Land of the Silver Birch / My Paddle's Keen and Bright

With Canada’s 150th birthday less than a week away, as a proud Canadian I have chosen a combination song that is an adaptation of a very famous poem by E. Pauline Johnson, (E. was for Emily) called “The Song My Paddle Sings”.  Ms. Johnson was a famous poet, artist, writer and performer (1862-1913), in fact she was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 1800’s. 

Pauline Johnson was born on the Six Nations Reserve near the Grand River at Chiefswood, just southeast of Brantford, Ontario. Her father was of Mohawk and European descent and her mother was born in England. Her Mohawk name Tekahionwake meaning “double wampum”, was a name influenced by her mixed race identity Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and British. 

I recommend learning more about this remarkable woman and all she accomplished in her lifetime. She was a true artist in every sense of the word.

“The Song My Paddle Sings” was the influence and inspiration for “Land of the Silver Birch” and “My Paddle’s Keen and Bright”. These songs have been sung for years at campfires and while paddling canoes. They are often done in a musical round, so it becomes an endless rhythmic and musical cycle. The indigenous rhythmic influence makes it feel strong and powerful. When I listen to this recording it creates a strong visual image of people paddling canoes down the river in perfect unison as they sing to the beat of the motion of their paddles. 

I recommend Michael Mitchell’s version of this combination of the two songs.  I have had it on my class set list for the last two weeks and everyone seems to get some kind of positive energy from this familiar and beautiful arrangement of the two intertwined songs. 

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) is on the short list of five woman; one of whom will be chosen to be on the Canadian 100 bill in 2018. 

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) is on the short list of five woman; one of whom will be chosen to be on the Canadian 100 bill in 2018. 

The version I  play of the song can be found on this recording by this award winning Canadian singer, songwriter and storyteller. 

The version I  play of the song can be found on this recording by this award winning Canadian singer, songwriter and storyteller.