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.
Chorus:
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.
(Chorus)
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.
(Chorus)
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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