EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – AUGUST 1962

1 August – Go to Mrs S and have coffee with Gill. We do ear tests with Elaine. Mrs S gives me my report for the theory exam and guess what? I get 100% honours for both exams. I’m quite delighted at this. It’s the first time I’ve had 100% for any exam. Lesson goes quite well. I have to perform again on Saturday.

We rehearse at night. Betty is back from her holiday and Peter S brings me home.

2 August – Go to town and have lunch with Mum. I meet Mrs Ormond. She looks no different than before – still in the same suede coat with hair hanging loosely. She is affable but in a hurry.

I am now waiting for G and S substitute. Station announcer says, “All Webster Booth’s admirers will be glad to know that he is now recovering from his recent illness and will soon be back again.”

Paddy O’B goes on with The Gondoliers. I do hope Webster will be back next week.

3 August – I get a letter from Arnold Fulton giving details of our exam on the 11 September. I phone to tell Anne about this. She is not in but Webster is and answers the phone to me. I honestly cannot say how happy I am to hear his delightful, gruff voice again saying, “Helloo!”

He tells me that she’s at the studio and I can give her a ring there. He feels much better now and it is his first day up. He says, “I feel fine but evidently this bug is still running around in me!” He sounds rather weak but is terribly sweet. He says, “Anne’ll either be having lunch or putting her head – I mean, her feet – up at the studio so you can give her a ring there.” I say that I’m crossing my fingers for him and say Cheerio. He sounds rather tired and weak but he still sounds a real pet and I adore him.

I phone Anne and tell her about this and she says they might be going away for a break so she hopes she’ll still be there to play for the exam. Webster really needs a holiday for a few weeks after all that lot. She says, “I got him home yesterday.” I say, “Yes, I phoned your house and I was speaking to him.” This tends to give a mistaken conception of the whole matter so I hope she realises that I was phoning to speak to her.

It’s grand to have spoken to him again after one and a half months without him. Mad? I know I am.

4 August – Peter S takes me and tape recorder to rehearsal and all goes quite well. I know most of my lines now. I have to leave early to go into Mrs S’s for recital.

I go up to Mrs S’s and play scales and ear tests with Pam and Elaine. Mrs S makes me play to Mrs du P, Pam and Elaine and Mrs du P and Mrs S are pleased with my playing. When Pam and Elaine go I practise Higher Local sight-reading which I can, strangely enough, do quite well.

Leila, Mary and the rest of choir come and we practise. We sing (three altos and 7 sopranos) together today and it goes well.

Have lunch in Galaxy with Mum and Dad. Dad tells me that Anne phoned about changing my time because Ruth wants to have extra lessons, on a Monday at 3. I am rather furious about this.

We see Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart and it is terrific. Jimmy S is a scream and cheers me up.

Come home and phone for fifth time this week to Anne, feeling furious. Poor, unsuspecting Webster answers the phone and I am afraid I vent my feelings on him by being extremely cold and haughty, asking for Anne in frigid tones. He is most affable and fetches her.

Anne is all oozy and sweet to me but I am neither oozy nor sweet to her. She tells me story about Ruth only being able to go for extra lessons before her exam on Tuesday at 4. I say coldly that I’m afraid Monday is quite unsuitable for me. I have a lot to do during the week and I have already been changed once and have had to rearrange all my plans accordingly. I’m not trying to be inconsiderate but it’s quite impossible. She says that she understands and she’ll arrange something. I say, “Perhaps you could change someone else?” She is terribly sweet and says, “We’ll see you on Tuesday at 4 then. I hope you don’t mind.” I say, “OK, goodbye,” in frigid tones and put down the receiver.

She sounded genuinely sorry and I have a feeling that Ruth suggested that she could change my time – probably at her mother’s instigation – but that isn’t fair. When I first knew that Ruth had won that money I was delighted but it appears she really is going to get big over it and, in the end, it will probably come between us.

5 August – Go to Sunday School and play piano well. Ian – my problem child is back. We do a word rehearsal after Church. Gary A praises Anne’s revision of her programme in the Sunday Times today.

6 August – Go to SABC in the evening fully prepared to have an argument with a proud, haughty Ruth throwing her £40,000 weight around. However, she is just the same – far sweeter than usual in fact – and tells me she went for a lesson today and Anne was in a nice mood.

