Edith Vail Ross excitedly wrote home to Rutland, Vermont about her successful Sunday afternoon peformance singing “Come Unto Him” at the Five Points House of Industry on June 14, 1903. The week beforehand she had been racked by nerves that manifested in a what felt like the beginnings of a cold and/or a sore throat. The more she thought that it
might be just nerves getting the best of her the more frustrated she felt with her disposition betraying her and attacking her body in such a way. No matter if it were a cold or nerves, she appealed to her mother for help in a note marked “private” and asked her to send Edith “good thoughts” and “healing thoughts” to help turn the tide. She confided every detail of each symptom and wrote about the exact time of her performance so that her mother could be thinking of her at that exact moment and “assist” her. Although her mother in Vermont was far away from Edith physically in New York she was very much in tune with her daughter and part & parcel to her success. Their committed Mother-Daughter connection was strong and would serve them throughout their lifetimes. When the performance went well “with no sign of cold- It was simply wonderful the way it disappeared and I was in splendid voice, as clear as a bell“. She extends this success to her mother writing “thank you so much more than I can tell for the help you must have given me Momma – For my cold was pretty bad yesterday and today I am allright.”
Enclosing a copy of the program to her parents, she shares that Mr. Penfield said her “voice rang out beautifully and was so rich. He thinks I have a beautiful voice and Mrs. Schirmer was delighted and said ‘I was allright‘ and that my voice was very clear etc.” Just as she had promised her parents a few weeks earlier, her name was printed in the program.
The day after the performance she writes a much longer letter home and tells her parents about her experience, “I got down to “Five Points” late, but in plenty of time for my solo. It was a very interesting service + beautiful. The children listened in rapt attention when I was singing and nearly stared their little eyes out at me. I sang very well as I told you in my note. The children went directly from the Service to their suppers and we went in + watched them. Then Mr. Penfield took us over a greater part of the institution. It was a huge place. We saw babies who are not old enough to be with the other children, the dormitories, washroom, schoolroom, weaving rooms for the boys + girls, games, magazines, birds, goldfish + many things to make them happy, the kitchen, etc. As the children filed out of the dining room they had to pass us and everyone of the hundreds there that could get ahold of us grabbed our hands. Some kissed them and others got their arms around us + one girl wanted Mrs. Schirmer to bring her home with her. It was very touching. They bid us goodnight so sweetly + asked us to come again. They looked upon us as great curiosities + it was something for them to remember + to talk about for days. They want me to sing again if I will.”
Listen to the American Soprano Lucy Isabelle Marsh sing Handel’s “Come Unto Him” in this 1926 recording
- Opportunity at Five Points (edithandpaul.com)