One of the many, many, many … many … great things about summer – besides the arrival of Bing cherries and beefsteak tomatoes – is the sound of buskers bursting into song on street corners all over the city.
I’ve always had a soft spot for buskers – even the off-key ones, oh, and the guy at Dundas and Yonge who drum solos on plastic tubs – but I’ve been trying to show a little more appreciation for their efforts beyond tossing my coinage into their instrument cases.
I always suspected Toronto had a particularly excellent level of buskership (no bias, whatsoever, of course) but now I know why. Not just anyone can whip out their erhu and start playing.
In typical Ontario bureaucratic fashion they need to apply for a license. And audition. Auditions for TTC subway musicians are held every summer at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).
I saw this license on full display today when I approached a young man with a shock of furiously red hair, equally furiously playing the fiddle. Freckles dusted his nose like icing sugar (no, I guess then they’d be white. Never mind.) And his eyes were blue, blue, blue.
He looked about 19 or 20 and the song he fiddled reminded me of one of Ashley MacIsaac’s. He was some good, as they say Down East. I pulled out my wallet but I was thrown off a little by a guy taking his picture with a professional camera set on a tripod.
Was this kid really busking or was it all part of some reality TV show? Then I saw his license in the case and figured he was legit.
So as I tossed my coins in with the pool of others, I managed to catch his eye. I smiled and nodded in my attempt to say “Bravo” without actually saying “Bravo” and he smiled back … not an easy task when the bottom half of your face is wedged against a flailing fiddle …
P.S. Here’s Cape Breton’s master fiddler Ashley MacIsaac. Enjoy!