Oh Canada

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Today, I start a new category: Canadian.

I hope to fill it with some songs from Stompin’ Tom Connors, Anne Murray, Glen Campbell, Wade Hemsworth and others. Even though a lot of the songs that I was exposed to growing up were kind of folks songsy, there are a lot of great Canadian artists out there who rendered some iconic, unforgettable music. While a ukulele in no way can mimic the full sound of a band and a mixing studio, I think a good acoustic representation can be achieved in one way or another. Besides, when we are all out camping and jamming around the campfire at night, no one notices because everyone is too busy singing along.

Related imageFirst up, I have the national anthem of our country, O Canada! The words and melody can be found quite easily by just Googling it, and we have both a bilingual and an English version. Since I was not raised with the bilingual version I am posting here today just the English version.

Back in the fall a Canadian band, known for their liberal use of different types of ukulele’s, was invited to sing our national anthem for game 2 of the World Cup of Hockey final between Canada and Team Europe. Walk Off the Earth was then criticized in the media for singing “one line wrong”. They sang “in all of us command” where lyrics are known to be “in all thy Sons command.” Their Twitter response was to tell the “haters” to educate themselves and become politically aware of the fact that in May 2016, Liberal MP Mauril Belanger successfully passed a private members bill in Canadian Parliament to officially change two words in the National Anthem: “Thy Sons” to “Of Us”. Yes, it happened.

So I thought this would be a great song to start off with, and I included the Youtube video of Walk Off the Earth’s performance which, as a fan of that band, I feel was a great rendition. Loved it.


The Log Driver’s Waltz in A

Image result for Log Driver's Waltz CanadianMy hat is off to the Bytown Ukulele Group, aka BUG, for their arrangement of The Log Driver’s Waltz, which was the subject of yesterday’s posting. But I really had a hard time singing it in the Key of C. The verses are not a problem: the chorus is quite high.

While listening to the NFB of Canada video and reading the words on the print-out, I realized two things. First, each verse goes directly into the chorus without pausing, and secondly there are quite a few measures after each chorus.

I decided to transpose the BUG arrangement down to the Key of A. This was quite easy to do because I already have MS Word on my computer, and BUG provided a copy for downloading in both PDF and Word formats. If you download and open the Word format you can click on “Enable Editing” and then delete and insert to your heart’s content. I really like it when I don’t have to type out the words to a song beforehand when I decide to transpose to a different key from another source.

The Key of A enables me to sing the chorus without going into what I like to call falsetto mode. Or  opera-singer mode. I also changed the arrangement a bit, providing some chord sequences following each Chorus which you can play through once, or twice. Twice sounds better.

Another arrangement I added is underlining the few words in some of the stanza’s that are quarter notes, or to be sung quickly together. For example, “If you should” are quarter notes, sung quickly together, while the rest of the lyric line is sung in regular length. Bolded words are held. You will see a couple of tiny upwards arrows, just ignore those as far as strumming is concerned. I put those in there to remind myself to sing up instead of down. 😉

The Log Driver’s Waltz in the Key of A:  the-log-drivers-waltz-a


The Most Canadian Song of All Time

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Yes! Onliners have declared it: The Log Driver’s Waltz is the most Canadian song of all time (excluding Oh, Canada)!  The Log Driver’s Waltz is a Canadian folk song written by Canadian song-writer Wade Hemsworth (1916-2002). It celebrates the practice of log driving down the rivers in the lumbering industry, whereby the men’s movements resemble intricate dance steps.

The word in the chorus is often mis-heard as whirling or twirling, when it is actually, “For he goes birling down, a-down white water…”.  “Birl” is an old Scots verb meaning “to revolve or cause to revolve”, and in modern English means “to cause a floating log to rotate by treading”. Today, birling survives as a competitive sport. (Source: Wikipedia)

As an enduring classic of Canadian music the most famous version is probably by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four, which was used as the soundtrack for the 1979 animated short film by the National Film Board of Canada, as part of their Canada Vignettes program.

Another very famous version is by Alberta-based band Captain Tractor, a popular “rock Celtic” hit in the late 1990’s.

Those of you who are not familiar with the melody, and would like a sample of sheet music to help you learn the melody or play it out on a piano or other instrument, try this:

I do not have Word or even a pdf reader such as Adobe on the computer I am currently composing this posting on, yet this document opened up easily for me and printed with no problems at all. I got it from this website posting: http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiLOGDRIVR;ttLOGDRIVR.html

Image result for Wade HemsworthHemsworth made two recordings. His first LP, Folk Songs of the Canadian North Woods (1955, Folk FP 821), includes his ‘The Black Fly Song’ and ‘The Shining Birch Tree.’ He recorded one CD, The Songs of Wade Hemsworth, (Blackfly Music) in 1995.

For more information regarding Wade Hemsworth try searching his full name at the Canadian Encyclopedia dot com. I have not been able to determine what year he composed this song in, nor when he recorded it. So if anyone reading this happens to discover this information I would be really grateful if you could let me know in the comments. Thank you.

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Here is the ukulele version of lyrics and chords from the Bytown Ukulele Group, the BUG’s: