Canada Day: Celebrating Canadian artists at Eurovision
Today is Canada Day, which came to be on July 01 1867 after the Constitution Act 1867 came into effect. Canada Day was known as Dominion Day until 1982, when the country was given full sovereignty with The Canada Act 1982. This ended the power of the British Parliament to amend the Constitution of Canada.
Canada can't compete at Eurovision however they've still had an impact at the contest with nine entries featuring Canadian artists.
They also have a rather respectable record with five artists reaching the Top 5 (including a winner!) and only two artists didn't reach the final. Not bad, eh?
Grab yourself some poutine and a beer, or an ice wine if you are feeling a little fancy as we take a look at Canadians at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Sherisse Laurence - 'L'amour de ma vie' (Luxembourg 1986, 3rd place 117 points)
Sherisse Stevens (born Laurence) was born in Manitoba and the first Canadian to ever perform at the Eurovision song contest. Sherisse’s musical interest started at the age of three, when she learned to play the piano and sing. Her background included a diverse range of music genres including jazz, country and more mainstream pop music.
She represented Luxembourg in the 1986 contest with 'L’amour de ma vie' (the love of my life). Sherisse rose to fame in Canada by hosting the TV show ‘Circus’, a TV programme about a live circus set in CTV’s Ontario studios. Her song was the 500th performed song at the Eurovision Song Contest, and it managed to take third place overall.
After the contest Sherisse returned to Canada, where she performed in a number of musicals and concerts and continued to develop her knowledge of music. She has lead and conducted a number of choirs based out of Huntsville, Ontario.
Lara Fabian - 'Croire' (Luxembourg 1988, 4th place 90 points)
To the Francophone world, Lara Fabian needs no introduction. Lara was born in Belgium to Belgian and Sicilian parents, however she has lived most of her life in Montreal, Canada. In 1988 Lara was invited to represent Luxembourg at Eurovision with the song ‘Croire’. She finished in fourth, behind another Quebecois – Celine Dion. 11 years later, the release of her self-titled album launched Lara on the international stage, reaching the top 20 in five countries.
Her biggest hit song was ‘I Will Love Again’ which made it to number 31 on the ARIA charts and all the way to number 1 on the Billboard dance charts in the USA. Her popularity since has been mostly in Belgium and France, although she did participate in the Sanremo song festival in 2015 with the song ‘Voce’. Lara has released 14 albums and sold over 20 million records worldwide.
Céline Dion - 'Ne partez pas sans moi' (Switzerland 1988, 1st place 137 points)
Céline was always destined to be a star. As a teenager in Québec, Céline already had success in advance of her Eurovision adventure. In 1988 she went to Dublin to represent Switzerland and she won the contest by one point over the last Scottish entrant for the UK – Scott Fitzgerald. Her song 'Ne partez pas sans moi' is still quite popular within the Eurovision community. She returned to the 1989 contest in Lausanne, to sing 'Where Does my Heart Beat Now' which was her first English language hit.
Céline does not talk too much about her Eurovision experience, as she felt it was a whirlwind experience. From receiving a call in Montreal, to represent Switzerland – a country she had no ties to, to performing in Dublin, she explained in an interview with Jonathan Ross in 2013 that she felt like a horse, with the pressures of gambling and being expected to win it like it were a race.
Céline Dion is the most successful artist that has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, with the greatest value of sales of any Eurovision artist and one of the highest of any artist in the world. Céline has had over 50 songs which have reached number one on the various charts around the world and has toured the whole world, performing to sold out audiences.
Annie Cotton - 'Moi, tout simplement' (Switzerland 1993, 3rd place 148 points)
Annie Cotton was born in Laval, Québec and grew up in the French speaking city. She started out as an actress in the Quebecois series Watatatow, which followed the lives of teenagers growing up in the 90’s. It was during her time on this show that she received the offer to represent Switzerland at the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest.
Upon arriving in Millstreet, Annie was expected to do well, with parallels drawn to Céline Dion, however she was unable to take home the Grand Prix, finishing in 3rd place with her song 'Moi, tout simplement' (Simply me). Cotton has since returned to Canada and appeared as an actress in a number of other Canadian series, usually in minor roles.
