Confederation and Music

Confederation and music. Confederation is the popular term for the federal union in 1867 of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (thereafter Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia under the name Dominion of Canada.

Confederation is the popular term for the federal union in 1867 of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (thereafter Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia under the name Dominion of Canada. Manitoba joined the dominion in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in.1873, and Newfoundland in 1949. Alberta and Saskatchewan, which had been territories or districts, were created provinces in 1905.

Confederation did not occur without much debate, and the popular sentiments for and against union occasionally were expressed in music. An advertisement for Sergeant H. Dixon's Confederation Galop, published in 1865 in 'The New Brunswick Minstrel' series, claimed that this 'stirring composition... ought of itself to impel every one to vote for Confederation'. Léon Casorti's La Confédération Quadrille, however, was subtitled 'danse nationale, inaugurée en 1840, coup de grace en 1865' and dedicated to George Brown (who resigned from the government in 1865, but was to become one of the 'fathers of Confederation') in the following words: 'Son Excellence le Vicomte Georges Diocletien de Braun, Chevalier du gros Castor, Ministre des Cultes'. An 'Anti-Confederation Song' from Newfoundland, typical of the 19th-century campaign songs, is included in Edith Fowke's Canada's Story in Song. Three 1867 publications owed their origins to the birth of the new dominion: 'The Maple Leaf for Ever' (by Alexander Muir), 'This Canada of Ours' (words by J.D. Edgar, music adapted and arranged by E.H. Ridout), and 'Our Dominion' (words by G.R. Kingsmill, music by J. Holt).

The largest composition inspired by Confederation undoubtedly was Jean-Baptiste Labelle's Cantate: la Confédération, to a text by Auguste Achintre, dedicated to George-Étienne Cartier and performed 7 Jan 1868 at the city hall in Montreal. The cantata included Labelle's song 'Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!' Labelle also composed a satiric 'opérette comique' with words by Elzéar Labelle, titled La Conversion d'un pêcheur de la Nouvelle-Écosse. The work has only two protagonists - a Nova Scotia fisherman and a Quebec farmer, who argue the merits of Confederation. Boucher published a piano score ca 1868

Anniversaries of Confederation have been celebrated by A. Pleau's Marche Confédération (1919), by Albert Erroll. MacNutt's 'The Birthday of Confederation' (1927), and by various works written for the centenary in 1967.

See also 'CA-NA-DA;' Centennial celebrations; Expo 67; Louis Riel; Patria; La Prima Ballerina.


Further Reading

  • La Minerve, 11 Jan 1868

    Hare, John. 'La Cantate de la Confédération,' Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, vol 5 (1966)

    'Comprehensive catalogue of new Canadian music written in honour of Canada's centennial year, 1967,' Mcan, 7, Dec 1967

    Moisan, Clément. 'La Confédération, cantate d'Auguste Achintre,' Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec, vol 1, ed Maurice Lemire (Montreal 1978)