EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – APRIL 1962

We listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over (with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it – he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We both go red.

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1 April – Go to SABC in the afternoon. Johan takes men and Harry Stanton the ladies. We practise Norma and there is an improvement. Tufty has become very friendly with Gill. Talk to Ruth at interval. Says she’s very tired after dance last night. She is going on Wednesday and is shocked about the cruel cartoon.

I was going to listen to Webster but tape breaks down three-quarters of the way through. Station announcer apologises to listeners “and Mr Webster Booth.” I am livid.

2 April – Go to SABC in evening. Gill comes early and I go with her to have supper. Ruth is there wearing blue jeans and a duffle coat. She says she also calls the Booths by their Christian names. “Stage people like that!” I hope she’s right!

4 April – Work quite hard in the morning and then go to music in afternoon.

At night I go to the SABC for Drawing Room recording. Anne and Webster greet us all – rather like the King and Queen greeting their loyal subjects – and we sit down in tense nervous state. Anne looks gorgeous in a low-cut black sheath dress and mink stole.

Programme begins and Anne sings two songs (one by Ivor Novello with his writing on it) – the Little Damozel, and He’ll Say That for My Love (Handel). She has expression and all else required of a singer. Bob Barowsky sings and a bassoonist plays. Anne and Webster sing The Second Minuet and Drink to Me Only. He puts his hand on her bare shoulder as they sing.

Ruth asks him for a lift home and he says, “Certainly, darling.” The second broadcast is fabulous. Anne sings If No One Ever Marries Me and Smilin’ Through. They sing two more duets – Love’s Old Sweet Song and another. Ruth and I wait afterwards and talk to Anne. I tell her that her singing made me cry and she is thrilled, “The highest compliment you can pay a singer!” she says. She was worried about what her voice might sound like with the cold. While we are talking a Lancashire woman comes and congratulates her and says she heard her twenty years ago in Sheffield – she’s English, you know. Says Anne, “Yes, I thought you were!” We all laugh and she says, “Oh, ‘ave I still got me accent?”

Come home after a really delightful evening. When you hear an artist like Anne you realise how far you have to go to be even half as good. It makes me feel utterly hopeless.

5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme of last week – Gé Korsten etc.

6 April – Public holiday and Ruth’s seventeenth birthday. Have a rest in the morning and then go into town for singing lesson. Webster answers door wearing white jersey with green, yellow and red stripes!

Go in. Anne is wearing tight black stovies and revealing jersey. I do scales and am in bad form – if I see them sing the next lesson is harrowing for I know how far I have to go!

Webster makes tea for me. He forgets the sugar so goes to fetch some and Anne tells me of Peter Broomfield’s remark on the radio. “Last night Hennie Joubert accompanied Mi-mi-mi-mi – all the way!”

We do Where E’er You Walk and somehow I just cannot sing well and feel awful. She says I mustn’t sing too loudly in Norma. “Everyone has their off days,” Webster says, “Today is one of mine.” (Probably to cheer me up).

7 April –  Collect my long white SABC dress and go to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s at night.

8 April – Go to Sunday School in the morning I really like the new children now.

Go to SABC in the afternoon. Mr Miller, one of the second violins in the orchestra, is on my bus. The full orchestra, Anton Hartman, Mimi Coertse, Gé K and other soloists are there. Anton works us hard. Mimi is petulant and bossy but she sings beautifully.

At interval Ruth tells me she got a Maria Callas record for her birthday and a card from the Booths. Yesterday Anne wasn’t feeling well so she asked Ruth to go to the house for a lesson while Webster went to the studio. She’s coming home with Gill and me tomorrow in Gill’s car. We manage to record last quarter of Norma.

Listen to Webster’s G and S programme at night. He says, “After my costume was made for this part I had my photograph taken and this constitutes one of my few claims to fame. They put the photo into a series of G and S cigarette cards. That dates me, doesn’t it?” He plays Princess Ida and I fall asleep halfway through.

9 April – Have sudden urge to have my hair cut and set so have this done at Marie Distler in the morning and feel a boost to my morale. I meet Diane Munro on the bus and she doesn’t recognise me, but when she realises who I am she likes the new look a lot.

I go to the SABC and we get on the bus to Pretoria. Ruth says the Booth’s house is small and not much to look at from the outside, but charming but whimsical within.

When we arrive in Pretoria we are fed with hamburgers at Tukkies’ cafeteria. We go into the Aula theatre – it seats 3000 people. We work hard.

Anton lets us go home at 11.00 pm. Ruth and I go home with Gill. She and Ruth have an argument about the choir on the journey home. Ruth has a very nice house, white double-storey with undergrowth and trees in the garden. Gill stays quite near her (also in Parkwood) and has a flatlet to herself. I go to sleep quickly.

10 April – Go to town with Gill and then go home. Go to SABC once more, armed with box containing white dress.

Ruth and Gill arrive and we sit at the very back of the bus. Ruth says Anne and Webster should have had children of their own. She whistles beautifully and we travel along in a state of semi-consciousness. We arrive and change into our dresses, parade around for a while and have a meat roll for supper in the cafeteria.