Natasha St. Pier - 'Je n'ai que mon âme' (France 2001, 4th place 143 points)
Natasha is from New Brunswick, on the eastern coast of Canada’s mainland and her family is of Acadian origin. In 2001 a then 20 year old St. Pier arrived on the Eurovision stage, creating history by representing France with a song which was half in English. This was very controversial at the time, but it reflected Natasha’s Canadian background with New Brunswick being Canada’s only official bilingual province. This song was universally liked and finished in a respectable 4th place, which is France’s highest placing since 1995.
Since Eurovision, Natasha has had success across Europe, topping the French album charts with ‘Longueur d’ondes’ and another two albums which have gone Platinum. In 2014, Natasha St. Pier was one of the commentators for French Television at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Rykka - 'The Last of Our Kind' (Switzerland 2016, 18th place 28 points, Semi Final 2)
Rykka (born Christina Maria Rieder) is a singer from the picturesque coastal city of Vancouver in British Colombia. Rykka started to develop a name for herself in British Columbia and then across Canada in her late teens, before moving to Switzerland in 2010 and releasing an album there. Her grandfather is Swiss and she has since been splitting her time between the country and Vancouver.
In 2016, Rykka won 'Die Entscheidungsshow' – the Swiss National Final, earning the right to represent Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest. Unfortunately, her entry did not prove too popular in Stockholm. Rykka finished in last place in the second semi-final.
Katerine Duska - 'Better Love' (Greece 2019, 21st place 74 points)
Katerine Duska was born in Montreal but moved to Greece as a teenager. According to reports, she was reluctant to accept the Eurovision invite from Greece because she would have a team of writers around her during the process, and she normally writes music on her own and always wants to have creative freedom and control.
According to the Greek national broadcaster, ‘Better Love’ is a song that talks about the eternal quest for a higher love, which is one that is deep, unconditional and unapologetic. Duska herself has a different explanation though. Duska is quoted as saying “I wanted to write a song that would sound like an invitation, feel like an embrace. A tender song with a fighting spirit about a word we profusely use, but rarely actually mean. It really is the way to love, whomever you love.”
Katerine has released two more singles since her Eurovision appearance.
Ester Peony - 'On a Sunday' (Romania 2019, 13th place 71 Points - Semi Final 2)
Ester Alexandra Crețu, more commonly known by her stage name Ester Peony spent four years of her childhood in Montreal, Canada. These four years helped shape her life, as it was then she discovered her love of music and started to play and write music.
Ester came to be in Eurovision in 2019, when she managed to navigate her way through a controversial Selecția Națională. At the Eurovision, Ester failed to qualify for the final, which was only the second time that Romania had missed the Grand Final.
Vasil - 'You' (North Macedonia 2020, Contest Cancelled)
Vasil Garvanliev, otherwise known mononymously as Vasil, was set to be North Macedonia’s entrant at the 2020 Contest in Rotterdam, with the song ‘You’.
After a promising childhood singing career in the country then known as Macedonia, Vasil’s family sought asylum in the US during his adolescence and he became a leading child soloist with the Chicago Children’s Choir, performing with the likes of Julie Andrews and Celine Dion. In his late teens, his family were suddenly deported - sent home in the wake of tighter immgration restrictions after 9/11, thus instantly depriving him of several opportunities to study music.
Vasil’s Canadian connection began at 19, when he gained a scholarship to study at Toronto’s prestigious Glenn Gould School of Music. He became a leading operatic baritone, performing lead roles in over 50 operas with companies such as Toronto’s Opera Atelier and the Calgary Opera. He also had his first dalliance with Eurovision in 2007, entering Macedonia’s national final with the song ‘Pomogni mi’. He eventually finished 13th.
After over 10 years living in Canada, Vasil returned to Europe in 2017, and North Macedonia in 2018.
Anke Engelke - (Host, Dusseldorf 2011)
Canada has been providing European countries with performers at the Eurovision Song Contest for decades now, but they have also provided the contest with a host as well.
Co-host of the Dūsseldorf 2011 contest, Anke Engelke, was originally from Montreal in Quebec before moving to Germany with her German parents when she was 5 years old. Anke has been a television personality in Germany for almost 25 years, since first appearing in ‘Die Wochenshow’ (The Weekly), a comedy sketch show.
As well as hosting the contest when it was held in Dūsseldorf in 2011, Anke was the spokesperson for the German votes at the Baku 2012 contest. She has hosted ‘Unser Song für Malmö’, the German national final for 2013.
So Canada has left quite a mark on the contest and we hope they continue to do so in the future.
Happy Canada Day to all our Canadian friends!