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MY WEBSTER BOOTH-ANNE ZIEGLER COLLECTION

I do not think I could consider including the records any longer as they are far too heavy to be shipped anywhere. Most of them have been digitised by Mike Taylor of The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook, but surely photos, letters from Anne and Webster, cuttings, my diaries and books I have written should be of interest to someone?

I have collected records, cuttings, photos and letters in connection with Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler since I first met them nearly sixty years ago. Originally, I hoped to be able to pass my collection on to a British theatrical museum but then I realised that it would be extremely expensive to ship it to the UK from South Africa. Later, I was told about the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown, now known as  Makhanda, (NELMS). I wrote to Mr Malcolm Hacksley who was in charge of NELMS at that time, and received an enthusiastic reply to my letter:

From: Jean Collen 
Sent: 05 April 2009 10:06 PM
To: m.hacksley@ru.ac.za
Subject: Anne Ziegler-Webster Booth collection

Dear Mr Hacksley,

Johan Geldenhuys suggested that I should contact you in connection with my collection of letters, photographs, records (78s, LPs, CDs, tapes), press
cuttings and programmes connected with the British duettists, Anne Ziegler
and Webster Booth.

After I left school at the end of 1960 I studied singing with them at their
studio in Johannesburg, was Webster’s studio accompanist for several years
and remained friends with them until Webster’s death in 1984 and Anne’s in
2003. During that time I accumulated a considerable collection of
memorabilia related to them, including about 250 letters. I published a book
called “Sweethearts of Song: a Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth” on https://www.lulu.com/duettists in 2006. They had written their autobiography, “Duet” before they left the UK in 1951. My book concentrates mainly on the 22 years they spent in South Africa,
and after they returned to the UK in 1978. Since that time I have written other books about the couple. You can see more information about them at the links below. 

I contacted the Theatre Museum in London about donating this collection
there after my death, and the curator expressed interest in it, but it would
cost a great deal to have it sent to the UK, and since they spent 22 years
here, Johan suggested that HELMS might be interested in having it after my
death. While I know you are concerned with English literature in South
Africa, I have noticed in your magazine that you have accepted various other theatrical archives, so I wonder whether you would be interested in this one after my death?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Jean Collen (Mrs)

The London Theatre Museum, Covent Garden This museum closed down permanently and material was transferred to the Victoria and Albert Museum after the museum at Covent Garden closed in 2007

Mr Hacksley replied as follows:

  Dear Mrs Collen

Johan is absolutely right – we most definitely WOULD want your collection of the Ziegler-Booth memorabilia! I remember their radio broadcasts with great pleasure. (We must be of much the same vintage: I left school at the end of 1961.) We have an immense amount of SA theatre material – mainly unpublished playscripts, programmes, press-cuttings, etc stretching way, way back. Yours would be a very welcome addition.

I am rather glad you have had second thoughts about the theatre museum in London. It seems to have fallen on very hard times – I’m told they had to
vacate their Covent Garden premises because they had lost their national
grant. And this was before the world-wide economic crisis, so the chances of a realistic rescue package for them are remote in the extreme. One doesn’t wish to rejoice in another’s misfortune, but we would be very glad to be able to keep your collection in SA. We accepted Moira Lister’s whole
personal archive just weeks before she died.  

  If you should decide to part with it before the Grim Reaper comes calling,
please do let us know and we will fetch it from you. Whatever you do, please
do NOT consider entrusting it to the tender or other mercies of the postal
services OR to the courier companies. Bitter experience has taught us that
we have to retrieve precious materials in person. (An instance: a set of
documents sent to us from Cape Town last month by “overnight courier” took SEVENTEEN days to reach us – despite being perfectly correctly addressed…)

With warm regards

Malcolm Hacksley  

Mr Hacksley retired from his position not long after this correspondence took place. I heard recently that the museum had changed its name so I decided to contact them to see whether they were still interested in my collection.

I received the following email a few days ago. I will not mention the name of the writer but I would be interested to know what you think I should do with my collection now.

Received on 27 November 2019

Dear Mrs Collen

Thank you for contacting Amazwi about your collection. My apologies for the delay in responding. I took it to the selection committee meeting and then had to attend meetings in Pretoria before I could reply.

I was asked to request a bit more information about Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. From your email it seems that they were primarily musicians. Is this correct?

Amazwi is a museum of literature. We do collect material relating to theatre and plays, but not really music or dance. The focus is on productions of plays with South African scripts, and material relating to the playwrights.

As you have noted, this year the museum’s name was changed from the National English Literary Museum to Amazwi South African Museum of Literature. This will enable us to collect material in other South African languages as well as English. The collection policies remain the same, just broadened in terms of language. Our concerns about your collection, important as it is, have to do with the museum’s focus on literature as opposed to music.

If your collection is more theatre based, then please do let me know.

Best wishes…

From the tone of the email, I do not think that this is a suitable place for my collection any more. I am far nearer to meeting the Grim Reaper today than I was when I first wrote to Mr Hacksley ten years ago. If anyone can suggest what I should do with my collection now I would be interested to hear from you. I do not think I could consider including the records any longer as they are far too heavy to be shipped anywhere. Most of them have been digitised by Mike Taylor of The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook, but surely photos, letters from Anne and Webster, cuttings, my diaries and books I have written should be of interest to someone?

I received two or three comments to this post here and on other places – two had some good suggestions which I will follow up. I replied to the email as follows:

Dear Ms W,

Thank you for your email. It is just as well that I contacted you with regard to my Anne Ziegler-Webster Booth collection for I can see that your view of it is very different to the one so enthusiastically expressed to me ten years ago by Mr Hacksley. 
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were world famous British duettists, active in theatre, film, recording and radio. They came to South Africa in 1956 and remained here for 22 years before returning to the UK. I have consulted with various people and have decided to contact the Victoria and Albert Museum or the British Library in the UK as these might be more suitable places for my collection. 
Kind regards,
Jean Collen (Mrs)

I recently published the second edition of my first book: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (Second Edition)

Jean Collen.


SWEETHEARTS OF SONG: A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH (Second Edition)

Anne and Webster looked particularly glamorous for the occasion. Anne was wearing a beautiful evening gown, her fair hair in a chignon, while Webster was in full evening dress, to act as compère for the evening and to sing some drawing room ballads into the bargain. The accompanist for the series was Anna Bender, the official accompanist for the SABC. Anne and Webster received their guests graciously. Anne told Ruth and me to save her a seat in the front row, where she sat between us and played her full part in chatting to us between the items on the programme to evoke the atmosphere of a drawing room at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Over forty years later I still remember Miss Rita Roberts (soprano) singing Christina’s Lament to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, Mr Walter Mony (violin), Miss Anna Bender (accompanist) and finally Webster himself, aged sixty, but still in fine voice singing The Kashmiri Song, The Sweetest flower that blows, Parted, O Dry Those Tears and finally Had you but known with violin obbligato by the excellent Mr Mony, a French Canadian, who became a professor and head of the music department at the University of the Witwatersrand.

I published the first edition of this book in 2006 and have recently published the second edition 13 years later. I have included excerpts from my contemporary diaries, and have drawn on the many letters written to me by Anne and Webster over a forty year period. This edition contains more information about my relationship with Anne and Webster and also includes many extra photographs collected over the years. The book is available as a paperback and as a PDF e-book.

Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (Second Edition)

ACCOMPANYING FOR WEBSTER BOOTH

When he was about to go home and was standing on our balcony which was enclosed with a purple bougainvillaea creeper, my mother said, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” he replied, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me.”

Although I can remember that day as though it were yesterday it saddens me to think that Dawson’s is no longer the plush hotel it was then, while Shandy, my mother, father and dear Webster himself are all long dead and gone.

