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Ep 73 : Moshlo. Pre-war Migrant to Acclaimed Architect & Violinist.

 Music, Architecture and Music of the Old Country.

Moshlo (Morris) Shaw

Moshlo (Morrice) Shaw

It was 1936 and like many others, Morrice Shaw’s father could see the writing on the wall for his young family in Poland. More importantly, being Jewish, he knew things weren’t good and would only get worse. The best thing was to pay whatever was necessary to get his wife and 9 month old son to a safe country, then do what he could to get the rest of the family out of Europe. We all know how that played out for Europe and fortunately for this family it turned out to be immigrating to Australia.

Sadly most of their greater family fell victims to the Nazi persecution while the young Morrice grew up in the safety of Melbourne, later to hear the stories from the few relatives who did survive the the Nazi death camps. Not something easily forgotten.

A migrant’s life is never easy.

Growing up as a Jewish immigrant in the strong, Irish Catholic Melbourne suburb of Elwood was tough for the young Morrice (later to be known as Moshlo). Constant bullying and bickering from the other boys still weighs on him as some of the more unfortunate memories of his childhood. This he could also see playing out into the ’50’s in his father’s factory where new immigrants and locals clashed over cultural differences. This was the way it was long before the open acceptance of the multicultural society brought on by the post war migration boom and the mix of cultures we now enjoy.

What if you had to build a house with no money?

Morris Shaw Cottlesbridge House

Cottlesbridge House

Cottlesbridge House Interior

Cottlesbridge House Interior


With the strong work ethic of his parents Moshlo did well at school while also preferring to play the violin to the rough and tumble of sports, leading eventually into university and architecture. Soon after graduation Moshlo whet onto garner international fame in his 20’s for The Cottlesbridge House featuring in L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui in 1963. Then after a sojourn travelling and working overseas, eventually onto designing the Wave House in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Returning to the musical past.

After many years practicing and lecturing in architecture Moshlo has now returned to his original first love of music and dancing, turning full circle to explore the ethnic roots of his family, remembered in the distant whispers of memory is the Doyen music of nursery rhymes from his mother.

We leave Moshlo just before his return to Poland for the first time since leaving as an infant.

If you’d like to hear a little more of the music that takes us out in this episode just go to his site at MoshloViolin.com.

Postscript: Sadly just a couple of weeks before I was able to return to podcasting after recording this conversation in June 2012, Moshlo passed away from a short illness.


Classic Doina performed by Moshlo.

Moshlo performing at Woodford Folk Festival with Marko Deferri.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Adam Daniel Mezei Monday, 11 May, 2015, 1:04 pm

    Here’s where I publicly get to pull my finger out of my backside and offer my fulsome apologies…here ‘goes…

    Let’s begin by stating how a great man was snatched away from us much too soon…what a tragic loss of a consummate talent…

    A little anecdote would suffice…

    For reasons which shall remain very specific and private to my organism — part-and-parcel of an ongoing tete-a-tete with your striving podcast host I have conducted over the months we’ve come to know each other — I so astoundingly *underestimated* this man’s caliber and accomplishments. Dare I say, I nearly impugned a pristine reputation which was clearly wholly undeserving of my caustic censure and for that I’d like to offer up my sincerest of apologies.

    For those of you who aren’t fans of the classics, what I basically meant is that when I’d caught the first three-quarters of Ian’s latest pod guest, my initial thoughts were to rain down a torrent of critical brimstone upon this seeming self-flagellating (again, for reasons which shall remain nameless, but ones Ian knows well). I jumped to conclusions and dove in for maximum scratch, rather than waiting until I reached the end of this man’s journey and life story as told in the audio and for that I’m terribly regretful…once I got to the end of things, I felt like a complete wretch for even daring to think about this dear man otherwise.

    I felt rotten. I felt like a brute. I felt neanderthalic, entire knee-jerky, and hot-button-y…

    As I finger this comment out, I am listening to the soulful, somewhat haunting, but deeply penetrating plaintive cry of Moshlo’s violin as he delves more emphatically into the beat of the doina…and I believe this is Morrice calling out to us from beyond the grave…squaring straight up to me and asking me just what in fuck did I think I was on about just a few days before.

    All these sentiments came flooding into my mind practically the instant I reached cast’s end…shockingly learning of the — again — tragic untimely passing of this giant rock of magnificent accomplishments…in fact, what I’m hearing in my headphones gives me ideas about a certain film and a certain musical accompaniment and score which may be inspired by the sounds emerging from Moshlo’s erstwhile horsehair bow.

    I am almost certain you will gain the same reaction as I did when done.

    Moshlo, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re not here. And I’m sorry I misjudged you.

    Even I can be booby sometimes…

    Always yours,
    –Adam Daniel Mezei
    Toronto, Canada

    • iankath Monday, 11 May, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Well said, Adam. Well said.

  • Kevin Farkas Tuesday, 9 June, 2015, 9:48 pm

    What a wonderful journey through memory, story, and conversation. As I listened to this on my morning stroll, I was so caught up in the moment that I had forgotten how far and for how long I had been walking. Listening from America, the podcast inspired a delightful sense of time and place as the traffic, birds, and passersby wonderfully underscored the narrative. Thank you, Ian, for preserving and sharing Moshlo’s story.

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