Music about Sports | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Music about Sports

Sports. Canadians have adopted nearly every known athletic activity or sport, and some have been inspired by a favorite one to compose a popular song or a short band or piano piece.


Sports. Canadians have adopted nearly every known athletic activity or sport, and some have been inspired by a favorite one to compose a popular song or a short band or piano piece. Such pieces were common during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when boating, cycling, golf, and hockey became popular and social-athletic clubs proliferated, many with their own songs.

One of Canada's earliest sports, lacrosse was invented by the Indians. Pieces composed in its honour include the song 'La Crosse, Our National Game,' arranged by H. F. Sefton (mid-1870s) and the piano piece Lacrosse Jersey (1892), written by Nellie (composer) Smith and dedicated to the Toronto Lacrosse Club. Archery as a sport was introduced to Canada ca 1850, and in 1859 Henry Prince dedicated a piano piece entitled The Arrow Flight Galop to the ladies of the Montreal Archery Club. Rowing became a competitive sport in Canada in 1848, and while canoeing had begun as a means of transportation, by the mid-19th century, it, too, was popular as a recreation. Canoeing and boating pieces include 'Les Canotiers du Saint-Laurent,' signed by a lady, 'D. D'. (Écho du Cabinet, 1863), a quadrille of the same name by A. J. Boucher, 'Yachting Song' by Herbert L. Clarke and John Imrie (Imrie & Graham 1890), and Midland Regatta Schottische by Campbell Shaw (1894). Among works dedicated to specific clubs were Emma Blackstock's 'A Starry Night' (no date) and Matthew de S. Wedd's song 'You and Canoe' (1896), both for Toronto's Royal Canadian Yacht Club; William Ramsey Spence's Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club (no date) and Mrs Converse's The St. Lawrence Yacht Club Waltz (1893), both for the Royal St Lawrence Yacht Club in Montreal; Miss C. Geddes Armstrong's Splash and Dash Polka (1;892), for the Ottawa Rowing Club; and Lotte Marks' Argonaut Waltzes (1899) for the Argonaut Rowing Club of Toronto. Several pieces were dedicated to the Canadian rowing champions Ned Hanlan (see Edwin Gledhill) and Lewis Scholes.

Bicycling took Canada by storm in 1876; clubs soon were established and races organized. Many pieces appeared in tribute to the new fad: The Bicycle Belle March (1895) by G. A. Watts, 'A Corker Bicycle Song' (1895) by J. F. Davis, Wheeling by Moonlight (1896) by T. Echel, 'Queen of the Wheel' (1897) by G. Deane, and 'On Wings of Steel'(1907) by Herbert H. Godfrey. R. S. Peniston dedicated 'Wheeling' (1891) to the Wanderers' (Bicycle) Club of Toronto. A more recent song was Paul (Tex) Lecor's 'Ti-Bicycle'.

Cricket probably was played first in Nova Scotia during the 18th century. Although it never became widely popular in Canada and appears to have been almost ignored by composers, Mrs H. S. Scadding did write The Cricketers' Waltzes (ca 1875) for the Toronto Cricket Club. Curling, a sport closely identified with Canada, is thought to have been introduced by General Wolfe's soldiers at Quebec ca 1760. Sometime before 1871 a Mr Stevenson wrote The Curling Club Polka for piano. Golf, first played at Montreal in 1873, was eulogized in Edward Atherton's song ' Far and Sure' (1903). In 1929 R. C. Larivière wrote Valse des petits gymnastes in honour of the sport of Greece. The Lawn Tennis Dance (1889) by J. F. Davis and 'Tennis' (1915) by Wilson MacDonald both praised the sport. Football, popular in Canada from the 20th century, inspired Ambeault's song "Argonaut Two-step" and William Eckstein's "Alouettes, Alouettes, Alouettes" (self-published 1955) and Dan Crone's "The Saskatchewan Rough Rider March" (BMI Canada 1952). The Canadian Talent Library lists a recording, Canadian Football Songs (CTL S-5104), which includes 'The Day of the Grey Cup,' 'Go Argos Go,' and 'Tigercat Marching Song'. Another recording, RCA 75-1013, features the official Grey Cup song for 1969.