The bulk of the material is from a chapter in my book:

Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth 

Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.
A Personal Memoir

ACCOMPANYING FOR WEBSTER

On April 22nd 2013  it will be 56 years since I first started accompanying for Webster Booth in the studio where he and Anne Ziegler taught singing and stagecraft. It sounds like a long time ago but I can remember a great deal of that remarkable period of my life as though it were yesterday. 1963 was certainly one of the happiest years of my life when I had few worries and every day was an exciting carefree adventure. In 1964 my life was touched with sadness and tragedy and was never as perfect as it had been in the shining year that was 1963.

At the beginning of that year, I was just nineteen, with the promise of a happy future ahead of me. I had been learning singing with Anne and Webster for two years and I was planning to do my teaching diplomas in singing, although I was hoping that if I worked hard enough I would not have to depend entirely on teaching to make my living in music.

Webster and Anne at the time I was studying with them.

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 January 1962. Anne and Webster attend a gathering to meet the All Blacks Rugby team

Me at about the time I was accompanying for Webster.

Jean Campbell Collen (1965)
Jean Campbell Collen (1965)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only did Anne teach singing with Webster, but she also acted as studio accompanist, so it was usually Webster who answered the door to new arrivals and made frequent cups of tea for everyone.

Webster, Leslie, or Boo as Anne called him, was always even-tempered, with his cheerful, “Hello dear. Would you like some tea?” when I arrived for my lesson at their eighth floor studio in Polliack’s Corner at the corner of Pritchard and Eloff Streets in the city of Johannesburg.

Polliack's Corner. Studio was on eighth floor of building with balconies to the right of the photo.
Polliack’s Corner. Studio was on eighth floor of building with balconies to the right of the photo.

Of course he was perfectly aware that he had an outstanding voice, but he was devoid of the conceit one might have expected from a legendary tenor. I still have a vision of him in his shirt sleeves, peering through his horn-rimmed bifocals at one score or another, perspiring in the Johannesburg summer heat to which he was unaccustomed. He sight-read songs better than most of us could ever dream of singing them.

Early in 1963 my father heard a recording I had made of myself singing Father of Heav’n from Judas Maccabeus on my recently-acquired reel-to-reel tape recorder. He had passed several disparaging remarks about the quality of my singing and I was feeling extremely despondent. Anne and Webster were kind and sympathetic when I told them what he had said about my voice.

“My family never praised me for my singing either,” Webster growled. “If it had been up to them I would never have become a singer. Bring the recording along next time and let’s see what it’s like.” 

They listened in silence the following week – perhaps my father had been right and my singing was awful – but afterwards Anne asked rather sharply as to who my accompanist had been. They were very surprised when I admitted to accompanying myself. Nothing more was said at the time. In the fullness of time I recovered from the hurt my father’s criticism had caused me and I plodded on regardless.

A few weeks later Webster phoned my mother to ask whether I’d like to play for him in the studio for a few weeks in April as Anne was going on a tour round the country with Leslie Green, the broadcaster, best known for his programme on Springbok Radio of Tea With Mr Green, who was a great friend of theirs.

Anne at a concert with Leslie Green (1961)

Anne at the first night of The Amorous Prawn with Leslie Green (1961)

I was out when he phoned so I phoned back that evening and spoke to Anne. Naturally, I wanted to do it. What a chance!

“Don’t worry about a thing, Jean,” Anne told me. ’If you can manage into the studio each day, Leslie will give you a lift home in the evenings. He’ll look after you. It will do you good to play for him.”

I was thrilled but apprehensive about the prospect of accompanying for Webster. Playing for the man who had been accompanied by the great Gerald Moore on most of his recordings was rather daunting.

The great accompanist Gerald Moore
The great accompanist Gerald Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

I realise now that they were probably sorry that I had been so hurt by my father’s comments about my singing and wanted to build up my self-confidence again by giving me this chance to help Webster in the studio. I was petrified that I would not live up to their expectations of me. On the other hand, accompanying for Webster for two weeks would be exciting and challenging. When I play Father of Heav’n for one of my young students today, I remember how significant this song was in changing the direction of my life in those heady days so long ago.

-O-

As it was only January and I didn’t have to play until April so I decided to improve my sight-reading as much as possible in the following two months. I was working for Grade 7 piano and Grade 8 singing exams and April seemed a lifetime away.

Webster made a list of the students’ current repertoire and lent me some of his own scores so that I could practise the more difficult songs and arias beforehand. On the front page of each score he had listed all his concert dates for the work in question, usually for this or that oratorio. Apart from his variety act with Anne, he had been one of Britain’s greatest oratorio tenors.

In his score of Haydn’s Creation was the following list:

Lawson Memorial Hall, Selkirk 31/3/1937

Drill Hall, Derby Choral Union 6/11/1937

Broadcast, Town Hall, B’ham 9/11/1938

BBC Home 3/12/1952

BBC Third 4/12/52

Albert Hall, Royal Choral 29/4/1953 (Sir Malcolm’s birthday)

When he gave me his oratorio scores for Acis and Galatea and Jephtha, Anne asked, “Won’t you be needing them soon, darling?”

“I’ll never sing them again in this life,” he replied dryly. “Maybe in the next!”

One Friday afternoon in February my mother and I went shopping in Anstey’s, one of the big department stores in the city. We had afternoon tea in the pleasant tearoom where we sat at a table covered with a starched white tablecloth and chose fancy fattening cream cakes from the tiered plate in front of us.

Anstey’s Building. A department store with apartments and a penthouse above the store.

Anstey's Building, Johannesburg.
Anstey’s Building, Johannesburg.

Shortly after arriving home from that agreeable outing, the phone rang. It was Webster.

“Hello, Jeannie. Anne isn’t feeling too well today,” he said. “Would you like to come into the studio tomorrow morning and play for me?”

I felt elated and terrified at the same time.

“You’ll be fine,” he assured me, but I continued to tremble, as though I were about to make my debut at the Festival Hall.

I arrived at the studio in time for the first pupil, Graham. After he had sung some scales to warm his voice, Webster turned his attention to Sylvia by Oley Speaks. Although I was still feeling exceedingly nervous I managed to sight-read the accompaniment without mishap. I even began to enjoy accompanying Graham and listening to what Webster had to say to him about his singing.

But when the lesson was over and Graham had gone, Webster said quite gently, “You were quite petrified, weren’t you?”

I nodded dumbly, blushing at the same time. I wondered whether he was going to tell me I was no good to him and should go home straight away.

“You were fine,” he said reassuringly, making me feel more confident as we started on the next lesson.

Ruth Ormond, my great friend, had her lesson after me that day and was very surprised to see me at the piano instead of Anne. We had fun during her lesson, although I don’t think we did much work.

The last pupil for the morning was a blonde Afrikaans girl called Lucille Ackerman. She was a year older than me and had an exceptional soprano voice. I felt absolutely jealous when he sang proper duets like Only A Rose with her and put his arm round her waist.

Apart from this dull thud, the morning had passed well. Far from writing me off as hopeless, Webster asked me to play for him again on Monday. I hoped that Lucille would not have another lesson that morning!

That afternoon I went with friends to see My Fair Lady at the Empire Theatre in town with the delightful Diane Todd as the eponymous heroine and a largely Australian cast.

I played for Webster again on Monday and enjoyed it, not feeling as uncertain as I had done the first time. Mary Harrison, a glamorous Australian redhead, who was appearing in My Fair Lady was amusing and made the aria from Samson and Delilah sound like a tongue-in-the-cheek comedy act. She told Webster solemnly that she was doing her best to make her voice sound like a ‘cello, as he had suggested to her the week before. She stayed on in South Africa after the run of My Fair Lady ended and had success as an actress here, eventually settling in Durban and marrying. Sadly, she died of cancer some years ago.

A large arrogant tenor, who shall remain nameless, bellowed forth uncompromisingly, taking no advice from Webster. I wondered why he was bothering to have lessons if he was so full of himself that he did not think it necessary to take any direction.

