The Polaris Music Prize was founded by Steve Jordan in 2006 and is awarded annually to the Canadian artist or group who creates the best full-length album. The mandate of the Polaris Music Prize has been likened to that of the UK’s Mercury Prize; all genres of contemporary music are eligible, and albums are judged on artistic merit rather than on commercial success. The winner is announced at the Polaris Music Prize Gala held each September in Toronto. The original cash prize of $20,000 was increased to $30,000 in 2011 and to $50,000 in 2015. Shortlisted artists have often performed at the Gala, which is broadcast live on CBC Radio 3 and Sirius Satellite Radio and webcast and televised by MuchMusic.
“O Canada” is Canada’s national anthem. Originally called “Chant national,” it was written in Québec City by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier (words in French) and composer Calixa Lavallée (music), and first performed there on 24 June 1880. It began to be sung widely in French Canada at that time and later spread across Canada in various English-language versions, of which the best-known was written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908. The lyrics of this version were amended several times over the years, with the most recent changes occurring in February 2018; the French lyrics have been shortened but otherwise remain unaltered from the original. “O Canada” was approved as Canada’s national anthem by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on 15 March 1967. It was officially adopted as Canada’s national anthem under the National Anthem Act on 27 June 1980. The Act was proclaimed by Governor General Edward Schreyer in a public ceremony on Parliament Hill on 1 July 1980.6
Come From Away is a Canadian musical based on the true story of how the residents of Gander, Newfoundland, welcomed stranded airline passengers into their homes in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The play, with book and music by Toronto-based husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, was developed at Toronto’s Sheridan College. It enjoyed successful runs in Connecticut, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Toronto before becoming the sleeper hit of the 2016–17 season on Broadway. Come From Away has won more than two dozen awards, including three Dora Awards and a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. A feature film adaptation was announced in November 2017.
Canada’s world-renowned and oldest-surviving mixed-voice amateur choir, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMC) was founded in 1894 by Augustus Stephen Vogt. Succeeding conductors have been Herbert A. Fricker (1917–42), Sir Ernest MacMillan (1942–57), Frederick Silvester (1957–60), Walter Susskind (1960–63), Elmer Iseler (1964–98) and Noel Edison (1997–2018). Each conductor has introduced new repertoire, both sacred and secular, including Canadian compositions and the Canadian premieres of major European works. The 137-voice choir includes a core of 20 professional singers, many of whom also participate in the Mendelssohn Singers, a 70-voice chamber choir. The choir has performed over the years at Toronto’s Massey Hall, Roy Thomson Hall and Koerner Hall. It has also made frequent appearances in the United States and has performed at such European festivals as the Edinburgh Festival, the Lucerne International Festival, the Festival Estival in Paris, the Flanders Festival and the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts (the Proms) at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Despite the steady stream of Canadian musicians who have won international stardom in the past 30 years - Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Anne Murray and Rush, to name a few - until fairly recently the country was still a bit of a POP-MUSIC backwater. Most performers had to move south to get established.
The Livre d’orgue de Montréal is the most voluminous extant manuscript of French organ music of the period of Louis XIV. Consisting of 398 pieces composed between 1675 and 1724, it was brought to Montréal in 1724 by Jean Girard, a Sulpician cleric and later organist at the parish of Notre-Dame. The document now belongs to the Fondation Lionel-Groulx in Montréal, where it was rediscovered in 1978 by Élisabeth Gallat-Morin. Containing works of great quality (the most notable of which were composed by king’s organist Nicolas Lebègue), as well as more simple but not necessarily inferior pieces, the Montréal manuscript represents an important addition to the French organ repertoire of the end of the 17th century.
Blackie & The Rodeo Kings was initially conceived in 1996 as a tribute act to singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett. By renewing interest in Bennett and other Canadian songwriters, Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson believed they would also gain a wider audience for their solo careers.
Beau Dommage was a Quebec folk-rock group that was formed around 1972 and became known for its distinctive urban poetry and songs about adolescence and daily life in Montreal. The group’s second album, Où est passée la noce?, came out in 1975 and was one of the first in the history of music in Canada to go platinum according to the Canadian Recording Industry Association (100,000 copies sold). Beau Dommage was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.