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Ermine Hall Allen
*Ermine Hall Allen was born on this date in 1910. She was a Black classical vocalist and educator.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, she was the youngest of two daughters to S.Edward. and Harriet ‘Hattie’ Grissom Hall. Her older sister Dorothy was a music teacher. Ermine's first performances were impromptu affairs. At age 10, she and her sister Dorothy serenaded doughboys as they left St. Paul to fight in World War I. By the time she was 16, she was a soloist at Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul. She graduated from St. Paul Central H.S. and studied at the Minnesota College of Music and Macalester College-Conservatory of Music and performed locally in church choirs.
Theater/Arts critics dubbed Hall "the vest-pocket Marian Anderson" because she was short, only 4 feet 9 inches tall, and had such a rich contralto voice. With talent, she broke down racial barriers, just as Anderson did. Hall was the first Black singer to perform with the St. Paul Civic Opera. She traveled throughout the country in the 1960s, when the American Civil Rights movement was in full throat, singing the spirituals spawned by the trials and tribulations of American slaves.
"The Negro spiritual is almost an entirely different musical form when authentically interpreted by a singer who understands this rich, powerful folk music," wrote Minneapolis Tribune critic Allan Holbert after Ermine's performance at Northrup Auditorium in Minneapolis. Hall said that to present the slaves' songs effectively, the singer had to "feel the heartache and the pain that Negroes know. Even on the joyous spirituals, you can't do them right unless you've known the feeling of sorrow."
She married Ted ‘Theodore’ Allen; the couple had two daughters, Myrrjene and Marcheta. She was an active member of the artist section of the St. Paul Schubert Club. She was a member of several other organizations, including the Golden Agers Club and the Credjafawn Social Club. She also served time on the board of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul. Ermine Hall Allen died on September 5, 1996.