After we finished for the day, Webster assured me that I had no need to worry. The standard of my sight-reading would easily carry me through when I began playing for him officially on 22 April 1963. In hindsight, perhaps this had been a test to see whether I could really fulfil the role as his accompanist. I don’t know what I would have done if I had failed that test and they made an excuse for withdrawing their offer. It was actually quite a let down to go into the studio the following week as a mere pupil once again. Anne told me that my singing had greatly improved since last she had seen me.

“Perhaps I had better leave you alone with Webster more often,” she added jokingly.

-O-

I was impatient for April to arrive, and continued working through all Webster’s scores. I also spent much time in a ferment of last minute practice for my forthcoming singing and piano exams: Prepare Thyself Zion from the Christmas Oratorio (Bach), Father of Heav’n from Judas Maccabeus (Handel), Ein Schwan (Grieg) sung by Kirsten Flagstad. and other songs, studies and exercises for my singing exam, and countless scales and pieces for my piano exam. The week of our exam duly arrived and Ruth, Lucille and I sat in the waiting room of the studios of my piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, where the Trinity College exams were held at the time.

 My dear friend and fellow student Ruth Ormond. The photograph was taken at the end of 1963 before she left for the University of Cape Town. Sadly she died in Cape Town on 1 May 1964 of a cerebral haemorrhage. She had just celebrated her nineteenth birthday during the previous month.

Ruth Ormond.
Ruth Ormond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucille looked about sixteen, although she was older than me. Anne was wearing a camel -coloured fly-away cape coat and was doing her best to calm us down. Only years later when I was accompanying my own students in exams did I learn that the accompanist has the most harrowing job of the lot, having to play for several nervous pupils at a time.

I was introduced to the examiner, Mr Guy McGrath, who looked too old and benign to have the fate of all the poor candidates in his hands. However, after a nervous start, all went fairly well and the ordeal was finally over, apart from having to worry whether or not I had passed. I had not done well in sight-singing in my first singing exam, but I had worked particularly hard to master the skill: at least I knew I had managed that properly. I thought Ruth sang well, and I’m sure Lucille did also – she always sounded great. The four of us walked up Von Brandis Street with Anne, feeling better and more relaxed now that our ordeal was over.

Ruth and I left Anne outside the studio in Pritchard Street and went off to enjoy a slap-up meal in Anstey’s and have a lengthy post mortem about the exam. We both had frightful complexes about our singing, so much so that others must have wondered why we took lessons in the first place.

“I’d like to put you and Ruth in a bag together,” Webster remarked exasperatedly one day when we were bemoaning our vocal shortcomings.

On Friday, the day before Anne left on her trip with Leslie Green, I went apprehensively up to the studio, wondering whether the results might have arrived. Webster answered the door and said heartily:

“I believe you sang very well on Tuesday, my gel!”

I looked at him intensely and said, “No, it was absolutely awful.”

“How do you think you did?”

“I’ve failed,” I replied with conviction.

He gave a little chuckle and marched back into the studio, leaving me to wait in the kitchen until Lucille finished her lesson. He called me in and handed me my card – 78 per cent (with merit) for Grade 8. I could hardly believe it. Lucille with her brilliant voice had managed only 72 per cent for Grade 5. Ruth had passed Grade 6 with 72 per cent also.

Anne and Webster seemed delighted with my result. For most of that lesson we drank tea and made firm plans for my forthcoming singing diploma. Anne was wearing a black Derby type hat and looked particularly striking. We all got on so well together that day as she wished me good luck with my accompanying and I wished her a happy holiday with Leslie Green. Webster informed me that he would take me home from the studio every day and my parents worked out a map for him to get to Buckingham Avenue in Craighall Park from Juno Street, Kensington.

I still had to do my piano exam. Mr McGrath was very complimentary and told me I would make an excellent teacher and that I had been silly to doubt for a moment that I wouldn’t pass my singing exam. I played well, due perhaps to an exuberance for life with everything to look forward to. I passed the piano exam with 85 percent (honours).

As usual, Webster had taken shilling wagers with me on the outcome of all my exams, so I had to pay several shillings to honour the pleasing outcome of the bets. I was glad that I had managed to complete these exams creditably. Now I could look forward unhindered to two weeks working with Webster.

-O-

When I arrived on Monday morning, Webster handed me the keys to the studio.

“These are for you, darling. Come in and practise whenever you like. I hang the keys for Chatsworth in the office.”

It took me some time to work out that Chatsworth was his name for the communal toilet on the eighth floor where the studio was situated.

The ancient electric kettle was soon steaming to boil water for tea. But at that time I was not exactly domesticated.

“You must use two tea bags, dear, otherwise the tea is awful,” he scolded. “Good heavens! Don’t you know that you have to wait until the water boils properly before you pour it into the teapot?”

I had played on a Monday before, so it was good to see Mary Harrison again. The unmentionable tenor told me condescendingly that my sight-reading had improved vastly since February. He had not improved however and continued to do his own thing, unwilling to take any criticism or try out any suggestion Webster made.

On the second day, I met Dudley Holmes for the first time, then aged about twenty-one. He was quite taken aback to see me at the piano instead of Anne. He told me later that he was petrified for he had never sung to another living soul apart from Anne and Webster. I enjoyed playing Without a Song, and various songs from the Bass album for him.  Come to the Fair by Easthope Martin sung by Dudley and David Hales. I got to know him quite well over the years, and often spoke to him on the phone in Kimberley, where he lived for many years. He returned to Johannesburg about 10 years ago.

Dudley Holmes (Bass)
Dudley Holmes (Bass)

 

If not in a dream, I certainly was in seventh heaven during those two weeks. I tried to lock the experience in my mind so that I could relive every moment of it at will. I played for a few singers, whom Webster warned I might find amusing, but there were also excellent singers like Doris Bolton, a soprano from the Staffordshire potteries district, whose husband was working in the potteries in Olifantsfontein near Irené, where they lived at the time. She had a beautiful lyrical voice and was singing Richard Strauss’s Serenade in an impossible key. The accompaniment is very fast and florid and my sight-reading of it certainly did not do it or her justice. I remember Mary Harrison and Norma Dennis, Australians in the production of My Fair Lady, Lucille Ackerman of course, Dudley Holmes, Colleen McMenamin, my dear friend Ruth, and many others whom I got to know during my first accompaniment stint.

-O-

There was a fairly long break  at lunchtime. My mother had told me to go out for lunch to give Webster a chance to put his feet up. For the first few days I trailed through the lunchtime crowds to the library, where I passed the time studying music books in the reference library. It was a long walk from the studio and the time between sessions dragged.

“What do you do at lunchtime?” Webster asked curiously on the third day.

He was horrified when I told him.

“You can’t possibly wander around town and sit in the library for all that time. Bring in some sandwiches and stay in the studio with me.”

I mumbled something about not wanting to disturb him.

“Of course you won’t disturb me.”

So after that I remained in the studio and we ate our packed lunches together. His lunch was always a good deal more exotic than my own, with delicacies purchased from Thrupps, the nearby upmarket grocery shop. After lunch he would put his feet up on the table opposite the studio couch and sleep for half an hour or so.

One lunchtime I went on to the studio veranda where the tame pigeons, always in search of breadcrumbs, were congregated. I viewed the buildings down Eloff Street. I could see the crowns on top of His Majesty’s Theatre in Commissioner Street, three blocks down the road, and the elegant old Carlton Hotel. Outside the OK Bazaars, just across from the studio, three youngsters were playing Kwela music with penny whistle, guitar and an improvised bass constructed from a tea chest. There were coins jangling in the tin at their feet. Business people and elegant ladies from the northern suburbs, on their way to lunch with friends in one of the big city department stores, enjoyed the cheerful music. My toes tapped to its catchy rhythms, but I feared it might be competition for the singers at their lessons.