The house is absolutely packed – men in evening dress, orchestra in evening dress, and furs flying, Hartman in tails and Mimi in a black dress with silver top showing her vast chest. She sings well and there are shouts of “bravo!”. She takes bows and we take bows and it is interval.

Gill has tea with Uncle Edgar and Johan, but Ruth and I don’t have anything to drink!

Second half is much better although Jossie Boshoff lets the side down. We finish at ten. Cheers, curtain calls, excitement, bouquets for soloists, an orchid for Mimi…

Return to Parkwood and Ruth is very rude about Edgar Cree, saying that he had a broad accent and puts on his good one. Gill says that he studied at Cambridge. I say I like him as a broadcaster. Gill and Ruth are probably enemies for life.

11 April – Go into town very early in the morning and get home in time for breakfast. Farewell to Parkwood.

Decide to have a rest when there is a knock at the door – Roselle arrives with music and a dog. She wasn’t placed in the eisteddfod and is most disappointed. We sing for each other and record the results.

Go to music in the afternoon and go to SABC in the evening. We go into studio and Anton H begins his recording. At interval, Ruth and I go to have a cold drink at nearby café and return with the same object in view – the recording of The Drawing Room!

We listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over (with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it – he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We both go red.

He tells us the programme is gorgeous, particularly the brilliant trumpeter. Why don’t we come in and we tell him we’re recording with Mimi. He says, “Oh yes. You’re working.”

He tells us about the eisteddfod. The tenor got a first and quite a few more were highly placed.

We say we’ll have to be going and Ruth walks straight into the men’s cloakroom! He says diplomatically, “The exit is there, and the ladies is over there!” We depart – Ruth nearly hysterical and I very red.

We go back to recording and tell Gill and Tufty about the kiss and Gill says, “Since I saw Webster Booth going into the ladies change rooms with a bottle of brandy, I’ve had no time for him!”

I leave before the recording ends and look out for my father. The first person I meet is Webster, leaving with a retinue of seemingly important men. He stops when he sees me and asks, “Has the recording finished?” I say, “No. I’m looking for my father.” He says, “D’ye think he’ll come?” I say, “Oh yes,” and he says “Well cheery-bye, Jean,” and I say, “Cheerio.”

Father appears and we come home. But honestly, what a night. Mimi gave us some prima donna tactics. (“They do,” says Webster) and she leaves the country tomorrow.

But in Ruth’s night and mine, one thing stands out!

“Webster kissed us when we met,

Jumping from the chair he sat in,

Time, you thief, who loves to get sweets into your list,

GET THAT IN!!”

I don’t care what anyone says about them – or him. Even if it’s all true, I know one thing. He is a great man, a great singer and a pleasure to know!

12 April  – Work and record the glorious Drawing Room programme with Oh, Dry Those Tears and the Kashmiri Song.

13 April – In the afternoon I go to the SABC to claim my lost purse. The receptionist tells me proudly that Johan handed it in so I tell her to thank him for me. Honest Hans.

I go to the studio. I see Webster in the CNA so I walk round the block and when I get back I go in almost immediately for the girl before me doesn’t come. Anne likes my hair. We fill in the form for the exam and she tells Webster not to interfere and he looks hurt. We have a glorious fifteen minutes running down Anton H, Jossie Boshoff etc. Anne says that Adalgisa should be a contralto, but of course, Jossie had to have a part.

We talk about Mabel Fenney and I say that she taught at our school for a term. Anne says she was batty but worked like mad.

We work at songs and vocal studies and they encourage me to smile (as always!) All great singers of previous generations sold their songs even if they didn’t have good voices such as John Coates, Anne tells me.

I wait for the lift and when it arrives I open it, thinking no one is there. Get a shock to see Webster. He laughs and says, “Did I startle you, Jean? I’m sorry!”

16 April – Go to choir at night and have supper with Gill and feel like a traitor. We do Stravinsky. Sit with Ruth at interval and we talk about drinking. Apparently her father is a connoisseur of wine. Her parents went to a première at Colosseum costing £5 a ticket!

I start telling her what Gill said about Webster but we have to go back before I can finish the tale. I get her to promise not to mention anything about this incident to Gill in the car. I think Gill overhears this. I feel very muddled about the whole matter. It’s all Gill’s fault for telling me this story and trying to disillusion me about him.

17 April – Go to studio and Webster answers the door. Girl with high but harsh voice is singing Waltz of My Heart and This is My Lovely Day. High notes are quite awful. Anne is wearing a brick red dress. We work hard at all the exam pieces.

I tell them that I’m going to Durban on holiday. He asks if I’m going to the Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, and I say we’re going to the city itself.

