Monday, October 20, 2008

An Interview With Cosme McMoon

Oh, the wonders of search engines.  On a search the other day for more information on the (in)famous socialite/soprano Florence Foster Jenkins, I chanced upon a fascinating wealth of information regarding Cosme McMoon, FFJ's pianist.
I had always known incorrectly assumed (see here) that "Cosme McMoon" was a nom de plume (nom de klavier?) of a well-known New York pianist of the time.  However, at the end of an interview transcript from WCLV Cleveland (which was copied to a mailing list that somehow ended up on the archives of the UC Davis site) , Paul Moor states that Cosme McMoon was actually the well-known pianist Edwin McArthur, also known for his work with Kirsten Flagstad.  From Moor's account:
I'd heard before that McArthur had played for Mme Jenkins at the beginning of his career, but had never taken it seriously. I can only assume that at the time he, as any musician can understand, simply needed the scratch. The discovery of Cosmé McMoon's true identity set me on fire to get into contact with him, and ask him some probing psychological questions about her rare disorder. Unfortunately, I learned from Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians that Edwin McArthur had already died, at the age of 79, on February 2, 1987. I still marvel at the sublime serenity of his facial muscles the only time I heard him and Mme Jenkins together. At that time I had the feeling that nothing short of an atomic explosion would have ruffled his extraordinary aplomb.
The interview with McArthur/McMoon is fascinating, and sheds light on the FFJ phenomenon and how the New York audiences were able to create the mystique of a great artist in a singer so woefully bereft of talent with such a unique persona:
Q. In what way was the audience able to contain itself, or to maintain some semblance of approval during all this, Mr. McMoon?

A. Why, there wasn't any question of semblance of approval, because they approved of it wholeheartedly, but the audience nearly always tried not to hurt her feelings by outright laughing, so they developed a convention that whenever she came to a particularly excruciating discord or something like that, where they had to laugh, they burst into these salvos of applause and whistles and the noise was so great that they could laugh at liberty.
You can read the entire interview here. Those eager to sample the terrors delights of Florence Foster Jenkins', er, unforgettable voice should definitely check out The Glory (????) of the Human Voice, otherwise have a gander at this past post with FFJ's Queen of the Night aria.


  1. May I reccomend my documentary "Florence Foster Jenkins: A World Of Her Own". I think this will fully answer any questions you have about Jenkins, McMoon and McArthur.

    Donald Collup, Producer

  2. A couple of years ago I posted a comment on teh 78-l list serve for 78 rpm collectors. I mentioned I had the interview with Cosmo McMoon promotional LP. I received an inquiry from someone indicating Cosmo was their uncle, and asking for a recording of the interview. They later sent me a thank you postcard. All seemed straight up and real. The other day I stumbled upon an excellen copy of the Melotone 12" 78 rpm recording by Jenkins of "Serenatga Mexicaa"n and "Queen of the Night." Dennis Flannigan

  3. Forgive the typos in previous posting. Dennis

  4. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Cosme McMoon was not a nome de plume!

  5. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Cosme McMoon was born on February 21, 1901 in Mapimi, Durango Mexico as Cosme McMunn. His parents were Cosme McMunn, and Maria Valadez. His Father (also named Cosme) was also born in Mexico of Irish immigrant parents Daniel McMunn, and Mary MacDowell (Cosme's Grandparents on his fathers side).

    He lived very quietly, and modestly, and was very independent even to his last days. He became ill with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 1980. It was a neighbor of Cosme's that contacted his family in San Antonio that Cosme was ill. Cosme's nephew William McMunn went to New York from San Antonio to arrange to bring Cosme to San Antonio. Also, Jim McMunn (Cosme's youngest sibling and only surviving sibling at the time) flew into New York from Los Angels to assist his nephew William McMunn to admit Cosme into St. Luke's hospital in New York City. Cosme was brought back to San Antonio in August 1980, and lived for two more days before passing away. As Cosme requested his remains were cremated, and his ashes are resting at Sunset Memorial park in San Antonio.

    This information was posted by Mark McMunn the Grand Nephew of Cosme McMunn who reside in San Antonio , Texas.

    December 25th 2008

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