University of Pittsburgh
January 5, 2006

Pitt Commemorates Stephen Foster Day Jan. 13

Contact: 

Sharon Blake

412-624-4364

Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-The life of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster will be celebrated Friday, Jan. 13, at two area locations, in an annual tribute to the country's first professional songwriter. All events are free and open to the public.

The date marks the 142nd anniversary of Foster's death. He was born in Lawrenceville on July 4, 1826, and became a world-renowned songwriter, portraying life in mid-19th century America through such legendary compositions as "Old Folks at Home," "Oh! Susannah," "Camptown Races," and "Beautiful Dreamer."

Foster's music is still widely used in television and films. The CD Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (American Roots Publishing, 2004) won the 2005 Grammy Award in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album. It features 17 renditions of Foster songs by various artists, ranging from bluegrass fiddler and singer Alison Krauss to cellist Yo Yo Ma. Pitt's Center for American Music was closely involved in the project, providing copies of Foster's original sheet music for the producers as well as many images and documents that helped form the basis for the album notes. Foster died at age 37 and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery.

The following Stephen Foster Day events are sponsored by Pitt's Center for American Music and Department of Theatre Arts as well as the Allegheny Cemetery Association.

10 a.m.

Temple of Memories Mausoleum, Allegheny Cemetery, 4715 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville:

o Remarks by Tom Starsenic, superintendent of Allegheny Cemetery;

o Medley of Foster songs performed by the St. John Neumann School

Choir, Lawrenceville;

o Remarks by Jacqueline Longmore, Lawrenceville Historical Society;

o Remarks by Kathryn Miller Haines, associate director, Pitt's Center for

American Music; and

o Placing of wreaths at the Foster gravesite.

Noon

Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, University of Pittsburgh, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland:

o Welcome by Deane Root, director of Pitt's Center for American Music;

o Music by the Stephen Foster Chorus of Stephen Collins Foster School, Mt.

Lebanon;

o Remarks by Mariana Whitmer, project coordinator for the Center for

American Music; and

o Performance and group sing-a-long led by guitarist and Pitt faculty member Joe Negri, with special guest Thomas Douglas, conductor of Carnegie Mellon University's Vocal Jazz Ensemble and a lecturer in voice in Carnegie Mellon's music department.

Immediately following the program, at approximately 1 p.m., a tour of the Foster memorial will take place. The Foster museum, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be open for self-guided tours. Its archives contains a wide assortment of the composer's manuscripts, photographs, first editions of sheet music, rare books, letters, and personal possessions, including his flute, a sketchbook, and the change purse he was carrying when he died.

"People all over the world see Foster as epitomizing American music," says Root. "He launched what we think of today as popular music, and his influence is still being felt."

For more information, call 412-624-4100.

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