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'Plantation Melodies 67
nounced: "NEW YEAR'S PRESENTS:This day published—Wake Up Jake, or the Old Iron City, by S. C. Foster/' etc.
Young Stephen shortly came to realize that the field in which he had been creating in somewhat clandestine fashion had rich musical possibilities. He may have been helped to this realization when a foreign pianist and composer, Marwitz Strakosch, at a concert in 1849 —"one of the richest musical treats of the past musical season"—played his "Souvenir de l'Amerique," with "subjects from the Ethiopian Melodies of the West and South West." In this souvenir were "Old Uncle Ned" and "Oh! Susanna." A reviewer in the Gazette™ rated both as being among the "first-water brilliants of our native music."
Whatever the cause, the change in Stephen's attitude was definite. In February 1850, Stephen wrote to E. P. Christy,31 "I wish to unite with you in every effort to encourage a taste for this style of music so cried down by opera mongers." And, in a letter to Christy31 in May 1852, Stephen expressed pride that "by my efforts I have done a great deal to build up a taste for the Ethiopian songs among refined people." He did not dream of course that later generations, without either predilection or prejudice, would cherish "Oh! Susanna," "Old Folks at Home" and "Old Black Joe" as folk songs of universal appeal.