Since he is my favorite American composer, I appreciated James O. Tate’s discussion of the music of Stephen Foster (“My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!,” The Music Column, January), and thereby discovered the fine music offered by Thomas Hampson and associates.  In return, I would recommend to you the Stephen Foster Song Book, done by the Robert Shaw Chorale about a half-century ago.  The album uses Foster’s original lyrics, and to my ear is wonderfully done.

        —D. Tyrone Crowley
Prattville, AL

Thank you for James O. Tate’s recent article on Stephen Collins Foster and his music.  It seems to me that some of his best melodies are still golden.  I suggest the great Mavis Staples’ version of “Hard Times Come Again No More.”  It is simple, powerful, and quite moving.  As I read some of the best recent scholarship on Foster, it seems to me that his music reflects powerfully on the social, cultural, and even political scene of the 1850’s.  Such enduring music coming from such a short life is itself almost a sad but beautiful song.

Thank you again.

        —Ronald Szudy
via email