She says that Anne spoke about me for ages and said she thought I was one of the sweetest, most sincere girls she had ever met and she is extremely fond of me and thinks a lot of me.

I say that perhaps she was probably being insincere but Ruth says, “No. She was terribly natural and sincere today and she likes you a lot. She thinks you are sweet and sincere, and so do I,” says Ruth.

She spoke to Webster on the phone on Saturday for a short while. He isn’t going into the studio till Friday but managed to make his G and S recording in the morning. I am glad he’s well and fit again.

Some nameless, but highly qualified, man takes us through Messiah.

7 August – Work hard in the morning and get a letter from Penny Berrington. She’s getting married on the thirteenth of this month!

Go to studio in the afternoon. Anne answers and is very affable. Piet Muller, the glorious tenor is singing and is having an audition with the SABC later this month.

Anne thanks me for getting the examination cards fixed up and tells me that the self-same thing happened to Mabel Fenney – maybe Arnold Fulton has a grudge against them.

She gives me a lukewarm cup of tea and tells me that Webster is fine now but the virus could flare up again at any moment. We do vocal studies which go well and exercises which don’t go so well, so we spend the rest of the lesson concentrating on them and they improve.

Her next pupil, John Fletcher, brings fudge and gives Anne some. She asks if she can have some for her girlfriend who is Scottish! We continue with exercises and I feel that I learn a lot.

I tell her to tell Webster that he must keep well and she says, “My God, I hope so!”

Go to rehearsal at night with Peter and all goes well.

8 August – Work very hard in the morning. I just have to do well in these blooming exams.

Have lovely lunch with Mum in Ansteys and see tall, dark viola player (lady) there. Go up to SS studios and work with Elaine and Mrs S works me hard during lesson. I get home quite exhausted after the exertions of the day.

9 August – It is Webster himself tonight and he is, as usual, his own fabulous self. He sounds just a little weak and out of breath – doing a programme after he had only been up for a few days must have been rather strenuous for him. He thanks the listeners who sent him flowers, letters and phone messages when he was in hospital and says that he is truly thankful to be out of hospital and feeling better again. He also thanks Paddy O’B for reading his script in a very warm, gentlemanly way and then continues with The Gondoliers.

For the third time in this series he plays his own record of Sparkling Eyes and at the end of the programme they play his Wand’ring Minstrel almost all the way through. Next week he intends to finish the Gondoliers and start on a full-length recording of Iolanthe, complete with dialogue.

It is really wonderful to hear him back on the radio again and to know that he is better. I’m rather sorry now that I didn’t send him something when he was in hospital but, knowing Anne, I think she would have thought up the worst possible motive for my doing so. Nevertheless, I have worried about him and I was sympathetic when she needed sympathy most. I do thank God that he is well again.

10 August – Work and then go into town and buy a lovely coat. I meet Eileen in town and come home on bus with Rosemary Nixon. Go to guild at night – talk by Sister Constantine. I take the epilogue.

11 August – We have rehearsal at 8am and Peter S takes me there. All goes well.

Go up to SS studios and see Margaret Masterton who is back from Britain looking very well. I do ear tests with Elaine and Pam and then sing in choir.

At 4.30 go to church and meet Peter and Gail and go with Fred, Charles and Joan to guild rally in Krugersdorp. We have supper and hear a wonderful talk by Prof Charles Coulson from Oxford University.

12 August – Go to final rehearsal. We hear Mark, Mr Russell’s little boy, singing Ag, Pleez, Daddy on the tape recorder – cute! We have a pleasant time making up before the play while Peter C is conducting his last service before leaving for the UK. There is a huge turnout for the play and it goes fabulously. Afterwards everyone congratulates us heartily and all is lovely. They present some gifts to Peter. I hope he will do very well abroad.

13 August – Work very hard during the day. Go to SABC. Ruth comes with the joyful news of having seen Webster on Saturday and there is general exaltation.

Her version of meeting is as follows: She came up on the lift with him and kissed him, leaving lipstick on his face. When they go in there is a query from Anne as to whether he had scratched himself and a sheepish admission of guilt from Ruth. Anne is slightly flabbergasted. It certainly sounds as though Webster is well once more. She is going tomorrow at 4.30 after me.

