American Contralto Singer
Myra was an internationally known vocalist and
singer who toured the United States and the world from 1925-1929.
* Contralto : The part sung by the highest,
male or lowest female voices the alto or counter tenor. The usual range of the
contralto voice if from G, below middle C, to the C above that, though
exceptionally it embraces two octaves.
Myra was my grandmother, Mabel Mortimer Smith's
first cousin. Their fathers were brothers and most of the information I
have presented here come from items collected and saved by Mabel and then her
daughter Lorraine ( My Mom).
Mabel Mortimer and Frank Smith 1918 Myra was the daughter of Daniel Mortimer and
Dora Angie Munson Mortimer. She was born March 26, 1894 in Spokane, Washington
and was their only child.
Her father, Daniel Mortimer was son of Daniel
Mortimer Sr. b Edinburgh, Scotland in 1828 and Marion Taylor b. Edinburgh,
Scotland in 1825. They had 3 known sons ; Alexander ( Mabel's father ) ,
Walter (both born in Edinburgh) and Daniel ( Myra's father ) born in Manchester,
England in 1862. I believe the family had moved to Manchester to await
immigration to North America and I think they left England for Canada sometime
Harbors of Quebec, Montreal and Liverpool, circa 1870s
Immigrants Handbook Port of Quebec
They probably landed at the port of Quebec,
Canada. They stayed in Canada for a few years possibly Ottawa area and
later ( sometime after 1878) entered the United States through St. Albans
, Vermont. Daniel and Alexander found work on the St. Albans Times
newspaper. "The family is usually employed in publishing,
printing or writing trades. Alexander and his wife, Adelaide
Allen moved on to settle in Chicago, IL and Daniel and his wife headed
That is where Myra is born in 1894-Daniel and Dora Angie from their 1938
passport application. Not much is known about Myra's early life but according to the Los Angeles Times article "she
trained as a pianist in her youth, but owing to an accident to her hand she past
the time studying singing." She also was "advised to make singing her profession" by the violinist,
Christian Timner and then left to study in New York and in Europe.
According to her passport application she left
the Unites States in 1921 for Europe , so that she might " study singing in Spain,
France, Italy and British Isles" She made her American debut in Boston on
January 20, 1927 and then continued the tour with 5 debuts in 5 cities including :
New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
In her review in the Boston Globe she is
described as a "
notable artist with personality, dramatic power and fine musicianship
She performed Monday evening January 26, 1927
at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The New York Times review said that " Myra
gave an ambitious song recital ...the audience was large and the singer received
Myra continued to tour the world and is know to
have toured in Europe and performed Leipzig, Berlin, Munich, Budapest, Prague , London, Amsterdam and
Stockholm. She performed with such musical greats
as Cyrena Van Gordon and was accompanied for years by the
accompanist Coenraadd V. Bos
She is mentioned in his memoirs The
Well-tempered accompanist by Coenradd V. Bos as told to Ashley Pettis.
Theodore Presser Company Publishers :
1949. Which is a funny little book where for 162 pages Mr. Bos extols his
greatness and talent.As for Mra, he says he "had instructed
her on the subtle technique of slurring" and that "she and Julia Culp,
Johannes Messchaert and Freda Hempel all have highly treasured the value of my
Myra married a Mr. M. Van Diessen and lived for years in London,
England.She then apparently retired from the stage and is found in New York
City as Mrs. Frederick Pinter. I do not know much about Mr. Pinter, but
Myra may have been a widow by 1939 because in the NY Times for April 28, 1939
-she is mentioned as living alone in a " new apartment rental " article."Myra Mortimer Pinter in 200 West 58th street".
Thirty three years later her death certificate
lists the same address as he place of death. In January of 1972 at the age of 78
she died in her home and a Michael Sterlacci is listed on her death
certificate as her Executor and the informant. After 30 years, it only took only about
10 seconds on a Google search to locate and email Mr. Sterlacci . He quickly
responded and said that as a young lawyer in the early 70's, he had
been introduced to Myra by a mutual friend. They became friends and she had asked him to be
the executor of her will. He
promised me he would continue to work on trying to find any memorabilia of
Myra's that might still exist and hopefully more will be located and it
included on this page.
She was cremated in Ferncliff Cemetery in
Ardsley New York.
I don't know how our families lost touch ,
maybe she had stayed in touch with Mabel, but Mabel died in 1958 and my Mother
never knew that her mother's first cousin was alive and living in New York.
I don't think even if Myra had tried to,
she would have been able to find my mother or her sister as both had married,
changed their names from Smith and moved away from Chicago. Her obituary from the New York Times
Monday January 31 1972 is sad.
"Pinter- Myra Mortimer , on Sat January 29. Laid
to rest Sun January 30."
As little girl, I used to look through
Mabel's old, green metal box full of old family papers and especially at
Myra's photos and recital programs. I would wish that I knew more about
her. Now I do know more and now, I wish I had known her.
*Above is a note from Myra to Mabel on
Blackstone hotel ( Chicago, IL ) letterhead. The note tells Mabel how to pick up
her tickets to Myra's performance.
In 1970 Myra donated this painting to the
Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Sandy Road with a Farmhouse, 1627
Jan Josephsz. van Goyen (Dutch, 1596–1656)
Oil on wood; 12 1/8 x 16 1/4 in. (30.8 x 41.3 cm)
Bequest of Myra Mortimer Pinter, 1972 (1972.25)
Thursday, November 17, 1927 8:15 pm
Chicago Orchestra Hall
Old English songs including :
The day is done ---------------------16th
On a Time---------------------------John Attey
Phillis was a fair maid--------------1615-Giles
Earle's song book
Somersetshire song book
German Leider cycles -------------- Schubert
Der Wandered an den Mond
Ale gingen Herz zur Ruh
Rat einer Alten
Klinge, klinge mein Pandero
May, the maiden------------------------John
Japanese Death Song-------------------Earl
Los Angeles Examiner Review
Dedicated to my Mom, Lorraine Smith Kircher Griffin who
always kept the stories alive.
If you have any additional information on Myra or the Mortimer family please
If you have any comments or suggestions I would love to hear from you!
If you have any information on
Myra email nancy