The Tabernacle Choir Blog

“Shenandoah” Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: History

“Shenandoah” is an American folk song dating back to the early 19th century and is believed to have originated from French travelers journeying down the Missouri River. It was printed in the April 1876 issue of The New Dominion Monthly in an article titled "Sailor Songs," by Captain Robert Chamblet Adams. By the 1880s, the song had become popular with sailors and was sung as a sea shanty, or “work song.” The song was included in the 1960s movies Shenandoah and How the West Was Won. The Choir's performance of the song was also featured during the final credits of the 1995 film Nixon.

When the Choir recorded a 9/11 special to commemorate the 10-year anniversary, they performed “Shenandoah” as the first song. The special was narrated by noted music lover, Tom Brokaw, who in a radio interview once said, “There’s a song that I suspect I would like to have played at my funeral and it’s called ‘Shenandoah.’ I’ve always loved it as a choral piece, but the lyrics puzzled me because like most people, I thought it was about the Shenandoah Valley and it would say across the wide Missouri. So I then did some research . . . and it was a song that was developed by the boatmen on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and it’s the tale of a man who pines for the daughter of Shenandoah, who was a famous Iowa chief. . . . That song speaks to me about where I come from, about the Missouri River especially—I was raised on it—and about the Great Plains." Click here to listen to the entire radio interview.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been performing “Shenandoah” for years, and it is included on the 2004 album, America's Choir: Favorite Songs, Hymns, & Anthems, which is a companion to the documentary America’s Choir. In the video, the Choir performs Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Shenandoah," with lyrics below.

Shenandoah (Lyrics)

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Away, we’re bound away, across the wide Missouri

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Away, we’re bound away, across the wide Missouri

Tis seven long years, since last I saw you
Away you rolling river
Tis seven long years, since last I saw you
Away, we're bound away across the wide Missouri

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Away, we’re bound away, across the wide Missouri

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Across the wide Missouri

Oh, Shenandoah, oh, Shenandoah, oh, Shenandoah