Robert P. Tristram Coffin
Author and Bowdoin professor Robert P. Tristram Coffin (1892-1955) won the Pulitzer prize and achieved much renown particularly for his writings and poems about Maine. He was born in Harpswell to a family with seven children.
An essay, Kennebec Crystals, gives an evocative sense of life during the cold months in Central Maine along the Kennebec River during the 1800s. Too lengthy to re-print in full, I will offer a weekly paragraph until completed in full and begin below:
“The shopkeepers of Hallowell and Gardiner and Augusta had watched the January weather like hawks. They thumbed their ledgers and shook their graying temples at the lengthening columns of debit. The doctors had their eye on the sky as they felt of their lank wallets. Twenty miles deep each side of the river, farmers in small story-and-a-half farmhouses eyed their grocery-store thermometers at the side door, and bit more sparingly into their B.L. plugs. They chewed longer on their cuds, too. In the kitchen, the wife was scraping the lower staves of the flour barrel. The big bugs in the wide white mansions along the river looked out of their east or west windows at crack of day to see the state of the water. Teachers in school grew short with their pupils who confused Washington’s crossing of the Delawre with Clark’s fording of the fields around Vincennes. The mild weather continued. The river rolled on, blue in its ripples. Shopkeepers got short with their wives.”
Second paragraph next week.
A Hollywood character actor of film and TV, Tris Coffin (1909-1990), was a nephew of the author and appeared in good guy/bad guy roles on such shows as the Adventures of Superman.
A 1930 Columbia Masterworks set of ten 12-inch 78s, OP-7, featured one of the label’s busiest house conductors, Lorenzo Molajoli (1868-1939), leading a very good cast of soloists and the Milan, Italy, Symphony Orchestra – probably the same orchestra serving the city’s world-renowned La Scala Opera – in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. It has been reissued a number of times on compact disc.
The main role of Santuzza was sung by soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi (1891-1951) who left a number of complete recordings of operas such as this one, Verdi’s Aida and Boito’s Mefistophele back during the 1920s of heavy breakable sets. After praising Lina Bruna Rasa ardently in a recent column for her Santuzza in the 1941 recording with Mascagni himself conducting, I was quite impressed by a darker deeper quality to Giannina’s voice in this role. She doesn’t spill her tears with the intensity of Rasa but does bring a more controlled, gripping power uniquely her own.
Excerpts from this recording can be heard on youtube.
Sanford’s Famous Dance Band
A 1918 acoustic ten-inch shellac – Emerson, 10185 – has the long-forgotten Sanford’s Famous Dance Band giving charmingly perky performances of Victor Jacobi’s On Miami Shore and George Gershwin’s Swanee, of which Al Jolson (1886-1950) did a spirited recording on a Decca 78 in 1945.
A few other sides of this band can be heard on YouTube but not these two selections.
A new British crime series, The Irregulars, is available on Netflix. The setting is Queen Victoria’s London and the show deals with a group of street kids living from hand to mouth. I have only seen the first episode in which they are utilized by, who else, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson for keeping their eyes and ears opened for information on several kidnappings of infants. There is also an evil connoisseur of ravens.
The leader of the group, a young woman named Bea, has a formidable honesty, courage and sassy spunk, especially against rich white trash, and is portrayed most memorably by the Irish actress Thaddea Graham.
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