ACCOMPANYING FOR WEBSTER AGAIN
I had played for Webster for two weeks while Anne was away and assumed
that I would no longer be needed now that she had returned. Anne and
Webster insisted that I keep the spare keys to the studio so that I
could work there when they were not teaching. I was preparing for the
ATCL singing examination in October and Grade 8 piano the following
year, so I found the studio, high above the hustle and bustle of
downtown Johannesburg, the ideal place to work and practise. In return
Webster to take over the role of Colonel Fairfax in their production of
Later that week we went to see The Yeomen at the old Reps Theatre
heart in the process. Anne told me that Webster would be very hurt if I
didn’t go backstage to see him afterwards, so I did. He was fighting
off the ‘flu and did not look well, although from the auditorium nobody
would have realised that he was ill.
Webster as Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard for JODS (1963)
was planning a trip home for six and a half weeks. They had decided to
do alternate days in the studio while she was away. Would I care to
accompany for Webster again? I did not have to think twice about
agreeing to do so.
once again. Anne came in on alternate teaching days so occasionally I
had a lesson with her. One Monday afternoon Ruth phoned me at the studio
to ask whether I would like to have dinner with her family before going
to the SABC choir meeting afterwards. Webster gladly agreed to take me
to Parkwood instead of Kensington, as it was on his direct route home.
We drove past Zoo Lake and he pointed out his bowling club, saying it was
us to the meeting in his big black Rover. There was a party after the
meeting and Ruth and I chatted to Anton Hartman, the chief orchestral
conductor at the SABC. Toward the end of June, we sang in the Light
Music Festival where we did a number of unaccompanied American, German
and Afrikaans folk songs. The Dutch conductor Jos Cleber conducted the
orchestra, with Gert Potgieter and Bob Borowsky as soloists. Ruth was
working for matric exams, and I for my singing diploma so we decided to
take leave of absence from the choir, with the idea of returning when
our respective examinations were behind us.
him exactly what it was I played! Although they had a long discussion, nothing came
In July Anne had a very bad cold which lingered on for a long time, and
Webster had a funny turn one evening. He lost his vision, and his head
was spinning even when he went to lie down. Anne told me that she wanted
him to see the Doctor about his general health and his general
grumpiness, but he refused to do so. She admitted that he hated teaching
everyone apart from his few “pets”. She was very worried about him.
From the way he treated Lucille at her lessons, I gathered that she was
one of the “pets”. She was having her twenty-first birthday party and
had invited them to her party, but they had another engagement and could
A few days later Webster told me that Anne’s cold was not
any better. He wanted her to see the doctor, but instead she had
insisted on going to Leslie Green’s draughty house for dinner. She was
not pleased when he told her she would be better off staying in bed and
trying to get rid of her cold.
One evening I was washing the dishes in the kitchen before we left the
studio for the night, when I overheard him telling Gertie, the last pupil
her, as we were going out for coffee after her lesson.
They had acquired a protégé, a talented boy soprano called
Robin Lister, whom they were coaching in preparation for his first LP
recording. Robin had an exceptional voice, resembling a mature female
soprano rather than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He had
been having lessons with a teacher in Benoni, but left her to study with
Anne and Webster. Before his voice broke he made several recordings
supervised by Anne and Webster. He became very well known and sang at a
number of concerts. After his voice broke, he continued his lessons with
the Booths, changing from singing to piano. The last I heard was that
he became an engineer and immigrated to Australia.
together with their parents and I arrived at Gwen Clark’s sumptuous
penthouse at the top of Anstey’s Building, where the audition was to be
held. The boys acquitted themselves well and we were given a lovely tea
afterwards, but neither was chosen to sing the part of Amahl. Instead
they decided to import a boy from Britain. Webster said that Ruth
had fared. She had had a tiring morning teaching by herself, as Webster
was at Michaelhouse to sing in a performance of Elijah, conducted by
Anne insisted on making us coffee before she left. She spoke of Jo’burg “high”
society, who had gone out of its way to cultivate them when they first arrived in
South Africa as international stars, but soon dropped them when they realised
that they were not rolling in money and were obliged to work for a living.
Sylvia Sullivan’s studio with Edith Sanders, who was working for a piano
diploma. She had perfect pitch, so I admired her sense of pitch and she
admired my competent sight-reading, which had improved remarkably since
the early days of accompanying for Webster.
accompanist, went well in all departments. After the exam, I went with
Anne in her pale blue Anglia to Macey’s, a store in the city, where she bought
up something about one of his “great voices” for his programme in my
musical dictionary. He had seen the heavy tome and always termed it as
When I went to the studio in the afternoon, Webster answered the door.
We had our usual shilling bet on passing or failing the exam.
suddenly be the object of Anne’s unfounded suspicions, when we had
always got on so well together. The episode put a damper on my exam