Oh no, singer's tune upsets all O Canada

July 21, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

All singer Dennis Casey Park heard was an echo.

What Canadians heard was "O Canada" sung to the tune of "O, Christmas Tree."

"That's what we think it sounds like," said Michael J. Murray, the vice president of communications for the CFL.

Murray saw Park's performance of "O Canada" before Saturday's CFL game between the Las Vegas Posse and the Sasketchewan Roughriders at the Posse's Sam Boyd Stadium. Many other Canadians saw it live on CBC, flooding Murray with 25 to 30 faxes and 75 phone calls at the league offices in Toronto.

"The number of calls that we've received have astounded us," Murray said. "It was just like a grass fire across this country."

The fire has spread all the way to the top of the Canadian and United States governments.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, in addition to receiving a written apology from Posse owner Nick J. Mileti, discussed the incident Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Al Gore.

"I was certainly glad to see that the U.S. football players reacted so strongly and better than the singer," said Gore, according to Canadian Press.

The Posse defeated the Roughriders, 32-22.

Park was the game's big loser.

He spent Tuesday apologizing on several Canadian radio stations. He even sung the anthem for several of them to prove that he knew what he was doing.

"I did know the song," Park said from Los Angeles. "I haven't sung it 10,000 times."

Park blamed his poor performance on the stadium, which can hold 32,000 people, but held only 12,000 that night. The stadium produced a severe echo that caused Park to sing the wrong tune, he said.

"All I could hear was the echo from about two notes earlier," Park said. "One just hit, and it took me off in an entirely different direction."

Two other performers that evening, Melinda, a Las Vegas magician, and singer Dionne Warwick, complained about the stadium's sound system, Posse director of communications Lee Meade said.

Park said he also had problems with the sound system, but did not try to sing the anthem to the tune of "O, Christmas Tree."

"I started 'O Canada,' and like I said, I couldn't hear myself," Park said. "It just took off. There was no intention to sing to any other melody whatsoever."

Park was a last-minute replacement by the Posse, who wanted an accomplished singer to complement Warwick's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Park has performed before the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and appeared in several movies and television shows.

His performance Saturday prompted 50 faxes and phone calls to the Posse offices, Meade said. Yesterday, one woman suggested that the Posse send a $10,000 check to each of the Canadian provinces.

This is not the first time a sporting event in America offended Canadian pride. At the 1992 World Series in Atlanta, the color guard carried the Canadian flag upside down.

"It's a slap in the face to all Canadians," Murray said. "It's something that shouldn't happen."

Park, however, said he would like to sing "O Canada" again.

"I'll sing it again if I get the chance, and I'll do a terrific job," he said.

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