This arrangement is a collection of three folk song melodies that highlight female characters. The melodies that appear in this collection each undergo a series of transformations in harmony and orchestration. The first time each folk song appears, it is harmonized following a simple phrase structure that highlights the tonic and dominant chords that one might encounter while singing in an elementary music classroom or singing around the campfire with one’s guitar. As the melodies repeat, the harmony is elaborate and then taken further away from functionality to a more centric based approach.
Written by Cool White, Alabama Gal (also known as Alabama Gals) was originally published as “Lubly Fan” in 1844. The song was very popular through the Civil War era, and it became a favorite tune of minstrel audiences because the words could easily be changed to reflect the location of each performance (e.g. Buffalo Gals, Charleston Gals, Mobile Gals).
“Alabama gal, won’t you come out tonight, and dance by the light of the moon.”
Ida Red was first released in 1929 on Riley Pucket’s record album, which went on to become the second best-selling country music record for that year. Ida Red is commonly considered a folk song that originated in Kentucky, but the tune is thought to have attributes of the African-America folk song tradition with similar variations from the Civil War era.
“Down the road and across the creek, can’t get a letter but once a week.
Ida Red, Ida Blue, I got stuck on Ida too.”
Goodnight, Irene was first recorded by Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter in 1933. Lead Belly claimed to have learned the tune from his uncles Terell and Bob. A tune by Gussie L. Davis written in 1886 has several lyrical and structural similarities to Goodnight, Irene although no information on its melody has survived. The lyrics tell of the singer’s troubled past with his love, Irene, and express his sadness and frustration. The most famous line of the song is “sometimes I get a great notion to jump in the river and drown.”
“Goodnight Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.”
With all of my compositions and arrangements, I seek suggestions and inspiration from my sisters, Annette and Janelle, who are respectively middle school and elementary music educators. The first melody, Alabama Gal, was suggested to me, because of the fun syncopation and tuneful melody. I suppose I should have renamed it “Colorado Gal.” The third melody, Goodnight, Irene, is a song that my sisters and I have regularly performed throughout our hometown in rural Colorado with the acoustic group High Prairie Quintet (HPQ). When the HPQ performs this song, it always ends slower, a cappella, and improvisational. I tried to emulate those characteristics in my arrangement. After selecting these two melodies, I thought it would be neat to have the three folk song melodies center around women and began searching for the third melody. I knew finding Ida Red was fate: a fun melody that shared the name of my Grandma’s sister.