REVIEW POTPOURRI – Soprano: Dorothy Maynor; TV Show: Last Man Standing; Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Dorothy Maynor

African-American soprano Dorothy Maynor (1910-1996) sang at the inauguration of Harry S Truman in 1948 and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953; however, while singing frequently in concert and on radio and recordings, she was never invited to the Metropolitan Opera during her peak years.

In 1964, she founded the Harlem School of the Arts, which provided low cost music education to African-American students, and served as director for many years. Its enrollment had gone up to 1,100 students by the time she retired in 1979. Interestingly, while the Metropolitan Opera would never engage her due to prevailing racism in earlier decades, she was invited in 1975 to become the first African-American to serve on its board of directors.

A 1950 78 rpm set of three 12-inch discs, Sacred Songs (RCA Victor Red Seal M 1043), features arias by Bach, Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn in which her uniquely warm, very heartfelt soprano voice is a special pleasure. Unfortunately, only a couple of the selections from this album are available on YouTube but there is a sizable number of others and, in time, somebody may post the other four sides.

Last Man Standing

I recently finished watching all 9 seasons of the comedy show Last Man Standing, starring the incredibly gifted cast of Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Hector Elizondo, Jay Leno, Amanda Fuller, Molly Ephraim, Kaitlyn Dever, etc. Even the facial expressions and body movements were distinguished by brilliant timing, as well as the dialog and constant insults and repartee.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Maine poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was born in Rockland and spent her adolescence in Camden.

After graduation from Vassar College, she found her way to Greenwich Village and published books of her poems, achieving fame and being awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Although, and very unfortunately, little read today, her writing had a particularly extraordinary power and eloquence, as seen in the closing stanza from Renascence:

“The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,-
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That cannot keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat-the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.”

 
 

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