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What Is the State Song of Oregon?

By Angela Farrer
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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The state song of Oregon is "Oregon My Oregon," which was selected in 1920 as the winning entry of a state-wide song competition. The Society of Oregon Composers sponsored the contest to give all residents a chance to submit their creative work for consideration as the state song. A composer from Portland named Henry Murtagh wrote the instrumental score, and an amateur lyric writer named John Andrew Buchanan added the words. Although both collaborated on the song, the finished copyright was only in Henry Murtagh's name. Once the two of them were announced as the winners of the state song of Oregon, the composer's society launched a campaign to promote "Oregon My Oregon" as often as possible, and it soon became a regular number performed at school and community events before the song's official legislative adoption in 1927.

John Andrew Buchanan had previously written poetry and song lyrics as a hobby. He earned his living as a judge in the city of Astoria at the time of the competition for possible state songs. He also previously worked as a school teacher and served in the Oregon state legislature.

When he began working on the state song of Oregon, Buchanan wanted to capture the rugged beauty of the state's mountains, lakes, and forests. He also wanted to honor the settlers of previous centuries who had worked hard to make Oregon both their home and a unique part of the United States. Possibly thanks to the recognition he received from the winning the state song of Oregon contest, Buchanan later realized a dream of having one of his books of poems accepted for publication.

Before entering the contest for the state song of Oregon, Henry Murtagh earned a living writing Broadway scores as well as playing the organ in various movie theaters during the time when silent films were played along with piano, organ, or sometimes calliope music. He wrote the music for this state song with the intent to make it unique among two other state songs with the same title pattern and instrumental tune. The songs "Michigan, My Michigan" and "Maryland, My Maryland" had been written to the same tune, and Murtagh did not want his finished work placed into the same category that he might have viewed as generic and unimaginative. He instead wrote the score as a livelier march in the F major key with the two lyric verses spread over 16 lines of musical notes.

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