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Stephen Foster

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Compositions for: Piano

#Arrangements for: Piano
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Beautiful DreamerJeanie with the Light Brown HairOh! SusannaHard Times Come Again No MoreMy Old Kentucky Home, Good-NightDe Camptown RacesAh! May the Red Rose Live Alway!If You've Only Got a MoustacheGentle AnnieThe Melodies of Stephen C. FosterCome Where My Love Lies DreamingAutumn WaltzOld Black JoeSlumber My DarlingMassa's in de Cold GroundSoiree PolkaBury Me in the Morning, MotherNelly BlyWilt Thou Be Gone, LoveQuadrillesHoliday SchottischeAngelina BakerBeautiful Child of SongThe Hour for Thee and MeThat's What's the MatterBring My Brother Back to MeWillie has Gone to the WarTioga WaltzWhy No One to LoveOld Dog TrayThe Village BellsSome FolksThe Merry, Merry Month of MayLaura LeeBetter Times Are ComingCome with Thy Sweet Voice AgainJennie's Own ScottischMr. & Mrs. BrownA Thousand Miles from HomeThere Are Plenty of Fish in the SeaA Dream of My Mother and My HomeSanta Anna's RetreatMy Wife Is a Most Knowing WomanLinger in Blissful ReposeAnnie My Own LoveThe Bright Hills of GlorySweetly She Sleeps, My Alice FairKissing in the DarkMine Is the Mourning HeartTurn Not Away!Open Thy Lattice LoveI'll Be Home To-MorrowNelly Was a LadyComrades Fill No Glass for MeSongs and Musical CompositionsUnder the Willow She's SleepingFor Thee, Love, for TheeThe Glendy BurkWas My Brother in the Battle?Dearer Than LifeAway Down SoufI Cannot Sing To-NightFor the Dear Old Flag I DieHappy Hours at HomeThe Voice of By Gone DaysI Will Be True to TheeI See Her Still in My DreamsWe Are Coming, Father AbraamSummer LongingsDon't Bet Your Money on de ShanghaiOld Uncle NedThe Song of All SongsPraise the Lord!Fairy-BelleKaty BellThere's a Good Time ComingEllen BayneFarewell My Lilly DearA Penny for Your Thoughts!I'd Be a FairyEulalieNone Shall Weep a Tear for MeI Would Not Die in Spring TimeFarewell Mother DearI'll Be a SoldierI'm Nothing But a Plain Old SoldierOh Boys Carry Me LongMolly Do You Love Me!Old MemoriesThe Love I Bear to TheeThe Voices that are GoneThere Is a Land of LoveLou'siana BelleI Would Not Die in Summer TimeGive This to MotherWhen This Dreadful War Is EndedCora DeanGentle Lena ClareMaggie by My SideDolly DayMy Boy Is Coming from the WarThou Art the Queen of My SongOh! Why Am I So Happy?Farewell! Old CottageMerry Little Birds Are WeWilt Thou Be True?Mother, Thou'rt Faithful to MeThere Was a TimeDolcy JonesDown Among the Cane-BrakesNo Home, No HomeStay Summer BreathJenny's Coming O'er the GreenFarewell Sweet MotherGive the Stranger Happy CheerJenny JuneOur Bright, Bright Summer Days Are GoneLarry's Good ByeMary Loves the FlowersMy Hopes Have Departed ForeverWillie, We Have Missed YouLizzie Dies To NightVirginia BelleMy Angel BoyWhat Must a Fairy's Dream Be?Tell Me Love of Thy Early DreamsOh! There's No Such Girl as MineSomebody's Coming to See Me To NightOh! Lemuel!The Little Ballad GirlThe WifeA Soldier in de Colored BrigadeSweet Little Maid of the MountainWay Down in CA-I-ROSweet Emerald Isle That I Love So WellThe Village MaidenLittle EllaMy Loved One and My OwnThe Spirit of My SongLittle Ella's an AngelThere's a Land of Bliss Where the Weary Are at RestParthenia to IngomarWhy Have My Loved Ones Gone?The Soldier's HomeStand Up for the Flag!Kiss Me Dear Mother Ere I DieSitting by My Own Cabin DoorOnce I Loved Thee Mary DearWillie's Gone to HeavenShe Was All the World to MeMolly Dear Good NightLily RayMelinda MayLeave Me with My MotherLittle Jenny DowLula Is GoneWhen Old Friends Were HereWe've a Million in the FieldNell and IOur Willie Dear Is DyingSadly to Mine Heart AppealingWhen Dear Friends Are GoneMy Brodder GumOh! Tell Me of My MotherWillie My BraveLena Our Loved One Is GoneLinda Has DepartedPoor Drooping MaidenLittle Belle BlairOur Darling KateWhile the Bowl Goes RoundWhere Is Thy Spirit, MaryWhere Has Lula goneMinstrel SongsOld Folks at HomeRing, Ring de Banjo!

