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Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)

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Martha Burns 13 Jan 11 - 09:28 PM
sharyn 13 Jan 11 - 09:50 PM
Nigel Parsons 14 Jan 11 - 04:05 AM
Joe Offer 14 Jan 11 - 04:17 AM
Martha Burns 14 Jan 11 - 12:36 PM
GUEST,Doug Saum 14 Jan 11 - 01:29 PM
GUEST 15 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM
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Subject: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: Martha Burns
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 09:28 PM

HAPPY STEPHEN FOSTER DAY !

Yes, it's true. In 1951, Congress declared January 13th national Stephen Foster Day. Harry Truman then issued this proclamation:

"Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Sunday, January 13, 1952, and each succeeding January 13 throughout the years, as Stephen Foster Memorial Day; and I call upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies, pilgrimages to the shrines of this beloved composer, and musical programs featuring his compositions."

The date was chosen as the anniversary of Foster's death, January 13, 1863. Why didn't Congress choose his birth date, instead? Because Foster was born on the Fourth of July. In fact, Foster was born on the very same day that former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died. It was quite a day.


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: sharyn
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 09:50 PM

A very good songwriter, especially a melodist.


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 04:05 AM

So, is it a day to avoid all political correctness, and sing his songs using the original words?


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 04:17 AM

Boy, that's a good question, Nigel. I sometimes get flak for singing "Old Black Joe"; but I like the song, and I think it shows Joe's dignity and value in the face of a very difficult life. Robeson sang it a number of ways. On the recording I'm listening to now, he sings "old, old Joe." I think he also used "old man Joe" on one recording. I like "Old Black Joe," and see nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, some Foster songs have a very patronizing view of African Americans, and I don't sing some of them.

I see that Stephen Collins Foster Memorial State Park in Florida is now Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. The visitor center is a replica of a plantation house, and inside are animated miniature dioramas, depicting a good number of Foster songs - complete with pickaninnies and darkies and all the stereotypes. Maybe it has lightened up in the ten years since I attended the Florida Folk Festival there, but the park seemed to be a reflection of the deepest part of the Deep South at the time I was there.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: Martha Burns
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 12:36 PM

That's amazing, Joe. Even ten years ago, that would be amazing.


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: GUEST,Doug Saum
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 01:29 PM

Context is everything. "Old Black Joe" in its minstrel show context was, indeed, a compassionate treatment of this admirable character. In fact for most of the white audiences who saw it, it must have been a rare musical challenge to bigoted minds. Isn't it better to sing the song and confront the facts it presents (i. e. slavery and universal humanity) rather than quietly ignore them? And now, in the name of expedience, even HUCKLEBERRY FINN is being whitewashed; Clemens would be astounded at this treachery. Doug Saum


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Subject: RE: Happy Stephen Foster Day ! (January 13)
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 11 - 09:44 AM

I suggest people read "Doo-Dah: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture," by ken Emerson. The minstrel genre, THE popular music of the time, was anything but respectful of African Americans; it was viciously, overtly racist - an entire mode of entertainment centered on racist depictions of another ethnicity. Racism was not incidental to minstrely, it was central to it.

I admit being somewhat torn. I love the Stephen Foster melodies and play them periodically. I've been in bands that play his songs, sometimes sung with original lyrics. I'm not into PC.

But this book was an eye opener and I commend it to anybody interested in this dilemma.


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