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WEBSTER BOOTH IN ORATORIO

Webster Booth and oratorioAlthough Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

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Webster Booth and oratorio

Although Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

Two of my most cherished possessions are Webster’s Messiah and Elijah scores. The Messiah score had belonged to his father, Edwin Booth, whose name is written in the score, followed by Webster’s own name.

Webster’s Messiah score

Elijah cover

In the two front pages, he listed some of his Messiah dates from 1928 when he sang at the Birmingham Town Hall on 3 November 1928 with the Choral and Orchestral Union, to performances of various oratorios in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa with Robert Selley at the Oratorio Festivals there in 1961. The list includes a performance at the Royal Lodge Chapel on 15 February 1948 with Anne Ziegler in the presence of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, performances with the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society and the Hallé Concert Society. Several Good Friday Messiahs at the Albert Hall are listed, where the entire work is performed without any cuts.

His first Good Friday Messiah was on the 10 April 1936 when he was 34 years of age. The Royal Choral Society concerts were usually with his champion, Malcolm Sargent as conductor, but he also sang with Sir Thomas Beecham at the Queens Hall on 17 December 1938.

21 December 1938 Messiah

He sang in many performances of Elijah, The Creation, Joshua, Judas Maccabeus, The Creation and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. It was after an afternoon performance of this last work at the Queen’s Hall on 10 May 1941 that this beautiful hall, Webster’s favourite concert hall, was destroyed by an incendiary bomb that night. Webster preferred Handel to Bach, but I see that he did sing in a performance of the latter’s Christmas Oratorio in South Africa in 1960.

December 1938 Messiah

Another Good Friday Messiah in April 1943

I think it is sad that he did not make a recording of the Dream of Gerontius as he was renowned for his performance in this work. Neither did he take part in complete recordings of Messiah or Elijah. When I was studying with him and Anne Ziegler I learnt the part of the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius and he sang the tenor part with me – how I wish I had a recording of it now! He sang in the first performance in South Africa of the work with the young Keith Jewell, Cape Town’s city organist (then aged 27) in 1957, the year after the Booths arrived in South Africa.

People in South Africa were inclined to think that the Booths had been out of favour in the UK and that was the reason why they moved to South Africa in 1956. This was far from the case. Admittedly their recording contract with HMV had been cancelled in 1951 and I have never been able to work out why the contract was cancelled as they were both in excellent voice at the time. But they had plenty of theatre, television, radio and concert engagements in the 1950s. Webster sang his last Messiahs with the Huddersfield Choral Society in December 1955 and January 1956. They moved to South Africa because of increasing problems with the Inland Revenue rather than because they were not as popular as before.

Anne Ziegler sang in exactly one first class performance of Messiah in Blackpool in January of 1944. Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was at that time) conducted the performance with the Huddersfield Choral Society.

1944 Blackpool Messiah

As a thirteen-year-old girl, I heard Webster and Anne sing in a performance of Messiah at St James’ Presbyterian Church which was then situated in Mars Street Malvern. The advertisement below (from 1956)  shows the same soloists and choir at St George’s Presbyterian Church (the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg) which appeared a year later  at St James. Even at that young age, I was aware that it must have been a come-down for Webster to be singing this work in a suburban church in South Africa after he had been singing at the Albert Hall not very long before. While Anne sang in the performance at St James under the musical director of the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, Drummond Bell, she was not asked to sing in more important oratorio performances, such as the one at the Johannesburg City Hall a month later, or with Robert Selley at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival.

In 1957 the first South African performance of The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar) was presented at the City Hall in Cape Town with Webster in the main role, conducted by Keith Jewell (aged 27).

The Dream of Gerontius was also presented in Port Elizabeth at the Oratorio Festival conducted by Robert Selley, where Webster was a soloist from 1957 to 1962.

27 November 1961 – SABC bulletin.

In 1963 Webster was invited to sing in a performance of Elijah with the combined choirs of Michaelhouse and St Anne’s in Natal, conducted by the young Barry Smith who was musical director at Michaelhouse at the time.

The following year he sang in a performance of Creation with the same singers. This time Ronald Charles was the musical director at Michaelhouse.

By that time Webster was 64 years of age. When he moved to Knysna he presented excerpts of various oratorios with the Knysna Choral Society and (in his late sixties) sang several bass solos in Elijah in 1968, something he had always wanted to do as he had a very wide range and a resonant lower register.

Webster’s oratorio recordings include the arias from Handel’s Messiah, Judas Maccabeus, Samson, and Acis and Galatea, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St Paul, and Haydn’s Creation.

Jean Collen

12 July 2017.

Revised and enlarged on 13 March 2019.

 

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES (1960 – AUGUST 1963)

30 April 1963 In the afternoon he goes to sleep for a while and then plays a tape of his religious songs for me and makes me cry – they are so beautiful. We have one last pupil and then he comes home to dinner with us. He has two drinks and is so sweet to me and my parents. He keeps Shandy on his knee and calls her, “my girlfriend.” He tells us lots of theatrical stories and is absolutely charming.
Shandy – “my girlfriend”!
My mother says, as he is leaving, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” and he gives me a fond glance and replies, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me.” He gives a short hoot of farewell as he drives over the Juno Street hill on his way home. What a heavenly day.

