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Together Apart: Tony Oxford’s tribute to essential workers

I met singer and guitarist Tony Oxford on the docks in St. John’s, NL a couple of years ago.

We were about to spend two weeks together on an expedition ship circumnavigating Newfoundland. Tony was one of the musicians in residence on the voyage, along with Gerry Strong and Alan Doyle, giving the guests aboard some local musical colour. In addition to his original and traditional songs, Tony would regale us with Newfoundland cultural lore, stories, fishing tales and the unique language that is found only on The Rock.

A month or so ago, Tony composed a new song, Together Apart, which arose because of the pandemic we currently find ourselves in.

Tony, coming from the tiny community of Cox’s Cove on the north shore of Bay of Islands, NL is a kind soul. He embodies the goodness and generosity of spirit found in people all over Newfoundland. If you’ve seen the musical Come From Away or read the book or seen the documentary, you know what I mean. This is an island of generous souls who will feed you, give you a bed, or give you the shirt off their back if you need it.

So for Tony, faced with the unspeakable misery of the people most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, sitting by and doing nothing just wasn’t in the cards. He wrote this song to pay tribute to the nurses, the doctors and all of the other workers whose presence on the job is absolutely essential while the rest of us work from home and keep ourselves physically isolated from everyone else.

You can view Tony’s live performance on voice, guitar and harmonica, from his living room, on YouTube here:

You can also hear a produced and mastered version of the song here, fully arranged:

Tony turned his deep thoughts about the pandemic into his song, comparing fighting the pandemic to a war that all humankind must fight. We need to shelter safe and warm, he said, while we weather this storm. We must join together by staying apart, he sings, and this new war might actually lead to peace.

Tony’s song goes on to recognize the essential workers and the sacrifices they are making. They are fighting defenseless, he said, on behalf of the whole human race. Tony also talks about being apart from our own loved ones: we must stay together by staying apart, he said. “You might not be in my arms, but you’re still in my heart.”

Well Tony, and a whole lot of other generous souls from Newfoundland made their way into my heart when I was there on that expedition, and they’ll never leave, no matter how long we all must stay isolated to fight this virus. Good on you, Tony Oxford for putting those heartfelt sentiments to music. Tony, you have sung what we’ve all been thinking.

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