18 April – Oh, dear! A terrible thing happens in the broadcast of Drawing Room. It all goes nicely until the last announcement which goes like this, “Now, on behalf of Madame Jean Gluckman, Miss Kathleen – oh, I beg your pardon – Madame Kathleen Allister, Miss Jean er er – oh, yes – Miss Jean Gluckman – that’s right, Mr Gé Korsten and myself, Webster Booth, goodnight – Oh dear, I’d better do that all over again, hadn’t I? Now on…” (Cut short)

Obviously the controller reproduced the wrong announcement and not the repeat, so he’ll get into trouble. It damns him in the eyes of the public and perhaps the SABC. He sounded old, doddery and drunk. He couldn’t have heard the broadcast tonight. If he wasn’t making a programme he’d be at the prize-winners concert. He’s going to get a nasty shock when he hears about it. I saw him that night and he wasn’t drunk but what will people think?

19 April – Programme is done correctly today. Work hard and go to choir at night. Ruth comes and we talk about the mess and she is most distressed. We work at Stravinsky. Ruth wishes father and me a happy Easter.

20 April – Good Friday. I talk to Peter Marsden who is back from the army for two days leave.

I listen to our SABC choir recording of the Passion and Cantata. It is lovely and I am proud of it.

21 April – Go skating in the morning after a long absence. Dawn Vivian is there. My skating is more or less the same but I’m a bit stiff. She tells me that Gwyn has joined the cast of Holiday on Ice and has gone touring all over the world and doesn’t intend returning to SA.

I buy theory questions in Kelly’s and wander around John Orrs. We see Swiss Family Robinson in the afternoon – John Mills, Cecil Parker etc.

22 April – Go to Sunday School and church. I still haven’t got my music from Peter who has given up his singing lessons after less than three months!

Mr and Mrs Watts come from Vanderbijl for lunch. They like the Booths. I sing for them and they are impressed – or are polite!

Listen to Webster and he finishes Princess Ida and promises to start Mikado next week when I’ll probably be on holiday.

27 April – Go to singing and Anne arrives looking very attractive. She says she’s exhausted because of the production of Vagabond King in Springs. They have to go there every night and are furious that some members of the cast haven’t even learnt their parts properly. She had to go by herself on Wednesday because Webster was doing the last recording of Drawing Room and there was an awful storm on the way there.

She says I should practise singing octaves and chromatics when I’m on holiday. He says, “I can’t sing a chromatic scale – I never could!” We decide that the only way to do that is to count the notes on our fingers!

I say that Johan has given me work for my holiday for forthcoming Stravinsky concert. Anne asks if tenors are weak in the choir and I say, “Rather!” He tells me, “They wrote me a letter asking if I’d sing in the chorus for the Stravinsky concert.” I say, “What!”

She says, “We don’t want to act big or anything but, I mean to say, the chorus!” I say I think it is a real insult and he agrees with me. I say, “Are you going to?” and he replies, “Not likely! I phoned them up and said I had no intention of rehearsing every Saturday night for Stravinsky!” Boy, what an insult! She says that people will only go to the Stravinsky concerts for snob value anyway.

We do Where E’er You Walk and work at it. She says I can sing scales on the seashore. I laugh, and he says, “Don’t laugh! I’ve sung whole scores on the seashore. Vagabond King, Waltz Time. People think you’re mad but it’s a wonderful place to sing.”

He makes tea and asks if I’d like a cup. I say, “It doesn’t matter,” and Anne says, “Stay and have a cup. It’ll be ready in five minutes.”

There is a knock at the door – An English lady with little boy (soprano) and a gorgeous hot apple tart so Anne decides that we’ll all have tea and apple tart. “Can we eat it now?” she asks. Mrs Andrews and her son, Dennis are sweet and homely with delightful accents. Webster says, “Where’s the Devonshire cream?” and she says, “Oh, I forgot it at home.” Anne says, “Some of us are from the North Country and Jean comes from Scotland.” Anne takes a piece of cake with cloves, spice and apple and says, “To hell with my figure!”

She notices that I eat left-handed as does she and she remarks on it, so I say, “All great people are left-handed.” We all laugh.

We talk about Drawing Room and Webster tells me that Doris Brasch (he spelt her name BRASH and she was livid) and Graham Burns were the soloists on Wednesday. Anne says, “What did you think of Wednesday night’s programme? My singing was really awful, wasn’t it!” We protest and she adds, “It wasn’t lovely. It was disgusting!”

When I say goodbye to Anne I promise to send them a postcard and she says, “You can tell me if you manage to sing any octaves on the seashore!”

I talk to Dennis’s mother and we say how sweet they are. Dennis calls them Auntie Anne and Uncle Webster. They are wonderful and I love them!

29 April – Mr Marsden kindly gives us a lift to the airport and we eventually board the plane and have a delightful flight to Durban. It’s the first time I have ever flown – it was more like a bus than a plane. The land below looks like a map of physical geography.

We arrive at the Berkeley Hotel where I met Maisie Weldon and Carl Carlisle five years ago. We have a walk along the seafront but I can hardly see myself singing scales there. My room has a radio so I’ll be able to listen to Drawing Room and G and S. I listen to G and S. Webster bursts into song periodically during Mikado.

30 April – We go into town and to the lunch hour concert. Swim in the afternoon in the same pool where we swam five years ago, and I play the piano in the lounge at night.

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