Oh, Canada: Saskatchewan singer proud despite flak over anthem at NBA Finals

A Saskatchewan-born country singer says she has no regrets about putting her own spin on O Canada before Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Tenille Arts says she heard from a lot of people who loved her rendition of the national anthem on Wednesday night in Oakland, Calif., where the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to take a 2-1 lead in the championship basketball series.

But the 25-year-old, who is originally from Weyburn, admits there were also negative online comments about some flourishes she added to the melody.

“The main goal as a Canadian is to sing the anthem with pride and that’s what I wanted to do,” Arts said in an interview Thursday as she was about to catch a flight home to Nashville, Tenn.

Several people on Twitter have accused Arts of “butchering” the anthem by veering away from its familiar tune.

But many others tweeted praise, including Canadian country star Brett Kissel who wrote: “Stop throwing shade. ↕TenilleArts did a GREAT version of our anthem … Period.”

Arts, who has performed O Canada at several smaller sports venues, is making no apologies for singing the anthem her way.

“A lot of people really loved it,” she said. “I think that the people that didn’t like it just didn’t like the change and that’s fine. But that’s the way that I sing it.”

Arts said she found out a week ago that she would be singing at the NBA game. She was nervous and excited on stage.

Her performance was followed by members of the metal band Metallica, who performed an instrumental version of the American anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

“It was amazing, definitely an unforgettable experience,” Arts said.

Colleen Weimer, a retired music teacher and choir director at Weyburn Comprehensive School, said the southern Saskatchewan city is abuzz.

“There’s lots of hometown pride about Tenille.”

Weimer described Arts as hardworking and shy during her time in the choir. She recalled that Arts starred as Ado Annie in the musical “Oklahoma!” during her last year of high school.

Arts did a great job singing O Canada, Weimer said.

“She added her own personal touches to it and she made it the national anthem sang by Tenille Arts and that’s what you need to do.”

It isn’t the first time a performance of Canada’s national anthem has been divisive.

There was a harsh backlash to Victoria singer Nelly Furtado’s flute-accompanied version during the NBA all-star game in 2016, which also deviated from the traditional melody.

The same year at the Major League Baseball all-star game, a member of The Tenors created a furor when he incorporated the phrase “all lives matter” into O Canada, causing his ouster from the group. Many saw the alteration as an insult to the anti-racism Black Lives Matter movement.

The Tenors, minus the rogue member, opened Game 1 of the NBA Finals last week singing O Canada without incident.

In 1994, Dennis Parks’ performance of O Canada at a Canadian Football League game in Las Vegas sounded more like O Christmas Tree.

The vice president of communications for the CFL described being flooded with faxes and phone calls in a Baltimore Sun article at the time. Then-prime minister Jean Chretien also got an apology from the Las Vegas Posse team owner.

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