14 August – In the afternoon go to studio feeling quite tense at seeing Webster again. However, it is Anne who answers the door. When Anne tells me about Webster, she says that he looks ninety and his face is haggard. I expect I looked very crestfallen, for she says, “I’m afraid you’ll have to suffer me for another week!” I feel quite awful about this. I must have shown terrible disappointment at not seeing him but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want her. What a thing to think!

I have tea with her as there is nobody there before me and she tells me that Webster came in on Saturday for three hours and it exhausted him utterly so he decided to stay at home for this week. She says there is too much sediment in his blood and he has got to be x-rayed for that tomorrow. She says he’s been terribly, terribly ill and has to be very careful indeed.

She tells me that they’re going on holiday in the last two weeks of September to a cottage in Hermanus because Webster really needs a holiday but they are waiting until after our exam because she has to play for us. I am going to have my lesson on the morning of the exam as a warm-up and Ruth can have her lesson after me and we can all go to the SS studio together.

We talk about Guy Magrath (the examiner who isn’t going to adjudicate our exam) and she tells me that last year she met him and he had played in an orchestra with Webster and herself as soloists. Harold Fielding, the impresario had been near bankruptcy and they had been right at the top of the entertainment tree. They did a tour for him which was highly successful and so saved him from failure. She says, “We were right at the top then.”

Studies are fabulous and she is delighted but exercises are grim as ever. She says Ruth has the same battle – I needn’t worry. Everything else goes well and she is happy. Ruth arrives at about 4.25 still in her school uniform. She says, “Tell Jean, I’m sorry to come so early.”

Ruth Ormond.

Afterwards we all talk and Ruth says that she thinks my voice very beautiful. She never imagined that I could sing like that. We discuss her uniform and decide that she looks like a 7-year-old in it! Actually she looks terribly sweet and young and is of course charming. I say goodbye to them both and feel happy.

Listen to Anne at night and once more it is a fabulous programme. She plays music from Bitter Sweet, And So to Bed, The Threepenny Opera and The Dancing Years. She plays their duet from Bitter SweetI’ll See You Again and it is lovely. She talks of their friendship with Noel Coward, Ivor Novello and Vivian Ellis. The last-named used to play rugger with her brother who was ten years older than her. She also talks of Mark Lubbock, the BBC conductor who accompanied them on a tour of And So to Bed.

15 August – Have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. Go up to SS studio and talk to Gill about the horrors of exams. We do sight-singing and ear tests and I have a successful lesson with Mrs S. She says she wants me to get honours in this exam.

Go to rehearsal at Rosettenville tonight with Peter S. Archie’s car breaks down on the way home so Peter tows him and it takes us ages to get home.

16 August – Work quite hard during the day but feel very sleepy and doddery.

Listen to G and S and Webster is lovely. He finishes the Gondoliers and plays A Highly Respectable Gondolier sung by Robert Radford in 1921. The record was given to him when he was in hospital. He mentions that George Baker sings on this record – he had a letter from George the other day. He is 78 and intends to make a recording of Ruddigore at the end of the year.

He starts (for the second time this year) on a recording of Iolanthe with Isadore Godfrey conducting. He plays the overture which he says is his favourite of all the G and S overtures.

I haven’t seen him for such an age that I feel as though I hardly know him. On Tuesday when I thought I would see him again, I was as nervous as though I had never met him. If I don’t see him this following week, he shall be a complete stranger to me.

17 August – Work hard during the morning and have lunch with Mum. I go to the library and see my old boss from the bank, Mr Peddy, browsing through a file there.

At night I go with Peter S, Archie and Yvonne to Rosettenville for our performance. Gill Mc D comes along to do the make-up and we have a jolly evening. Play goes extremely well and adjudicator from the Bank Players says we acted excellently and show great promise, but as this is a religious festival we don’t win because our play lacked a biblical message! Mr R is angry and says (privately of course) that the man is 50 years out of touch with religion. However, all was delightful and fun. We go back to Tsessebe, the Jeppe Boys’ boarding house for tea and sit in Peter’s study. Denis Newton gives me a lift home at 12.30am.

