Week 20 – Hard Times, Come Again No More

Stephen Foster is a composer of true Americana.  His songbook is filled with compositions known by Americans of all walks of life – songs like “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”

This week, I’ve arranged Foster’s “Hard Times, Come Again No More” for the Duo Chronicles project.  Although not as well-known as the songs I mentioned above, it’s still a very common song, especially in the folk circles.  For example, my favorite version was performed by James Taylor with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor.

For the Duo Chronicles version, I stretched the harmony, but not so much that the song is hidden – it’s just presented in a different light.  I also tried to stay true to the lyrics and mood of the song, which transitions between hopeful and dark imagery.  Here are Foster’s original lyrics:

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.
Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.
There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o’er:
Though her voice would be merry, ’tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.
Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.

This is our first departure from original material in the project besides the holiday songs – we’ll be back to original compositions next week.

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