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Steven Foster Tribute

Gentle Annie
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A Tribute to
Steven Foster
(Read biography below)

Page Contents:

Steven Foster Biography
   Early years
   Adult life
   His Musical offerings
   In conclusion
About the artists
   Julie Momber, soprano
   Anne Wakenhut, Celtic harp & keyboard
   Gary Wakenhut, Low D whistle & wooden flute

Gentle Annie lyrics

Words about Steven Foster

It was the fall of 1948, and I (Gary) had just been introduced to my 5th grade teacher, Ms Sill. With her hair done in a bun, old lady shoes, and piercing eyes that surveyed all from above her half glasses, she would become known as the "Wicked Witch of the West.  She had three objectives for me, the memorization of my multiplication tables and perfect math and spelling tests. She would accept no less.  It was going to be a long year.

My saving grace was the attractive young music teacher who, once a week, removed us from the talons of Ms Sill. She marched us down the hall to the auditorium where we would spend a wonderful hour in exploration of vocal music. 

Beautiful Dreamer

The well worn copies of The Golden Book of Songs were handed out, and we were formally touched by many of the same melodies and lyrics that had been sung by our parents and our grandparents.  Among these would be the melodies of the American composer, Steven Foster.  My favorites were Beautiful Dreamer and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.

Jennie with the Light Brown Hair

Two generations have now come and gone down that hall to the auditorium, and today, the touching melodies and sentimental words of Steven Foster have been replaced by fun words and catchy rhythms of today's fast paced and stimulus filled world. 

This tribute to Steven Foster has been created to remind us of the richness he contributed to our lives. For you younger generations who would not recognize the titles in The Golden Book of Songs, please be introduced to the creative genius of Steven Foster. 

Early Years
Mr. Foster was born into a well established Pittsburg family on July 4th, 1826.  Apparently he did not fit into the strict academic mold any better than I, and his parents labeled him "a problem child".  While he failed to meet academic expectations, he read extensively, thereby providing his own self-education.  He began composing at an early age, and his parents provided him with some limited formal music study.

Adult Life
He went to work as a clerk in his brother's business, but success as a song writer soon led him into this new and difficult occupation.  Opening the door here in America for the song writers who would follow him. He rented an office for his creative exploration and soon after, married his wife Jane.  The marriage produced a daughter, Marian, but the family was often separated for some reason (possibly his inability to provide for them financially).. 

He died at the young age of 34 when illness caused him to faint. The resulting fall caused him to cut a gash in his throat.  His "aloneness" at this time of death found him destitute with only 38 cents and a piece of paper with the scribbled words, "Dear friends and gentle hearts" in his pocket.

There has been much speculation regarding his failure to support himself and his family.  Some feel he was a poor manager of his finances, and there is evidence that alcohol was a problem.  Others feel he was a genius ahead of his time, not covered by the copyright laws and formal arrangements that would protect the song writers that would follow him.  Royalties were not common, and he resorted to selling his songs to publishers, who in turn, reaped the profits of his success.  The trauma leading up to the Civil War also clouded America's desire for his music during his later years. 

His Musical Offerings
Steven Foster spent much time and care with his compositions.  Melodies and lyrics were carefully created with great emphasis placed on crafting just the right essence for the message.  His sentimental nature and emotional depth were in tune with the needs of the times, and many people desired to be associated with his success.  

Much of his music was similar to the folk music of the British Isles.  There is evidence that he was attracted to the works of by the patron bard of Scotland, Robert Burns and the Irish song writer, Thomas Moore.  Our choice of Foster's melodies is Gentle Annie which bears a faint resemblance to the Scottish folk melody Annie Laurie. 

Much of his music was created for minstrelsy, the popular stage offering of the time.  This entertainment form capitalized on and made fun of the plight of the Afro-American slave.  Foster broke with this tradition and documented the gentle, warm, humble and often sad plight of the blacks in his songs. 

Interestingly, while much of his music seems to reflect the deep south, he only made one short trip south of his Pittsburgh birth place.  Instead, he spent most of his time in New York City, attempting to gain his success. 

Gentle Annie 
Our musical tribute to Steven Foster is one of his lesser known works, Gentle Annie. 
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Apparently, he had witnessed the death of a neighborhood girl who was run over by a horse drawn carriage.  This was his musical elegy to her memory.  The touching melody and words speak to the personable nature of Steven Foster and his origination of the American song writer tradition. 

In Conclusion
People gifted with unusual creative capacities often find difficulty in their capacity to adapt to life's expectations.  Steven Foster was apparently a member of this distinguished group.  Through no fault of his own, he experienced this world through a different perspective than you or I. 

Perhaps there is a part of us that longs for a small piece of Foster's gentle simplicity, expressed in the melodies and lyrics of his songs.  Hopefully that desire will insure that Beautiful Dreamer, Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, Oh Susannah, Old Black Joe, Camptown Races, and the rest of his songs will live on.  They will touch each of us with the true human compassion, warmth, and realness, that he shared with his admirers 150 years ago. 

About the Musicians

Soprano soloist for this recording is our special friend and talented fellow musician, Julie Momber.  We wish to thank her for sharing her love of music and Steven Foster. 

Julie is well known for her vocal work in our neighboring community of Greenville, MI. She has performed with the Flat River Community Players, Broadway Delights, and Seasons of Love and in the musical duo, Schoeder and Momber.  She is a frequent soloist in oratorios, weddings and other religious functions.  Recently retired as a building principal, Julie spent over 30 years contributing to her students and the field of special education

Julie Momber, soprano

For me, recording Gentle Annie brought to mind an era when life was far less complex than today, yet human emotions remain unchanged.  In death there is grief but there is also a sense of celebration of Annie’s life.  The beauty of the tune is reflected in its simplicity."



  Gary is sharing the low D whistle and wooden flute. 

Anne's presence is noticed on Celtic harp and keyboard. 


Listen to our audio recording of 
Gentle Annie
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Dial up (phone line) down load 
(Dialup requires 10 min. download period.)

Click here to send this audio email card to a friend!
or Copy this url

and paste it to your email greeting for your friend!

Gentle Annie


Thou wilt come no more, gentle Annie,
Like a flower thy spirit did depart;
Thou art gone, Alas! like the many
That have bloomed in the summer of my heart

We have roamed and loved mid the bowers
When thy downy cheeks were in their bloom;
Now I stand alone mid the flowers
While they mingle their perfumes o'er thy tomb.

Ah! the hours grow sad while I ponder
Near the silent spot where thou art laid,
Ane my hear bows down when I wonder
By the streams and meadows where we stayed

Shall we never more behold thee;
never hear thy winning voice again --
When the spring time comes, gentle Annie,
When the wild flowers are scattered o'er the plain. 


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