"Oh Shenandoah!" seems to have originated in the early
nineteenth century as a land ballad in the areas of the
Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, with a story of a
Scots/Irish trader who fell in love with the daughter
of the Indian chief Shenandoah. The song was taken up
by sailors plying these rivers, and thus made its way
down the Mississippi to the open ocean. The song had
great appeal for American deep-sea sailors, and its
rolling melody made it ideal as a capstan shanty, where
a group of sailors push the massive capstan bars around
and around in order to lift the heavy anchor.
Before and during the French and Indian War, the
Scots/Irish were among the first to suffer, and among
those who suffered most because of their inhabitation
of the frontier and their proximity to the various
Indian tribes, many of whom couldn?t get along with
each other, let alone, with the white settlers. The
Scots/Irish had fresh memories of the border raids from
the days back in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The song reached its first height of popularity perhaps
a little before the 1840s, the beginning of the fast
clipper ship era that added so much to American growth.
The song was traditional with the U.S. Army cavalry,
who called it ?The Wild Mizzourye?. In fact,
?Shenandoah? was known by countless names, including:
?Shennydore?, ?The Wide Missouri?, ?The Wild
Mizzourye?, ?The Oceanida? and ?Rolling River?.
The song "Oh, Shenandoah" became almost a hymn in
Virginia, commemorating these early Scots/Irish
settlers and their land that they loved.
Although this piece was originally written for
traditional folk instruments, I arranged it for Flute
and Concert (Pedal) Harp.