Arrangements for: Piano

Beautiful DreamerJeanie with the Light Brown HairMy Old Kentucky Home, Good-NightAh! May the Red Rose Live Alway!Gentle AnnieCome Where My Love Lies DreamingOld Black JoeSlumber My DarlingCome with Thy Sweet Voice AgainA Dream of My Mother and My HomeLinger in Blissful ReposeSweetly She Sleeps, My Alice FairKissing in the DarkOpen Thy Lattice LoveFor Thee, Love, for TheeDearer Than LifeI Will Be True to TheeKaty BellEllen BayneMolly Do You Love Me!The Love I Bear to TheeThou Art the Queen of My SongWilt Thou Be True?Mother, Thou'rt Faithful to MeThere Was a TimeDown Among the Cane-BrakesStay Summer BreathJenny's Coming O'er the GreenWillie, We Have Missed YouLizzie Dies To NightTell Me Love of Thy Early DreamsOh! There's No Such Girl as MineParthenia to IngomarMolly Dear Good NightPoor Drooping MaidenWhere Has Lula goneOld Folks at HomeRing, Ring de Banjo!
Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known also as "the father of American music", was an American songwriter known primarily for his parlor and minstrel music. He wrote more than 200 songs, including "Oh! Susanna", "Hard Times Come Again No More", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "My Old Kentucky Home", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", "Old Black Joe", and "Beautiful Dreamer", and many of his compositions remain popular today. He has been identified as "the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century" and may be the most recognizable American composer in other countries. Most of his handwritten music manuscripts are lost, but editions issued by publishers of his day feature in various collections.
There are many biographies of Foster, but details differ widely. Among other issues, Foster wrote very little biographical information himself, and his brother Morrison Foster destroyed much information that he judged to reflect negatively upon the family.
Foster was born on July 4, 1826, to William Barclay Foster and Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster, with three older sisters and six older brothers. His parents were of Ulster Scots and English descent. He attended private academies in Allegheny, Athens, and Towanda, Pennsylvania and received an education in English grammar, diction, the classics, penmanship, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. The family lived in a northern city but they did not support the abolition of slavery.
Foster taught himself to play the clarinet, guitar, flute, and piano. He did not have formal instruction in composition but he was helped by Henry Kleber (1816–97), a German-born music dealer in Pittsburgh. In 1839, his brother William was serving his apprenticeship as an engineer at Towanda and thought that Stephen would benefit from being under his supervision. The site of the Camptown Races is 30 miles (48 km) from Athens and 15 miles from Towanda. His education included a brief period at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, now part of Washington & Jefferson College. His tuition was paid, but he had little spending money. He left Canonsburg to visit Pittsburgh with another student and did not return.
In 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a bookkeeper with his brother Dunning's steamship company. He wrote his first successful songs in 1848–1849, among them "Oh! Susanna", which became an anthem of the California Gold Rush. In 1849, he published Foster's Ethiopian Melodies, which included the successful song "Nelly Was a Lady" as made famous by the Christy Minstrels. A plaque marks the site of his residence in Cincinnati, where the Guilford School building is now located.
