William Morton

William Morton. Tenor, teacher, b Deloraine, south of Brandon, Man, 27 Sep 1912. First trained as a violinist - he played in a dance orchestra at 13 - Morton studied voice in Regina with Alicia Birkett and in 1933 made his radio debut on CKCK.

Morton, William

William Morton. Tenor, teacher, b Deloraine, south of Brandon, Man, 27 Sep 1912. First trained as a violinist - he played in a dance orchestra at 13 - Morton studied voice in Regina with Alicia Birkett and in 1933 made his radio debut on CKCK. Moving in 1935 to Toronto, where he studied with Albert Whitehead and James Rosselino, he was heard often on CBC radio.

Morton sang the Evangelist 1938-51 in the annual performances (and CBC broadcasts) of the St Matthew Passion by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and in 1940, 1946, and 1950 performances of the work in Montreal. After the 1940 performance under Wilfrid Pelletier, Thomas Archer, in The Gazette 11 Jun 1940, wrote: 'Mr. Morton possesses a lyric tenor, sweet in quality and full of nervous energy. He understands how to convey the extraordinary pathos of the simple melodic line which Bach suspends over a series of mere keyboard chords. In fact, there were times when this young tenor created emotional effects that were almost unbearably touching.'

A regular performer with the CBC Light Opera and the CBC Opera, Morton sang in the radio premieres of Willan's Transit through Fire (1942, as the Dancing Master) and Deirdre of the Sorrows (1946, as Naisi), in 13 Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, in Gay's The Beggar's Opera (Frederick Austin version?), German's Merrie England, and the Canadian premieres of Benjamin's The Devil Take Her and Britten's Peter Grimes (1949, title role).

Concurrently (1942-51) Morton was a founding member (with tenor Jack Reid, baritone Ernest Berry, and bass Ernest Taylor, the latter replaced by John Harcourt) of the Four Gentlemen, a group formed to sing on Samuel Hersenhoren's CBC radio show 'Carry On Canada.' The quartet was heard weekly on CBC radio for several years, singing 'old songs,' art songs, hymns, and folksongs. (In 1954 the Four Gentlemen, with Alan Sawyer replacing Morton, joined the Commodores as the nucleus of the Carl Tapscott Singers.)

In 1952 Morton moved to Vancouver where he founded and conducted the Vancouver Opera Theatre and taught privately for more than 20 years. His pupils included Wendy Martin, Don McManus, Harry Mossfield, Karl Norman, and Maurice Pearson. In 1991 he was living in Tsawwassen, BC.