18 August – At the unearthly hour of 8.30am I catch a bus into Mrs S’s studio. Work diligently with Elaine at scales and exercises, and after coffee, Margaret M, Pam, Elaine and I do ear tests. Margaret cheers me up by telling me that she went flat in her unaccompanied piece during her exam so perhaps this is not a problem unique to me.

The choir arrives and I talk to a girl called Maureen about Ruth. She tells me that Ruth was at the Engineers’ Dance last night with Trevor and was not very kind to him! We practise well.

Dad is in bed with a cold so Mum and I have lunch and see The Inspector with Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart.

19 August – Go to Sunday school. I play well but singing is rather ghastly. Dudley Penn brings a white rat to Sunday School!.

20 August – Go to SABC. Gill practises clarinet in studio. It sounds quite good. Johan comes in and has a shot at it – first time and jolly good too. He is most affable.

When Ruth comes she tells me that Webster is quite, quite well again and looks wonderful and is most cheerful. She hasn’t started swotting for her exams yet so she isn’t coming to the choir for two weeks while they’re on. She doesn’t intend having any more extra lessons after the exam.

21 August – Work quite hard in the morning and once more develop a state of dreadful nervous tension.

I go up to the studio in a great state in the afternoon and today I am not disappointed. Webster answers the door! I say, “Hello,” and he says, “Hello, Jean” in pleased tones. I ask after his health and he tells me that he is simply fine. He looks just the same as usual in his striped suit but he is just a trifle more haggard and old-looking.

Piet M is singing Can I Forget You? very beautifully indeed and then Webster sings the same song to show Piet how it’s done. The voice is weaker, but, oh, how angel-like. He sings as though his life depends on it in his dear, sweet restrained tenor and I sit in the kitchen and cry! When he comes to the last three notes, he says, “You finish it! I can’t reach them now.” I dry my tears before they come out. I have never been so moved for a long, long time. Here is a man of 60 who has been at death’s door recently, singing so well that a man in his prime would be proud!

Piet sings beautifully but Webster is the greater artist who can move his audience to unashamed tears. I hear Anne telling Piet M and his wife that show business is a real struggle. People make promises and don’t keep them. A production house here promised them work if they came over to settle, but they never kept their word.

Webster says, “Nobody will give me a job as a singer here! I haven’t had an engagement for months. Perhaps I’m just getting too old.”

I go in and Anne tells me to come at 10.30 on the eleventh and they are leaving on holiday the next day. She asks about the examiner and I tell her it is Anderson Tyrer. She is delighted and says they’ve met him and he’s nice. He told Mabel Fenney that he thought a lot of them. I say that everyone says he is very bad-tempered. Webster says, “Well, I’m damned sure that I’d be bad tempered if I had his job. I’m bad-tempered enough in this studio.” He says that AT is quite an age – he doesn’t know how he stands it.

I do vocal studies and sing very well. Webster comes in and says, “You were singing beautifully but I’ll bet you weren’t showing your teeth!” I laugh nervously. We do Polly Oliver and I am so strung up that I don’t do it exceptionally well. However, sing Hush My Dear perfectly in tune and he is pleased. He says that to ensure I don’t go off pitch I must support my breath. Do My Mother and he says I must make a bigger crescendo at the end of the verse. Exercises are – as usual – ghastly. I say indignantly that I can do them perfectly at home and Anne says, “Yes, Jean. I am terrifying you dreadfully, aren’t I?” I laugh in slightly shame-faced fashion. I should make a tape to prove it.

Ruth comes and acts in simpering tones with Webster. Webster comes with me to the door and I say that I hope he’ll keep well. He says, “Oh, yes. I think I’ll keep well now, dear.”

It was lovely seeing him once more and hearing his lovely angel-like voice again. I don’t care what anyone says; he is (or was) the finest tenor in the world.

22 August Work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys, which is most delightful.

Go up to SS studio and do ear tests with Gill and they go fairly well. I play for her as well. Elaine comes and we do more ear exercises. Mrs S is pleased with me and says I should do well in the exam.

