Why a Jewish song is on the playlist for Canada’s National Remembrance Day ceremony (and other Jewish content to watch for)

woman playing the carillon
Dr. Andrea McCrady, the Dominion Carilloneur, will be performing a Jewish song as part of Thursday's Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. (House of Commons video)

When Canadians tune in on Thursday to watch the official Remembrance Day ceremony broadcast live from the National War Memorial in Ottawa, they’ll see and hear some Jewish content in this year’s proceedings.

The country’s official Dominion Carilloneur, Dr. Andrea McCrady, will play the Hebrew folk song “Shalom Haverim” on the 53 bells of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

The song is part of a longer concert of carefully curated tunes to accompany the guests as they leave the Nov. 11 Remembrance Day ceremony. The lineup includes regimental marches, odes to the Afghanistan War, and even “Pipes of Peace”, a song written by former Beatle frontman, Paul McCartney.

“Shalom Haverim” was chosen because of its intrinsic message.

“It’s wishing everyone peace, goodbye, and peace be with you,” said McCrady in an interview with The CJN. “I try to include music for different cultures and different generations.”

The concert audio will be piped over to National War Memorial at Confederation Square, beginning at 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time. However, for those people who are not physically in Ottawa that day, it might be difficult to catch the music. McCrady expects most national broadcasters will cut away from the scene soon after the formal live ceremony ends.

Her Remembrance Day concert from the Peace Tower—including Part 1 which she will play ahead of the ceremony at 9:50 a.m.—will be available to hear live-streamed on the House of Commons’ website.

Here’s the link to tune in on Thursday at 9:50 a.m. ET and 11:45 a.m. ET

Other Jewish songs in the Peace Tower roster

Thursday will not be the only time McCrady has included Jewish content in Peace Tower recitals. She does 200 shows a year, at noon, to the delight of tourists and office workers in the Parliament Hill area.

A Jewish Liberal staffer, Alexander Cohen, alerted his followers on social media when he heard McCrady playing “Hava Nagila” on Monday.

“Attention Hebrews on the Hill,” Cohen posted on Twitter.

“I’ve played it before,” McCrady acknowledged, adding she first performed “Hava Nagila” on the Peace Tower carillon in 2012, and again in 2017 as part of her extended hour-long summer concerts.

“I pulled it up [Monday] because I really enjoy it,” McCrady said.

She recalls even dancing to “Hava Nagila” as a Girl Scout when she was growing up in the United States, although McCrady has become a Canadian citizen since moving to Canada to become the official carilloneur in 2008.

When asked why she would dance to it, when she is not of the Jewish faith, McCrady disclosed that she comes from Polish Jewish ancestors who “I don’t believe made it through the Holocaust.”

A relative is currently researching the family tree, including her “Jewish background,” McCrady said.

Chanukah program coming Dec. 1

While the official playlist for Chanukah has not been posted to the website yet, McCrady confirms she will be performing a musical holiday program on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

So far, she plans to do “The Dreidel Song”, and some klezmer music arranged by a Dutch Jewish artist.

While her concert for Remembrance Day should be clearly heard in the area around Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial, because it is a federal statutory holiday, McCrady isn’t so sure the same will be true on Chanukah. The Centre Block of Parliament Hill, including the Peace Tower, is a giant construction site right now, as part of a $5-billion renovation of the historic building.

“My regular noon recitals, it’s hit and miss, due to a cacophony [from the construction noise].”

Other Jewish Canadian Remembrance Day ceremonies you can watch online or attend, on Thursday:

Montreal Jewish Community online ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET (Advance registration required)

Jewish War Veterans of Canada and B’nai Brith national online ceremony, beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET

Edmonton: In person commemoration by the Edmonton Jewish Federation at the Edmonton Jewish Cemetery near the Cenotaph.