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Family Writings

The New World

On Dec. 22, 1939, Morawetz' siblings Herbert and Sonja arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on a blacked-out ship from England. Sonja was welcomed with a box of chocolates arranged by Norman Sommerville, a lawyer and head of the Red Cross. Not knowing that the gift had come from a man befriended by their father, this left a great impression on the young refugee of their new country. They went on by train, arriving in Toronto on December 24.

Morawetz' 1943
military rejection

Norman Sommerville had also arranged for Oskar Morawetz to gain entry to Canada from Santo Domingo, and Morawetz arrived in his new homeland on June 17, 1940. As the war progressed, the Canadian Army instituted a special war-time conscription for non-Canadians. In 1943, Morawetz went for a medical examination to evaluate his eligibility for the army. With some relief, he was deemed medically unfit to serve in the military. A chest X-ray revealed that he had at one time been exposed to T.B., and thus harboured dormant  T.B. cells in his body. Although it posed no threat to him or others in the normal course of his life, the risk of an outbreak during military service was sufficient cause for his rejection.

In Nov. 1946, Morawetz' brother John and John's new bride, Maureen, arrived from England, and the whole family was thus finally reunited. However, although Richard and Frida had managed to bring all their children to Canada, they lost a great number of extended family members to the Nazi concentration camps.

Home in Toronto

Oskar, Sonja, Frida, Herbert, Cathleen Morawetz, and uncle Alfred Glaser

In January 1940, Richard Morawetz rented a furnished house at 214 Russell Hill Road. When their home was broken into by burglars, a reporter came and asked what the immigrants thought of their new country. The headline of the ensuing article was: Home is Broken Into - Canada 'Still Okay'
        Aug. 19, 1940. The Toronto Daily Star

This minor incident did nothing to diminish the high regard with which the Morawetz family viewed their new homeland. More unsettling was the anti-Semitism they experienced, and this eventually compelled Morawetz' brother Herbert to move to the United States, settling finally in New York.

In 1943 the family moved to another rental home at 424 Rosemary Road, and then in 1944, Richard Morawetz purchased his only Canadian home at 17 Dewbourne Ave. Oskar Morawetz lived here with his parents until his marriage in 1958.

Certificate of Naturalization

On Jan. 16, 1946, the day before his 29th birthday, Morawetz became a naturalized Canadian citizen.

When his parents had asked him, while he was studying in Paris, if he wanted to join them in Canada, he had initially declined, not wanting to go to a country that was musically "uncultured". On finally arriving in Canada, his first impression of his new home was the vastness of the country.

He was once invited to stay with friends in northern Ontario. He decided to take a walk in the woods, something he had often done in his country of birth with no thought of getting lost, as one could never walk far before running into civilization. However when he decided to return, he walked in several directions trying to retrace his steps before realizing he was hopelessly lost. After a moment of panic, he prudently decided to walk in a straight line, hoping that he would not walk even deeper into the woods. After several hours he came to a back road, and when someone finally drove by and picked him up, he found that he was more than 20 miles from his original destination. This experience left a deep impression on the enormity of the new world in which he had arrived.

1956 telegram from Morawetz' cousin Frank Morton

Morawetz' cousin Frank had settled in Montreal, and in order to assimilate himself in his native land, had changed his family name from Morawetz to the more Anglo-Saxon name, Morton. However, always full of humour and wit, Frank sent his cousin a telegram after one of Morawetz' early successes as a composer saying that he was considering changing his name back to Morawetz!


In the early 1940s, Morawetz began dating. However this area of human relations was not his forté. Curiously, he had a real knack for "flattering the ladies", whether it be a restaurant waitress or the soprano who had just sung one of his compositions. However this "talent" never resulted in anything more than him gathering a string of admiring women. He seemed either incapable of or unwilling to pursue a relationship to a deeper level.

Peggy Moreland, 1942

For a while, he dated a young violinist, Peggy Moreland. However Morawetz, completely oblivious of her intentions, was more impressed by Peggy's mother, who was trying to "butter him up" for her daughter. He dated several girls from Czech families, and had a number of women admirers native to Toronto. However nothing ever came of any of these associations.