Extracts from my Teenage Diaries.
https://www.lulu.com/duettists

I have published each month of these diaries individually on this website but now I have published the entire book as a pdf file, dating from 1960 until my twentieth birthday on 31 August 1963. The book is substantially illustrated and contains tales of the period, the many musical, broadcasting and theatrical personalities frequenting Johannesburg at that time.

It also tells of my own very innocent life in those days. As I was going through the diaries I wondered what had happened to so many people I knew in those days. Sadly, many of them are dead now, and others have probably left South Africa. I would be delighted to hear from some of my lost friends from those far-off days. Many people are still fresh in my mind, while others, like Elsa and Pam, I do not remember at all.

I am not sure whether this book will be of any interest to anyone at all, but it is now available in my Book Store on Lulu, along with a number of other books – some paperback, others epub and pdf, all reasonably priced. Have a look.

Jean Collen

March 2019.

MY STAR/LITTLE SON BASSETT SILVER

Peter also sent me part of a Music Hall BBC broadcast on the Home Service on 26 April 1949. This recording is also in good condition and features Webster singing My Star during that broadcast. The applause by the studio audience was warm and it is obvious that My Star was one of Webster’s favourite songs as he was still singing it over ten years after he first recorded it.

Several days ago I had an email from Peter Silver, the son of the composer, the late Bassett Silver in connection with these recordings by Webster Booth. I had come across a photo of the cover of My Star several years ago but could not find any information about the song in the HMV catalogues. The recordings of My Star and Little Son originated in 1937 although I can find no evidence that they were issued commercially by HMV.

Little Son https://clyp.it/nmpdxwit
My Starhttps://clyp.it/rub0mrp5

Webster made many BBC broadcasts with Charles Ernesco and his Quintet in 1937 and 1938 and sang My Star and Little Son on several occasions on these programmes. Anne Ziegler made one broadcast with Charles Ernesco and sang My Star during her own broadcast.

Charles Ernesco and his Salon Orchestra
25 February 1937 My Star
26 December 1937 Anne Ziegler – My Star
15 February 1938 Little Son
24 April 1938 Little Son

September 1938
14 October 1938 With a Smile and a Song. Charles Ernesco is the violinist (left). Sydney Jerome is playing the piano.(Right)
Radio Luxembourg.

Peter also sent me part of a Music Hall BBC broadcast on the Home Service on 26 April 1949. This recording is also in good condition and features Webster singing My Star during that broadcast. The applause by the studio audience was warm and it is obvious that My Star was one of Webster’s favourite songs as he was still singing it over ten years after he first recorded it.

25 April 1949 My Star BBC Home – part of Music Hall Broadcast https://clyp.it/a5esqa5h

Peter has given me permission to share these recordings. I am very sorry that I was not able to improve the sound quality of Little Son.

I am very glad that my love for Webster and Anne and admiration for many of the related artists of their generation has led me to take an interest in a fine composer like Bassett Silver rather than the contemporary performers who were popular when I was young.

Jean Collen 21 February 2019.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: AUGUST 1963

When Anne comes back to the studio we do Love’s Sickness and she tells me that Webster said today that my sight reading is phenomenal now! I have an hour today and really enjoy myself with her.

1 August –Heather arrives and then Webster who is in a lovely mood. We have Yvonne but Margriet doesn’t come so we have a chat about Leslie Green and Desmond Wright.I tell him I’ll soon be 20 and what have I done with my life? He says I’ll have done a great deal if I get the ATCL. Thea, Graham and Freddie come and he teases me through all of them and grins at me amiably We come home in Hillman and he asks me to phone Anne as he has forgotten to do so. I’m going in again on Tuesday.

2 August – Go to studio and work. I get the result for my harmony exam – honours! I leave for an hour while Lucille has her lesson. When I come back we go through Father of Heav’n and decide to make more use of the “or” vowel. She says she still doesn’t feel too wonderful. At half-past she goes to ABC for shoes and I make tea for us. When Anne comes back to the studio we do Love’s Sickness and she tells me that Webster said today that my sight reading is phenomenal now! I have an hour today and really enjoy myself with her.

3 August – Go into Mrs S. I get 88% for my harmony which is not bad, considering how ill I was that day. Webster has an excellent programme tonight – Marian Anderson, Robert Merrill and themselves singing the lovely Nocturne duet.

5 August – Go to SABC at night. I feel dizzy and have to go and sit in the foyer. Hester comes with me and we have a pleasant chat. All the boys from the choir ask me how I am keeping.

6 August – Lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go up to studio and Webster arrives with a, “Hello, darling.” I tell him over tea about the dizzy turn and the theory exam. He’s pleased about the latter. I say that I didn’t think I would pass. He says, “I’ll smack your bottom if you talk like that again!” We have Linda Walters for a lesson and then I have my own lesson in which I manage to sing fairly well. He does slap my bottom after that and tells me I’m improving! Thea, Winnie and a girl called Lou-Anne come and the last-mentioned gives us a lift to the garage. In the car we talk about films and Mary Harrison. I phone Anne to let her know that he is on the way home as he forgot to do so before he left and she is as sweet as always.

