African American Spiritual (mid-1800s)

Lyrics

1. Oh when the saints,
Go marching in,
Oh when the saints
Go marching in,
Oh how I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in,

2. Oh when the sun
Begins to shine,
Oh when the sun
Begins to shine,
Oh how I want to be in that number,
When the sun begins to shine.

3. Oh when the band
Begins to play,
Oh when the band
Begins to play,
Oh how I want to be in that number,
When the band begins to play.

4. Oh when the choir,
Begins to sing,
Oh when the choir
Begins to sing,
Oh how I want to be in that number
When the choir beings to sing.

Background

A traditional use of “The Saints” is as a funeral march. In the funeral music tradition of New Orleans, Louisiana, often called the “jazz funeral,” while accompanying the coffin to the cemetery, a band would play the tune as a dirge. On the way back from the interment, it would switch to the familiar upbeat “hot” or “Dixieland” style. While the tune is still heard as a slow spiritual number on rare occasions, from the mid 20th century it has been more commonly performed as a “hot” number.

Performances

Here is the Sing-A-long version for listening to and downloading:

The Saints