 Looking down Eloff Street from the studio balcony.

Eloff Street, looking south.
Eloff Street, looking south.

I closed the door of the balcony quietly and surveyed the spacious studio with its elegant Chappell grand piano on the far side. On the wall above the couch was a glass panel behind which were dozens of fascinating pictures from the Booths’ days of fame and glory in the UK. My mother had recognised a number of their illustrious friends and colleagues in the photographs when she had taken me to the studio for the first time. I particularly remember one of Anne and Webster in a boat with Douglas Fairbanks Junior when they had starred in Merrie England at Luton Hoo in Coronation year, 1953.

-O-

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.Merrie England (June 1953) at Luton Hoo with Douglas Fairbanks Junior.

Before the next session started, I would make tea. I had learnt how to make it properly by this time!

I invited Webster to dinner during those two weeks. As we sat in the car in front of my house after he had driven me home one evening, I asked him, rather diffidently, whether he would like to come to dinner one night the following week. To my great surprise, he was delighted at the idea and readily agreed to dine with us the following Tuesday as we finished fairly early at the studio.

The time fairly flew and it seemed as though I had always been playing for him, walking with him to the garage each night, and following him up the narrow steps to where the car was parked.

When he drove me home on Saturday morning he said, “Perhaps we could go out to lunch some time next week. Would you like that, dear?”

I was quite taken aback at the suggestion, but, as always, I was delighted, and said, “Yes, that would be lovely.”

He said he was thinking of taking me to Dawson’s Hotel, where they had lived when they first arrived in Johannesburg and were flat hunting.

“Perhaps we won’t have time to have a really good meal there in such a short time, but we’ll see.”

I spent Sunday without seeing him for the first time all week, but still with the following week ahead to look forward to, not to mention the planned lunch at Dawson’s and the dinner at home.

On Monday we spent a lovely lunchtime, chatting about Webster’s life in the theatre in Britain, the tours of Australia, fabulous ski-ing holidays in Switzerland, nights of triumph at the London Palladium. I got to know him better than ever. He epitomised security, good humour, kindness and complete lack of side, and I thought the world of him.

Tuesday was a red-letter day.

After Dudley’s lesson, Webster announced, “Jean and I are going to blow the family savings today. I’m taking her to Dawson’s.”

Dudley said, “I wish I was coming with you. I have to go back to the office on an apple.”

Webster and I walked round the corner to Dawson’s, which was still one of the top hotels in those days, with only the Carlton and the Langham ahead of it. He seemed oblivious of the curious glances from some of the lunchtime throng as they did double takes when they recognised his famous face. We were ushered into the dining room on the first floor as though we were royalty. The head waiter hovered around Webster and we were shown to the best table at the window.

Dawson’s in 1972. The Edwardian restaurant where we had lunch that day was on the first floor.

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Webster was quite at home in this setting after the grand hotels of Europe, the Antipodes and the UK. I, on the other hand, in a bottle-green velvet dress I felt gauche and young in comparison, as indeed I was. He ordered grilled trout and I had a fish dish also. He had a gin beforehand and was disappointed when I refused anything alcoholic. The only time I ever had anything to drink in those days was if my father poured me a thimbleful of sherry for me on special occasions. I was very unsophisticated and innocent in comparison with teenagers today.

During our meal, he told me how he and Anne had lived at Dawson’s for three months on arriving in Johannesburg. Somehow, things had gone wrong and several people in the hotel management, who had theatrical connections, had turned against them. Over coffee, we had petits fours and he insisted I should eat as many as I wanted. I found out later that they were soaked in brandy, so inadvertently I did not go without alcohol that day.

We sauntered back to the studio. There was only one pupil due that afternoon, so Webster fell asleep on the couch, while I sat in a chair a fair distance away reading their autobiography Duet, which he had lent me the week before.

When he woke up, he put on one of the reel-to-reel tapes of his sacred and oratorio recordings: How Lovely are Thy Dwellings (Webster Booth),

Sullivan’s The Lost Chord  (Webster Booth)

Abide With Me (Liddle) (Webster Booth)

Why does the God of Israel Sleep? Sound an Alarm (Webster Booth) and others.

I listened entranced and sometimes near to tears. He told me that when Lost Chord was recorded in the Kingsway Hall during the war, the All Clear sounded just as he was singing the last phrase “The Grand Amen”. They had to record it again so that the sirens could not be heard on the recording.

After Winnie, the only pupil for the afternoon, he drove me home to Juno Street in Kensington and stayed to dinner with my parents.

Our house is Juno Street as it is today.

Our house is Juno Street as it is today.

He took a fancy to our dog, Shandy, whom he christened “my girlfriend” and kept her on his knee for the rest of the evening.

My father offered him a whisky, and Webster informed us that it had never done him any harm so far. He teased me because I had refused a drink at lunchtime in Dawson’s. My father looked alarmed at the thought of his innocent teenage daughter drinking alcohol.

Webster talked to my parents about Britain, and all the artistes they had known during the war, like Max Miller and Tommy Handley. He looked so at home in our sitting room, smoking and drinking whisky, with Shandy on his lap.

Shandy – Webster christened her “my girlfriend”.

Shandy

Shandy

 When he was about to go home and was standing on our balcony which was enclosed with a purple bougainvillaea creeper, my mother said, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” he replied, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me.”

Although I can remember that day as though it were yesterday it saddens me to think that Dawson’s is no longer the plush hotel it was then, while Shandy, my mother, father and dear Webster himself are all long dead and gone.

The next few days passed all too quickly and soon Anne was phoning to say she was back from her trip with Leslie Green. She had sent me a card and Webster had pretended to be cross because she had not yet written to him at that juncture.

On the last night, Webster drove me home, and said quite pensively, “I shall miss my Sylvia Pass next week,” referring to the route he took to his home in Craighall Park.

“I have enjoyed having you play for me, darling,” he added.

“So have I,” I replied fervently.

“We’ll see you on Tuesday, dear,” he said.

The following day Ruth phoned to tell me that Webster had raved about me at her lesson, and said how much he had enjoyed having dinner at my home. I phoned Anne to welcome her home and we chatted for an hour about her trip and how they had always dreamed of owning a smallholding in England, but would never be able to afford one now. And so ended the two wonderful weeks. I had enjoyed playing for the pupils, had acquitted myself creditably, and had got to know Webster very well. As time passed I would get to know him even better.

Jean Collen (first published in 2005)

Updated 5 November 2019.

©

Sylvia by Oley Speaks, sung by Webster Booth.

FILMS and videos FEATURING WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER.

“The Invader” was the first film in which Webster Booth appeared in 1934. Here is an excerpt from it.
“The World is Mine Tonight” on British Pathé (1936)
An excerpt from “Demobbed” where Anne and Webster were guest artistes – a rather silly film in my opinion.
Another excerpt from “Demobbed”.

Webster and Anne were guest stars in this charming film (1945)

Webster and Anne starred in “The Laughing Lady” (1946)
BBC Magazine show commemorating 35 years since VE Day.
Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler sing and talk to Russell Harty on his show on BBC2 in January 1981.This video is for private viewing by The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation group on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/booth.ziegler/

The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook has excerpts from films such as “Lord Oom Piet (1962) and others, not included here.

MISSING RECORDS FROM WEBSTER BOOTH/ANNE ZIEGLER DISCOGRAPHY.

If anyone has any of the recordings listed below, I would be very glad to have an MP3 of any one of them so that I can add it to the list of recordings in this group.

Missing Recordings

I read a post in The Golden Age of British Dance Bands by Javier Soria Laso about a data bass on the internet: (http://www.kellydatabase.org/Entry.aspx). I discovered a number of recordings by Webster Booth which I had not seen before – some of them had never been released. He featured in recordings by the HMV Light Opera Company and the Light Opera Male Chorus, sometimes in the chorus and sometimes as a soloist. I have included these recordings in my original list of missing recordings.

