When I was a little girl in England, there was a teenager in our neighborhood who played the piano. The group of little kids in the neighborhood that I played with often went to her house and sang as this teenager played the piano.
I didn’t know that what she was actually doing was preparing my friend who lived across the street from me to sing down at the community center. When the time actually came, my friend, Anne, had a kind of rash on her face from licking her lips too much, and her parents forbade her from singing on the stage.
My sister and I got put in her place. They made us dresses out of crepe paper stapled together. They had full gathered skirts and big bows. This is one of the many songs we sang. At the time, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me where this song was talking about, but later I was surprised to learn that it came from America. It is the Florida State song written by Stephen Foster in the 1800’s. I enjoyed this song when we sang it, but it had me completely baffled. I thought it was written about some country place in England at the time, and I had no idea where the Swanee River was. When we actually got on stage, we sang a song about the froggy breaking the ice, but I don’t remember the lyrics to that one. This is the song I remember because I liked it, and the lyrics had me baffled because it sounded like it was singing about a wonderful place, but I had no idea where that wonderful place was. Now, I know it was actually singing about a cotton plantation in Florida, but at the time, I had no idea Florida even existed.
The Swanee River
Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away.
There’s where my heart is turning ever,
There’s where the old folks stay.
All up and down the old creation,
Sadly I roam
Still longing for the old plantation
And for the old folks at home.
All the world seems sad and lonely
Everywhere I roam
Oh, how my heart grows so weary,
Far from the old folks at home.
All around the little farm I wondered,
When I was young,
Then many happy days I squandered,
Many songs I sung,
When I was playing with my brother,
Happy was I,
Oh, take me to my kind old mother,
There let me live and die.
One little hut among the bushes,
One that I love,
Still sadly to my memory rushes,
No matter where I roam,
When will I see the bees a humming
All round the comb?
When will I hear the banjo strumming
Down in my good old home?