A Maple Leaf Forever for Canada's Sesquicentennial
This rearrangement is the outgrowth of a search for a song to honour the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation in 1867. The Music Committee of the Northumberland Hills Ontario Chapter of SPEBSQSA, Inc. wanted a well-known, quintessentially Canadian song in barbershop style for the Ganaraska Chordsmen to perform through 2017 and maybe beyond. This Land Is Your Land was popular but it is really an American song with relocated geographical references. Oscar Brand’s This Land of Ours is a good candidate but there is yet no barbershop arrangement as is the case for Bobby Gimby’s Ca-na-da from Centennial ’67.
The Maple Leaf Forever was composed by Alexander Muir at the time of Confederation. It was an unofficial national anthem, particularly for Canadians of British stock, for over a century and is still played and sung at special occasions. There is a beautiful TTBB arrangement of it by Ron Smail with lyrics from the winning submission in a CBC Radio contest in 1997 but it’s not barbershop style. Dug out from the BHS Library stacks in Nashville was an old but stirring barbershop arrangement by Phil Embury with Muir’s original lyrics. The famous Buffalo Bills quartet performed many of his arrangements and it seemed appropriate that an American arranger for an essentially American style could be party to a Canadian Sesquicentennial edition – after all, many Americans moved to Canada and contributed greatly in its progress.
Those 1867 lyrics don’t fit well to the contemporary Canadian community and the 4 verses with repeated chorus make for a long, repetitious hymn. Vladimir Radian’s winning 1997 lyrics do fit but take 4 verses and 5 refrains in English and French to do so. The lyrics I chose to use are efficiently inclusive in just 3 verses and chorus and are faithful to the spirit and arc of the original while encompassing our country’s history and geography. They were written by Ian Robb and Shelley Posen, two members of the Ottawa vocal trio Finest Kind which recorded the song on their 2003 CD Silks & & Spices. The trio sang it at the 2014 ceremonial planting of two silver maple seedlings descended from the tree which graced Alexander Muir’s front yard in Toronto.
Thanks to Shelley Posen and Ian Robb for permitting me to use their lyrics, on the condition that they be given credit when the song is published in any type of medium and that performance playlists submitted to SOCAN include their names and affiliations (BMI and SOCAN, respectively).
Because of the new lyrics and changes to the chordal arrangement, I had to obtain a Permission to Rearrange from SPEBSQSA and now have a licence for a limited number of copies for use solely by our chapter. I'm trying to get it released to be freely usable by, at least, any Canadian Chapter, if not placed into the Public Domain. After all, the original melody and lyrics are public domain and it would be a virtuous gift for BHS to relinquish its copyright.
If you are interested in getting copies of either the original Phil Embury arrangement or my rearrangement, contact Janice Bane at firstname.lastname@example.org
Northumberland Hills Ontario Chapter of SPEBSQSA, Inc.