Vincent, Ruth


The precise date of Ruth Vincent’s birth is uncertain, but was probably 1874 and she was christened Amy Ruth Bunn the daughter, one of ten children, of the butcher Henry Vincent Bunn and his wife Emma. In 1871, Henry Bunn was a marshman at Amos Farm, Acle Road, Runham. It was here that Ruth Vincent was born. A year later Henry Bunn moved to 56 Market Place as a butcher.

Little is known of Amy Ruth’s singing career in Yarmouth. The Norwich newspapers note that in 1888 she sang a song at a Priory School concert and sung in a concert at St. Andrew’s School Room.

From, not a well off large family, how Ruth Vincent came to have singing lessons, presumably privately in Norwich, is unclear. From the census returns the family could not afford to employ any live-in servants.

However, Dr. Horace Hill, a singing teacher of Norwich, was walking along Southtown Road, where the Bunn family were living at the time. He heard a girl singing so sweetly that he knocked at the door and asked to see the singer to whom he made an offer of three years free tuition, which she accepted. She later studied under Herman Klein. Klein introduced her to Columbia records in 1906 and she became one of their regular recording artists. She went to London and took the stage name of Ruth Vincent. Based on the quality of her voice she obtained the position of understudy to the principal soprano in an opera

being performed at the Savoy Theatre, then occupied by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

Ruth Vincent’s actual debut as a soprano was in the chorus of The Chieftains at the Savoy Theatre in December 1894 when she was 20 years old. She went on tour with the company in 1895 returning to the Savoy in 1896 as an understudy. She slowly established herself as the chief lyrical soprano on the English Stage taking major parts in several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, including: The Yeomen of the Guard (at the age of 23), The Gondoliers, The Sorcerer, H.M.S. Pinafore and many operettas now forgotten. Sullivan saw her in a later Savoy production of The Lucky Star and Sullivan noted in his diary, Ruth Vincent looked as if she were furious at being relegated to the chorus. In November 1899, Sullivan’s The Rose of Persia was premiered. Dismayed when she was not selected for the leading soprano role, Ruth Vincent rejected the smaller part she was assigned and left the D'Oyly Carte for good, one week before the opening. This was one of the few times anyone had ever walked out at the Savoy. Miss Vincent threw up her part, silly girl, Sullivan wrote in his diary. She then went to New York and took the leading soprano role in The Rose of Persia, but the show was closed after 25 performances in September 1900.

Ruth Vincent married Lieutenant Colonel John Fraser of the Royal Horse Guards who was a stockbroker. They lived in Finchley Road in some style. She gave up the stage for two years after her marriage but continuing vocal studies in Paris. She returned to the West End stage in 1903 appearing in many musical comedies. She was described as the Queen of the London Palladium. In 1910, She appeared with the Thomas Beecham Opera Company and at Covent Garden in Hansel and Gretel (as Hansel), Così fan Tutte (as Fiordiligi), The Tales of Hoffmann (as Antonia), Don Giovanni (as Zerlina), A Village Romeo and Juliet (creating the role of Vrenchen, the Juliet role, in Delius's opera) and Carmen as Michaela. She went on a concert tour of the provinces in 1911 performing in performances of the Messiah and Elijah.

Ruth Vincent received glowing acclaim by the critics, such as:

London has been crowded for months to see Miss Ruth Vincent. One of the many reasons for the decline of the popularity of comic opera was the want of a prima donna. This no longer exists as Miss Vincent, who held the position in the 1870’s and early 1880s, still holds it today.

Seldom indeed has Miss Ruth Vincent’s silver voice poured itself out more lavishly than in some exquisitely fresh and dainty love songs.

At a concert given in the Sutton Rectory grounds, Norfolk on a very calm evening, the voice of Miss Ruth Vincent, who sang several songs, was heard distinctly three miles away.

One of Ruth Vincent’s sisters, Great Yarmouth born and bred, Margaret Vincent Bunn was the actress and singer, Madge Vincent. She served in the D'Oyly Carte chorus and in musicals on the London stage in minor parts.

Another sister, Agnes Vincent was also a singer on the London stage. Robert Vincent Bunn, a brother of Ruth Vincent, was also a singer.

So, four of the ten children of Henry and Emma Bunn became professional singers, based in London. While they were treading the boards, the others, as far as one can ascertain stayed in Norfolk.

Ruth Vincent did appear occasionally in Great Yarmouth, mainly at Britannia Pier, booked by J. W. Nightingale and, as he stated: at great expense, and also at concerts at the Town Hall.

She retired from the stage in 1930 and died in London in 1955 aged 81.

Her large suitcase of coffee colour leather that had belonged to the celebrated opera singer Ruth Fraser (known as Ruth Vincent) was sold at auction at Christies in London on 25th January 2000 for £80.

Ruth Vincent’s voice can be heard on You Tube singing: Comin' thro' the rye (1906)