️ from Canada is the official virtual Canada Day celebration across the world.
Counting down to Canada Day, we will be presenting 12 iconic Canadian songs for the days leading up to July 1st. The selection of songs is a ‘sampler’ of the rich and well-established tradition of Canadian music that features a diverse geographic, stylistic and cultural representation in both official languages.
We invite you to join us in this unique opportunity alongside our guest of honor Melanie Gall who has interpreted the 12 songs.
I Will Play a Rhapsody – Burton Cummings
Burton Cummings, one of the most iconic Canadian musicians of the 20th Century, was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His first band was a local Winnipeg R&B group, The Deverons. In December 1965, he was invited to join the band The Guess Who as keyboard player, and by May 1966, Cummings was lead singer in the band. For the next 40 years, Burton Cummings performed both in The Guess Who and as a solo artist. His hits included: “American Woman”, “Clap for the Wolfman,” “Share the Land”, “Stand Tall”, and, of course, “I Will Play a Rhapsody”.
The song, “I Will Play a Rhapsody” is from Burton Cummings’ third solo album, Dream of A Child. A rhapsody is a free instrumental composition in one extended movement, typically one that is emotional or exuberant in character. In a departure from Cummings’ usual rock style, this intimate and vulnerable song is still a favourite. Although on the original album, it is arranged with several instruments, in recent tours Burton Cummings plays the song on the piano, making it, as the song lyrics describe, even more of a lullaby. This is a wonderful example of the artistic range of this talented musician and songwriter.
Angel – Sarah McLachlan
Sarah McLachlan was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a singer and songwriter, known for her introspective music. Her debut album, Touch, was released in 1988. Other albums included Solace (1991), Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993), The Freedom Sessions (1995), and Surfacing (1997). McLachlan was awarded Grammy Awards for best female pop vocal performance and best pop instrumental, was nominated for 26 Juno Awards and was awarded 9, including awards for best album, best female vocalist, single of the year, and songwriter of the year. In 1997, McLaughlan co-founded and headlined Lilith Fair, a groundbreaking concert tour almost exclusively featuring female performers.
The song “Angel” is from McLachlan’s 1997 album Surfacing, and the haunting lyrics were inspired by an article about the death of Jonathan Melvoin, the Smashing Pumpkins' touring keyboard player, from a heroin overdose. In Sarah McLauchlan’s words, “She said that the song is about "trying not to take responsibility for other people's problems and trying to love yourself at the same time".” “Angel” was featured in the 1998 Hollywood film City of Angels, and was ranked highly on popular music charts around the world.
Hallelujah – Léonard Cohen
Léonard Cohen was a Montreal-born singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships. Cohen initially pursued a career as a poet and novelist, and did not begin a music career until the age of 33. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk music: Songs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). He wrote dozens of hit songs, including: “Bird on a Wire”, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah”.
"Hallelujah" is a song written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, originally released on his 1984 album Various Positions (1984). Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for "Hallelujah", with one writing session where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor. The song evokes both early rock and roll and gospel music, and the original version of the song contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and Delilah, as well as King David and Bathsheba. “Hallelujah” was used in the 2001 animated film Shrek, and there have been over 300 versions of the song recorded by various artists.
Jann Arden – Waiting in Canada
Jann Arden is a Canadian singer-songwriter and actress. She is famous for her signature ballads, "Could I Be Your Girl" and "Insensitive", which is her biggest hit to date. Her first album was titled, Living Under June. Subsequent albums included Happy? (1997), Blood Red Cherry (2000), and Love Is the Only Soldier (2003), and a live album, Jann Arden Live with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (2002). Arden’s most recent album is These are the Days(2018). She currently hosts she launched The Business of Life, a lifestyle podcast on topics such as entrepreneurship, motherhood, writing, relationships and navigating life challenges.
“Waiting in Canada” is from Jann Arden’s 2000 album Blood Red Cherry, and is evocative of the sweeping landscapes one encounters in a journey across the country, and it is often thought to represent how Jann Arden has made the conscious decision to base her career in Canada, away from the lure of the American music industry.