Then he returned to Pennsylvania and signed a contract with the Christy Minstrels. It was during this period that he wrote most of his best-known songs: "Camptown Races" (1850), "Nelly Bly" (1850), "Ring de Banjo" (1851), "Old Folks at Home" (known also as "Swanee River", 1851), "My Old Kentucky Home" (1853), "Old Dog Tray" (1853), and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" (1854), written for his wife Jane Denny McDowell.
Many of Foster's songs were of the blackface minstrel show tradition popular at the time but now recognized as racist. He sought to "build up taste...among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order". In the 1850s, he associated with a Pittsburgh-area abolitionist leader named Charles Shiras, and wrote an abolitionist play himself. Many of his songs had Southern themes, yet Foster never lived in the South and visited it only once, during his 1852 honeymoon.
Foster's last four years were spent in New York City. There is little information on this period of his life, although family correspondence has been preserved.
Foster became sick with a fever in January 1864. Weakened, he fell in his hotel in the Bowery, cutting his neck. His writing partner George Cooper found him still alive but lying in a pool of blood. Foster died in Bellevue Hospital three days later at the age of 37. Other biographers describe different accounts of his death.
Historian JoAnne O’Connell speculates in her biography, The Life and Songs of Stephen Foster, that Foster may have killed himself, a common occurrence during the Civil War. George Cooper, who was with Foster until he died, said: “He lay there on the floor, naked, suffering horribly. He had wonderful big brown eyes, and they looked up at me with an appeal I can never forget. He whispered, ‘I’m done for.’” Unlike Foster’s brother Morrison, who was not in New York and said Foster was ill and cut his neck on a washbasin, Cooper mentioned no broken crockery and also said Foster had a “large knife” for cutting up apples and turnips. Morrison may have covered up Foster’s suicide. Evelyn Morneweck, Morrison’s daughter, also said the family would have covered up the suicide of their uncle if they could have.
As O’Connell and musicologist Ken Emerson have noted, several of the songs Foster wrote during the last years of his life foreshadow his death, such as “The Little Ballad Girl” and “Kiss Me Dear Mother Ere I Die.”Emerson says in his 2010 Stephen Foster and Co. that Foster’s injuries may have been “accidental or self-inflicted.”
When Foster died, his leather wallet contained a scrap of paper that simply said, "Dear friends and gentle hearts", along with 38 cents (one for each year of his life) in Civil War scrip and three pennies. The note is said to have inspired Bob Hilliard's lyric for "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" (1949). Foster was buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. After his death, Morrison Foster became his "literary executor". As such, he answered requests for copies of manuscripts, autographs, and biographical information. One of the best-loved of his works was "Beautiful Dreamer", published shortly after his death.
Foster grew up in a section of the city where many European immigrants had settled and was accustomed to hearing the music of the Italian, Scots-Irish, and German residents. He composed his first song when he was 14 and entitled it the "Tioga Waltz". The first song that he had published was "Open thy Lattice Love" (1844). He wrote songs in support of drinking, such as "My Wife Is a Most Knowing Woman", "Mr. and Mrs. Brown", and "When the Bowl Goes Round", while also composing temperance songs such as "Comrades Fill No Glass for Me" or "The Wife". Foster also authored many church hymns, although the inclusion of his hymns in hymnals ended by 1910. Some of the hymns are "Seek and ye shall find", "All around is bright and fair, While we work for Jesus", and "Blame not those who weep and sigh". Several rare Civil War-era hymns by Foster were performed by The Old Stoughton Musical Society Chorus, including "The Pure, The Bright, The Beautiful", "Over The River", "Give Us This Day", and "What Shall The Harvest Be?"
Foster usually sent his handwritten scores directly to his publishers. The publishers kept the sheet music manuscripts and did not give them to libraries nor return them to his heirs. Some of his original, hand-written scores were bought and put into private collections and the Library of Congress.