8 August – Go to studio and work. Robert Lang phones to say he’ll send up a costume for Anne for tomorrow night. Heather arrives so we have a chat. Anne comes and I give her Bobby’s message and she is grateful. She congratulates me on my exam result and says Webster was full of it when he came home on Tuesday.

9 August – Go into the studio and accompany for the last time. Lucille arrives first so she sings a bit. He wishes her a happy birthday when he arrives. She sings well with her boyfriend and I have my lesson after she leaves and we do Dream of Gerontius which is very interesting. Gertie and Charlotte come next and then we are finished. He tells me in the car that they want to get a studio with a house attached and give up the present one which is rather disconcerting news.

Webster, Anne and Bill Brewer

10 August – Hilda returns from St Helena. Have a reactionary day. I do ear tests at Mrs S and see Hitchcock’s The Birds in the afternoon.

11 August – Phone Ruth in the afternoon. Hilda is definitely back for she saw her when she called at their house to get a record. They also told her of their horrible Northern Suburbs studio idea. It’ll break my heart if it comes off as I would never be able to go all that way for lessons.

12 August – I go and play at Afrikaans Eisteddfod for Connie (Mrs S’s pupil). She sings better than I expected her to sing and calls me “Tannie”!

Learner’s licence!

13 August – Go and get learner’s licence today and then lunch in Capeniro with Mum. I meet Flom (Frances de Vries Robbé) in the library. Go to singing. This time it’s Linda who has a dizzy turn so Webster walks with her to the station so that she can catch the train to Vereeniging. Anne and I discuss her attack and then I sing – not too badly for a change. When he comes back he says, “Where’s that voice coming from?” He makes me tea after my lesson when Thea is having her lesson. He says, “I haven’t asked how you are yet?” I feel rather miserable – perhaps I’m just jealous because they’re both back again in partnership and don’t need me any more.

14 August – I go into the studio and Linda’s mother phones to thank Webster for walking her to the station. I go to Mrs S for an hour’s lesson and get my accompaniment fee. We go to Afrikaans eisteddfod at night to hear Lucille singing the duet with her boyfriend. The Booths haven’t arrived and Lucille is in a frightful state. She says I will be able to play if they don’t come. They do – the car broke down off Jan Smuts Avenue so Dad takes Webster out to collect it. Anne sits behind me and we have a chat. Lucille and boyfriend sing well but they don’t win anything. Anne argues with Webster. We were going to take them home but their car starts.

15 August – Go to studio and work. Joy Anderson phones. When Anne comes in we discuss events of last night and have a laugh. They spoke to the adjudicator afterwards – she had seen them on TV. Heather is there for her lesson. I meet Webster on the way down and he says he’s still trying to recover from the drama of last night. He didn’t get to sleep until 2 in the morning.

16 August – Selwyn’s mother phones to say that he can’t come so I phone Anne to let her know. Anne arrives and tells me that the Anglia broke down. Lucille arrives with a sore throat. Julie, the girl before me is going to be in Sound of Music and auditioned for a Jamie Uys film today. Anne is furious that she wasn’t asked to audition. We do the Cycle of Life which isn’t too bad. He sings it with me and tells me to use my whole body when I sing it. I am there for a long time and wish them luck for their concert tomorrow.

17 August – Skip going to Mrs S and go to studio instead. What a terrible state of affairs when I’m happier in a place with no one there than to be with other people who are less amenable than the place. I love it! We have lunch in Galaxy and see How the West Was Won at the Cinerama. Listen to Webster at night and he plays Great South African Voices.

20 August – Go skating with Gill in the morning and enjoy being the best skater there for a change! Go to singing and Webster remarks on my skates and concludes that I went with my (non-existent) boyfriend. Anne tells me the Ficksburg concert was a great success and Desmond Wright played well. Webster and Anne argue all the time which is embarrassing! She goes to John Orrs and he tells me that they haven’t yet decided about giving up the studio.

21 August – Go to Mrs S and do ear tests with Edith. I work in the Booth studio. I listen to Webster’s ballad programme. Their duet, Love’s Garden of Roses is lovely.

22 August – Go to studio early. Anne arrives and tells me she wishes the other pupils would work as hard as I do. She calls me sweetie. Ruth phones and suggests I meet her after her lesson on my birthday and we can go for coffee together afterwards. She says they’ll be able to wish me a happy birthday too.

23 August – Lucille arrives early and we “goo” over the beautiful photographs. I meet Webster in the street and he is sweet to me. He gives me tea when I get back. We go over the things for the exam and they are absolutely delighted with it all. He tells me that my voice is getting much bigger and better.

24 August –Go into studio to collect glasses. The men working there greet me like an old friend – I suppose they think I’m their daughter or niece!

27 August – I go skating with Gill again and we have lunch in town. I have super singing lesson. Webster makes me tea and calls me darling and Anne admires my new hairstyle. Into the bargain I manage to sing very well. He teases me and throws a paper pellet at me!

28 August – Go to studio and have doleful conversation with estate agent! Obviously they are still thinking about having a studio attached to the house they intend to buy.

29 August –Work in studio and lunch with Mum. Anne comes and tells me that the Estate Agent should phone but doesn’t say why!

