'Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!'
'Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!' Patriotic song, with words by the Canadian statesman Sir George-Étienne Cartier (1814-73). It may have been sung first by Cartier to the tune of an old French song, 'Je suis Français, mon pays avant tout,' in Montreal 24 Jun 1834 at a banquet marking the official foundation of the St-Jean-Baptiste Association (later Society.) Cartier was a law student at the time and secretary of the society. The historian Louis-P. Turcotte, however, has written that the song probably was not sung by Cartier until the following year, 24 Jun 1835, at a second banquet at the Rasco Hotel in Montreal (Journal de Québec, 23 Jun 1874). In any event, the song was an immediate success. That the words were published first in La Minerve of 29 Jun 1835 argues in favour of Turcotte's view. There were six verses originally but only four were published to a 'new air' in Le Chansonnier des collèges (Quebec 1850). According to John Boyd, in about 1860 Cartier sent a revised version of the text to Ernest Gagnon who chose (or perhaps composed) a tune and provided it with a 'musical accompaniment' which is said to have been published shortly thereafter. Many years later (1912), the song was published in Quebec City to an unattributed tune with 'accompaniment by Ernest Gagnon.' It was reproduced in Le Passe-Temps of 21 Jun 1913. In this version the sixth verse was omitted, and it was specified that the fifth also might be excluded.
However, it is J.-B. Labelle's setting - more ballad than patriotic song - which has survived and which in fact may be the 'new air' published in 1850. What is certain is that Labelle's setting was sung in Montreal, in the presence of 4000 people including Cartier, who was by then minister of the militia, at the premiere of Labelle's Cantate: La Confédération 7 Jan 1868 at the City Hall. Gustave Comte is therefore in error when he writes that Labelle composed his setting in 1874 (Le Passe-Temps, 1 Oct 1898). It was composed prior to 1868 and was published in Montreal in the late 19th century by Yon, Bélair, and Boucher and, with English words by J.M. Gibbon and a harmonization by Achille Fortier, in New York by Leo Feist in 1928.
The song was recorded on 78 rpm discs by Victor Occellier, Rodolphe Plamondon, Joseph Saucier, and others (see listing in Roll Back the Years), and Roger Doucet included it in his LP Chants glorieux/Songs of Glory.