Music: Flying Baritone

  • Share
  • Read Later

No one who went to Princeton University between 1921 and 1925 has forgotten a hard-muscled youth who came down from Alaska with shaggy black hair, shy grey eyes, a fighter's chin, a wolfskin coat, a rich baritone voice and much musical talent. Robert M. ("Bob") Crawford entered Princeton with a little money he had earned as a surveyor in Alaska. He worked his way in a bicycle shop and a Ford service station. He led the University Orchestra. He became president of the Glee Club. He composed for and sang in the Triangle Club's shows, including The Scarlet Coat which he wrote out of his fondness for life in the Northwest. He used to slip into the Congregational Church and play opera on the organ. He also composed there, trying out orchestral effects with the stops and filling the house with his big voice. After graduation he organized the Princeton Conservatory of Music. The Princeton Orchestra still plays as something of a tradition the symphonic poem Le Cure et le Mart (The Priest and the Corpse) which an amiable French professor accepted in lieu of thesis when Bob Crawford was in danger of flunking the course.

Graduated from Princeton in 1925, Baritone Crawford studied for two years with pretty Pianist Nadia Boulanger and Conductor Andre Bloch, on a Walter Damrosch scholarship at Fontainebleau. There he met a student who became his wife and the mother of his child, "Skippy."

During the next three years he studied in New York on a Juilliard Scholarship, sang with the Lutheran Oratorio Society at Town Hall, with the Bach Choir in the annual festivals at Bethlehem. Pa., and with the Juilliard Orchestra and Opera Company. Now 33. Bob Crawford is musical director of the Newark Music Foundation, radio conductor of the Newark Symphony Orchestra, soloist and occasional conductor of summer concerts at Chautauqua, N. Y. Increasingly busy, he is a licensed airplane pilot; by swift swoops he filled close engagements this summer in Fredonia, N. Y., Mystic, Conn, and Bradford, Pa.

This week Bob Crawford was to set out from Seattle, Wash, on the most newsworthy trip of his career: a triumphant flying return to Alaska. He had flown across the country, taking with him Pianist Harrison Potter and Soprano Ruby Mercer, both of whom have been associated with him in Chautauqua, and as publicity man his Princeton friend Harvey Phillips. They would crate the plane, sail up from Seattle to Seward, Alaska, then fly to Fairbanks for the first concert on Sept. 17. There would be caribou and moose hunting, mountain-climbing, sight seeing, then concerts in Seward, Juneau, Seattle, possibly in Vancouver, Victoria and elsewhere. Because Bob Crawford was once a surveyor for it, the Alaska Railroad agreed to sponsor his trip. Alaska's Governor George Parks sent words of encouragement and enthusiasm.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2