30 August – Leslie Green phones and is most affable. Lucille and Anne come and I tell them to help themselves to Danish pastries which I have brought in to celebrate my birthday. When I return Webster come into the kitchen and potters over me. When I go into the studio there is a birthday gift on the piano for me. I am simply delighted and thank them very much indeed. I sing my exam songs and discuss who the examiner will be. Webster says he’s sure it’ll be Guy McG for the diploma. They wish me a very happy day tomorrow.

31 August – I go to studio to fetch Ruth. Webster answers door and wishes me a happy birthday once again. Anne comes in and sings, “Happy birthday” to me and kisses me all over the place and Ruth does too! Ruth and I go for coffee and Webster says, “Not too much whisky!” In the afternoon we see The King and I with a Durban cast. At night Webster plays In Native Worth and Love Calling Me Home. A lovely birthday – but a teenager no longer!

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: JULY 1963

20 July – Go into the studio and Webster is there, in a good mood, and making coffee. Anne is evidently worse this morning. We have the morning pupils and the last two don’t come so we go home in the Hillman with the roof down. As we pass the Kensington Sanitorium he says that it’s such a lovely day that he wishes we could carry on driving all the way to the coast! Unfortunately, we can’t do that!

I have made omissions and toned down some entries in this episode before publishing it!

1 July – Go to music library and see Leo Quayle there. Coming home I see Graham Burns waiting for a bus.

2 July – Go to singing. Anne is wearing her mink coat. We have tea and biscuits and she tells me she hates Britain at the moment – with the shock of the John Profumo/Christine Keeler affair. She says they used to belong to the Conservative Party in Hampstead but fell out with them over something or other.

I sing Open Thy Blue Eyes, the Landon Ronald song Cycle, and Love’s sickness. She is pleased. She tells me I can use the studio at any time and don’t owe them anything for this month. I see Dennis and his mum and have more tea with them. I meet Betty on the way home and Ruth phones in the evening.

3 July – Go to studio and work hard in the peaceful atmosphere. I have lunch in Ansteys with Mum then go to Mrs S for lesson. I’m going to listen to our broadcast now.

4 July – Go to the studio and the lunch hour concert. Webster comes in a bit late – Anne phones to let me know that he’ll be late. We have Heather and Yvonne Marais and then he puts his hands on my shoulder and says, “Put on your coat, love, and put some money in my meter!” I do so. He is a honey. We have Graham and Reeka and then come home in the Anglia. He tells me about the near accident he had coming down the Great Orme in his Talbot in Llandudno, and the Springs Operatic Society. He says, “Imagine that I’ll not be seeing you until next Friday!” I say, “How can I bear it?” half in fun, but whole in earnest!

5 July – I work in the studio in the morning and lunch with Mum. In the afternoon Anne comes in and I have an hour lesson and I enjoy it enormously. We have tea and biscuits and she says I must eat them up when I’m in the studio by myself. She says Webster told her all about my account of Jossie B’s singing lesson and she enjoyed it. She lends me Doris Bolton’s Joan Sutherland biography to read over the weekend and says that of course I can come in on Monday although it’s a public holiday. She’s a sweety.

8 July – Family day. Go to studio to return the Joan S autobiography.

9 July – Go to singing in afternoon. Anne is there teaching Jimmy Elkin, the son of the optician! She tells me that I’ll be in on Monday to play for Webster for he really can’t manage without me. Last Monday was too much for him! We do Love’s Sickness and when we are having tea Anne shows me the Ravel song cycle she sang at the Wigmore Hall as Irené Eastwood – Scheherezade. We do the unaccompanied folk song and she imitates my serious face during my singing of it. We both end up in the giggles. Webster phones and she gives me a whole hour. We finish with Love, From thy Power and then Winnie arrives. I wash the dishes before I leave.

10 July – Go into the studio and read the script for Mrs Puffin. Lunch in Ansteys with Mum then go to Mrs S for lesson. Listen to Webster’s super new programme Ballads Old and New. He plays the Evening Song by Blumenthal – beautiful.

Ballads Old and New – July – not October!

12 July Go to studio and Webster arrives at 3.00 but Lucille doesn’t arrive!! He tells me of the difficulty they are having to find an accompanist for their concert in Ficksburg. He says he would ask me to play for them but they have always preferred a male accompanist as a woman takes the audience’s attention away from Anne. Mayor of Brakpan’s son comes and sings pleasantly. I have a lesson and we go over all the Messiah arias. Gertie and “Clara Butt” come later. Come home in the car from the garage and we have a discussion about Gert P and Jossie B!

13 July – Webster’s programme is excellent. He plays one of his own records. Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and company. We see Sammy Going South.

15 July – Go to the studio to play. Webster makes me tea the moment I arrive. Myrtle is our first pupil. We talk about his programme on Saturday and have a number of pupils. He talks about making the Afrikaans record on the way home.

16 July – Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret. Lunch with Mummy and go to studio where Anne makes me tea. Tells me the lights fused completely last night and they didn’t eat until 10.00! I sing well and she is pleased. Jimmy doesn’t come so she gives me an hour because she says she enjoys working with me. There is a lovely picture of them in the paper at night. I listen to the recording of the SABC choir and think it is very good indeed.

