- Canadian musical life is rich in style and very creative.
The shows by the Cirque du Soleil, a native acrobatic circus from Quebec, conquered the public of the whole world with an amazing mixture of traditional music, circus numbers, theater and dance.
Jazz in Canada
By the time this genre began to assert itself, Quebec's jazz clubs remained open until late at night. After a moment of crisis in the 1950s, jazz rediscovered its audience. The fame of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, created at the end of the 70s, and that of the extraordinary musician Oscar Peterson, who debuted when he was just a teen, crossed the country's borders. Canadian jazz can count on talents such as trumpeters Ferguson and Ranger and the classic jazz artist James Galloway.
Canada opened its own first concert hall in the 1700 in Quebec and, during the 1840s and 1850s, musicians such as singer Lind organized tours to promote classical music all across the country. Local and regional musical organizations, ancestors of our philharmonic orchestras, were then founded throughout the country. Between the two wars, other artists including singers, violinists and pianists started having a great success. The conductor Pelletier opened the way for many other composers, while pianist Gould, after performing live for many years, devoted himself exclusively to studio recordings.
The symphony orchestras of Montreal, Toronto and Quebec have gained worldwide fame and nowadays the cities’ theaters offer operas and host many important celebrities from all around the world.
There are many opera companies operating throughout the country: the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, the Quebec Opera, the Montreal Opera, and others in Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton.
The Opera Lyra company is based in our capital, Ottawa.
Popular music developed first of all among the settlers, who use it to tell their daily life, with its hopes and conflicts. Among the most famous lyricists and composers we mention Rogers and Gordon with his Canadian Railroad Trilogy, a true Canadian classic.
There are also famous folk-jazz singers such as Joni Mitchell and the Celtic singer Lorena McKennitt.
The authors of the national anthem, O Canada, are two Franco-Canadians, the lyricist Adolphe-Basile Routhier and the composer Calixa Lavallee.
In recent decades, the Canadian music scene has taken on a new dimension thanks to large-scale shows and a recording industry heavily influenced by the American culture.
In the early 1970s, the piece Guess Who's an American Woman became the anthem of the Vietnam anti-war movement and Canadian Sylvain Lelievre is now considered one of the best Canadian songwriters. In more recent years between 1980 and 1990 we saw the rise of internationally-acclaimed singers including, but not limited to, Fabienne Thibault, Diane Tell and Celine Dion.
Called katajjaq, it is a very particular form of singing typical of the Inuit, the Eskimo ethnicity that lives in the arctic and subarctic coastal regions of North America.
It is traditionally sung by two Inuit women who, facing each other, have a sort of duet/singing competition producing high guttural sounds, surrounded by their tribe who listen to them sometimes accompanying their singing with local traditional instruments.
Sometimes they imitate animal sounds, such as those of geese or other animals, or other sounds of nature, such as water and wind. The ‘competition’ ends when one of the two singers has no breath or stumbles with the voice and laughs, therefore decreeing the contender's victory. The duets/duels follow one another with different women, and the final winner turns out to be the one who manages to win several times.
Originally the Inuit women practiced katajjaq when their men were away for hunting, while today these singing games are practiced during some convivial meetings in families or during religious moments.