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Halamus Publishing - Archived Articles - # 11, February, 2003



The Articles from the Monthly Newsletters

Written by

M. Lesley Halamek

February, 2003:–

SONG: "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) – USA

Q: Who was Stephen Collins Foster?

A: Born on the 4th of July, 1826, Stephen Collins Foster was born (the 9th of 10 children of William and Eliza Foster) at Lawrenceville, East of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

From a reasonably well-off middle-class family, he received a private education according to the standards of his day. Although he apparently disliked the normal rote learning and recitations, he was an avid reader, and became a literate, well-educated man.

Musically literate from an early age, he probably received some formal musical training from a German immigrant, Henry Kleber, who became well-known as a performer, composer, music merchant, impresario, and teacher, in Pittsburgh.

Excepting a few trips to Kentucky, Stephen Foster had never been in the South; his feeling for the plaintive spirit of the negro song possibly began when, as a little boy, he would attend the colored shouting camp meeting with a mulatto maid of the Foster family, to whom Stephen was much devoted. Here, he would have heard, and learned to appreciate, African-American music, the foundation for his very popular Minstrel songs.

Stephen Foster, as a teen, was friendly with young men and women from Pittsburgh's wealthy and respected families. He, a brother, and a few friends, formed an all-male secret club, meeting twice weekly at the Foster home. One of their principal activities was singing. Stephen Foster acted firstly as song master, and later as composer. Some of his earliest songs were composed for the group.

Between his first song, "The Tioga Waltz" written when he was 13 ( but not published until 1896), and his death on January 13th 1864, Stephen Foster wrote over 200 songs: 'Parlor' songs ('Ethiopian' songs), e.g. "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair"; Minstrel songs, e.g. "Old Black Joe", "My Old Kentucky Home", etc.; Sunday School Hymns, Romantic Ballads, etc., as well as arrangements of music by Donizetti, Mozart, Schubert, and others.

Some of his best-loved songs include:

  • Open Thy Lattice Love, 1844
  • There's A Good Time Coming, 1846
  • Oh! Susanna, 1848
  • Away Down Souf, 1848
  • Nelly Was a Lady, 1849
  • Nelly Bly, 1850
  • De Camptown Races, 1850
  • Angelina Baker, 1850
  • Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway!, 1850
  • Sweetly She Sleeps, My Alice Fair, 1851
  • Ring, Ring de Banjo!, 1851
  • Laura Lee, 1851
  • Old Folks at Home [Swanee River], 1851
  • Massa's in de Cold Ground, 1852
  • My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!
  • Old Dog Tray, 1852
  • Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair, 1854
  • Hard Times Come Again No More, 1854
  • Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, 1855
  • Old Black Joe, 1860
  • Beautiful Dreamer, 1862
  • …and many others…

Stephen Foster married Jane Denny MacDowell in 1850, and they had one daughter, Marian, but the marriage was not altogether successful, and they eventually separated.

He died in New York, aged 37, as a result of an accidental fall in his hotel room, trying to summon the chambermaid while in bed with a fever.

Two of his songs, "My Old Kentucky Home" (Kentucky) and "The Old Folks At Home", Or "Suwannee River" (Florida) were adopted by the two states after his death as their State Anthems.

Stephen Collins Foster left the world an incalculable legacy of beautiful melody.

The tune for "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Collins Foster
appears on Page 49 of

"Folksongs for the Violin", Part 4 :
A Brief Introduction to the Second, Half, Fourth, and Fifth Positions
(A Graded Selection of Melodies for Beginners of All Ages).

Details on the MUSIC PAGE

Beautiful Dreamer

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chaunting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.
Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

For a full list of Stephen Foster's Songs, go to:

To listen to "Beautiful Dreamer, go to:

For more info, and a comprehensive biography, with heritage photographs, go to:
("The Tioga Waltz" by Stephen Foster, aged 13)

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