18 July -Anne phones to say Webster will be a bit late. Yvonne, her Mum and little sister arrive early. Yvonne wants him to hear her sister sing. He tells them that she can’t start having lessons as she is far too young – wait until she is in her teens. We have Heather, Yvonne and Colleen. He tells me that Anne has caught a cold from Leslie Green – she went to a film with him last night. On the way home we go up to Wallie Petersen’s theatrical agency where he is offered a directorship of a film company. He introduces me as, “This is Miss Campbell – she plays for me.” We are pleased about the offer. I hope something comes of it. He says he’ll phone tomorrow if he wants me to go in and work for him at the studio.

19 July -Anne is too sick to come to studio and my father has ‘flu too so Webster and I “do” again. Lucille comes first and tells us about a funeral she attended. She sings well for an hour and I play well. I have my lesson – oratorio as before. Selwyn arrives in a weepy mood. Gertie comes next and he says to me, “Jean, darling, make me a cup of tea.” Gertie and Brian Morris come afterwards. Webster brings me home and I tell him to give Anne my love and I hope she will feel better.

20 July – Go into the studio and Webster is there, in a good mood, and making coffee. Anne is evidently worse this morning. We have the morning pupils and the last two don’t come so we go home in the Hillman with the roof down. As we pass the Kensington Sanitorium he says that it’s such a lovely day that he wishes we could carry on driving all the way to the coast! Unfortunately, we can’t do that!

21 July – I wash my clothes and hair in the morning. I phone Ruth in the afternoon and she is full of her recent holiday to Victoria Falls. We decide to go out together sometime next week. She’ll phone me on Tuesday. I phone to see how Anne is keeping. Webster answers and is pleased to hear from me. He tells me she is improving and crawling around the house. When we part, he says, “Goodbye, darling.”

22 July – Lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to studio and Webster tells me that Anne is a lot worse today. Myrtle comes for her lesson and he tells us about the loss of vision he experienced last night. When he went to lie down the room spun around him and he felt awful. He makes a tape of the pupils today for his cousin in England, Jean Webster. Janet and Lucille come. Webster is always far too nice to the latter for my liking! Reeka is the last pupil and then we come home and discuss the possible reasons for his bad turn yesterday. I hope there is nothing seriously wrong with him.

23 July – Work. Lunch in the Capeniro with Mum. I feel in rather a remote frame of mind after the obsequious way he behaved with Lucille yesterday. I must be jealous! When I get back to the studio Anne is there looking terribly ill. We spend a long time discussing Webster but I don’t say anything to her about Lucille. She says he used to be such a good husband but these days he’s always in a bad mood and drinks and smokes too much. She wants him to see the doctor but he refuses to go. We do some Elijah and have tea. She says he hates teaching in the studio (apart from a few pets), and he is too indulgent with Lemon so he is too spoilt for words. I wish her well and depart feeling somewhat restored but sorry for Anne.


24 July – Go to the studio. After lunch I go to Mrs S and work with Elaine and Edith and have my piano lesson. Ruth phones. She’s coming to fetch me tomorrow at the studio for lunch. She tells me about all her activities, including Yoga lessons which she is enjoying. Listen to Webster’s Ballads Old and New and it is terrific as usual. Why is he always so good?

25 July – Leslie Green phones the studio wanting to speak to Anne and Webster. He talks to me for quite a while – he is just as pleasant as he is to his listeners on the radio. Ruth comes up and we have lunch in the Chesa – she tells me all about her holiday while I spend time imitating my two current bones of contention – “Ag, Uncle Boooo!”

26 July – Lucille arrives early so we go out for an hour and return together. He calls out a casual greeting to me, then when he sees that Lucille is there he makes a great fuss of her. I am upset and spend a dismal hour playing for her during her lesson. He tells me that Anne is just as ill as ever and has been physically sick today too. In the car we discuss Leslie Green, Brian M and Show Boat. He promises to phone me tomorrow if he needs me.

27 July – Anne is still sick so I go into the studio to play for him. Webster makes me coffee and this time it is he who tells me he’s had a disagreement with Anne over Leslie Green and the doctor! Anne insisted on them going to dinner in Leslie Green’s draughty house despite the fact that she is not at all well. Ruth has a lesson and she is full of the joys of spring over the results of her aptitude test. Coming home in the car he talks about Gary A. I listen to him on the radio at night.

29 July – Go to town with Mum and lunch in Ansteys. Go to studio a little early and have tea with Webster. He is tired but in a lovely mood. Ruth phones. She has passed her driving licence and asks me to dinner. Webster says he will drop me off at her house which means a much shorter trip home for him. We pass Zoo Lake on the way to the Ormonds and he says the bowling club is in one of the loveliest settings in the world. I have a pleasant dinner with the Ormonds and they drive us in their huge Rover to the SABC where we have a meeting and then refreshments a la Anton H. Mr O drives me home – lovely day.

30 July Go to singing in the afternoon. Anne tells me she is going to see the doctor on Thursday about her laryngitis. She would have preferred to go on Wednesday but Webster is going to play bowls then come hell or high water! We have tea together and discuss Ruth and the effects of the lottery on her life – all favourable. We work at Father of Heav’n and concentrate on breathing. I see Lucille’s invitation to her twenty-first birthday – they can’t go. Good!