Ice hockey - claimed by some to have originated in Halifax, NS, in 1828 - is the game identified most often as Canada's national sport. Songs dealing with the game and its players include Eugene Platzman's 'Hockey' (1929), William McCauley's 'Clear the Track, Here Comes Eddie Shack' and 'Warming the Bench' (both 1966), Anna McGarrigle's 'Homage à Henri Richard' (ca 1974), Bob King's 'Ballad of Gordie Howe', Alec Somerville's 'Hockey Night in Canada' (recorded on Arc 257), and Oscar Thiffault's 'Le Rocket Richard' (recorded on Carnival C-500). Pierre Mercure composed Jeu de hockey (1961) for electroacoustic tape, and Weinzweig wrote Hockey Night in Canada (1986) for choir. Pierre Létourneau's song 'Maurice Richard' is recorded (La Compagnie 124), as is Hervé Brousseau's 'Mon Patin' (Select SP-12-078)and Oscar Thiffault's 'La Tourne à Ti-Guy Lafleur' 9Amical 45-AMI-4504). Commentaries on hockey include Beau Dommage's 'Hockey (Capitol ST-70-055), Stompin' Tom Connors' 'The Hockey Song' (1972, Boot BOS-7112), Prairie Fire's 'Hockey Game' (1978, Damon 45-D-109), Nancy White's ' The Hockey Widow' (Captain Audio 45-BDM-106) Tom Cochrane and Red Rider's 'Big League' (1988, Capitol CI-26570), and Jane Siberry's 'Hockey' (1989, Duke Street DSR-31058). Claude Scott's recorded 'The Edmonton Oilers Theme Song (1979, Mustard 45-M-122). Hockey star Guy LaFleur released a combination disco music/hockey instruction LP in French and English in 1979 (Unison UN-2000). Other hockey stars on vinyl include Phil Esposito and the Ranger Rockers (New York Rangers) singing 'Hockey Sock Rock,' (Marcel) Dionne and the Puck-Tones (Los Angeles Kings) singing 'Please Forgive My Misconduct Last Night' (both written by Allan Thicke and recorded in 1979 on the 45 on Platium Records 1217-75), and the Calgary Flames 1987 video and record 'Red Hot'.. Mike Farrington and Sharron Timmins recorded the satirical 'Crying Over Wayne,' to the tune of Roy Orbison's 'Crying,' for the CBC when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. Other Gretzky songs include 'Go Gretzky, Go or Agent 99' recorded by R. Harlan Smith and the Royalty Singers (1981, Royalty 45-R-1000-103) and 'The Great Gretzky' recorded by Fanz (1983, Ridge 45-RR-8301). Terry Bush with John Crossen and Huguette Kihl wrote 'Come on let's play (... let's play hockey'/'Au jeu les gars (...montrez-nous du vrai hockey) the theme song for the 1976 Canada Cup. Perhaps the best known piece of music associated with hockey in Canada is Dolores Claman's theme for 'Hockey Night in Canada'. The theme introduced hockey broadcasts on the CBC for 40 years until 2008 when rights to the music were sold to the CTV network after a brief and much publicized contract dispute between the copyright holder and the CBC. An updated version of this familiar tune has been recorded by the Shuffle Demons (1988, Stony Plain SPL-1124). The format of 'Hockey Night in Canada' inspired the 'Jeu d'improvisation musicale' in Montreal broadcast by the CBC. The first 'game' in 1986 won a Canada Council prize for most original musical broadcast of the year. Hockey was also the subject of a musical by Jim Betts Thin Ice produced at the NAC in 1988. Tim Rogers has commented on the practice of chanting at games in the song, '(Na-Na-Hey-Hey), Kiss Him Goodbye,' originally recorded by the pop group Steam in 1969 and by the Nylons in 1987 (Attic LAT-1233).

Horse racing has been especially popular in Ontario and British Columbia, and its most important centre has been the Woodbine Race Track in Toronto, home of the Queen's Plate (established in 1836, the oldest stakes race in North America). The 2.10 1/2 Galop by 'B. C'. was dedicated in 1881 to O. B. Sheppard, secretary of the Woodbine Park Association. Albert Nordheimer wrote his 'Hunting Song' (1908) for the Toronto Hunt Club. Winter sports - sleighing, skating, skiing, snow-shoeing, tobogganing - inspired Henry Russell's 'The Canadian Sleigh Song' (ca 1840), J. Smythe's The Sleigh Polka (1849, dedicated to the Montreal Sleigh Club), W. Braybrooke Bayley's 'Belle of the Rink' (Suckling 1877), J. Vézina 's 'Chant de l'Union des raquetteurs' (1886), W. Delaney's 'The Joyous Skaters' (1886), E. Buron and P. de Sale's 'En nouant sa raquette' (ca 1896), and A. Tessier's 'Vive la raquette' (1916). Others were Harold F. Palmer's 'The Snow Shoe Tramp, a Song of the North West' (pre-1859), written for the Snow Shoe Clubs of Canada; C.E. St Clair's 'Snow Shoe Galop' (no date), written for the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; and H. A. G. Austin's Valses Asketyn (1886), dedicated to Ottawa's Taché Hill Sliding Club. Singer-songwriter Albert Hall's album Courage is a tribute to the 'family of racers' single-minded pursuit of excellence'. Members of the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team participated in the recording of the album (1988, Axe AXS-530). J.Wilson (Jack) Jardine (b Scotland ca 1894 d Toronto 1 Jul 1959) arranged music for figure skaters at the Toronto Skating Club. He also worked with ice shows and with such stars as Barbara Ann Scott, Sonja Henie, and the team of Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul. Ray Calder recorded two albums of music for skating and the Canadian Figure Skating Associaition has also released recordings for use in figure skating competitions.

Miscellaneous sports songs of more recent years have included 'Marilyn' (Canadian Music Sales 1954), by Leslie Bell, written in honour of Marilyn Bell's 1954 marathon swim across Lake Ontario. Some of the songs composed for the Olympics are included on the recording 10 Chansons finalistes du concours de la chanson d'adieu (Solo SO-21101). Marc Gélinas and Marcel Lefevbre's song 'Les Expos sont là,' theme song of the Montreal baseball team, has been recorded in its French version (Marco DM-777) as a single, and also in an English version by Pat McDougall, 'The Expos Song' (Marco DM-778). J. Larin's 'La Chanson des sports' is included in a two-record set (2-RCA Gala KTL-2-7018) and also on RCA Gala CGP-181. The arrival of the Blue Jays in Toronto has produced a string of songs including 'OK Blue Jays,' the official song written by Jack Lenz and Tony Kosinec and recorded by the Bat Boys. This song and several others are included on The Blue Jays Album (1990, CBS ZK-80145 CD) and The Blue Jays Album New and Improved (1991, CBS ZK-9999 CD).

Terry Fox inspired Rod Stewart's 'Never Give Up on A Dream' (1981, Warner Brothers BSK-3602), and Harry Freedman'sA Garland for Terry (1985). Wheelchair marathoner Rick Hansen inspired 'St. Elmo's Fire - Man in Motion' written by David Foster and John Parr and recorded by Parr (1985, Atlantic 78-12611)

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