Morawetz and Margaret Ireland, 1994

He later dated a pianist, Margaret Ann Ireland to whom he dedicated his Fantasy in D, but as he did not "make a move", she eventually married someone else. Morawetz remained close friends with her, and they kept up a correspondence for many years, even after she settled in New Brunswick.

When Morawetz' brother Herbert would ask him why he doesn't give a particular woman a call, he was always very indecisive. This indecisiveness once led his father to assert: "Cathleen [Herbert's wife] will have three children before Oskar buys his first tape recorder!" Thus, at the age of 40, Morawetz was still a bachelor living at home. When he seemed to take an interest in the young pianist, Ruth Shipman, his father, worrying that his artistic son might never marry, suggested that she might make a congenial partner: she's a musician and shares your interest in music. It was that little bit of prompting that had Morawetz finally propose marriage.

Family Friends

Karel Ancerl, Frida Morawetz, Hana Ancerl, Muskoka 1969

The Morawetz family developed many close friendships in their new life in Toronto. Many of them were also from the Czech community.

One couple that became close friends were the Ancerls. Maestro Karel Ancerl, former conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, was the conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1969-1973. He premičred Morawetz' From the Diary of Anne Frank in the United States in both Carnegie Hall and Washington's Kennedy Centre.

Maestro Ancerl's wife, Hana, became a close friend of Morawetz' mother Frida. Although Hana Ancerl was about 20 years younger than Frida, the two of them became very close. They called each other every morning, and often played bridge together.


John and Helen Soyka, Sonja Morawetz with son, Michael, and Frida Morawetz

Morawetz' father became close friends with John and Helen Soyka. Mr. Soyka had owned a piano making factory in Czechoslovakia and the couple were great music lovers. Morawetz inherited some piano music from the Soykas, including two books of opera excerpts written for 2-hand piano (without the vocal line, which was incorporated in the piano part). These editions were popular in the days when there was little recorded music.

After settling in Toronto, the Soykas moved to a home quite close to the Morawetz family. When Helen Soyka was widowed, she was often included in family gatherings, such as annual Christmas parties.


Elie Spivak

Elie Spivak was the concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1931-1948. In 1949 he premičred Morawetz' Duo for Violin and Piano. He and his wife Hilda became close family friends, and Morawetz continued to visit Mrs. Spivak when she was widowed.

Morawetz was particularly fond of older people. When his aging friends became ill, he was diligent about visiting them to make sure they did not feel neglected and lonely. In addition to the widows of Mr. Soyka and Mr. Spivak, they included Mrs. Kugler (the widow of Victor Kugler who hid Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam, and later emigrated to Toronto), and both Morawetz' parents-in-law.


Frank Erichsen-Brown

Frank Erichsen Brown was a lawyer and amateur painter and his family befriended the Morawetz family. His wife, Isa (Isabel) saw herself as a "political hostess" and once gave a party for Otto Hapsburg inviting all those who were part of the Austrian empire. Richard Morawetz was invited, but being a Czech patriot, he turned them down!


Morawetz Friends

Bob Binnie
Photo: Henry Pratt,
The Eifer Studio

Edith and Bob Binnie, 1991

One of Morawetz' dearest friends was Bob Binnie. Mr. Binnie had been a stutterer as a young boy, and to overcome this impediment, it had been suggested to him that he become involved in some hobby. Thus young Bob decided to become a connoisseur of classical music, and began an avid collection of LP records. The basement of his home housed some of the finest stereo equipment, and at one count, over 7000 records. Morawetz was invited to Bob Binnie's house many times for a soirée of music. This would not involve just passively listening to several records. The animated Binnie would, for example, play three different recordings of a Wagner aria, pointing out how each artist (conductor and singers) presented the music, replaying sections to point out how a particular sigh or grace note was interpreted differently, and perhaps ask Morawetz to identify the singer.

Morawetz found these evenings fascinating, while Binnie enjoyed Morawetz' company because of his depth of knowledge of the music literature. Binnie was so knowledgeable about so many different recordings that great musicians whom he invited to his home departed from these musical soirées equally impressed.

