In 1967, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and RCA Victor Ltd. issued a 9-LP set of folk songs in celebration of the centennial of Canada's Confederation. This unique and wonderful set has long been unavailable to the public, so as a "spare-time" project I have digitized my LP set and am reproducing the English-language versions of the extensive notes (written by the singer Alan Mills) that came with the records. (Download information)

The artists

Yves Albert

Hélène Baillargeon
(1916-1997; photo 1962)

 

Louise Forestier (b 1943)
(longer article in French)

 

Charles Jordan (1915-1986)

Tom Kines (1922-1994)

Jacques Labrecque
(1917-1995)
(longer article in French)

 

Alan Mills (1912-1977)
Mr. Mills also wrote the notes that describe each song on this site.

Diane Oxner (b 1928)

Jean Price

Raoul Roy (1936-1985)
(longer article in French)

 

Joyce Sullivan (b 1929)

Text of the Preface to the booklet:

Canada has a vast treasure of more than thirty thousand folk songs and variants, most of which are little known beyond the different regions in which they have been collected.

Most of these songs consist of well preserved versions of many ancient traditional ballads and folk songs of France and the British Isles, from where Canada's first European settlers came, and whose descendents now number more than 15 million people, or approximately 75 percent of the country's total population.

But, apart from the traditional songs inherited from Europe, recent researchers have collected a rich harvest of "home-made" songs and ballads of native Canadian minstrels— known and unknown— who composed their songs during their leisure hours, or while they worked as farmers, soldiers, sailors, fishermen, lumberjacks, fur-trappers, railroad-builders, cowboys and miners, etc.

This great wealth of solk song was hardly imagined before the turn of the twentieth century, although Canada's first important collector— a Quebec pianist and composer named Ernest Gagnon— had published an excellent and still highly valued volume of about 100 traditional French folk songs and variants, under the title of Chansons populaires du Canada, as early as 1865, in which he began his preface with the following prophetic sentence: "Le nombe de nos chansons populaires est incalculable".

However true Gagnon's prophecy has proved to be, it may be assumed that his statement referred only to the French-language songs of Canada, and not to the surprisingly large number of English-language folk songs and ballads that have also been collected in recent years, mostly in the eastern half of the country, from the Atlantic Provinces to Ontario.

In this Centennial Collection of Canadian Folk Songs the Transcription Service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corportion, in collaboration with RCA Victor Company, Ltd., hopes to spread a greater knowledge and appreciation of some of Canada's songs, and of how they reflect the cultural heritage of most of its people.

Beginning with Canadian variants of ancient ballads and traditional folk songs of France and the British Isles, the series continues with legendary ballads and historical songs, ballads of romantic adventures and tragedies, love songs and laments, songs of courtship and marriage, songs and ballads of the lumber camps and other miscellaneous work songs, and assorted "sociable" and "social" songs.

 

Index of all 118 songs

Download information

Sing a Song of Canada by Kim Soleski Ward

19 original songs that teach the history, geography and culture of Canada - a compete curriculum unit for K-6, with performance and accompanyment MP3 files, reproducible activity pages, CD with lesson plans and PowerPoints. Available at Leslie Music Supply, Oakville ON.

References

The Child Ballads - listing with Midi sound - extensive list with original page images

Music of Canada - Wikipedia article

Canadian folk music collectors/ethnologists:

Marius Barbeau - Helen Creighton - W. Roy Mackenzie - Kenneth Peacock