I wonder whether the unreleased recordings are still in circulation or whether they were discarded by HMV. I have a recording of Beauty’s Eyes (Tosti) which is marked as unreleased, also Anne Ziegler’s test recording of the Waltz Song from Merrie England. Possibly they were obtained from the Booths’ private record collection.

If anyone has any of the recordings listed below, I would be very glad to have an MP3 of any one of them so that I can add it to the list of recordings in this group.

WEBSTER BOOTH: Test recordings Serenata, Macushla Webster Booth, Reginald Paul, C Studio, Small Queens Hall, London, 20 November 1929.

Here Comes the Bride Selection (Schwartz) Light Opera Company with Alice Moxon, Stuart Robertson, Webster Booth, George Baker/Ray Noble/Studio C, Small Queens Hall, London/Cc18897-4, 25 March 1930.

C1890 Three Musketeers: Vocal Gems (Friml, Grey & Woodhouse),  Queen of my heart, Your eyes, March of the Musketeersparts 1 and 2, C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall, London, 7 April 1930. LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, ORCHESTRA: RAY NOBLE,  ALICE MOXON soprano, BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER contralto, ESSIE ACKLAND contralto, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone.

C1920 C B Cochrane’s 1930 Revue: Vocal Gems, parts 1 and 2 : Piccadilly, With a song in my heart,  Heaven, All the things you do,  Part 2: Bakerloo, Just as we used to do, The wind in the willows, What became of Mary? C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall London,  16 May 1930.  LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, ORCHESTRA: RAY NOBLE,  BESSIE JONES soprano, Alice MOXON soprano, NELLIE WALKER contralto, ESSIE ACKLAND contralto, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone.

Decca K630 HMS Pinafore Vocal Gems/Gilbert and Sullivan, Anne Welch, Victor Conway, Doris Owens, Webster Booth (1931)

I’m alone because I love you (Joe Young)/ When it’s sunset on the Nile (Ray Ellison & Ted RenardKensington Cinema, London, 6 March 1931. WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, W. BRUCE-JAMES organ Not released by HMV.

C2229 White Horse Inn: Vocal gems (Benatzky-Stolz), parts 1:   White Horse Inn, My song of love, Your eyes; Part 2 Ho-Dri-Ho, Goodbye, Sigesmund, It would be wonderful, Small Queen’s Hall London,  8 May 1931/14 May 1931, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, Orchestra: RAY NOBLE,  BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER soprano, ESSIE ACKLAND contalto, GEORGE BAKER baritone,  STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone,JOHN TURNER tenor,WEBSTER BOOTH tenor.

I have this recording. Webster must feature in the chorus for his solo voice cannot be heard.

C2501 Musical Comedy Marches, No 2 Studio, Abbey Road London,  7 November 1932,
LIGHT OPERA COMPANY Orchestra: RAY NOBLE, JOHN TURNER tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, LEONARD GOWINGS tenor,  GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone, EDWARD HALLAND bass.

C2511 Robert Burns Medley, parts 1 and 2: My love is like a red red rose,Green grow the rashes-O, Afton Water, No 2 Studio, Abbey Road London, 5 December 1932, 
LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (orchestra: LAWRENCE COLLINGWOOD)  ALICE MOXON soprano, BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER soprano, ESSIE ACKLAND contralto, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, DENNIS ARUNDEL baritone.

C2716 Ballad Memories, Light Opera Company, including Peter Dawson, Webster Booth, Walter Glynne, George Baker, Gladys Peel, Essie Ackland. Date unknown.

Columbia DB 1658 ORCHESTRE RAYMONDE, with Webster Booth, tenor and Angela Parselles, soprano, Cond. George Walter (real name Walter Goehr) Date unknown.

B8078 A dream of paradise (Claude Littleton & Hamilton Gray)/The old rustic bridge by the mill (Joseph P Skelly) Kingsway Hall, London, 23 October 1933, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, CHORUS, organ HERBERT DAWSON (orchestra Lawrance COLLINGWOOD)  WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER tenor, EDWARD HALLAND baritone, PETER DAWSON bass-baritone, GEORGE BAKER baritone.

B8071 Sweet Genevieve (Tucker), solo STUART ROBERTSON;  At Trinity Church (Fred Gilbert), solo GEORGE BAKER; The honeysuckle and the bee (Fitz & Penn), solo STUART ROBERTSON; b) If you want to know the time (E W Rogers), solo GEORGE BAKER  Studio No 1, Abbey Road London England,  7 November 1933 LIGHT OPERA MALE CHORUS (orchestra: CLIFFORD GREENWOOD) WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER tenor, EDWARD HALLAND bass, LEONARD HUBBARD baritone.

This recording may be heard on Clypit: https://clyp.it/fjwbx5vs Thanks to Robert Godridge.

B8081 The saucy Arethusa (trad.), solo STUART ROBERTSON; The Bay of Biscay (Davy) Studio No 1, Abbey Road, London,  7 November 1933,
 LIGHT OPERA MALE CHORUS (orchestra CLIFFORD GREENWOOD)  WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER tenor, EDWARD HALLAND bass, LEONARD HUBBARD baritone

B8105 The glory of the Motherland (McCall); England (Besly); No 2 Studio, Abbey Road, London ,11 January 1934  PETER DAWSON bass-baritone (orchestra: CLIFFORD GREENWOOD), MALE QUARTET  JOHN TURNER, tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON, bass.

C2814Neapolitan Nights, Selection sung in English: O sole mio; Torna; Funiculì Funiculà  Studio 1, London, 20 December 1935, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, Orchestra: WALTER GOEHR,  INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus 8 men

C2827 Tosti Medley Part 1: Parted; Marechiare; Vorrei morire; Part 2: L’ultima canzone; Ideale; Mattinata; Goodbye, Studio 1. London 11 February 1936, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY Orchestra: WALTER GOEHR,  INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus 8 men (as La Scala Singers) Released1938?  

C2834 Spanish Medley, part 1 – Perjura; Lolita; La paloma; part 2 – La partida, El relicario; Ay ay ay, Studio 1, London, 10 February 1936 (as Sevillian Serenaders)
 LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (orchestra: WALTER GOEHR) INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus 8 men.

Waltz song (German)/Indian love call (Friml) Studio 3, London ,10 March 1936,
 ANNE ZIEGLER (sop)(p) Test recordings.

B8476I’m all alone/May; I’ll wait for you/ May, Webster Booth, Conductor: George Scott-Wood, Studio 2, London, 21 July 1936, released December 1936, deleted July 1939.

September 1936Gramophone. Webster Booth is a little off colour this month in two songs by May and Feiner, I’m All Alone and I’ll Wait for You, both with orchestra on HMV B8476 (2S. 6d.), but this does not detract from the fact that Mr Booth is probably the finest light tenor before the public to-day. 

CARELESS RAPTURE Selection (Ivor Novello) Side 1.   Why Is There Ever Goodbye?/Music In May,   Side 2.   The Manchuko/Finale – Music In May. 23 October 1936.

Released in December 1936 and deleted in April 1941.

C2878 Memories of Lehár, part 1: You are my heart’s delight, Love’s melody, Smokeland, Gipsy love; part 2: Foreign Legion, Count of Luxembourg, Love’s melody  Studio 2, London, 23 October 1936, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, soloists ERIKA STORM, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), BBC Male Voice Quartet (orchestra: WALTER GOEHR)

Gems from Glamorous Night (Novello) Webster Booth, Muriel Barron (number and date unknown)

My star/Little Son (Bassett Silver),  Studio 1 London  10 February 1937 
 WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra: CLIFFORD GREENWOOD) Unissued.