Bob Binnie's wife, Edith, who worked as an administrator at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music was the widow of the great baritone, James Milligan, who died at a young age at the cusp of a big career. Mr. Milligan sang many of Morawetz' songs, and recorded several of them with Morawetz at the piano.


Jan and Hanja Matějček,

In 1968, during the few months Czechoslovakia experienced temporary reforms under the Dubcek government, and before the Soviet invasion in August of that year, many citizens, doubtful of how long these democratic deviations would last chose to seek refuge in other countries. One of these was Jan Matějček and his family, whom Morawetz helped out when they first arrived in Toronto. They soon bought a house in the street next to Morawetz', and  Mr. Matějček went on to a successful career in the music business. He was founder of SODRAC, manager/president of PROCAN, and was responsible for its merger with CAPAC to form SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). The Matějčeks remained very close friends of Morawetz, and as they lived so near to each other, saw each other often.


Morawetz and Joseph Čermák, 1987

Dr. Joseph Čermák, a Toronto lawyer from Czechoslovakia, has always been very active in the Czech community, promoting his Czech fellow-patriots whenever he can. He is involved with the Canadian Czech newspaper, Nový Domov (New Homeland), where several times he was responsible for articles published about Morawetz' successes as a composer. Dr. Čermák also arranged Czech events, including a concert on Oct. 12, 1990, one of the last at which Morawetz performed.

See Musician Friends for other close friends Morawetz met in Canada.


Family Photos

Frida and Oskar

Morawetz had a special place in the heart of his mother, Frida. Perhaps because he was so absent-minded, and his mother was constantly reminding him to comb his hair, and tuck in his shirt, she felt that he needed a little more "tender loving care" than her other children.

Someone whom she had just met asked her how many sons she had, and without thinking she replied: "I have two sons ... and Oskar"!

Richard and Frida with their children

Richard's 70th birthday, 1951



back: Herbert, Ric, John
seated: Frida, Richard
front: Maureen, Cathleen, Oskar, Sonja

John, Herbert, Richard,
Oskar, Sonja

back: Sonja, John, Oskar
front: Herbert, Richard, Frida







Morawetz family group photos

On the occasion of Richard Morawetz' 80th birthday
(Oskar and Ruth Morawetz were absent as they were in Europe on a Canada Council travel grant)
Photo: McKee Photo Centre, 1961

back row:
Sonja Morawetz, Pegeen Morawetz, Ruth Stein, John Morawetz, Ric Sinclair, Leo Lederer, Charles Sachs, Walter Stein, Frank Morton, Herbert Morawetz
middle row: Cathleen Morawetz, Hella Sachs, Maureen Morawetz, Frida Morawetz, Richard Morawetz, Sonja Sinclair, Carola Morton, Eva Lederer
front row: Tony Sinclair, Michael Sinclair, Peter Morawetz, John Morawetz, Kathryn Morawetz, Virginia Morawetz, Sylvia Morawetz, Lida Morawetz, Helen Sinclair


On the occasion of the golden anniversary of Richard and Frida Morawetz
Photo: McKee Photo Centre, 1964

back row:
Oskar Morawetz, Maureen Morawetz, John Morawetz, Sonja Sinclair, Ric Sinclair, Cathleen Morawetz, Herbert Morawetz
middle row: Ruth Morawetz, Peter Morawetz, Sonja Morawetz, Richard Morawetz, Frida Morawetz, Michael Sinclair, Helen Sinclair, John Morawetz, Pegeen Morawetz
front row: Claudia Morawetz, Sylvia Morawetz, Virginia Morawetz, Kathryn Morawetz, Tony Sinclair, Nancy Morawetz, Lida Morawetz


On the occasion of the golden anniversary of Richard and Frida Morawetz

back row:
Cathleen Morawetz, Carola Morton, Joe Kelton, Jirina Glaser, Leo Lederer, Eva Lederer, Maureen Morawetz, Ruth Morawetz, Ric Sinclair, Ruth Stein, Walter Stein, Vera Kelton
middle row: Hella Sachs, Frida Morawetz, Richard Morawetz, Frank Morton
front row: Pete Street, Herbert Morawetz, Oskar Morawetz, Sonja Sinclair, John Morawetz