Canadian Folk Songs

A Centennial Collection

In 1967, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and RCA Victor Ltd. issued a 9-LP set of folk songs in celebration of the centennial of Canada's Confederation. This unique and wonderful set has long been unavailable to the public, so as a "spare-time" project I have reproduced the English-language versions of the extensive notes that came with the records, and have searched out the texts of the songs (not always the exact variants of the songs in the collection.) For the songs of Volume 1 only, I include mp3 sound files that I have digitized from the original recordings. These materials can be perused on-line through this site, or they can be downloaded. For downloading information, alternative sources for these songs, and suggestions on how to obtain copies of the original LP recording, please see the information near the bottom of this page.

About these folk songs

[The following text, written by the singer Alan Mills, is taken from the booklet that came with the record set]

"Canada has a vast treasure of more than thirty thousand folk songs and variants, most of which are little known beyond the different regions in which they have been collected.

Most of these songs consist of well preserved versions of many ancient traditional ballads and folk songs of France and the British Isles, from where Canada's first European settlers came, and whose descendents now number more than 15 million people, or approximately 75 percent of the country's total population.

But, apart from the traditional songs inherited from Europe, recent researchers have collected a rich harvest of "home-made" songs and ballads of native Canadian minstrels— known and unknown— who composed their songs during their leisure hours, or while they worked as farmers, soldiers, sailors, fishermen, lumberjacks, fur-trappers, railroad-builders, cowboys and miners, etc.

This great wealth of solk song was hardly imagined before the turn of the twentieth century, although Canada's first important collector— a Quebec pianist and composer named Ernest Gagnon— had published an excellent and still highly valued volume of about 100 traditional French folk songs and variants, under the title of Chansons populaires du Canada, as early as 1865, in which he began his preface with the following prophetic sentence: "Le nombe de nos chansons populaires est incalculable".

However true Gagnon's prophecy has proved to be, it may be assumed that his statement referred only to the French-language songs of Canada, and not to the surprisingly large number of English-language folk songs and ballads that have also been collected in recent years, mostly in the eastern half of the country, from the Atlantic Provinces to Ontario.

In this Centennial Collection of Canadian Folk Songs the Transcription Service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in collaboration with RCA Victor Company, Ltd., hopes to spread a greater knowledge and appreciation of some of Canada's songs, and of how they reflect the cultural heritage of most of its people.

The artists

Yves Albert



Hélène Baillargeon
(1916-1997; photo 1962)


Louise Forestier (b 1943)
(longer article in French)


Charles Jordan (1915-1986)

Tom Kines (1922-1994)

Jacques Labrecque
(longer article in French)


Alan Mills (1912-1977)
Mr. Mills also wrote the notes that describe each song on this site.

Diane Oxner (b 1928)

Jean Price

Raoul Roy (1936-1985)
(longer article in French)


Joyce Sullivan (b 1929)

Beginning with Canadian variants of ancient ballads and traditional folk songs of France and the British Isles, the series continues with legendary ballads and historical songs, ballads of romantic adventures and tragedies, love songs and laments, songs of courtship and marriage, songs and ballads of the lumber camps and other miscellaneous work songs, and assorted "sociable" and "social" songs."

The songs

Select the volume you wish to explore. Each song entry reproduces Allen Mills' description and comments. I have also added whatever lyrics I have been able to find, which will often differ from the particular variants on the recordings. On Volume 1 only, mp3 sound files are included.

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