“Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you…” American Folk Song, traditional
What is it about hearing a river? This past spring I stood next to the flooding Mississippi in St. Paul, Minnesota; the sound was positively forbidding. But perhaps there is something even more awesome in the quiet, unhurried flow of a river in summer. Like the Shenandoah that lies outside my window, and down the hill.
No one knows for sure the context of the lyrics of the great song. One thing is clear: someone is in love; and the love is intertwined with that rolling river. The words, and melody, capture a longing—a longing that somehow we all seem to share. Especially when we hear that song, or that river.
Fouled by industrial excess, haphazard housing development, and the carelessness of too many of us who recreate there, the Shenandoah nonetheless continues to be itself. A feast for the eyes, and for the ears, it still speaks to us.
Oh Shenandoah; I do indeed long to hear you. Would that we could hear you better.
Sissel and Paddy Moloney perform Shenandoah.