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August 24, 2004 — 2 PM

Canuck Chord Kafuffle

(See update below for continued confabulation on this matter.)

In the “You know Canada isn’t doing so well at the Olympics when” department: a story in The Globe and Mail about the “controversial version” of O Canada which played as Kyle Shewfelt was awarded Canada’s first gold medal of the Athens 2004 Games.

I must admit, I didn’t think much of the version either. Fittingly, for a country largely composed of immigrants, it was arranged by Peter Breiner, who moved to Toronto from Czechoslovakia in 1992.

The story is seemingly not so much about the piece itself, popular or unpopular as it may be, but rather how the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) approved it apparently without listening to it (a committee member said it “sounded like the anthem on ouzo”).

Breiner actually arranged all 204 anthems for the games (apparently Canadians are respected for something at least), but Canada was the only country to offer no response to Breiner’s submission.

The Globe has thoughtfully provided an MP3 of the offending melody, as well as an alternate version also penned by Breiner, but which was rejected by the COC. There are certainly some unique, some might say awkward, harmonies in version one. But version two, although more traditional, sounds more appropriate for a funeral than for a country’s moment of pride. It’s lugubriously slow, the sort of music Hollywood would use to depict a courageous group of soldiers as they valiantly fight, in slow-motion, against overwhelming odds — but then come up short and get taken down by enemy fire.

Then again, while nations both far poorer and smaller than ours — hello, Romania, Belarus, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Cuba — continue to win more medals than we Canucks, maybe a mournful crawl is exactly the right speed.

(Congratulations, though, to Lori-Ann Muenzer, who won Canada’s second gold medal today in the indoor cycling sprint. May her anthem be merry and boastful.)

Update: I tried to find a good version of “O Canada”, but even the Canadian government has failed us with their offering. As a friend noted, it sounds like it’s being played by an elementary school band. Roughly fourth grade. (No offence to all the ten-year-olds out there.)

The best free, online recording I could find is actually a 1916 recording of the Victor Military Band from the National Library’s archives. In fact, the band seemed to enjoy playing it so much, they recorded it three times in a row — which, alas, might be too much for even the hardiest admirer.


That does sound funky, almost like there are three parts harmony only the harmony is getting all the volume. If it helps, our version of the US anthem isn’t very good either.

Greg | Aug. 24, 2004 — 8 PM

I didn’t care for the new “version” of O Canada either. Why can’t they just play it normally?

Jeremy | Aug. 24, 2004 — 9 PM

Does sound a little funky, but, as an Ex-pat Brit living in QC, everything sounds a little funky to me when it’s not GSTQ! ;-)

Alexandra Wolfe | Aug. 26, 2004 — 11 AM

Personally, I’ve always preferred the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen anthem — which is sung to the same melody as God Save the Queen.

— Luke | Aug. 26, 2004 — 11 AM

Previously: Grande Americano

Subsequently: Bank Account to Brain, Do You Copy? Come In, Brain

August 2004
the Archives