Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for solo Violin and Keyboard

By: Wallis Willis
For: Solo Solo Violin + piano
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Wallis Willis
Difficult (Grades 7+)
2 minutes
Jazz music
License details
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An arrangement of Swing Low, for Violin and Piano.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was composed by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory, sometime before 1862. He was inspired by the Red River which reminded him of the Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah being taken to heaven by a chariot. Some scholars (see Songs of the underground railroad) believe this song and "Steal Away", also composed by Willis, had some hidden lyrics referring to the Underground Railroad.

Alexander Reid, a minister at a Choctaw boarding school, heard Willis singing these two songs and transcribed the words and melodies. He sent the music to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jubilee Singers then popularized the songs during a tour of the United States and Europe.

The song enjoyed a resurgence during the 1960s Civil Rights struggle and the folk revival; it was performed by a number of artists, perhaps most famously during this period, by Joan Baez during the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival.

The song was adopted by England rugby union fans during the last match of the 1988 season.

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