Oxner, Diane. Soprano, teacher, b Lunenburg, NS, 10 Nov 1928; B MUS (Curtis) 1954. Her mother, Pearl Young Oxner (1899-1968), was active locally for 50 years as a contralto, a teacher, and the conductor of the Lunenburg Male Choir, which performed at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Diane Oxner attracted attention at the 1950 Halifax Music Festival and studied 1950-4 at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She received honourable mention in the 1954-5 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow'. Active in Halifax music in the 1950s, she took leading roles in several operas, sang on CBC radio (eg, 'Invitation,' summer 1955) and TV, and appeared 1956-8 at the Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts.
In 1958 Oxner began teaching at the New Brunswick Academy of Music and became a church soloist in Saint John. In the years following she performed extensively on radio and in recital in southern New Brunswick and was a soloist with the New Brunswick SO. She was music director 1969-72 of the New Brunswick Opera Association. In 1974 she moved to Scotland, but she returned to Canada in 1982. In 1985 she became choral director of the Lunenburg Chorale. In 1991 she continued to teach privately and at the Maritime Conservatory of Music in Halifax. Among her pupils has been Sarah McLachlan. Oxner's repertoire included many folksongs. She made the LP Traditional Folksongs of Nova Scotia (1973, Rodeo CCLP-2011) and also participated in Canadian Folk Songs: A Centennial Collection (9-RCA CS-100/5-ACM 39).
The official song of Nova Scotia, Farewell to Nova Scotia, also known as ‘The Nova Scotia Song, is a favourite folk song of unknown authorship, believed to have been written shortly before or during World War I. Derived from ‘The Soldier’s Adieu’, by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill, the song was changed to reflect a soldier’s sorrow at leaving the hills behind as he heads out to sea.
Farewell to Nova Scotia gained popularity when it was recorded in 1964 by Catherine McKinnon to be used as the theme song of the Halifax CBC television show ‘Singalong Jubilee’. The song has been published in numerous books including Helen Creighton’s ‘Traditional Songs from Nova Scotia’ and Carrie B. Grover’s ‘A Heritage of Song’.
Farewell to Nova Scotia invokes images of a time when Nova Scotia was famed for wooden ships and iron men. Today, the song is used by many to reflect the sentiments of mass migrations of young people from Nova Scotia westward to Ontario and Alberta.
HONEST WORKING MAN
Written in 1929, this is a Cape Breton workers’ song that protests the importation of non-unionized, surplus labour from Newfoundland during the summer months. They were imported to meet seasonal demands or to fill the gap left by striking workers. These individuals became the target for contempt and ridicule by the local workforce. Although cited as the ‘national anthem’ of Cape Breton workers by both Stuart McCawley and Alphonse MacDonald, this song is rarely sung in Cape Breton today.
One fine evening at my leisure, I thought it quite a pleasure
To write a local ditty on the subject of the day
So I pinched a three cent taper, and a sheet of foolscap paper
I sat down quite contentedly, to pass the time away
Way down in East Cape Breton, where they knit the socks and mittens
Chezzetcook is represented by the husky black and tan
May they never be rejected, and home rule be protected
And always be connected with the honest working man
What raises high my dander, next door lives the Newfoundlander
His wife I cannot stand her, since high living she began
First came the railroad rackers, and also the codfish packers
Who steal the cheese and crackers from the honest working man
When the leaves fall in the autumn, and fish freeze to the bottom
They take a three-ton schooner and go round the western shore
They load her with provision, hard tack and codfish mizzen
The like I never heard of since the downfall of Bras d'Or
The man who mixes mortar, gets a dollar and a quarter
While the sugar-factory worker only gets a dollar ten
Now I have a neighbor, who subsists on outside labour
And in winter scarcely earns enough to keep a sickly hen
We cross the Bay of Fundy, we got here on a Monday
Did you see me brother Angus? Now tell me if you can
He was first a soap-box greasman, but now he is a policeman
And he couldn't earn his living as an honest working man
The seventh of November so well do I remember
We crossed the little narrows and we landed in Boisdale
We went down to Joe Dowey, and we had a lemon howdy
And we all got rowdy dowdy on the road to Margeree