As I’m terribly worried about the exercises I get mum to phone Anne to see about three extra lessons before the exam. Webster answers the phone and tells Mum that he feels much better now. He calls Anne and she says she can’t look up her book now – they’re making a film and dashing off to the set but she’ll phone after six.

She does, and after much deliberation, she finds three times to suit. I am going on Saturday at 9.00. She tells me they’ve been invited to the opening of the Civic Theatre on Monday night. They are obviously very busy.

23 August – Listen to G and S at night. He continues with Iolanthe for the second time and I do enjoy it. He says that in his day the peers were bald and their crowns would inevitably fall off into the foliage.

25 August – Go into town at the unearthly hour of 8.00 and meet Margaret M on the bus. Go up to studio and I am there first. Anne arrives with Lemon. Lemon disgraces himself in most vulgar fashion and Anne is terribly embarrassed. I disappear into the kitchen until the chaos subsides.

We start and she makes me do scales to ‘moo’ down and then up and they go very well. Webster comes in and Anne says, “I’m not speaking to you again! You will feed Lemon before we come out and he disgraced himself in front of Jean.” He finds this most amusing and says, “No wonder he’s licking his chops!” He is wearing a Wanderer’s blazer and his face is very red and flushed.

We continue with exercises and she makes me do them in front of the mirror and open my mouth wider on top notes. I sing them onto the tape and he stands and holds the microphone for me (makes me feel funny!) but I sing them very well and they are pleased. When he is recording me Lemon starts barking at the next pupil and he shouts, “Shut up!” loudly and when the tape is played back it sounds very funny. When Lemon hears himself he starts barking all over again!

She says that I must be very careful with my breath and she feels it. Makes me feel hers. I shall never cease to be amazed at it. Her ribs are as hard as a barrel and she simply doesn’t let any breath escape. She says the tummy must go in and the ribs out. I must practise to see how long I can hold my breath. I should be able to hold it for 25 seconds. She can hold hers for 37!

I am amazed at how well the exercises go today. She says my voice is very pure and even and sweet and I must never think that I can’t do the exercises because I can do them very well, “Isn’t that so, Boo?” “Yes, that’s so!” I feel much happier about them today and have far more confidence.

When I leave, I say goodbye to Webster and then, “Goodbye, Lemon.” Anne says she’s terribly sorry about Lemon’s disgraceful behaviour!

After that I toddle down to Mrs S’s just in time for coffee with Margaret and Elaine. Margaret and I are shoved off to do musicianship tests and when she goes, Mrs S makes me record my pieces which go quite well. This time next Saturday – ugh! Elaine and I work together for a while and then we are allowed home. Really glorious day.

I phone Gail Cain. We’re doing the play tomorrow night at Bedfordview.

26 August – Have quite Sunday. In the afternoon Ruth phones and we have a lovely conversation. She is busy swotting for exams and phones me for ‘relaxation’! She tells me that Anne and Webster told her yesterday that I sang really beautifully at my lesson and they were amazed and thrilled.

I tell her about the film they are making and we talk of previous films we have seen them in. I say, “Of course, I didn’t know them then…” and she says, “But now, we’re real pals, aren’t we?”

She says she is having new shoes and getting her hair done for the commerce ball and she’s looking forward to it, but she is a bit worried about the exams. She is also worried about going to singing on Tuesday when she ought to be swotting. She loves going, but…

We chat for a good half hour and I promise to apologise for her to Johan. It does me good to talk to her. She is such fun and we understand each other’s nonsense. I tell her about the film advert with Webster leering over his boater on a Parisienne avenue and she squeals with delight.

We go out to Bedfordview in the evening and do the play once more. There are about 35 in the audience. We have to do it again on Tuesday night in Orange Grove.

Afterwards we go to Mr and Mrs R’s for coffee. Mum and Dad will have to record Anne for me on Tuesday.

28 August – Today it snows and the world is white! After I recover from the shock I work.

I go to singing in the afternoon and get a dull, shabby old man in the lift with me. He speaks to Anne and reveals himself as Guy Magrath – honestly, I nearly have a fit!

Anne tells me that they went to the opening of the Civic Theatre last night and it didn’t finish till 12.10. They had the opening itself which lasted three-quarters of an hour and then the opera. By the end of it she felt as though she had been in an alcoholic’s nightmare! Mimi was good in two of the roles but as the “dancing doll” she was rather large!

