We’re told normal people measure summer by the length of the days, which isn’t unreasonable. We may even have done this once. Now, summering in Scotland, where summer lasts one week, and doesn’t always fall in summertime (in our first honours year it arrived and went again in March, with temperatures of 25 that never returned), we gauge the season by the time of year at which we instinctively turn to Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Ian&Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, and Peter, Paul and Mary. It bemuses the people who associate us with opera, but Darcy Farrow, Early Mornin’ Rain, Did She Mention My Name, and A-Round the Corner (B-Neath the Berry Tree) are as synonymous with summer for us as suncream and the long vac are for others.
This is the music we sang away at summer camp, first at Gay Venture on Kashagawigamog, and later at Tawingo. (Camp Occonto, which fell awkwardly between them has the distinction of leading us in virtually nothing but Fish Gotta Swim from Showboat , at least in our memory.) It was also the music our family reached for on long car journeys, when we weren’t listening to Paul Temple, naturally. Failing that, we put it on once we’d actually arrived on lake Huron and wanted something to listen to while doing the washing up. More than once we scrubbed dishes to the jubilant exclamations of Tzena, the Canadian revision to This Land is Your Land, The Weaver’s gentle swipes at The Rock Island Line, the bizarre but wonderful predicament of Charlie on The M.T.A.
For that reason this music has become our piece of Canada abroad. Not because the music is all of it Canadian -we know it isn’t – but for the associations it holds; of sitting shivering and damp haired by icy Kashagawigamog, dining hall sing-songs and the stifling heat of a sun-baked car. If you do wonder about Canadian summer though, then go listen to The Travellers; they aren’t wrong, the black fly can indeed be found everywhere.