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Busking on the Edinburgh High Street October 22nd, 2010

There’s nothing like busking on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh–the people are friendly and generous, the musicians are good, and the atmosphere is haunting.  Last weekend I stopped to compliment Martin Peacock, who performs every evening across the street from St. Giles Church.  The man sings every song like it’s the last one he’ll ever sing, and he does so for hours on end, even when no one’s listening.  When I stopped to pay my respects and toss a couple of quid into his guitar case, he invited me to sing along with him; so I found myself busking again for the first time in a couple of decades.  Last night I sang again with Martin–and with Yenz the double bassist from Germany, who happened along and spontaneously joined us.  For an hour and a half we made up melodies and lyrics as we went along, singing like there’s no tomorrow, laughing out loud.  The experience took me back to my days singing on the streets of Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Victoria–except  we were in one of the most ancient and beautiful cities of Europe.  As a near-full moon slowly rose above us and a soft mist descended, our voices and instruments echoed off the walls of St. Giles, and the passersby applauded, tapped their toes, sang along, and tossed us what coins and bills they could spare.  There is a freedom and a danger and an exuberance and a sorrow and a thrill to busking that makes it more real than any sort of formal performance.  That’s why I’m heading back out to the High Street again tonight to join my friend Martin once more.  Hopefully Yenz will stop by again too, so we can make it a band.

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