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CAJUN FOLK SONGS for concert band

Cajun Folk Songs by Frank Ticheli. Hear streaming audio on this page. Suitable for high school, community, and college bands, 6 2/3 minutes duration, Grade 3 1/2. Be sure to hear the sequel: Cajun Folk Songs II, which is Grade 4.


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Composer's Notes

Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, a group of early French colonists who began settling in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) around 1604. In 1755 they were driven out by the British, eventually resettling in South Louisiana. Today there are nearly a million French-speaking descendants of the Acadians living in Louisiana and parts of Texas, preserving many of the customs, traditions, stories, and songs of their ancestors.

Although a rich Cajun folksong tradition exists, the music has become increasingly commercialized and Americanized throughout the twentieth century, obscuring its original simplicity and directness. In response to this trend, Alan and John Lomax traveled to South Louisiana in 1934 to collect and record numerous Cajun folksongs in the field for the Archive of Folk Music in the Library of Congress. By doing so, they helped to preserve Cajun music in its original form as a pure and powerful expression of Louisiana French Society.

"La Belle et le Capitaine" and "Belle" can both be heard in their original versions on the Lomax recordings (Swallow LP-8003-2, Swallow Records Co., Ville Platte, Louisiana). "La Belle et le Capitaine" tells the story of a young girl who feigns death to avoid being seduced by a captain. Its Dorian melody is remarkably free, shifting back and forth between duple and triple meters. In this arrangement the melody is stated three times. The third time an original countermelody is added in flutes, oboe, clarinet, and trumpet.

"Belle" is about a man who goes away to Texas only to receive word of his sweetheart's illness, forcing him to return to Louisiana. Finding her unconscious upon his return, he pawns his horse to try to save her, to no avail. The folk melody is sometimes varied rhythmically, texturally, and coloristically, and an original melody (see mm. 12-21) is added for variety.

In performance, be sure that the crescendo from mm. 74-82 gradually builds to fortissimo. The overall character of this version is considerably brighter and crisper than that of the original, and though the written and agogic accents are important, they should never be overstated. Clarity, transparency, and momentum are the important factors in order to preserve its dance-like effect.

Cajun Folk Songs is composed as a tribute to the people of the old Cajun folksong culture with hopes that their contributions will not be forgotten. The work is dedicated to the Murchison Middle School Band, Austin, Texas, Cheryl Floyd, Director, who commissioned the work and gave its premiere on May 22, 1990.

Addendum to Composer's Notes

Recently, I had the pleasure of guest conducting the Berkner High School Symphonic Band, the 1991 AAAAA Honor Band at the (Texas) T.M.E.A. Convention, in a performance of this piece.

During the rehearsal, I discovered that the second movement was more effective when performed at about quarter note equals 168 (instead of the published marking of 152-160). I now believe that a range of 160-168 seems to work best for this movement.

Although this movement is in 5/4 time, at this fast tempo it is easier and more natural to conduct the 5/4 bars as 6/8 plus 2/4. In other words, instead of beating out five evenly spaced beats per measure, thus:

(Note that the above rhythm is really like one bar of 6/8 and one bar of 2/4.)

It will probably be easier for your students if your initial rehearsals are in the former pattern. Then, as they become more familiar with the music, you can switch to the new pattern. In my own conducting I enjoy switching back and forth between the two patterns as the music moves me.

Frank Ticheli
San Antonio, Texas

1 Full Score
1 Piccolo
4 Flute 1
4 Flute 2
1 Oboe 1
1 Oboe 2
1 Bassoon 1
1 Bassoon 2
4 Bb Clarinet 1
4 Bb Clarinet 2
4 Bb Clarinet 3
1 Eb Alto Clarinet
2 Bb Bass Clarinet
1 Eb Contrabass Clarinet
1 Bb Contrabass Clarinet
2 Eb Alto Saxophone 1
2 Eb Alto Saxophone 2
2 Bb Tenor Saxophone
1 Eb Baritone Saxophone
3 Bb Trumpet 1
3 Bb Trumpet 2
3 Bb Trumpet 3
2 F Horn 1
2 F Horn 2
2 Trombone 1
2 Trombone 2
2 Trombone 3
3 Euphonium (B.C.)
2 Euphonium (T.C.)
4 Tuba
1 Timpani
1 Percussion 1
2 Percussion 2
2 Percussion 3
Percussion Instrumentation:
Percussion 1 (1 player): Xylophone, Marimba
Percussion 2 (1 player): small suspended cymbal (yarn mallet), pair of sand blocks (or cabasa if unavailable), medium large triangle, castanets (mounted or Epstein brand)
Percussion 3 (2 players): tambourine, 4 tom toms, bass drum

Copyright © 1998 Manhattan Beach Music. All Rights Reserved.

Performance by Donald S. George conducting the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Symphony Band.

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