O Canada ~ the Lowell Connection

To celebrate St. Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880, the Lieutenant Governor of Québec, Théodore Robitaille, commissioned Calixa Lavallée to compose O Canada to a patriotic poem by Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Born in Quebec – in 1857, Lavallée moved to the U.S. and lived in Rhode Island where he enlisted in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers of the Union army during the American Civil War, attaining the rank of Lieutenant.

During and after the war, he traveled between Canada and the United States building his career in music. Lavallée resided in Louisiana, California, and in the French Canadian community of Lowell, Massachusetts where he married an American woman – a Lowell woman, Josephine Gentilly in 1867. During the latter years of his life, Lavallée was the choirmaster at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and he died in that city in 1891.

On this day – June 24, 1880 – the first performance of O Canada took place at the Congrès national des Canadiens-Français. This song became the national anthem of Canada in 1980.

Official English

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.

Official French

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.