Friday, August 28, 2009

The sad young man

Earlier this week I was listening to Thomas Hampson singing Stephen Foster and I keep thinking I should buy this CD that came out several years ago. It is of Thomas Hampson singing Stephen Foster songs, all Stephen Foster.

The CD I got recently has several Stephen Foster songs but they just torture you because aside from "Beautiful Dreamer" they are just not Stephen Foster's best. "Nellie Was a Lady" is kind of like a dirge and "Hard Times," it is a famous song and wonderful in its own way, but you are just not always in the mood for it.

Wow, that "Hard Times" video I just linked to! It is excruciating!

So grim!!

Anyway, these songs give a craving for the all-Stephen Foster Hampson CD. But the trouble is, I do not like to buy CDs. The medium does not work for me. I am always losing CDs, or the disk gets separated from the jewel case, or the disk breaks. CDs are always breaking. That is something no one talks about. And unlike a record you cannot play the rest of the music even though one track is defective.

So I have not bought the Thomas Hampson CD.

Instead I have been sitting around listening to the record of Stephen Foster songs I bought at the Hinzes' garage sale. The record by the Roger Wagner Chorale. That is a great group, the Roger Wagner Chorale. They recorded for Capitol, a label I have become affectionate toward because of my book on Leonard Pennario.

Stephen Foster always looks mournful in pictures. He has hound eyes.

His only child, Marian Foster Welsh, inherited them.

He could write truly sad melodies which is a rare gift to have. He could also turn out melodies with a good bounce in them and that is also a rare skill to have.

"The Glendy Burk" and the line "Ho for Louisiana, I'm bound to leave this town..."

"O Lemuel" is great too although the lyrics are hopelessly un-P.C. so you could probably never sing it.

Wow, I just found a great detailed Stephen Foster picture biography.

I am going to look it over while I listen to the Roger Wagner Chorale.


  1. Thomas Hampson sang a series of recitals that included many songs from this new CD -- and more -- in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and at Ravinia and Tanglewood in recent weeks. You can hear these LIVE recitals -- FREE -- at
    Use the horizontal search box at the top of the page by typing in Hampson, Thomas and then when it takes you to his page, you will see these recitals under "Recent Recordings". You can also listen to an interview with Thomas Hampson, recorded at WFMT Chicago, in which he discusses all this music. Enjoy!

  2. Mary -- I should clarify that the CD he was promoting in his recent recital tour this summer is called "Song of America". Is that the CD you were listening to, or an older one?

    I am much more of an instrumental music guy than a vocal music fan. One colleague of mine who was previously not a Hampson fan says he has changed his view in recent years. The range of song rep he is now doing is quite impressive - Foster is a key part of it, but just one of many aspect. He is bringing out a lot of forgotten and neglected rep.

  3. Paladino, I am wasting my work days, all because of you and Instant Encore! I do admire Thomas Hampson for singing some of those obscure American songs ("Danny Deever," by Walter Damrosch, is one I love) -- as well as chestnuts like "Roses of Picardy." Another subject for another day!