Play Us A Tune: The Beach

May 28, 2020

During this time of social distancing and separation, there is one thing that can unite nearly all humans on the planet…music. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Flagstaff-based musician Tony Norris was on the beach in San Felipe, Mexico. He was working on plans to bring back a folk music festival he put on there for many years before taking a break for health reasons in 2018. Tony decided to stay put and ride out the initial wave of the pandemic from his spot on the beach. It was there that he reflected on the idea of shelter, kindness and connection. In this week’s installment of Play Us a Tune, Tony Norris a song called Morgan. 

The view from Flagstaff-based musician and storyteller Tony Norris' beach refuge in San Felipe, Mexico
Credit Tony Norris


TN: While we were down there, word of the pandemic came. All the family headed home, but I decided to stay on alone. I greatly enjoyed the solitude and being with the ocean.

I noticed an old fellow who would come in from the desert about sunset each evening and walk across the face of the volcanic mountain just east of me, carrying building supplies. He was creating a little camp in a dry arroyo.

One day, the federales came out to remove illegal nets from the cove. One of them looked up on the hillside and saw his little camp, and he and another soldier went up and proceeded to destroy it, to tear it apart, to scatter things and break them, pour out his water.

Flagstaff-based musician and storyteller Tony Norris
Credit Tony Norris

I was reminded of a song written by my friend, Tim Henderson. In West Virginia, an old man had squatted on a piece of vacant land near Tim’s home. And he built himself a little lean-to, cooked over an open fire. The little money that he needed to buy beer with, he made by following the grain harvest, clearing out the corners of the fields with his scythe, where the machinery could not go.

But his real calling was to care for the family cemeteries that were scattered throughout. And he would go to these old family cemeteries and clear the brush and weeds out of them and commune with the people he had known. He knew their histories and everything about them.

This is Tim Henderson’s song, Morgan.

Play Us a Tune is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you are a gig musician who's out of work because of the pandemic and would like to play us a tune, drop her an email inquiry at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.