Madame Tomsett, a well-known Tyneside soprano, is a native of Sunderland. At an early age she was found to possess a phenomenally full and round voice. Before reaching her teens she was taken in hand by Canon Bamber for his choir at the Catholic Church, Bridge Street, Sunderland, where she was a leading singer for some years. She first took lessons with the late Mr. Robert Ferry, a prominent local basso, who subsequently engaged her to lead the chorus of the Sunderland Philharmonic Society. On the occasion of that body giving a performance of Handel’s “Alexander’s Feast,” the solo soprano from London became indisposed before the concert commenced, and, at a moment’s notice, Miss Tomsett was called upon to take her place, which she did with the greatest credit and to the satisfaction of the audience.
After remaining with Mr. Ferry for some time, it was decided to send the youthful vocalist to London to acquire a thorough musical training. She was placed under the late Dr. Wylde, principal of the London Academy of Music, where she also received lessons in singing from Signor Lablache, who entertained a high opinion of her vocal powers. After barely nine months tuition, she was entered as a candidate to compete for the Crystal Palace prizes at the National musical meetings, among other competitors at that time being Miss Leonora Braham, Miss Bolingbroke, Miss Adeline Paget, Miss Jessie Jones, Mr. Leslie Crotty, and Mr. Herbert Thorndike. Notwithstanding that she had had much less experience than the other competitors, she managed not only to sing into the first half-dozen who were selected for final adjudication, bat carried off the certificate for “excellence in singing, voice, and expression” (similar to that won by Mr. Crotty in the baritone class), which certificate was signed by the judges. Sir Julius Benedict, Luigi Arditi, and Wilhelm Ganz. The London papers were very lavish in their praise of the wonderful progress the Sunderland soprano had made in so short a time. The Standard said: “Miss Tomsett was nervous, but the resonant qualities of her beautiful ringing voice completely filled the Crystal Hall. This young lady is a student of the London Academy, and her progress is nothing short of marvellous, considering that she has received scarcely a year’s tuition. A brilliant future is before this vocalist if she but husbands the splendid resources at her command.”
Miss Tomsett afterwards sang with great acceptance at Gresham College for Dr. Wylde; at the St. James’s Hall and Crystal Palace concerts with Mr. Mann’s orchestra (notably on the occasion of the first visit of the Shah of Persia); at operatic recitals with Madame Elena Coraui and Mr. J. W. Turner; at Signor Arditi’s, and elsewhere. Instead of remaining in London, however, she returned home, and her services have since been much in request for oratorios and concerts in the North of England and in Scotland. For some years she has been principal soprano at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Newcastle. She married a local journalist, Mr. William Heenan, and has a daughter who is already a talented pianist.
The accompanying portrait is from a photograph by Mr. James Bacon, of Northumberland Street, Newcastle.