Le ciel se marie avec la mer – Jacques Blanchet
Jacques Blanchet was a Quebec singer-songwriter, and one of the main ‘chansonniers’ (songwriters) of the 1950s. The youngest of 12 children in an east-end Montreal family, worked as a waiter at the nightclub Au Faisan Doré and mingled with Charles Aznavour, Monique Leyrac, Jacques Normand and other famous musicians and songwriters. He won a songwriting contest on radio station CKAC and in the late 1950s, he went to Paris to seek his fortune. Blanchet then won the 1957 Concours de la chanson canadienne with 'Le ciel se marie avec la mer' sung by Lucille Dumont.
'Le ciel se marie avec la mer' was the most famous composition of Jacques Blanchet. Sometimes, he had to remind people that he had written 400 other songs, and not just the single composition. The song has been performed by many artists, from the original version by Lucille Dumont to modern artists such as Sylvie Tremblay and Marie Denise Pelletier.
If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music. He is credited with helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s, and is often referred to as Canada's greatest songwriter. Lightfoot's songs include "For Lovin' Me", "Early Morning Rain", "Steel Rail Blues", "Ribbon of Darkness", “If You Could Read My Mind” and "Black Day in July" about the 1967 Detroit riot.
“If You Could Read My Mind” was one of the songs from the Gordon Lightfoot’s 1970 album, Sit Down Young Stranger. The lyrics were inspired by Lightfoot’s divorce, and he explained that they came to him as he was sitting alone in a vacant Toronto house one summer. The song reached #1 in the Canadian Singles Chart on commercial release in 1970, and also charted in several other countries on international release in 1971. The song has been used in many radio and television shows, including Paperback Hero (1973) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
Mary Ellen Carter – Stan Rogers
Stan Rogers was a singer and songwriter, noted for his rich, baritone voice and his traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian history and the daily lives of working people. He was born in Ontario, but spent a lot of time in Nova Scotia, becoming impassioned about the music and culture of the Maritimes. In 1976, Rogers recorded his debut album, Fogarty's Cove, which was an immediate success. Rogers died in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 on the ground at the Greater Cincinnati Airport at the age of 33. His legacy includes his recordings, songbook, and plays for which he was commissioned to write music.
The Mary Ellen Carter is the story of a ship, and how its crew overcame adversity to raise it from the depths. The song has been used as an anthem to inspire and hearten people around the world, and it literally saved the life of Robert Cosick, the chief mate of the “Marine Electric”, when his ship went down in the Atlantic on the stormy night of February 13, 1983. Robert told: “The water was very cold, it was thirty-nine degrees. I ran across a swamped life boat, and I managed to get into it. As the night wore on, and the seas kept smashing down on top of me, and I was just about ready to give up, when all of a sudden the words came into my mind, “Rise again, rise again.”
Starwalker – Buffy Sainte-Marie
Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, Oscar-winning composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her over 50-year career, her work has focused on issues facing Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Sainte-Marie began her career in the coffeehouses of Toronto and New York, and after recording her first album, was named Billboard Magazine’s “Best New Artist.”
“Starwalker” was recorded on Sweet America (1976), the twelfth studio album by Buffy Sainte-Marie and her last before temporarily retiring from music to concentrate on education. “Starwalker” was considered a protest song, and contained tribal rhythms and vocals, as well as historic and cultural First Nations references. The album was dedicated to the American Indian Movement, a Native American grassroots movement that was founded in July 1968 to address systemic issues of poverty and police brutality against Native Americans. “Starwalker” was re-recorded for Sainte-Marie’s album Coincidence and Likely Stories (1992).
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta, and growing up she studied classical piano and art. She began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and throughout western Canada, before busking in the streets and nightclubs of Toronto, Ontario. In 1965, she moved to the United States and began touring. Some of her original songs ("Urge for Going", "Chelsea Morning", "Both Sides, Now", "The Circle Game". Joni Mitchell released 17 albums during her career and designed most of her own album covers.
“Both Sides Now” was written in the mid-1960s, and the song was inspired by a passage in Henderson the Rain King, a 1959 novel by Saul Bellow, where the main character was on an airplane and looked out the windows at the clouds. The song was first recorded by Judy Collins, it appeared on the US singles chart during the fall of 1968. The next year it was included on Mitchell's album Clouds (which was named after a lyric from the song). It has since been recorded by dozens of artists, including Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson, as well as Pete Seeger, who wrote a fourth verse to the song.
