'O Kebec', Quebec National Anthem, Unveiled By The Societe St-Jean-Baptiste

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QUEBEC ANTHEM O KEBEC
French President Charles de Gaulle and Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson sing the national anthem in Montreal July 24, 1967, shortly after making his famous "vive le Quebec libre" speech. | CP

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - There are no patriotic calls to arms beneath the rockets' red glare, no bragging about ruling over a vast empire, or any of the militaristic overtones of so many national anthems.

This one, a proposed national anthem for an independent Quebec, extols rainbows of love.

Sounding more like it was drawn from a rock opera than a fight for liberty, "O Kebek" was unveiled Monday by the Societe St-Jean-Baptiste's Montreal chapter just shy of the province's annual holiday.

The Societe St-Jean-Baptiste is no stranger to national anthems.

"O Canada," which officially became the country's national anthem in 1980, was originally commissioned by Quebec Lt.-Gov. Theodore Robitaille for the St-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony in 1880.

The music was written by Calixa Lavallee to accompany a patriotic French-Canadian poem by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

"O Kebec" in its long version — which encompasses eight stanzas — references Quebec's diversity and its natural wonders, announcing that "the St. Lawrence flows through our blood."

The shorter version, which forms the basis for the anthem, presents Quebec more as the unique French-speaking flower of North America where "under a rainbow of love we sing of liberty."

It was composed by Raoul Duguay, a poet-songwriter-actor who was once nominated for a Juno Award, and composer Alain Sauvageau, who has worked with some of Quebec's biggest musical names.

Duguay said he and Sauvageau are immensely proud of their creation and he called it "the most important work of my life as a poet."

"We sincerely hope that when (Quebecers) hear and sing it in French, it will relight the flame of pride in the hearts of our citizens and that that flame will give birth to a sovereign Quebec."

It's not the first time someone's composed a national anthem for the province — it's actually the sixth since 1961.

But the decision to release this latest version might have surprised some people who believe that a potential anthem for an independent Quebec has already been found.

At least two songs from the legendary chansonnier Gilles Vigneault, especially his eminently catchy and easy-to-sing "Gens du pays," have always been considered possible candidates.

"Gens du pays" is, in fact, so popular and easy to sing that it is commonly sung instead of "Happy birthday" at parties in Quebec.

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