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: JUNE 1963

She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled.

1 June – Go into Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. I have a look at the picture of the juvenile lead (Colonel Fairfax) in the OK.

Webster as Colonel Fairfax

3 June – Go to SABC at night and Chris Lamprecht takes us. Ruth and I meet at interval and have a good chat. She says that they were charming to her on Saturday – lucky her! We’ll see each other at the theory exam on Saturday.

4 June – Work. Go to singing and Anne is there by herself. Webster is exhausted with rehearsing The Yeomen. The musical director, Desmond Wright picked him out for singing flat in the quartet! I don’t believe it! He hardly even retaliated! We work very hard and I send my love to him and wish him luck for the opening night. She wishes me luck for my theory exam on Saturday.

5 June – Go to studio and work hard. I lunch in Ansteys with Mum. A Mr Haagen comes to the studio in the afternoon to give Jossie Boshoff a lesson. I have a lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine. Gill, Corrie and everyone think that JB is the limit!

6 June – Webster was obviously the hit of the evening for both critics say that although his singing is not all it once was, his great sense of timing, his experience of G&S in D’Oyly Carte, and his perfect diction carried the show through admirably.

Lewis Sowden – Rand Daily Mail.

7 June – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle’s sister on the bus. Anne is in the studio by herself again. She has her hair in curls on top of her head (set for the first night). She tells me over tea that he stole the show. We work hard and she is very pleased. Selwyn comes after me and I wash the dishes before I leave. I meet Brian McDade on the bus coming home.

Oliver Walker – the Yeomen of the Guard crit.

8 June – Go to write theory exam and Ruth is there writing one too. Afterwards we have a cup of coffee in De Beers and she tells me that Anne raved about my concentration yesterday. I go up to Mrs S and deteriorate from then on. I faint 3 times while singing in the choir and my father has to come in to town to fetch me. I am ill for the rest of the day and Mrs S phones to see how I’m keeping.

9 June – Dora Sowden gives Webster a super crit in the Sunday Times.

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10 June – Work. Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that she might be going to Cape Town music school next year. We work hard with Chris Lamprecht.

11 June – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon and tell Anne about the fainting attack on Saturday morning. She is very sympathetic and tells me that she had much the same trouble herself, especially when she was on tour. She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled. I wash our teacups after my lesson and this pleases her.

12 June – Go to SS studios and work at ear tests with Edith Sanders. Lunch in Ansteys with Mum and have my piano lesson in the afternoon. I meet Colleen McM on the bus – she is back working in an office and feeling miserable.

13 June – Go to SS studios and work with Edith Sanders again. I have lunch in the restaurant opposite Show Service and see Leon Gluckman there.

14 June – Anne phones in the morning with a king-size attack of the ‘flu. Evidently Webster is almost as bad. I promise to phone Ruth for her and do so in the afternoon to put her off. We go to Yeomen of the Guard at night and it is really gorgeous. Webster sings beautifully and (as I tell him afterwards) makes a charming young man. I go back to see Webster in his dressing room and say how much I enjoyed it. He is terribly pleased. He has a large glass of whisky sitting on the table. He says his temperature is down and Anne is feeling much better tonight. He is a real honey and as unassuming as always. I say, “Ta, ta,” and leave him to dress and get home to bed to nurse his ‘flu.

The Yeomen of the Guard

15 June – Go into the SS studio and rave about the Yeomen. Mrs S is very derisive about it. I work with Margaret and Elaine, sing in the choir and chat to Binky. Come home with Margaret. See Fast Lady (Stanley Black). Listen to Great Voices and he plays a woman of 69 singing. He says, “I wonder if I’ll sound as good as that when I’m 69!”

17 June – Anne phones me in the morning and says she is still sick. We talk for an hour and I think it cheers her up. She runs down Julietta Stanners-B for the peppermint green costume she produced for Webster in the last act. He’s still sick but managing to crawl on stage every night. She says she’ll let me know on Friday about the arrangements for the next six weeks, and certainly, I may have the studio key once more. I go to SABC at night and chat to Ruth. We have rehearsal for Friday and Anton Hartman comes into the studio to talk to us.

18 June – Go to SS studio and work with Edith. Have lunch in Ansteys and then see Sparrows Can’t Sing – an excellent and unusual film. Clive Parnell sits in front of me. Ruth phones to ask me to go to the SABC. Chris L is a pig to everyone in general and Ruth in particular -ugh!

19 June – Go to SS studio and practise. I lunch in Ansteys, have piano lesson and work with Elaine. I phone Anne at night and she still feels revolting even though she’s up. She’s not even sure if she’ll come in on Friday. She says that if she does, she wants Webster to come in with her to offset things as it is too much for her to cope with everyone on her own.

20 June – I go to final rehearsal for SABC in the evening. For a change, Chris L is very affable. Ruth is going for her singing lesson at home on Wednesday but they are not making up the two lessons she missed. She’s cross.

