MYRA MORTIMER

American Contralto Singer

1894-1972

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 between 1865-1870

Harbors of Quebec, Montreal and Liverpool, circa 1870s HERE

Immigrants Handbook Port of Quebec HERE

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 West to Washington state.

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 many flowers."

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 instruction"

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 believe that 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 will be  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. LINK

Sandy Road with a Farmhouse, 1627
Jan Josephsz. van Goyen (Dutch, 15961656)
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)

 

 

 

 

 

Recital

Thursday,  November 17, 1927 8:15 pm

Chicago Orchestra Hall

Old English songs including :

The day is done ---------------------16th Century

On a Time---------------------------John Attey (1622)

Phillis was a fair maid--------------1615-Giles Earle's song book

Lord Rendal-------------------------1615 Somersetshire song book

German Leider cycles -------------- Schubert

Heimliches Lieben

Der Wandered an den Mond

Am See

Die Gestirne

 

Morgentau--------------------------Hugo Wolf

Ale gingen Herz zur Ruh

Rat einer Alten

Klinge, klinge mein Pandero

 

May, the maiden------------------------John Alden Carpenter.

Waiting----------------------------------Alice M. Shaw

Japanese Death Song-------------------Earl Cranston Sharp

The Sea-shell----------------------------Carl Engel

Her Voice--------------------------------John Alden Carpenter.

 

 

 

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 contact me.

If you have any comments or suggestions I would love to hear from you!

Email Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any information on Myra email nancy cunningb2@flash.net