A Day for Cosme
On August 8, 2015, the McMunn family - Mark (grand-nephew of Cosme McMoon), his wife Virginia and sons Conner and Yago - arrived in New York City to visit the integral sites of the career of Cosme McMoon. Our first stop on August 10 was Carnegie Hall, location of the legendary recital given by Florence Foster Jenkins and Cosme McMoon on October 25, 1944.
Virginia, Mark, Connor, Yago and Gino Francesconi
Our guide was Carnegie Hall's archivist, Gino Francesconi. First, he gave us a vivid account of the New York City of 1891 (the area was actually known as Hog Town). We then traversed seemingly every hallway, stairway and elevator throught the Carnegie Hall complex which I called Carnegie City. The building has gone through major renovations and modernizations. Its archive, singlehandedly established by Mr. Francesconi, is now vast and a historical resource. It is now in the process of being digitized and will be available to the public in the near future. This tour was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for we saw many practice rooms, studios, offices, rare documents that the general public is not allowed to see. All of this was made even more informative by the vast knowledge and expertise of Mr. Francesconi.
We then made our way to 25 Central Park West.
This building was the location of Melotone Studios, the vanity recording company that Jenkins used to make all of her recordings, accompanied by Cosme McMoon. Of course, we didn't go in, but we can assume the studio was probably on its firrst floor.
Next, we hopped onto the subway and rode up to my neighborhood, the stop at West 103rd Street.
The first of five sites was the home of George Gershwin, located on West 103rd Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.
Next was a highlight of the trip: the last known address of Cosme McMoon - 230 West 105th Street, a mere block from where I now live.
A fantasy would have been to visit Cosme McMoon's apartment, but that would have been an invasion of that tenant's privacy. When we arrived at the address, there was a fully uniformed doorman standing on the left and a young man standing to the right of the door. The McMunns and I were standing near the curb, discussing the subject of the apartment, mentioning that was apartment #2E.
The man on the right, overhearing us say "#2E" said, "That's my apartment!" Needless to say, this was a jaw-dropping moment. We approached him and he informed us that he was the super of the building, a job he inherited from his father. He said there were numerous musicians living in the building, saying there were more pianos there than dogs!
Later, an elderly tenant entered the building. The doorman had overheard our exchanges with the super, that Cosme McMoon lived in the building for a period of time until 1980. The doorman went inside and brought this gentleman out thinking maybe he might have known or remembered Cosme McMoon.
When Mark mentioned Cosme's interest in bodybuilding, that triggered the man's memory and he said he remembered Cosme in the company of a bodybuilder. Yet another magical moment!
Our next stop was my apartment to show the McMunns my Jenkins "altar", the 5 acetates in pink frames (her favorite color). We then walked uptown for dinner.
The location was Tom's Diner, famous for being a location for the television sitcom "Seinfeld". This was a must stop for Connor and Yago.
We then walked over to look at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine then back down to Ben & Jerry's for dessert.
The final stop of the day was Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor, conveniently located a couple of blocks from me.
The next day, believe it or not, topped Monday. Alfred Hubay, a witness to the Carnegie Hall Jenkins recital, took us all to lunch at a magnificent Italian restaurant called Marcony. He regaled us all with stories and memories dating back to the 1920s, his memories of his career at the Met and even the present day Broadway. The company and cuisine provided a sumptuous time for all!
Later that night, Mark sat in front of my microphone and spoke for almost 2 hours about Cosme McMoon.