Tweaking O Canada: pitch perfect or falls flat?


Picture this: You are standing proudly dressed in your home team’s jersey, eagerly singing the national anthem with passionate fans all around.


The performer has altered the anthem while you are struggling to keep pace with the new rhythm.

“A good example was when Walk Off the Earth changed the lyrics of ‘O Canada’ during the gold medal game of the World Cup of Hockey this year. Or the Tenor dude at the baseball game did something similar. Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” says recent Ryerson University Architecture graduate Mike Fik.

Artistic freedom when singing the national anthem has always been a heavily debated topic, often leading to heated discussion.

How much artistic freedom should performers have when singing the national anthem?

According to a Sheridan Sun Twitter poll, 80 per cent of voters believe that artists singing the national anthem should keep it traditional. A meagre 20 per cent think that it is the artists’ time to shine.

Artistic expression varies depending on the individual and how much artistic background they have. Luckily, Sheridan is a creative campus that promotes the idea of innovative exploration. Finding a source to help explain artistic expression was easy.

Jon Corkal is a student at Sheridan College in the Music Theatre Performance program. “Artistic expression is something that is absolutely vital to our work as performers. By its very definition, it’s who we are as individuals and what makes us unique: it’s what we bring to a character, song, or dance, that nobody else can and I think that we should always be furthering that type of work,” he said.

Individual expression is an integral part of being a performer, but depending on the circumstance, it hasn’t always paid off.

Take, for example, ex-Tenor Remigio Pereira, who changed the lyrics of “O Canada” to convey a political opinion during the MLB All-Star Game, or Roseanne Barr performing an ear-splitting version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Should a line be drawn for altering the national anthem?

(Photo by James Ortiz-Luis/CNS Photography)
(Photo by James Ortiz-Luis/CNS Photography)

Martina Ortiz-Luis, 15, is the Toronto Maple Leafs first ever official anthem singer and she says, “As for me, when singing the Canadian anthem I want to sing it as close as possible to the original version because Canadians love to sing along with the singer. I’ll add a couple additional notes here and there in the right spots, but that’s just how I, as an artist, feel the song.”

“Getting to sing the national anthem is an honour and I think that anyone who is asked needs to do their best to understand the venue and environment where they will be performing,” Corkal adds.

This is a topic that will continue to be discussed, and has been talked about among even the most notable broadcasters. This subject might not ever have a concrete answer.

“I’m always conscious about being respectful of both anthems and just letting the people feel their patriotism and get pumped for the game. On Nov. 11, while singing surrounded by veterans and servicemen, and hearing the entire stadium singing ‘O Canada’ with me, it just made me feel so happy and proud of my country,” says Ortiz-Luis.