I was sent these recordings by Bassett Silver’s son.

You’re mine (Sievier, de Rance) Studio 1, London, 10 February 1937
 WEBSTER BOOTH (ten)(orchestra WALTER GOEHR) Unissued.

Lakmé: O fair vision (Delibes, trans Claude Aveling) London,3 March 1939 
WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA (WARWICK BRAITHWAITE) Unissued.

Soft and pure fraught with love (Flotow, trans Claude Aveling) London,  3 March 1939, 
WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA:WARWICK BRAITHWAITE. Unissued.

Ave Maria/Schubert, Webster Booth (tenor) Ernest Lush (piano) 11 August 1939 Unpublished

DB 1877 MELODY OF THE WALTZ – Part 1: Waltzes by Gung’l; MELODY OF THE WALTZ; Part 2 : Waltzes by Gung’l, THE BOHEMIANS: light orchestra with Al Bollington at the Abbey Road studio Compton organ and Webster Booth, tenor. Released in October 1939 and deleted in February 1944.

B9030 Rosita (Kennedy/Carr)/When you wish upon a star (Harline & Washington)(Pinocchio)  Studio 1, London, 28 February 1940, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra CHARLES PRENTICE) Released April 1940. Deleted February 1944.

Rose of England: Crest of the Wave (Novello)/Beauty’s Eyes (F Paolo Tosti; F J Weatherley) Studio 3, London,27 March, 1941.
WEBSTER BOOTH (ten)(piano GERALD MOORE) Unissued.

I have Webster’s recording of Beauty’s Eyes by Tosti.

Merrie England: Come to Arcadie (German) Studio 3, London, 19 October 1941,

ANNE ZIEGLER (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra: DEBROY SOMERS) Unissued.

July 1945 – War records Webster Booth, Sydney Burchall and Clarence Wright, sang in Songs Our Boys Sang and Marching Times.

These records were not for sale to the general public, but sets were available at most of the 5300 National Savings Centres throughout the Country. Further information was available from the National Savings Committee, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, SW1.

Oft in the stilly night (trad; Tom Moore)/There is no death (O’Hara; Johnstone) St Mark’s Church, Hamilton Terrace, London , 11 January,1946 , WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (organ HERBERT DAWSON) Unissued. Webster also made a recording of There is no Death for HMV which was issued.

B9502All Soul’s Day/ Richard Strauss; Memory Island/ Harrison/ Gerald Moore, 27 February 1946. Released October 1946. Deleted March 1952. OEA10882/3

October 1946 Gramophone Webster Booth (tenor), Gerald Moore (piano): All Soul’s Day, opus No 8 (Bernhoff/Richard Strauss); Memory Island (Askew/Harrison) HMV B9502 (10”)

Richard Strauss’s setting of All Soul’s Day calls for singing of considerable emotional stress, and when Webster Booth gets impassioned his voice loses the easy charm that is its chief characteristic. His words are a model of distinctness and the accompaniment of Gerald Moore is perfect, but the song is not a very happy choice.

The singer is more at home in Memory Island, in which a sailor home from the sea for good, casts his memory back, Masefield-wise, to the blue lagoons, coral islands and what not of the rover. It is a nice song with, for its type, an unusually good accompaniment.

Without a song (V Youmans; W Rose and E Eluscu)/ My song goes round the world (E Neubach; English version K J Kennedy, ?Hans May) London,8 January 1948, 
WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: ERIC ROBINSON Unissued.

If my songs were only winged (Reynaldo Hahn) London, 11 July 1950,  WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: MARK LUBBOCK Unissued.

Countess Maritza: Komm Zigeuner (Kalman; McConnell)  London,20 December 1950,
WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: MARK LUBBOCK Unissued.

Decca F9921 Sanctuary of the Heart (Ketelby)He Bought My Heart At Calvary (Hamblen) with choir of St Stephen’s Church Dulwich, Fela Sowande (organ) June 1952

Jean Collen Updated: 10 September, 2019

ANNE ON HER OWN (1996 – 2003)

I had known, admired and loved Anne and Webster, and had been deeply influenced by them for forty-three years, and Anne’s death was the end of an era for me. But I am left with a few sad, but many happy memories of them, some of which I have shared in this personal memoir. If they had never been able to sing a note, I would have loved them for their warm, generous and kind hearts, and as long as I live they will never be forgotten.

Anne and her nephew, Mike Eastwood from Portsmouth (circa 1996)
1997 With Bonnie in Joan Tapper’s garden in Mold.
Anne and Maurice Buckley on the way to the RNCM for the awards concert and presentation 1997.
1997.
Anne and Bonnie 1997.

In 1997 Webster’s son Keith died at the age of 72, and in March of 1998 Anne’s dear little Yorkie Bonnie had to be put to sleep, aged 15. Anne was very lonely without her and although she vowed that she could never have another dog because she was too old, eventually she did take on Toby, another Yorkie.

With Jean Buckley on holiday in Harrogate in 1998.
Anne, Allun Davies and Joan Tapper after a lunch in 1998.
Anne and the new Yorkie, Toby in 1999. Sadly, Anne became too frail to care for him and he had to be placed in a new home a year or so later.
Anne and Joan after lunch at the Groes Inn in 1999.
Anne and Joan 2000
Anne and some fans celebrating her birthday (circa 2000)
Anne sends a birthday greeting to me (2001)
Joan and Anne (2002)

Extract from my book Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth:

I phoned Anne on 3 August 2003. By this time her carer was coming in three times a day. Anne could still joke, “Once in the morning to see I am still alive, next at lunchtime, and then at 6pm to see I’m having supper and set for the night.”

We spoke of the days in Johannesburg when I was young – and she much younger – when everything had been happy and carefree. She could not believe that I was nearly sixty as she always thought of me as a young woman. It was forty years since I had first started playing for Webster when she went away on the trip with Leslie Green.

She had not seen Babs for over a year and did not know if she was alive or dead. We decided that it was a pity that things had worked out so badly with Babs, as it could have been a very happy arrangement.

She remarked, “That’s life – or should I say – death?” I told her that she still sounded wonderful, not like an old person at all, with her beautiful speaking voice and her alert mind. I said that I would phone again in a few months. We said, “God bless you,” to one another, and her last words to me were, “Take care, darling.”

Five days after that phone call Anne had another dreadful fall. She was taken to the Llewellyn Ward at Llandudno Hospital, where Dudley Holmes found her in September. She was pleased to see Dudley, but he was deeply shocked at the change in her physical appearance. Dudley spoke to Sally Rayner, who told him that Anne could never return to the bungalow and that they were looking round to find a suitable frail care home for her. Although she would probably never be able to write to us again, we vowed that we would write to her regularly as long as she lived.

On 27 September I wrote a letter to Anne and enclosed a cutting about Kathleen Ferrier on the fiftieth anniversary of her death, and sent it care of Sally Rayner. On the morning of 13 October, there was a telephone message from Sally to tell me that Anne was unlikely to last for more than a day or two.

I phoned Sally immediately and she told me that she was going in to sit with her that morning. Later that day Sally phoned again to let me know that Anne had died peacefully. She had sat with her, and later in the morning had been joined by Anne’s great-nephew, Michael, Jinnie’s son, from Liverpool. They remained with her, holding her hand until she passed away peacefully at 1.30 pm.

Sally had taken my letter in that morning to read out bits of interest to her – about Kathleen Ferrier, the records my actor friend Bill Curry had given me, and Love’s Philosophy, the song she had sung at her Wigmore Hall recital all those years ago. Sally said that some parts of the letter made her smile, although she had not opened her eyes for a long time.

Telegraph obituary 17 October 2003.

