Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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Whatever Stephen's early musical training may have been, his talent had already asserted itself, for at this time publicity was first given to an effort at musical composition. This was a "Tioga Waltz," written for the extraordinary combination of four (or possibly three) flutes! According to Morrison Foster, it was performed by Stephen and three other students at the Commence­ment exercises of the Athens Academy in 1839. It is recorded that the piece was received with evident delight by the audience and was rewarded with "much applause and an encore." It was never published during Stephen's lifetime, but is included in the volume of collected songs and compositions issued by Morrison Foster in 1896, with the statement: "It has never previously been pub­lished, and is only now reproduced from my memory, where it has lain for fifty years."
In itself, of course, it is not a remarkable composition, but it is highly creditable to the ambition and originality of a thirteen-year-old boy, in so unfavorable an environ­ment, that he should have attempted anything at all in the way of musical self-expression. It consists of eight phrases, each eight bars in length and each repeated with a "second ending." It is in the key of C, without modu­lation ; the harmony is alternation of tonic and dominant-seventh, with just one appearance of the subdominant. Stephen "took the leading part," and must have been fairly efficient as a flutist to play the melody. It also argues some degree of musical knowledge and skill that he was able to set down his ideas in musical notation.
R. M. Welles, one of Stephen's schoolmates, gives a slightly different version of the first performance of the "Tioga Waltz," placing it two years later:
An exhibition was to be held by the school in the old Presbyterian Church, April 1st, 1841—at that time the only house of worship in

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III