It is the song we all know. But know nothing about. Until Now.
The O Canada Project is the story of the song that stands for our nation, a symbol that has drawn both tears and jeers, has been both revered and revised. It is an enduring melody that should have made its composer a national icon, but instead he is largely forgotten and unappreciated.
Every day, (except during the pandemic disruptions) in every one of Canada’s more than 15,000 schools young people rise to listen to and sing our national anthem.
The music is universally recognized to the point where it is a cliché of Canadian-ness. Even the most tone deaf Canadian can at least hum a few off key bars. But hardly anyone could name the man who wrote the melody.
Calixa Lavallée was once dubbed Canada’s first “National Musician”. It is sad and stereotypical that that this seminal Canadian artist could never make a living in his homeland and ended his days in Boston where he became a fervent proponent of annexation.
Lavallée’s obscurity and our ignorance of the story behind our national anthem are astonishing and shameful shortcomings in our collective national knowledge.
The O Canada Project aspires to right this wrong.
The central goal of the O Canada Project is to ensure that every school child, and every adult, every Canadian from coast to coast to coast learns the story of the anthem—of the people behind it and of its contentious and complicated history.
We want the O Canada story to become as familiar a chapter in Canadian history as Confederation or the Québec referendums and that Calixa Lavalée joins John A. Macdonald, Louis Riel and Agnes McPhail as someone every young Canadian should know.
Should we think of O Canada as stirring and inspirational? Or sexist and colonialist? A celebration of national pride or an insult to minorities? Born as an expression of French Canadian nationalism, is it now a symbol of anglophone ascendancy?
Our anthem’s journey is a reflection of our nation, in all its paradoxes, turmoil and triumphs. It’s also the story of a man who believed in the power of music.
In this challenging moment in our history, when a public health crisis forces us to keep our distance, cancel public gatherings and avoid singing together as a community there is a pressing need for an initiative that can help build our collective sense of citizenship and nationhood.
At its core, the project is built around a feature length documentary (working title: ‘Our Song’), the first ever to take on this neglected story, bringing it to life in a way that is accessible, compelling and entertaining, swirling with music, dance and youthful energy. Think LaLaLand meets High School Musical meets a Ken Burns documentary.
Growing out of the film will be an array of educational materials, geared to several grade levels, that will be made available to schools across the country to support the teaching of the O Canada story.
The O Canada Project is the brainchild of Producer / Director Isabella Cairess Favaro, creator of the acclaimed documentary Leap of Faith: The Dance of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her production company, Favaro Mallen Films is bringing the story to life in collaboration with Breakout Educational Network, a registered charity whose mission is to produce educational materials related to Canadian cultural, social, economic and political themes.
The O Canada Project will cause us all to look at our anthem with new insight, clarity and context, while showcasing the brilliance of Canadian artists in music, dance and drama.
Inquires: Please contact Isabella Cairess Favaro 416-561-8547
To donate to this project:
Online: via Canada Helps – Click Here To Donate
By Phone: 416-561-8547 cell
By Mail: Please make cheques payable to:
Breakout Educational Network – O Canada Project
1200 Bay Street, Suite 303
Toronto, ON, M5R 2A5
Breakout will send you a charitable receipt via mail or by email.
Breakout Educational Network is a registered charitable educational organization.
Charitable registration #1020072-21.