21 June – I go to singing in the afternoon and Anne is back in the studio once more. Lucille, Anne and I have tea together and then I have my lesson. Father of Heav’n goes fairly well. Anne asks me to go in on Wednesday to work for Webster and also next Friday. I’m going to fetch the keys tomorrow. We sing in the Light music concert at the City Hall conducted by Jos Kleiber and it goes well. Ruth remarks that Jos Kleiber is very energetic! Anton H and Edgar Cree congratulate us on our performance.

22 June – Phone early in the morning and speak to Webster to remind Anne about the key. He is sweet to me. I go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine and then go up to Anne’s to get the keys. I say hello to Robin Gordon and “Clara Butt”! I return to sing in Mrs S’s choir and come home with Margaret. I listen to Webster at night and he plays a super duet by him and Dennis Noble.

24 June – Go into town and buy some clothes. Practise with Margaret. Lunch with Mum in Capeniro. I go home on the bus with Colleen McM who tells me about Norma D’s husband and other theatrical gossip. Anne phones in the afternoon and asks me to go in for an hour tomorrow. Go to SABC at night. Ruth saw the Yeomen but didn’t go backstage to see Webster. She saw Anne in the audience but didn’t talk to her. She says she thought his voice was rather awful yet I thought he sang well. Work at Creation.

25 June – Go to singing for an hour and Webster is back in slightly disgruntled frame of mind. Work fearfully hard at Father of Heav’n but he is sparing with his praise. I sing the Landon Ronald song cycle and Anne raves about my singing and moans at him for being so grim. I have to play for him tomorrow at 3 o’clock. I hope he is in a better mood tomorrow!

26 June – Go into Booth’s studio and practise. Webster arrives in the afternoon and we have Heather Coxon first. I make tea for us and then we have Colleen, and after her our two demons. When Graham has his lesson Webster shines singing all his bass arias. Webster brings me home and talks about the Yeomen and how tiring it was to change into three different sets of tights at every performance!

27 June – Go to studio and work in the lovely calm atmosphere. Yvonne Marais’s mother phones to say she’s sick so I phone Anne to let her know so that she can come in later. She is grateful. Go to ghastly lunch hour concert featuring Jossie B, then come home and wash hair.

28 June – Go to studio and get a lift into town with Mr McKenzie. Webster comes in the afternoon moaning about the rain. Lucille arrives with her boyfriend and they sing a duet together. She’s there for an hour and then we have tea. I have my lesson and sing unusually well and he is pleased for a change. Selwyn comes and then we have an hour’s break before Betsy Oosthuizen and Graham. Webster brings me home in the Hillman, cursing the rain and the cold engine.

29 June – Go to town with Dad and we see Raising the Wind again – I love that film. Webster’s programme is super.

30 June – Have fairly quiet Sunday. Webster phones unexpectedly at night for no apparent reason except to chat with me. He tells me that he doesn’t think I owe them anything for July because of all the work I’m doing with him. We talk about various pupils, Brian Morris and Drummond Bell. He says he’ll go in tomorrow on his own as he can probably manage by himself as everyone is so awful and don’t need a proper accompanist!


EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: MAY 1963

He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.

1 May – I wallow in “advanced depression” today. How will I manage after these two halcyon weeks are over? Have lunch with mum and then go to the studio and sing in that hallowed atmosphere. Go to Mrs S, chat to Elaine and teach Corrie Bakker.

2 May – Go to the studio, have lunch there and go to the lunch hour concert. I meet Webster in town and he asks me to put money in the meter for him which I do while he panics and goes to the AA to renew his subscription. He tells me he really enjoyed himself on Tuesday night. I’m so pleased. Colleen sings well but the next two are not so good. He sings duets with the last pupil. He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.

3 May – Webster phones in the morning to tell me that Lucille isn’t coming this afternoon – I am glad! I go into the studio and entertain Mr Knowles-Lewis (who won the hymn competition last year) until Webster arrives. We have Norma and Selwyn. Anne phones to say that she is home safely and quite exhausted. . The others come and go and then all the heaven of two lovely weeks is finished. Webster thanks me and says he loved having me play for him and if Anne doesn’t feel up to coming in tomorrow he’ll phone me. He takes me home in his car for the very last time. He says quite pensively that, “I’ll miss my Sylvia Pass next week.” We part until Tuesday when I will return to being an ordinary pupil once again.

4 May – I feel sad that my two wonderful weeks are over. I go into Mrs S and have a theory lesson. The choir arrives and we are stooges for two people endeavouring to pass the class teachers’ exam. I have a chat with the TCL secretary and see dear old Uncle Mac for the last time.

I phone Ruth in the afternoon and she says Webster raved and raved about me during her lesson this morning, saying how good I was at accompanying and how the experience has boosted my ego and how he loved having dinner with me and my parents. She says Anne regarded him very coldly when he spoke so fulsomely about me! I phone Anne in the afternoon and we talk for a whole hour about everything under the sun. She tells me that they would have loved to retire to a smallholding in Devon but there wasn’t enough money to do so. I don’t have the impression that she is annoyed with me in any way. I listen to Webster at night.