Foster's songs, lyrics, and melodies have often been altered by publishers and performers. Ray Charles released a version of "Old Folks at Home" that was titled "Swanee River Rock (Talkin’ ’Bout That River)," which became his first pop hit in November 1957.
"My Old Kentucky Home" is the official state song of Kentucky, adopted by the General Assembly on March 19, 1928. "Old Folks at Home" became the official state song of Florida, designated in 1935. The lyrics are widely regarded as racist today, however, so "Old Folks at Home" was modified with approval from the Stephen Foster Memorial. The modified song was kept as the official state song, while "Florida (Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky)" was added as the state anthem.
From a modern perspective Foster's compositions can be seen as disparaging to African Americans, or outright racist. Others have argued that Foster unveiled the realities of slavery in his work while also imparting some dignity to African Americans in his compositions, especially as he grew as an artist. Foster composed many songs that were used in minstrel shows. This form of public entertainment lampooned African Americans as buffoonish, superstitious, without a care, musical, lazy, and dim-witted. In the early 1830s, these minstrel shows gained popularity, and blackface minstrel shows were a separate musical art form by 1848, more readily accessible to the general public than opera.
In 1935, Henry Ford ceremonially presented a new addition to his historical collection of early American memorabilia in the "Home of Stephen Foster". The structure was identified by notable historians of the time as being authentic and was then deconstructed and moved "piece by piece" from Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), to Greenfield Village, attached to the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan. Foster's niece insisted that it was not his birthplace, and the claim was withdrawn in 1953. Greenfield Village still displays a structure that is identified as the birthplace of Stephen Foster. The Foster family stated that the original Foster birthplace structure was torn down in 1865.
Foster is honored on the University of Pittsburgh campus with the Stephen Foster Memorial, a landmark building that houses the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum, the Center for American Music, as well as two theaters: the Charity Randall Theatre and Henry Heymann Theatre, both performance spaces for Pitt's Department of Theater Arts. It is the largest repository for original Stephen Foster compositions, recordings, and other memorabilia his songs have inspired worldwide.
Two state parks are named in Foster's honor: the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida and Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia. Both parks are on the Suwannee River. Stephen Foster Lake at Mount Pisgah State Park in Pennsylvania is also named in his honor.
One state park is named in honor of Foster's songs, My Old Kentucky Home, an historic mansion formerly named Federal Hill, located in Bardstown, Kentucky where Stephen is said to have been an occasional visitor according to his brother, Morrison Foster. The park dedicated a bronze statue in honor of Stephen's work.
The Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh) Historical Society, together with the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association, hosts the annual Stephen Foster Music and Heritage Festival (Doo Dah Days!). Held the first weekend of July, Doo Dah Days! celebrates the life and music of one of the most influential songwriters in America's history. His home in the Lawrenceville Section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, still remains on Penn Avenue nearby the Stephen Foster Community Center.
A 1900 statue of Foster by Giuseppe Moretti was located in Schenley Plaza, in Pittsburgh, from 1940 until 2018. On the unanimous recommendation of the Pittsburgh Art Commission, the statue was removed on April 26, 2018. Its new home has not yet been determined. It has a long reputation as the most controversial public art in Pittsburgh "for its depiction of an African-American banjo player at the feet of the seated composer. Critics say the statue glorifies white appropriation of black culture, and depicts the vacantly smiling musician in a way that is at best condescending and at worst racist." A city-appointed Task Force on Women in Public Art called for the statue to be replaced with one honoring an African American woman with ties to the Pittsburgh community. The Task Force held a series of community forums in Pittsburgh to collect public feedback on the statue replacement and circulated an online form which allowed the public to vote for one of seven previously selected candidates or write in an alternate suggestion. However, the Task Force on Women in Public Art and the Pittsburgh Art Commission have not reached an agreement as to who will be commemorated or if the statue will stay in the Schenley Plaza location.
Music scores