Learnin’ at the luncheon

The Westbrook Woman’s Club held its annual mid-winter luncheon at Keeley’s on Thursday, Jan. 15. Mary Gagnon, the hospitality chairman, and her committee, Christine Bennet, Victoria Doughty, Judith Getchell, Ruth Jay, Sally Labrecque, Madelyn Landry, Mary Peters, Judith Reidman, and Jean Anne Thomas, decorated each table with a winter arrangement. Ethelyn Chase offered a blessing.

Reservations were made by Anita Blackstone, Kim Caron, Glenna Carter, Nancy Curran, Doris Doggett, Victoria Doughty, Marjorie Eames, Georgette Flaherty, Frances Fogg, Mary Gagnon, Judith Getchell, Ruth Jay, Kit Juniewicz, Madelyn Landry, Carolyn Leavitt, Louise Leighton, Barbara Libby, Mary Libby, Evelyn Meserve, Roberta Morrill, Nancy Plaisted, Lois Pratt, Carol Quint, Judith Reidman, Marian Rich, Cleo Sherman, Elaine Spiller, Jean Anne Thomas, Maryann Usher, Judy Vanni, Lucille Waite, Arlene Wood and Elizabeth Young. Our guests were Ginger Hatt, Avon Oakes and Judy Plummer.

Roberta Morrill, the first vice president, introduced Vernon (“Learnin’ Vernon”) Cox from Westbrook, a “Teller of Legends, Lore, and a Whole Lot More.” This enthusiastic, versatile entertainer not only taught us about the art of storytelling, he also kept the group thoroughly spellbound. We learned that storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners, also enriches our lives, can strengthen and benefit our community and, of course, stories can entertain and enlighten. With each story that our very talented storyteller related to the group, he always concluded with the thought or the point of his talk that he wanted to leave with us.

When he finished his performance, the majority of the group would have preferred to sit longer and enjoy even more.

Cox grew up in Bar Harbor, where his love of stories began. As a parent raising his daughter, Shanna, in Orland, he volunteered at the local library and refined his stories at many a Scout campfire.

He now lives in Westbrook with his wife, Bobbie, and their pet, Daisy. He has been an Air Force medic, cook, custodian, mental health worker, electrician, volunteer firefighter, EMT and a lifetime member of Girl Scouts. He also supports his storytelling habit by working for the Portland International Jetport.

He shall always remain a “Learnin’ Vernon.”

DaPonte delight

The concert Friday of the DaPonte String Quartet was presented by the Portland Conservatory of Music in the sanctuary of the Woodfords Congregational Church. The church is the new home of the conservatory. The concert was a benefit in its honor.

I was pleased to find a seat near the front of the hall, beside my friend Shirley Corthell Littlefield and her friend, Mary Yeo. I was also pleased that the executive director of the Woman’s Literary Union, Anne Powell, came over to speak with me.

Quartet members are Lydia Forbes and Ferdinand Liva, violins, Mark Preston, viola, and Myles Jordan, cello. Kim Kehmann was substituting for Mark at this concert. The program started with Beethoven’s Quartet in C minor, Op. 18 No. 4, in three movements. Next was an interesting number, “Four for Tango,” by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), and the last number was Cesar Franck’s Quintet for piano and strings in F minor, in three movements.

The guest artist for the quintet was pianist Chiharu Naruse, whose playing was outstanding. She was born in Japan. Her parents are both piano teachers, and she began studying piano at age 4. She has competed in a number of piano competitions throughout the world, including the Internationaler Mozartwettbewerb in Salzburg, Austria, the Pescara Academie Piano Competition in Pescara, Italy, and was awarded the silver prize at the Hyogo Piano Competition in Hyogo, Japan. She moved to the United States in June 2002, to study under Frank Glazer, a member of the advisory board for the Portland Conservatory of Music. She teaches music and piano at L’cole Francaise du Maine. She is on the faculty at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

The tango number’s composer, Astor Piazzolla, was a new name to me. I learned much about him from the program notes, which were very well presented. He was born in 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. By the age of 4, he had moved to New York City, where, apart from a year back in Argentina, he lived until he was 17. His father bought him a bandeon, a South American folk instrument, at a pawn shop when he was eight, and he became devoted to that instrument for the rest of his life. He moved back to Argentina in 1937, studying tango playing with several groups, and he simultaneously studied classical music. With the money he won in a competition in 1953 he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, who urged him to abandon classical studies for the tango. He then wrote and performed with the greatest classical and jazz musicians of his time from the 1950s on, and achieved immense popular success. He wrote the work we heard, “Four for Tango,” in 1989 and he died only three years later, in 1992.

The tango we heard was fascinating to watch being played by the DaPonte group. Very strong movements and sounds made by their bows had me worried that the bows might break. The Beethoven and Franck numbers were my favorites, but it was fascinating to hear the tango music, and to watch all the players handle it so well.

Tasty tradition

This recipe is from “Cooking With a Maine Accent,” 1992, published to honor the Maine Federation of Women’s Clubs. It was published by the Gorham Woman’s Club, and submitted by Shirley Cole.


1 16-ounce can of cream-style corn

1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli (cooked and drained)

1 egg beatern

1/4 cup ground Saltines (about 18)

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoon melted margarine (or butter)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt and a dash of pepper

Combine all ingredients. Put in a greased 1-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

A note above the recipe said, “This has been passed from cousin to cousin in my family.”

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