So how exactly did Ottawa get its name? As a history buff, I figured it would be nice to know and what better way to discover the history of Ottawa’s beginning than through a musical.
Turns out on New Year’s Day 1855, the little hamlet of Bytown changed its name to Ottawa in a bid to distance itself from its infamous past and convince the Queen of England to name it the capital city of Canada.
‘Bye Bye Bytown’ is the life and times story of Lt. Col. John By who was charged by England in building the Rideau Canal – a secondary protected supply route from Montreal to Kingston in Upper Canada for military reasons in case of war against the Americans – and the town that came to bear his name.
The musical score was excellent and the harmonies were well done. Particularly the nod to Gilbert and Sullivan in the madrigal piece ‘The Politics of Politics’ The cast was hit and miss but considering a number of them were students they did an admirable job. The story itself was a little weak often tarrying too long on each musical number as it tried to paint vignettes of the lives and times of the era. But it did also provide an excellent history lesson on John By. Turns out he was recalled to England to give an account for overspending on the canal by a new British government that wanted to disassociate itself from the previous administration and the high costs overruns coming from colonies overseas and instead of being rewarded for a job well done under difficult circumstances, he spent the rest of his life – a short four years – trying to justify his accomplishments.