Down To Cairo

arr. Paul Jennings

This spry old folk song is ideal for African American History Month in that it was originally a call and response tune for the workers on the riverboats during their heyday. "Cairo" is actually pronounced "kay-row" and refers to the Illinois town at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. If you care to go into the history of the Underground Railroad with your students, it's notable that Cairo was the first town in a "free state" when traveling north on the Mississippi.

While it probably started life fairly improvised, it became more standardized as it was adapted for use in the popular "play party" movement which was promoted since dancing was more and more frowned upon in the 1800s. Play party activities used movements with the qualities of children's games, making them more socially acceptable.

We feature this piece here for soprano recorder and orchestra. You will get the best results with a relaxed, confident performance. Practicing slowly and gradually speeding up should help you get there. If you're interested, you will find the condensed piano/recorder score for this work on our web site.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.