But O, Canada.
Soon after I arrived in Toronto the other week, as I was mingling with the Canadians and absorbing their folkloric traditions, I heard tales of the Toronto Morris dancers piling onto buses and subways after practice and starting up song fests. I wasn't sure what I thought of this, really, since it seemed to me as if this might be like those groups of high school drama students hanging out in packs and being obnoxiously and loudly and gigglingly self-involved in public. That didn't seem like Morris dancers to me, whose public singing and dancing is, at least in theory, meant to be inclusive and engaging of the passersby.
I needn't have worried.
On Saturday morning my team was scattered throughout a public bus with the Toronto Women's Sword team, a delightful group of lovely ladies who hosted us for the day and led us through our afternoon tour. We were on our way to the Distillery district to meet up with the Northwest Clog group from St. Mary's. Not long before we reached our destination, one of the women started up, in a clear lovely voice that rang through the bus, "I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still." Then, in silvery feminine harmonic chorus, the rest of the team chimed in with "Da Doo Run Run Run Da Doo Run Run." Then my team joined in, from throughout the bus, adding bass lines. This song brought us to our stop and it felt like the most natural thing in the world, to be singing on a bus like that. It was joy.
Nobody glared at us, or even looked uncomfortable. Not even the driver.
We sang on and off again throughout the afternoon, while waiting for buses as well as sitting on them, and we eventually joined up with the Toronto Morris Men at a pub, where they were all sitting around drinking beer and singing chorus songs in boisterous delight. The pub proprietors seemed perfectly comfortable with this. As were the proprietors at the pubs we stopped in the next day, when the Toronto Morris Men themselves were our tourguides. One of these pubs was wholly new to the Toronto Morris men, but the planned pub was closed so they just went in and asked the proprietor if we could come in and take over the back porch and that was fine, they were happy for the business.
Again, I can't imagine that happening where I live, in my country.
Most spectacularly, at one pub in particular, a pub called the Black Swan, we sat throughout the pub and had a singing session that is still ringing through my bones. In public. On a Sunday afternoon. Where a man who was a stranger to us all asked if he could sing a song, and so he did, and we all joined in his chorus and even helped him through some verses, making him very very happy. I thought he was going to cry. Maybe he did cry.
And then we got back on the subway.
We were clustered in different areas of the subway car. From the middle of one cluster one of the Toronto Morris men began a song I didn't know, but a chorus song is a chorus song. From throughout the car we all sang along, adding, to my perspective, a festive air to a crowded subway on a Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend. As far as I could see and tell, and wholly counter to my experiences where I live, in my country, the other passengers were entertained and curious. Clearly we were not performing. We were celebrating. We were enjoying ourselves. We were inviting others to enjoy themselves as well. We talked to anybody who wanted to talk with us.
Then we got off the subway and continued on our way.