I'm very excited to announce that Alabama Gal is now available for purchase from my store! This was one of the first things I arranged for students at Randolph School, and it was a big hit in my 5th and 6th Grade music classes. I've now added a harmony part designed for changing voices with limited ranges.
The arrangement combines the classic tune—originally known as Buffalo Gals, but who in Alabama wants to sing that?—with The Banjo and Morte! Lamentation by America's first rock star (aka composer), Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869). Gottschalk's life is an inspiring tale of independence, risk-taking, and creativity. Born to Jewish and Creole parents, thirteen-year-old Louis left his family in New Orleans to study music in Paris—no phones, texts, email, or video conferencing. Though initially rejected by the conservatory strictly because of his nationality, he didn’t give up. Eventually he earned admission and the admiration of Chopin, Liszt, and other famous pianists.
Gottschalk became a household name as he traveled the world performing his own highly virtuosic compositions alongside some of the most difficult works other composers ever created. Known for his showmanship, the pianist certainly saved his best for last. On an extensive South American tour, he performed Morte! (Translated, “Death,” and quoted in Alabama Gal) to tremendous applause. After bowing, he sat down to begin Tremolo, the next piece on the program, and then abruptly collapsed. He never recovered and died three weeks later. I can hardly imagine a more dramatic conclusion to the life of a rock star!
When I first heard The Banjo, the virtuosity blew me away, but the lack of melody posed a musical problem. In a word, the piece was boring. Noting that the introduction sounded like a folk song, I started humming along. Eventually, I discovered that Alabama Gal has enough similarities to pair well with Gottschalk’s banjo “accompaniment”. I completed the arrangement in 2006 and performed it multiple times with my elementary general music classes. In the process, we learned a lot about counting sixteenth notes, singing arpeggiated triads, changing tempos, and the wild story of Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
If you have a young choir and want to show off a fantastic accompanist, Alabama Gal is guaranteed to bring down the house!
For more of my arrangements and compositions, be sure to check out my Compositions page.