The songs that bring us together

Online news this week reported so many distressing behaviours by people with no regard for the welfare of family or friends, it was a welcome relief to come upon five musical videos posted by airline travellers who were stalled at Pearson International Airport waiting for their delayed Westjet flight. The waiting room was crammed with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians anxious to get back to The Rock.

But rather than fuss, fume, berate counter staff and otherwise make a big deal out of a 30-minute delay everyone was helpless to shorten, one passenger took out his button accordion, another strapped on his guitar, and together they offered stranded travellers the equivalent of a spontaneous Newfoundland kitchen party.

Those who knew the words to standard house party songs lifted their voices, including one man with a booming baritone that called to mind Stan Rogers. A 10-year-old lad, standing nonchalantly with his hands in his pockets, sang two solos. Anyone who felt so inclined got up and danced, including four young women who jigged together, linked arms and swung each other in turn. Everyone else kept time swaying, clapping hands, or tapping toes.

At one point a yellow-jacketed employee walked through the waiting room with a happy grin on his face. I wondered if his job compelled him to weave his way through the crowd or if he couldn’t resist a closer look at the goings-on.

One traveller reported even the flight’s captain sang along.

I had never before heard any of the five songs which included Gray Foggy Day, Sweet Forget Me Not, Music and Friends, Capelin Time, and Aunt Martha’s Sheep.

The last song grew from the trusted plot of Newfoundland mischief, in this case the theft of Aunt Martha’s sheep, and a Mountie invited to share in the crime when he innocently accepted their invitation to a midnight meal of “moose”.

The impromptu musical interlude was so enticing it made me consider buying a button accordion and learning to play it, though I know from a brief previous experience how exasperating a button accordion can be to a beginner. Each key makes one sound on the intake, a totally different sound on the outtake. I spent hours learning to master a recognizable rendition of Marching Through Georgia on the mid-sized Hohner my dad took up when he was a widower in his 80s.

One lady posted several videos of the gathering on Facebook and by the time the flight landed a few hours later in St. John’s, her videos had been watched by thousands of delighted folk. Trump would have envied her rival following.

The song they sang, Music and Friends, tells of how music brings people together and I’d wager by the time those passengers deplaned in St. John’s many new friendships had been cemented.

They made it easy to understand how Gander stepped up so generously after 9/11 when 38 passenger planes were diverted to Newfoundland to spend five days before they were allowed to leave. A total of 6,700 strangers from 100 countries descended on the small city. Were Newfoundlanders fazed? Nope.

Schools were closed to become hostels. Housewives rushed to prepare sandwiches and meals. Homes welcomed whole families. Pharmacists worked to provide nicotine gum and prescription medicines. Donations of clothing and bedding poured in. Visitors were taken sightseeing, moose hunting, berry picking and barbecuing.

This glimpse of delayed passengers enjoying each other’s company instead of ranting over a delay could have been better only if recorded on a wider screen. You can view it at cbc.ca.

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