Si les bateaux – Gilles Vigneault
Gilles Vigneault is a Québécois poet, publisher and singer-songwriter. The main subjects of his writing are Quebec and its people, as well as human relationships, love, and everyday life. He grew up in Natashquan, a tiny North Shore community sandwiched between the sea and the Boreal forest. This hunting and fishing territory has inspired a great number of Vigneault’s songs, and Gilles Vigneault was one of the principal figures who sculpted Québec folk music. He began crafting verse and composing music in the 1950, and supported himself by working as a library assistant and archivist. Throughout his long career, Gilles Vigneault has received a number of honourary doctorates and won a number of awards at home and abroad. A school in Marseilles, France is named for him. He is a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, Knight of the Legion of Honour, and Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
“Si Les Bateaux” was written in 1962, for Gilles Vigneault chante et récite (1963), and can be found on many of the songwriter’s other recordings. It has been performed by several notable artists, including Ian & Sylvia and Marie Denise Pelletier.
Mummer’s Dance – Loreena McKennitt
Loreena McKennitt is a Manitoba-born musician, composer, harpist, accordionist, and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt's first album, Elemental, was released in 1985, and was a cassette she recorded with a $10,000 loan from her family. The album was followed by To Drive the Cold Winter Away (1987), Parallel Dreams (1989), The Visit (1991), The Mask and Mirror (1994), A Winter Garden (1995), The Book of Secrets (1997), An Ancient Muse (2006), A Midwinter Night’s Dream (2008), and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2010). In 1990, McKennitt provided the music for the National Film Board of Canada documentary The Burning Times, a feminist revisionist account of the Early Modern European witchcraft trials. She also performed at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Games.
“Mummer’s Dance” is a song from the 1997 album, The Book of Secrets. The song refers to the seasonal Mummers Play performed by groups of actors, often as house-to-house visits. Its lyrics indicate a springtime holiday. The song was used as the theme for the TV series Legacy. It was also featured in the trailer for the film Ever After. At a time when alternative rock music ruled the airways, The New York Times called this song, “the most incongruous hit in recent memory.”
I Believe in You – Céline Dion
Céline Dion is one of the best-selling artists of all time with record sales of 200 million copies worldwide. Born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion emerged as a teen star with a series of French-language albums during the 1980s. She won the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, where she represented Switzerland. After learning to speak English, she released several best-selling English albums, including Falling into You (1996) and Let's Talk About Love (1997). Her international number-one hits included "The Power of Love", "Think Twice", "Because You Loved Me", "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" and "My Heart Will Go On" from the movie Titanic (1997).
In 2008, Dion received an honorary doctorate in music from the Université Laval in Quebec City. She was named a Goodwill Ambassador and in 2004, she was awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award and was given France's highest award, the Légion d'honneur. Dion was also awarded the highest rank of the Order of Canada, the Companion of the Order of Canada.
"I Believe in You (Je crois en toi)" is a duet by Celine Dion and Il Divo, released as the third and last single from Dion's 2005 album, On ne change pas. It is considered Operatic Pop, and is the second collaboration Dion made with classical artists (she also sang with Pavarotti). The song was immensely popular in Portugal, and was featured on the 2006 FIFA World Cup music album.
Melanie is an internationally acclaimed vocalist who has written and toured several award-winning solo shows. Melanie is a leading expert in historic songs about knitting and spinning. She has collected, researched and recorded several dozens of these songs, and has lectured about this music at New York University and UCLA, as well as at conferences across North America and Europe.
Her works include ‘Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert’ about French chanteuse Edith Piaf, ‘Opera Mouse’, a children’s introduction to opera, ‘Red Hot Mama: A Sophie Tucker Cabaret’, and two shows: ‘More Power to Your Knitting, Nell!’ and ‘Stitch in Time’.
The instrumental music for these recordings was arranged, performed and mixed by Bennett Paster.
Keyboardist, composer and producer Bennett Paster is one of New York City's most creative and versatile musicians. He has performed at clubs, concerts and festivals in the United States, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Asia and throughout Europe. Bennett Paster’s fluency in a wide variety of musical styles has made him an indispensable fixture in the New York music scene. A talented keyboard player and an experienced Hammond organist, Paster has appeared in over 100 recordings. He is also an accomplished music producer and recording engineer.