7 May – Webster phones to remind me to fill in my form for the Trinity diploma exam which I have already done. Go to singing and Anne is looking a little tired. She says she didn’t like all the self-centred South African people she met on her trip around the country with Leslie Green. She says she will be a step-grandmother soon as Webster’s son’s wife is going to have a baby in December. We work at the unaccompanied folk song. Webster tells me that Uncle Mac is going to be doing the exams in September. They had him to dinner on Sunday.

8 May – Work at harmony and go to town and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to SS studios and have a harmony lesson. Mummy phones in the middle of it to say that Webster phoned and wants me to audition at the Brooke on Saturday morning. There is a picture of them in the paper. Phone Anne at night and she says that BB is interested in hearing me but as this is a private audition I mustn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. She says she felt she had to do something for me after our chat on Saturday.

10 May – Go to dentist and have lunch with Mum and then a gruelling harmony lesson. Go to singing and Webster gives me tea. Anne and I go over Gypsy Moon for the audition. Anne says, “You’re a beautiful girl and if you were my daughter I’d be very proud of you.” Go over Father of Heav’n and Webster says he’s playing Kath’s record of it tomorrow night. Anne wishes me a lot of luck and is pleased to hear that I enjoyed their autobiography. She tells me to phone tomorrow night.

11 May – Go for audition at the Brooke Theatre and give Colleen a lift there. We go in and feel nervous. Colleen sings well and should get a part. I sing fairly well and Brian Brooke says I could have a small part which will give me some experience. I go to Mrs S afterwards and sing in ensemble. We see A Touch of Mink. I phone Anne at night and she is pleased and thinks I should take up his offer. I listen to Webster’s Great Voices – he plays Kath and Harry Lauder and talks about Bel Canto.

13 May – Work hard and go to SABC at night. See John Steenkamp and Mrs S. Ruth is there and we work hard with Chris Lamprecht.

Great Voices 13 May 1963

14 May – Work hard. Go to singing in the afternoon. Little boy is having a lesson before me. Anne comes into the kitchen on the verge of tears to moan to me about the child. Webster is more tolerant. She tells me to watch out for Brian Brooke as he’s a wolf – the younger, the better! Sing Massenet and go through the unaccompanied song with Webster which goes well. Norma comes after me looking heavenly and theatrical.

15 May – Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and we meet Mrs McDonald-Rouse and Mrs Moody. Former tells me to give her love to Webster and Anne. Go to Mrs S and have a long lesson. I chat to Elaine (newly recovered from mumps).

16 May – Lunch with Mum and then go to hear Adelaide Newman and Hans Mommer. Anne arrives rather late and first gives an audition to girl, Heather. I go through all my songs and when Webster arrives he records Father of Heav’n. I feel miserable about it. He makes tea and I wash up afterwards.

18 May – Go to Brooke theatre in the morning and he and Bill Walker audition a few more people. In the end there are 8 of us trying for 4 parts as nuns. Bill Walker’s wife is my rival so I can only hope for the best. BB is quite sweet and calls me darling. Go back to Mrs S afterwards and chat to Suzanne Bilski. I get Betty home on the bus. We see Days of Wine and Roses in the afternoon. I meet Ila Silanski there.

21 May – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon. We go through Love’s Sickness and Webster makes tea. Evidently Colleen didn’t get any part at all for BB was disappointed with her speaking voice and advised her to take speech lessons. They are not pleased about it. I tell them of my experience with Bill Walker’s wife! More or less at the last minute, Webster is going to take the part of Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard for JODS as they do not think the man currently doing the role is up to it. Should be fun. I do the French song well and am there for ages.

22 May – Work and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. I go to Mrs S for harmony lesson and chat with Gill. I do ear tests with Edith Sanders and we decide to go to the studio regularly in the mornings to do ear tests in preparation for the forthcoming diploma exams. Edith has perfect pitch!

24 May – Go to singing. Anne is there by herself as Webster is rehearsing madly for The Yeomen so I make tea for us all – Lucille is there too, having had a lesson before me. Anne tells me that she and Webster had indigestion after eating a sheep’s heart casserole! We decide to do some Landon Ronald songs for a change – she sings them for me in her heavenly voice. They are too gorgeous for words.

25 May – Go to Mrs S and then to Brooke theatre where some of the people don’t turn up. BB tells me to come back again next week but I’m not sure if I shall. We see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Webster plays duets by Dennis Noble and himself and a song by Bennie Veenemans, the boy soprano. He played that record to me in the studio when I was playing for him.

26 May – Go to church and copy and transpose Anne’s Landon Ronald songs.

27 May – Work. Go to SABC and we have Mr Tyler once more. We work at English folk and traditional songs.

28 May – Go to dentist, lunch hour concert and library. I see Michael Newell. Go to singing and Webster is back again. Norma arrives too early and upsets things. We do the Landon Ronald songs and he is delighted with the transposition. They are disgusted about Brian Brooke.

29 May – Go into SS studio early and Elaine and I do some theory together. Mrs S comes in and tells us that Stan’s mother has died. I lunch with Mum in Ansteys.

30 May – Go to SS studios again and work hard. Lunch with Mum and come home on the bus with Margaret. She tells me that Peter Lynsky (Jack Point in the Yeomen) is a lecturer at Teachers’ Training College.

31 May – Republic Day. We see To Kill a Mocking Bird with Gregory Peck. It is very good indeed.