The foyer is gaudy – dark red and blue with hanging lights. It reminded her of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. There’s a bar in the foyer and all the whisky was finished by the second interval.

Webster felt too awful to come into the studio today – presumably from all that whisky. They sat in the second row and Verwoerd sat in the gallery. “Somebody would have shot him if he had sat in the stalls,” said Webster.

Anne says she found the people quite mad. South Africans are a race apart the more she sees of them. “I wouldn’t say this to anyone but someone from home because a South African couldn’t take it.”

We have this long conversation while washing the dishes and making tea till 4. Leslie G is back and had a wonderful holiday and is going to dinner with them tonight. He says it’ll take him a month to finish talking about his holiday.

We work at exercises and when Ruth comes I listen to her singing the exercises. Her voice is sweet but rather wobbly and a bit off key. She races through the exercises like billy-oh. We spend a bit more time talking about Tales of Hoffman and running down Anton Hartman (who conducted last night) and Jossie Boshoff (who is 44). Ruth’s mother had her birthday party at the Carlton Hotel last night, if you don’t mind!

We all have a lovely time as Anne’s two teacher’s pets! I think our voices are on a par.

We do the play at Orange Grove at night and it goes very well. We go back to Gail’s for coffee and cake and Peter takes me home.

29 August – Listen to Anne’s recorded programme. It is well done but she alludes to too many old friends such as Richard Tauber, Hermione Gingold and others I have never heard about. The shows are Land of Smiles, Gigi, The Boy Friend and Song of Norway. She tells several amusing stories with regards to The Boy Friend. She spent her teenage years in the twenties and remembers the fashions of the times, being kissed by awkward youths, wearing short shapeless dresses and bathing costumes with cloche bathing caps. She says they both roared at the first night which they had first seen in Hampstead and also at the first night here when they sat in front of Sandy Wilson who was convinced they were trying to ruin the show with their laughter. Lovely programme.

Go to town and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. Put in hard afternoon’s work in SS studio with Gill, Elaine and Mrs du P. When examiner leaves we try out the piano in that studio and it goes reasonably well. Anderson Tyrer leaves at least 20 cigarette ends behind him as well as a stale, smoky smell. Come home on the bus with Betty and have an early night.

30 August – I work very hard today trying to polish up all my examination pieces.

Listen to G and S at night. He goes on with Iolanthe and plays the Lord Chancellor’s song by Martyn Green, a record he made in America. His voice is past its best. Very nice programme but I’m not sure whether people (apart from myself) want to listen to a repeat after only three or four months even if it is done by a different company.

31 August – My nineteenth birthday.

Go to studio. Anne arrives after me and says she’s quite exhausted after teaching in Brakpan yesterday – they didn’t get home till after 9.

We start on scales and they go very well and then go onto studies. Webster comes in in the middle of the second one. His face is still terribly red. She makes me sing down 2 octaves for him and he says that it is lovely and very even. I do exercises on the tape and they go pretty well. Webster says I must take my time with them and hum and sing an arpeggio or two if I feel like it! To hell with the examiner. “It’s none of his business!”

Anne says that Leslie G came to dinner and brought slides to show them. He had a fabulous one of the Scots Memorial in Princes Street taken from a turret of Edinburgh Castle. He also made a recording with her girlfriend, Babs Wilson-Hill, in her garden which is to be broadcast soon.

I sing studies on tape and they are pleased with them but Webster says I must look at the hairpins again. When we do the second study he sings with me and emphasises the hairpins. He stands far away from me but it is mostly him we hear on the tape. I go red and feel a wee bit embarrassed but it all goes well.

He says I mustn’t worry at all. I shall be all right. I must go to the exam thinking, “Well, I know everything there is to know about this blooming exam!”

I tell them that I am playing tomorrow and if I don’t play well the examiner will probably be horrified to see me again! Webster has a right hearty laugh at this and we part in an atmosphere of great frivolity.

Lucille is waiting for a lesson after me, looking most superior. I expect she heard the tape with my endeavours to sing and Webster bawling!

For the first time in many months, I come down Eloff Street elated, gay and happy.

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