Charles Forwood, accompanist to Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951. He was a number of years older than them and had been playing the piano from the early years of the twentieth century.

In the early 1950s Anne and Webster were earning £250 a concert and paying their accompanist £30 a week, as it was stipulated in their contracts that they should pay the accompanist out of their own pocket.

Pamela Davies, who wrote the book, Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? mentions the part Charles Forwood played at the Harold Williams’ concerts, particularly one she attended in March of 1947:

Anne and Webster on stage at the Garrick Theatre, Southport with Charles Forwood playing the piano.

P 129 Anne, talking about her mother: “During my song Mother had crept on and on to the stage until she could look through the window at me signing , and there she stood, quite visible from the auditorium, a small figure with a black feather in her black hat, and resting on a long black umbrella! She saw Charlie Forwood, our accompanist, look up at her from the piano with horror in his face, so to comfort him she nodded her head and waved to him, the audience by this time being very much more interested in her than in me!”

P 133 Webster: “Much depended on our accompanist, and it was at this point in our career that Charles Forwood joined us. Hayward Clarke was unable to come to Blackpool owing to a previous contract at Newquay. We asked Charles if he would take us on, not dreaming that he would, for he was a well-known accompanist and concert arranger in the city and West End, and we always felt honoured if a booking came through him – it always meant a first-class show. However, the war had robbed him of many of his engagements, and he felt that a summer at the seaside would be pleasanter than wartime London. He has now been our accompanist, friend, adviser and a stern coach for eleven years, having given up all his old connections to remain with us. In that time we have never had a word in writing in the form of a contract, nor ever needed one. How delightful in these days of forms and mistrust to be able to do business like that.”

P163 Anne: “During those difficult days of the war, and indeed ever since, everything has been made much easier for us both by Charlie Forwood, our accompanist. When I first knew Webster a booking from Charlie always gave real delight to us – accompanied by some trepidation, for though he was the perfect accompanist he demanded the very best a singer could do. Whether the audience was enthusiastic or not did not matter; only if we sang well enough to please Charlie’s own most critical taste would he put his hands on our shoulders and say, “Well done!” But if we did not breathe in the right place, or, as Charlie would say, “Paint the picture”, then he would make no comment, give us our music back, pay us – and we were down in the deeps of depressions for days!

Webster has told how Charlie joined us as our own accompanist at Blackpool in 1940. He is still with us. Now, as always, it doesn’t matter to him how the audience applaud. If we have sung well, he will still say, “Well done!” If he puts the music back in the case and says nothing, we still creep away like a couple of rebuked children.

He says his father, who was a printer, enjoyed the nickname of M.O.B. (which Webster says means Miserable Old Bounder), and Charlie loves to think that the same words apply to him. They don’t really; he just tries to make people think so. A perfect accompanist, as a coach he has probably forgotten more than most coaches today have learned. He used to play the violin in a string quartet on the White Star luxury cruises. If he took a studio and taught singing he would make a fortune. But he won’t. He won’t have a telephone at his old-world Surrey cottage – wise man! – and when we want to get in touch with him urgently we have to telephone the local grocer, who sends a message by the next passer-by. To us, he is our Rock of Gibraltar.”

When the Booths went on their tour to New Zealand and Australia, Charles Forwood did not think his health would stand the rigorous tour so an Australian accompanist from Adelaide, Clarence Black was their accompanist for the New Zealand and Australian trip.

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