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Outdoors: The lusty month of May

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Tra la, it's May, the lusty month of May,

That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray

I loved the Frederick Loewe lyrics to “The Lusty Month of May” from the 1960 musical Camelot long before I knew what the word “lusty” meant.

But I truly didn’t understand the song until years later, when I sang in the Festival Choir at Interlochen.

One year, we performed Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" under the direction of Hugh Floyd.

I remember we were rehearsing in the Interlochen Bowl, either the first section, Springtime, or the last, The Court of Love.

The choir was not singing with the eager exuberance that Dr. Floyd expected. So he stopped the rehearsal and talked to us.

He explained that life in a medieval castle was not as romantic as we might imagine, especially in the winter.

Castles were cold and damp, and the stench must have been appalling.

Even worse, there was absolutely no privacy. People were everywhere, crowed together day and night.

Presumably, sexual attraction was rampant, but nobody, from the nobility to the simple folk, could act a “frivolous whim, proper or im.”

Imagine the pent-up frustration, the longings, and then finally, it was the lusty month of May!

Folks could go outside, find some privacy and “throw self-control away.”

Do birds fret over an unfulfilled urge to breed?

Not really.

The reproductive organs in birds are undeveloped most of the year.

But in May, cues such as hours of daylight stimulate hormonal secretions, which cause the reproductive organs to enlarge and become functional.

Yes, the hormone is testosterone.

Curiously, large quantities of testosterone also triggers singing in male birds, tra la.

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"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.