16 May 2008

apparently it's hard-coded

Today I did my swim in the morning, and afterwards joined the crew in the steam room. If you're after 8:30 but not quite to noon, the crowd is notably vintage, so I was the only person under 80 in the whole place. So I'm sittin there enjoying the heat when the entire steam room population of about 12 people suddenly erupts into song. The voices were a bit quavery and only one dude ventured into the harmony line, but the zest and enjoyment was undeniable. I'd have joined in if I knew the songs, but they were some kind of traipsing-in-the-mountains tunes that I'd never heard before.

Their enthusiasm waned when they realized they didn't know very many verses, but it was obviously entertaining enough that later when I was in the salt pot, some others that hadn't been there wanted the full rundown of the day's steam-room singing program. Later on in the locker room I heard yet more talk of who'd been there and what they'd sung. I guess it's a regular thing!

The group singing phenomenon seems to be unique to only a few of these northern countries- I'm told it happens in the Faeroe Islands, and I've witnessed drunken Danes in Reykjavík going at it, but the Finns and the Norwegians barely speak above a whisper so singing seems to be out. What is it about these places that make people feel the need to sing when in a large enough group, even when no booze is involved? It's actually part of what made the choir trip so wonderfully (and I'll admit nerdily) fun. I've always loved singing, and when you're in a group that also loves to do it and can do it in several parts, what better way to say you're happy with the trip and happy with your companions than to stop and sing a song on the street? We sang overlooking Tallinn, we sang in a restaurant, we sang on the street, we sang on the ship as we sailed. It's just one of those things that everyone really ought to try sometime.

(apologies to those waiting to hear about Finland.. I couldn't resist writing about this!)


Angel said...

SInging old people- awesome.

Thought of you today. I bought a Lemon Verbena plant from a crusty old North Carolina farmer at the local farmer's market. I remember that day that you served me lemon verbena tea in your apartment in Boston, so hopefully soon I will have a big shrub of it for tea drinking this summer. I also got a fried peach pie, a Southern specialty that is ohhh so good....

Professor Batty said...

... you've stirred a pleasant memory in me with this post, thanks!

SOe said...

Sounds like the advanced version of singing in the shower :-) Thanks for sharing this strory!

Food, she thought. said...

Further contemplation on the joy and motivation of public singing, I see. What a lovely, thoughtful post. I actually enjoyed this morning flipping back and forth between my blog and yours, due to the massive disparity in cultures represented in the two. The internet makes the world smaller in a wonderful way.

ECS said...

angel: I want to be a singing old person now! They seemed to be having such a great time. And I wouldn't mind having a fried peach pie myself thankyoo.

batty: that's a classic Icelandic tale. I love all the singing here!

soe: it is indeed. I am often tempted to sing in the steam rooms here and have found that Vesturbær has the best acoustics!

beewee: I can't agree more about how the internet's shrunk the world. Isn't it great!