TIMES OBITUARY FOR ANNE ZIEGLER – 17 OCTOBER 2003

During the 1930s and 1940s Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth were among the most popular acts on the British stage. A handsome, beautifully dressed couple (he in immaculate tails and she in crinolines designed by Norman Hartnell), they were often billed as the British equivalent to the Hollywood stars, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. With their signature tune Only a Rose and their wide repertoire of popular operetta and musical comedy, they were rarely out of work, and during their heyday topped the bill not only in concerts but also in variety shows. Each had had a successful singing career before they teamed up as an act.

Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool and from an early age had trained to be a classical pianist. She gave her first recital in her native city in 1928. (As a singer, not as a pianist!)

She moved to London in 1934 and joined the chorus of the operetta By Appointment at the Adelphi Theatre. In 1936 (1934!), after being chosen from 250 applicants to play the leading soprano role of Marguerita (Marguerite!) in an early film production of Faust, she met the tenor Webster Booth.

Booth, a romantic figure with a profile not unlike Ivor Novello’s (!!), had performed in numerous Gilbert and Sullivan operas with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company as well as recording classical oratorios for HMV records. He married Anne Ziegler in 1938 and two years later they decided to form a double act.

Billed as Sweethearts in Song, their act was pure romance and was hugely popular with wartime audiences. The couple made numerous broadcasts with the BBC in which they sang a variety of rousing songs and bitter-sweet ballads including We’ll Gather Lilacs, If You Were the Only Girl in the World, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life and The Bells of St Mary’s.

Radio inevitably led them to top the bills in variety and they often appeared in company with leading artists of the day including Douglas Byng, Tommy Trinder, Max Wall, and others. They appeared in summer shows in Blackpool, the revue Gangway at the London Palladium and in a revival of Rudolph Friml’s operetta, The Vagabond King at the Winter Garden Theatre, London.

One of their most famous stage successes was Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi Theatre in 1945, a “cape and sword” romance of the Napoleonic era which ran for more than 200 performances.

They were happiest on stage together just as themselves in either concert or variety. Inevitably their film career was a brief one, the most notable being The Laughing Lady (1946) and Demobbed (1946 – 1944!) a light-weight comedy in which they appeared opposite Norman Evans. They did not appear opposite Norman Evans but were guest stars in two brief episodes of the film!

With the advent of rock ‘n roll in the 1950s, the appeal of the duo towards the public began to fade and they decided to emigrate to South Africa, where they lived and worked until 1978. While there they wrote an autobiography Duet, published in 1951. They emigrated to South Africa in 1956 and the autobiography was published in the UK in 1951, 5 years before they emigrated!

On their return to Britain, they were astonished to discover that there was a boom in nostalgia and particularly with music from the 1930s and 1940s. Radio stations began playing their old hits and new albums were released including Sweethearts in Song (1979) and The Golden Age of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (1980). They made numerous television appearances including on such programmes as Looks Familiar with Dennis Norden.

Although they were no longer in their prime as singers, they continued to appear on stage well into their seventies in old-time music hall and variety shows throughout the country. The venues may not have been as glamorous or the bills as prestigious, but older audiences held an obvious warmth and affection for the couple and they were admired by their peers for their stamina and professionalism.

The impresario Aubrey Phillips, whop presented the couple in concert at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1982, remembered how romantic they appeared. “It was very touching to see them at that age, holding hands together as they left the dressing room for the stage,” he said. “They were still very much in love and audiences could sense that. That was the secret of their enduring success.”

The couple had made their home in Colwyn Bay, North Wales and occasionally appeared in concert in Llandudno, often in company with their friend Jess Yates, the organist. They sang their last duet, I’ll See You Again at a concert in the town, in June 1983. (They sang this at a concert in Bridlington!)

Webster Booth died a year later at the age of 82. Ziegler, who remained supremely elegant to the end, spent her final days in a nursing home in Colwyn Bay.

There were no children.

As there were a number of errors in the obituary, I wrote an email to The Editor of the Times.

19 October 2003 – St Andrew’s Kensington pew leaflet. I was the musical director at the Church at that time.

Anne’s funeral took place on 21 October at 2.00 pm. The organist played We’ll Gather Lilacs at the beginning and their recording of Now is the Hour was played at the end of the service as the coffin disappeared behind the curtain. One of Sally’s friends, Stanley, a member of the Rhos on Sea Savoyards, sang their signature tune, Only a Rose, during the service.

About forty people, including Webster’s grandson, Nicholas Webster Booth, and the Meals on Wheels ladies, attended the service on a rainy afternoon. Most of the people present had some firm connection with Anne, although there were a few curious “hangers-on”. Forty people did not seem a large number considering who she was and how many friends she had made over the years.

There were obituaries for Anne in papers all over the world, but I was saddened that little notice was paid to her death in South Africa, where she and Webster had lived and worked for twenty-two years. Errol sent an e-mail to the Afrikaans newspaper Die Beeld to inform them of Anne’s death but the paper made no mention of it.

A week or so later I was surprised to hear from Anne’s solicitors in Rhos on Sea that she had left me a legacy in her Will.

An abridged version of my letter was published in The Times in early November.

I contacted the actress and broadcaster, Clare Marshall at Radio Today to let her know that Anne had died. She was the only broadcaster in South Africa to pay a fitting tribute to Anne on the radio. Later I sent her copies of a number of their CDs and she continued to play them frequently on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star. Sadly, Radio Today has changed direction and Clare’s programme is no longer featured on that station.

Ironically, Anne’s friend Babs, who was two years older than her, had died two weeks before Anne, leaving all her money – nearly £1,000,000 – to various charities.

I had known, admired and loved Anne and Webster, and had been deeply influenced by them for forty-three years, and Anne’s death was the end of an era for me. But I am left with a few sad, but many happy memories of them, some of which I have shared in this personal memoir. If they had never been able to sing a note, I would have loved them for their warm, generous and kind hearts, and as long as I live they will never be forgotten.

Evergreen – Winter 2003 – note from Joan Tapper, Anne’s friend and fan from Mold.

All the written material comes from my book: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth which was published three years later in 2006.

Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

Post updated on 26 July 2019

Jean Collen.

ANNE ZIEGLER ON HER OWN (1990 – 1995)

Before Anne left me to bathe and prepare for our evening ahead, she remarked that she could hardly believe I was there and that we were going to spend some time together at last.
“The years are drawing in so quickly now. We’ll probably never have a time together like this again,” she told me before she left me.

After I met Webster and Anne again in 1973 we kept in touch
with each other. After Webster’s death, Anne began writing to
me regularly and when I told her that I planned to visit the UK
in 1990 she asked me to visit her for a few days in Penrhyn
Bay. We spent a very happy time together and we wrote to one another and spoke on the telephone until shortly before her death.

The fifty year copyright on some of Webster’s recordings had come to an end, so a CD was soon to be issued under the Flapper label, entitled Moonlight and You.

As Anne didn’t have a CD player – and I had only bought one when this CD came out, I made a tape of the recordings to take to Wales when I visited her.
Jean Buckley and Anne in Penrhyn Bay, about to set out to attend the RNCM award concert in Manchester.
April 1990 – the productions in which Peter and Jackie Firmani were featured, including Memories of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Anne turned 80 in June but did not want a party on that day as her birthday fell on the day after the first anniversary of Webster’s death. Instead, her friend Joan Tapper arranged for a late birthday picnic in the grounds of Erddig Hall.

Jean Buckley and Anne at Erdigg.
Anne’s birthday cake at Erddig Hall – 14 August 1990.
Cutting the cake.
Champagne at Erddig. A photo appeared in the local paper.
Anne with Joan Tapper (right) and a friend (left), not to mention Bonnie, Anne’s tiny Yorkie.
The picnic at Erddig for Anne’s late birthday.

After Webster’s death, Anne and I had written to one another regularly and with increasing frequency. The rift between us which had arisen during the nineteen-sixties had been gradually healed and we never ever discussed the reasons for it. When I told Anne of my plans to visit the UK she immediately suggested that I should visit her in Penrhyn Bay. Despite my sadness at the death of my father, I looked forward to the trip. It would be wonderful to see Anne once again.

