This suite is based on three popular songs from the south that have been performed through the years by fiddles, bluegrass groups, country, and popular music bands since before the Civil War. The rich heritage of the mountains and plantations of the south has produced some beautiful melodies, used by composers Copland and Bartók among many others.
Let each player take their turn with the melody by bringing it to the fore. This is very melody-based music and the melodies need to be heard at all times. The string bass part can be played by a bass marimba, but it really adds to the fiddle tunes if you have a player available.
COTTON-EYED JOE is a fiddle song based tune that comes from the plantations and is regarded fondly as the South Texas national anthem. It is a very popular dance song that has inspired many line and square dances because of its infectious rhythm.
When performing Cotton-Eyed Joe, keep a good steady dance tempo, around 120 bpm. Too fast and it will be too hard for the audience to dance! The technical issues will be worth the trouble. Exaggerate the dynamics and accents, and most of all have fun with this great folk tune!
COLD RAIN AND SNOW is an old Appalachian mountain tune with a beautiful melody that has been recorded by many well-known groups, including The Grateful Dead. In some versions, it falls into the genre of a murder ballad, where the husband takes his wife’s life for treating him badly. The lyrics are very sad and lonely, depicting the harsh life of the cold mountains.
Be sure to use rubato when performing this movement. Be as expressive as you can be and find a way to make it yours. Look up the lyrics, listen to the recordings, and get a feel for what this tune is about. This haunting and simple melody will stay with you forever.
COLD FROSTY MORNING is based on a Scottish fiddle tune about the Battle of Culloden in 1746 during the Jacobite Rebellion. The Appalachian mountains teemed with fiddle tunes from Britain, Ireland and Scotland since the mountains had a lot of settlers from these areas. These tunes make up the basis for the traditional fiddle tradition found in our southern mountains.
This is a dance tune, so begin at a medium tempo, 120 bpm, that will keep the tune relaxed. At the accelerando, let yourself go! As fast as you can perform the ending is the best!