CARY, N.C. — Sometimes when Elida graduate Mary Lu Anthony runs around her neighborhood, she’ll see someone she really missed in this era of social distancing. Then she hears a voice in her head — more of a tune, really:
“Social distance … Don’t shake hands! Social distance … Don’t give hugs!”
It’s a quirky operatic tune backed with piano and loaded with meaning. It’s one of four public service announcement songs she and her husband, Doug Anthony, both longtime Elida residents, rolled out recently on YouTube.
The couple went from empty nesters to a full house when the coronavirus pandemic stalled their travel plans and brought two of their three sons, Elida grads Kyle and Eric, back home, including one with a wife and a child. (Their third son, Taylor, arranged and produced the music from Nashville.)
In their regular nonprofit mission work with Walk In Two Worlds, they help indigenous artists worldwide hone and record their music to help spread positive messages. One of the categories of songs is public health announcements.
“We never create songs for them, and we don’t compose them either,” Doug Anthony said. “It’s our job to encourage them and record it, to distribute songs to their community. But this was our chance to make good on our end of the music.”
So instead of working in Indonesia or Kenya, as they’d planned on doing, they’re at their new home in North Carolina. Thus came their series of disparate tunes, all with their messages coming from World Health Organization guidelines for stopping the spread of the coronavirus:
• A folksy song about washing your hands, which happens to last the 20 seconds and includes the lyrics “Wash your hands, 20 seconds … water and soap. Wash your hands, 20 seconds, and make the virus stop.”
• A jazzy song, complete with horns, with the lyrics: “I want to rub my eyes,” before the couple’s nieces, Lauren and Sarah Carlson, chime in, “But don’t touch that!”
• The social distancing song Mary Lu Anthony thinks of as she jogs.
• A rock-inspired tune, with the lyrics “Stay home, got a fever, stay home with that,” and plenty of cowbell.
While all their recording equipment is with them in the United States, they’re remaining true to their international quest. They’ve asked their colleagues worldwide to come up with their own public service announcement songs, and they’ve been impressed with how each culture uniquely integrates the shared advice.
Mary Lu Anthony shared the story of a song in coastal Kenya that both Christians and Muslims embraced there that was distributed on WhatsApp and YouTube.
“The Muslims have embraced the song there,” she said. “They’re saying thank you for caring for the whole community.”
In the same way, the “Anthony Family Singers” hope their reminders about the precautions everyone could take might remind in our minds here in America.
“We were trying to create a quirky song that didn’t quite fit into any category stylistically,” Doug Anthony said. “We wanted it to be catchy. To hear you say it’s an earworm is great. We think if it would stick, it would be effective.”