Gertrude Norman-Marcia van Dresser Room

Gertrude "Toto" Norman was born in ca.1880. Her career as an actress included working with Mrs Fiske in New York and with Sir Henry Irving's company in Britain. She was also secretary and companion to the American opera singer Marcia van Dresser, and had an extremely wide network of theatre acquaintances. She also undertook charitable work for the Musicians' Benevolent Fund. She died in London in 1961.

biographical information from Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection.

Marcia van Dresser (b Memphis, 4 Dec 1877; d London, 11 July 1937). American soprano. She sang small parts such as a flowermaiden (Parsifal) or a Valkyrie at the Metropolitan (1903–4), then went to Munich to study. Engaged at Dresden in 1907, she made her début as Elisabeth (Tannhäuser). She sang Sieglinde at Covent Garden (1909) and was engaged at Frankfurt (1910–14) before returning to the USA, where she sang for two seasons in Chicago, then left the operatic stage. Her voice, a lyric soprano, was not large, but she was greatly admired as a Mozart singer.

-Grove online

Physical description

This collection consists of one document case containing nine folders, primarily containing correspondence and a several photographs.

In addition, music manuscripts dedicated to Marcia Van Dresser, as well as published music and books donated to NEC on her behalf by Gertrude Norman have been individually cataloged and can be found by searching our online catalog.

Provenance

This collection was originally in two parts. The larger portion was a collection of
correspondence primarily dealing with the Van Dresser Memorial Room, which was indexed by NEC Music Librarian, Geraldine Ostrove. Her index has been retained and is in the last folder of this collection. According to the cataloging card, this part of the collection was donated directly by Gertrude Norman. No date is given. The second part of this collection originally contained not only additional correspondence, but also inventories of furniture, and photographs. According to the cataloging card, this part of the collection was transferred to the NEC Archives by the orchestra library in December 1981. These two collections were combined into one unit by the NEC Archivist in April 2012.

The music manuscripts, published music and books were all donated at the same time as the rest of the collection by Gertrude Norman on behalf of Marcia Van Dresser.

Access

Access to the Gertrude Norman – Van Dresser Room collection is granted by the Archivist or the Director of Libraries. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.

Copyright

All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory.  Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Director of Libraries. This collection should be cited as the Gertrude Norman – Van Dresser Room Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of correspondence to/from Gertrude Norman primarily relating to her donation of photographs and furniture to create a Marcia Van Dresser Memorial Room at NEC. The correspondence spans the years 1938-1951, and much of it is to/from NEC’s Director (later Emeritus) at the time, Wallace Goodrich and his wife Madeleine. Other correspondence includes letters from Norman to Geraldine Farrar and letters to Norman from Phillip Allen (NEC Trustee), Harrison Keller (NEC Director after Goodrich), Joseph P. Kennedy(regarding customs issues in the donation of the items for the Van Dresser Room, the Harvard Theatre Collection and the Museum of the City of New York.

The correspondence between Norman and Goodrich (between England and Boston) is very interesting as the dates correspond with World War II so there is a great deal written about the war, political attitudes of the time, and information about NEC’s operation during this time. Other characters who are mentioned throughout this correspondence are Alice Stevens and Cleora Wood (NEC voice faculty who first used the Van Dresser Room for teaching), Lady Maud Warrender (1870-1945) (a singer and patron of music and close friend to Gertrude Norman), and Orson Adams. There is one additional folder containing correspondence from 2012 regarding the preservation of contents of the Marcia Van Dresser Room, particularly 4 portraits of the singer.

In addition to the correspondence, there is also one folder containing inventory lists of the contents of Van Dresser’s music room in London, as well as another folder containing photographs of this room. The last folder, Miscellaneous, contains notes that were with the collection written by Norman, carbon copies of catalog cards from the original accessioning of this collection, as well as two copies of an inventory of correspondence that makes up the larger portion of this collection, compiled by Geraldine Ostrove, NEC Music Librarian.

Click here for an itemized list of the correspondence in this collection.

*See also the NEC Archives’ Wallace Goodrich Collection, Selected Correspondence, Gertrude Norman for more letters dating from 1939-1940; Miscellaneous Letter Collection, Letter from Mary Lenom to Gertrude Norman, 1931.

*Music manuscripts dedicated to Marcia Van Dresser, as well as published music and books donated to NEC on her behalf by Gertrude Norman have been individually cataloged and can be found by searching our online catalog.

Container List

Folder 1 – Correspondence, January-September 1938
Folder 2 – Correspondence, October – December 1938
Folder 3 - Correspondence, January-May 1939
Folder 4 – Correspondence, June – December 1939
Folder 5 – Correspondence, 1940-1943
Folder 6 – Correspondence, 1944-1951
Folder 7 - Correspondence, 2012
Folder 8 – Inventories
Folder 9 – Photographs
Folder 10 - Miscellaneous

Click here for an itemized list of the correspondence in this collection.


MUSIC IS THE SILENCE BETWEEN THE NOTES. CLAUDE DEBUSSY