popular concerts. A fine performer on the operatic stage she has also toured the country bring joy and music to the farthest corners of the Confederation.
The following selections reflect the 19th century tradition of gathering around the parlour piano and celebrating the perpetual winter that many visitors expect here in the frozen north.
Henry Russell was a British composer was so inspired by a voyage to Canada that in 1843 he wrote this song as part of The Emigrant’s Progress a musical promotion for emigration penned by Charles Mackay. I’m not sure that the promise of “five hundred miles” of snow encourage many to make the voyage but perhaps there was the promise of land at the end of that journey.
A bit more encouraging is A. R. Douglas’s 1911 suggestion of a turn on the local skating rink with your favourite girl. Arranger John Greer, who was responsible for all the charts on the disc, includes snippets from The Canadian Union Waltz by an “anonymous Canadian Lady” and W. B. Bailey’s Belle of the Rink Waltz for your skating pleasure.
As well as the constant winter that sets in the minute you cross the 49th Parallel or come through Customs at Lester B Pearson Airport another misconception that many people have is that hockey is our “national sport”. Nothing could be further from the truth: lacrosse has been played on the continent for millennia by people of the First Nations. It was adapted early in the 17th century by French settlers and by the 19th century was, as Henry Sefton claims, Lacrosse, Our National Game. However the debate between hockey and lacrosse as our signature sport went as far as our Parliament where finally in April 1994, Bill C–212 was passed to recognize hockey as Canada’s official winter game, and lacrosse as our summer game. A very Canadian solution.
As I mentioned the fine and often funny arrangements on this great album were done by John Greer and Prima Donna Absoluta Mary Lou Fallis was joined by the Victoria Scholars and a remarkable group of Canadian musicians. I don’t normally advertise on here but should you wish to hear more of this delightful CD I suggest a quick search on one of the online audio stores. In my not so humble opinion it is well worth in.
The word for July 3rd is:
Lacrosse /ləˈkrôs/: [noun]
A team game, originally played by North American First Nations, in which the ball is thrown, caught, and carried with a long-handled stick having a curved L-shaped or triangular frame at one end with a piece of shallow netting in the angle.
Mid 19th century: from French (le jeu de) la crosse ‘(the game of) the hooked stick’.
Certainly in my old neighbourhood of Alderwood lacrosse was a big sport and many of the top professional players of the 1960-70s came from our little corner of civilization.