Stephen Foster has been widely hailed as the father of American Music. In the nineteenth century, he was one of the greatest of American composers of popular music – and many of his songs are still widely known and performed today. Foster wrote such classics as “Camptown Races”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Oh! Susanna”.
Foster was only 37 when died, the result of his impoverishment: after a persistent fever, he collapsed, banging his head against a basin and gouging it quite badly. He was admitted to hospital but died three days later. God only knows how much more he would have written had he lived, how many American classics we were denied by his early demise.
Born in 1791 in Germany, Giacomo Meyerbeer was one of the foremost exponents of the musical and theatrical form known as ‘The Grand Opera’. In his day he was one of the most famed composers in all of Europe, but his reputation has suffered since his death – largely due to the attacks on his character and works by his former student Richard Wagner.
The motivation for these attacks is complex – Wagner was clearly jealous of his teacher’s success and the wealth that it brought him, but also despised Meyerbeer due to the older man’s Jewishness. Among other wild accusations, Wagner accused Meterbeer of bribing critics to ensure favourable reviews.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge was built more than a century after it had first been proposed, from a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel that was completed by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw after Brunel’s death in 1859. The bridge is particularly notable in that, unusually for a suspension bridge, the towers at each end are not symmetrical with each other.
The bridge operated as a toll bridge upon its opening and it remains one today, still in operation more than 150 years after its construction. It was also the site of the first modern bungee jump, in 1979