Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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Tennyson, and the music composed by Mr. Dempster. His rendering of the verse,
To-night I saw the sun set, He set and left behind, etc.,
was truly pathetic. At times tears could be seen on his cheeks as he sang this song, so sensitive was his nature to the influence of true poetry combined with music. I usually sat near him on these occasions and listened quietly with profound delight. Sometimes he would whirl round on the piano stool and converse a few mintues with me, then resume his improvisa­tions and his singing. Through the long years of the past those pleasing sounds and the recollection of those evenings at home still linger gratefully in my memory.
"He had certain favorites among his neighbors and friends whom he preferred to have assist him in singing the choruses of his songs while they were in course of preparation. These he chose because of the excellence of their voices and correct method of singing.
"He always, with rare exceptions, wrote the words as well as the music of his songs. He said the difficulty of harmonizing sounds with words rendered this necessary, though he would have often gladly dispensed with the writing of the words if he could.
"He delighted in playing accompaniments on the flute to the singing and playing on the piano of his sister or one of his lady friends. These little concerts were very delightful and gave the greatest pleasure to the house­hold. As the song went on he would improvise, without the slightest hesitation or difficulty, the most beautiful variations upon the musical theme.
"Melodies appeared to dance through his brain con­tinually. Often at night he would get out of bed, light a candle and jot down some notes of a melody on a piece of paper, then retire again to bed and to sleep.

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