On a day in mid-October I arrived at the bungalow at the appointed time to find Anne already in the driveway waiting for me. We greeted one another with pleasure. She was as beautiful as ever, but she appeared more delicate and fragile than I remembered her from seventeen years before.

The house was small but very comfortable with some of the lovely pieces of furniture and ornaments, remnants of the ”good old days”, together with the familiar pictures, and the cherished certificate from the Victory Royal Command Performance of 1945, signed by King George VI, in pride of place on the wall above the upright piano. The Chappell grand piano had been left behind in South Africa.

Anne said, “Sit yourself down”, the way Webster used to. Bonnie was a sweet little dog who insisted on sitting on my lap, despite her bad leg, to be fed titbits of scones, fruit cake and chocolate cake provided by Anne’s friends for our first tea together.

Anne was kind and friendly. I soon felt as though I had seen her last only the week before. After tea and a preliminary chat she took me round to the hotel to introduce me to Mrs Hall, the proprietor of the Orotava, and to see my pleasant room, which was decorated with a pretty floral bedspread and matching curtains, with a view over the grey Irish Sea.

The Orotava Hotel, round the corner from Anne’s bungalow.
My bedroom at the Orotava Hotel.

Before Anne left me to bathe and prepare for our evening ahead, she remarked that she could hardly believe I was there and that we were going to spend some time together at last.

“The years are drawing in so quickly now. We’ll probably never have a time together like this again,” she told me before she left me.

The bungalow, Penrhyn Bay.
We spent a wonderful few days together. While I was there I took a few photos of Anne and she took a few photos of me. Bonnie was in all the photos! I shall write a shortened version of my visit taken from my book and post it in the blog.

On Sunday we had lunch in the Queen’s Head.

Before I had gone to the UK I had been feeling rather depressed after my father’s death. My stay with Anne had built up my self-confidence as she had encouraged me to do more with my musical and academic gifts. I asked her whether she would update the testimonials she and Webster had given me when I went to the UK in the mid-sixties. She agreed at once, and not long after I returned to South Africa I received the testimonial she had written for me. I will always treasure it, just as I will always treasure the hundreds of letters she and Webster wrote to me over the years.

In fact, the photo was taken in 1981 at the Silver wedding party of Jean and Maurice Buckley.
3 January 1991.
The awards continued for some time. Unfortunately, Esso withdrew its sponsorship in the mid-nineties and the last award in Webster’s name was made in 2002. Anne’s award continued for some time although it was no longer the lavish presentation it had been. It too was discontinued a few years ago. Read more about the awards at: WEBSTER BOOTH/ANNE ZIEGLER AWARDS
1991 birthday party at Joan Tapper’s home in Mold. Anne with Allun Davies (centre) and Joan Tapper (right) 22 June 1991
Allun Davies and Anne – birthday lunch for Anne’s 81st birthday.
Babs Wilson-Hill and Anne at Jean Buckley’s house (circa early nineties)
16 October 1991. Anne on The Seven Ages (BBC Radio 2)
Bonnie aged ten and a half. Dece,ber 1993
Photo for the Evergreen article. December 1993.
Anne kindly sent me a copy of this cassette.
Anne, Joan, Jean and her husband Maurice.

In 1994 Anne had some pleasure when a BBC team came to the bungalow to record her part of The Webster Booth Story, a radio tribute to Webster on the tenth anniversary of his death. She told me that the bookof cuttings I had presented to her in 1990 had been a great help in jogging her memory for the interview. She became friendly with the script writer, Stephen Pattinson and his father, as well as Robin Gregory, the narrator, and Tony Wills, the producer. The programme was broadcast on 26 June 1994 on Radio Two, and not long afterwards Anne sent me a recording of the programme.

This programme was presented 10 years after Webster’s death. It is an excellent programme. I was pleased to get to know the presenter, Robin Gregory and the writer, Stephen Pattinson some years later.
Circa 1995. Anne accompanied Jean when she sang at a concert in Llandudno. Anne is on the right, Jean extreme left.
Maurice, Jean and Anne – on holiday together (mid-nineties).

ANNE ZIEGLER ON HER OWN (1985 – 1989)

After her bad experience in Bromley, Anne remarked, “Theatre as I knew it doesn’t exist any longer and now that I’ve had the award, I don’t need to work.”

Anne lived on alone in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another 19 years until her own death in October of 2003. Obituary notices appeared in the Star and Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg shortly after Webster’s death – I had not included these previously, so will do so now. The Rand Daily Mail’s obituary contained a few errors, like We’ll Gather VIOLETS, and several wrong dates!

25 June 1984 Rand Daily Mail.

Anne was still teaching a few pupils and had been booked to play the Fairy Godmother in Jack and the Beanstalk in Bromley at the end of the year. She decided to have a break in South Africa before she was due to go into the pantomime. It would do her good to get away from Penrhyn Bay, which was full of reminders of Webster’s illness and death. (Extract from my book: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (2006) (All additional information from the same book.)

Going to South Africa – September 1985.
Visiting Doris Boulton in South Africa.

Jean Buckley, their fan and friend of forty-two years, who had been very kind and supportive during Webster’s last illness, was working to raise money for the Webster Booth Memorial Fund in order to award a scholarship to a tenor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Webster, Jean Buckley and Anne visiting the Buckleys shortly after the Booths had returned to the UK in 1978.
Anne and Bonnie 1985 (Photo by fan and friend: Pamela Davies)
This message from Jean Buckley appeared in The Stage and Opera in September 1985.

Anne went to Bromley in November to play the Fairy Godmother in Jack and the Beanstalk. Contrary to what had been agreed with her agent, she discovered that she was to play a minimal part in the show. She had been promised a solo of her own choice, but when she arrived all that was required of her was thirty-six lines of dialogue and four bars of Only a Rose with “another character”. She was hurt and annoyed. (Extract from my book)

Bromley Pantomime. December 1985.

That was Anne’s last venture on to the stage. Although she was offered a decent part in panto at Plymouth the following year to make up for the poor one in Bromley, and was asked to take the part of an elderly actress who had once been a star of Operetta in Stephen Sondheim’s West End production of Follies, she turned both offers down. ( I believe Adele Leigh took the part Anne had been offered. I wonder if Adele Leigh knew that she had not been the first choice for the role!)

In April 1986 she received an Award from the Queen for services to music. This award took the form of a pension from the Civil List. It was made in both their names and Anne was saddened that Webster had not lived long enough to enjoy the honour and see the monetary benefit of it.

After her bad experience in Bromley, Anne remarked, “Theatre as I knew it doesn’t exist any longer and now that I’ve had the award, I don’t need to work.”

On 9 June 1986 Jean Buckley was able to take a cheque for £3250.00 to the RNCM, and on 10 December Anne presented an interim award of £500 for that year. The Duchess of Kent, the President of the College, presented the Diplomas to graduating students at the same ceremony.

Alan Keith had attended Webster’s memorial service in 1984 and was a great admirer of Anne and Webster.
New Year’s party (circa 1986) with Penrhyn Bay neighbours – Les and Peggy Williams, Anne, ?, Jean and Maurice Buckley at the Buckley home.
Anne with her friend and fan, Joan Tapper (from Mold) and Jean and Maurice Buckley.

Anne with tenor, Allun Davies (1987) after one of his concerts.
Jean, Anne and Babs with their pets outside Jean’s house in Rhos on Sea. (late 1980s)
14 October 1987 It’s a Funny Business.
January 1989 – Peter Firmani doing a tour of Memories of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.
Anne, Jean and Joan Tapper at Joan Tapper’s home to celebrate Anne’s birthday (circa 1989).

Jean Collen 28 May 2019.