Cripple Creek

Arranged by Tom Porter
Series Editor: Susan McMane
Voicing: SSA
Instrumentation: piano and violin
Catalog number: AMP 0721
Price: $2.30

Notes on Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is a folk song in the Appalachian tradition, using harmony, fiddle, and piano (in the style of a strumming guitar or banjo). As with most folk music, the origins of the song are uncertain. Some attribute the location of the song to the discovery of gold in Cripple Creek, Colorado in the late 19th Century. Others attribute it to labor disputes in the same area in the early 20th Century. There is a Cripple Creek that flows through Southwest Virginia, and a town in North Carolina named Cripple Creek. Whatever its inspiration, the music is clearly in the Southern mountain tradition.

The fiddle part is meant as suggested material for experienced fiddlers. Violinists should feel free to create their own version (especially bending notes and adding ornamentation to the given part) within the parameters of the composition and in consultation with the conductor. I listened to a number of traditional fiddlers playing this tune, and combined parts to create this version. During the solo fiddle parts, feel free to have the choir “whoop” and “hollar.”

The clapping parts can be ornamented as well, especially the sections that go back and forth between the right and left sides of the choir. Treat it as a playful competition, and allow it to get more complex as it suits the choir. If it gets in the way at any point, omit it. At the end, the choir could raise their hands on the final word, “fun.”

The conductor can treat the choral parts as the basis for improvisation as well, adding bent notes, glissandi, etc. as appropriate to the ensemble. Pronunciation should fit the character of the piece, bright and in a folk style. The soloist sections (m. 25, m. 100, and m. 121/125) can be a single person or up to ten people, each singing a solo phrase.

The 1/2 measures and elided phrases serve to further the improvisatory feel. The section at m. 116 is repeated at the discretion of the conductor. The piano (lh) and top divisi part of S2 begin and parts are added one at a time. On the conductor's cue, everyone takes the Final ending.

Although modulation is not typical of folk music, the arrangement briefly explores two other keys– –the subdominant and the subtonic– –suggesting mixolydian mode, a typical device of Appalachian folk music.

recording performed by The San Francisco Girls Chorus
San Francisco, California
Susan McMane, conductor

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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