Art, Music

Press Play: Oh Shenandoah

The first time I heard “Oh Shenandoah” was at a concert when I was in elementary school. The boys choir sang it, and I was enchanted. They hit the high notes beautifully, and I instantly loved the melody.

“Oh Shenandoah” is a North American traditional folk song with origins in the early 19th century. Supposedly, it developed as a sea shanty among itinerant French fur traders. As is typical of folk songs, there are several versions. Mine is pared down to the the most general lyrics; they only hint at the story painted by the more involved versions of the song, which recount a thwarted love affair between a fur trader and a Native American lady.

I chose the pared down lyrics for their emotional elegance: They evoke a longing for a place of nature that embodies a sense of home.

For more about American folk music, click here.

To listen to more of my folk covers, as well as original music, click here.