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“A Glimpse of Heaven”

Emma Lucy Gates started playing the piano when she was two years old and missed having one when her family left for a five-year mission to the Hawaiian Islands when she was four. On their way home in 1891, she saw a “big parlor piano” in San Francisco’s Hotel Russ and thought she’d “caught a glimpse of heaven.” A crowd soon gathered to listen to the nine-year-old, who “seemed entirely alone, and as entirely unconscious of the interest she was creating” while singing and “trilling forth song after song in a language that caused her listeners to stare at each other in wonderment.” It was the first time the listeners had heard the melodic sounds of Hawaiian. It was also the first time Emma had performed for the public, the debut to a long career sharing her God-given musical talents in Europe and North America.

Horace G. Whitney, “Career of a Utah Song Bird,” Improvement Era, June 1905, 569–70