BABS WILSON-HILL (MARIE THOMPSON)

Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) top left in a show.

The following article, written by Linda Anderson, a relative of Babs, appeared in my book, Sweethearts of Song; A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth Front cover small-01

LINDA ANDERSON OF BIDFORD-ON-AVON WRITES:

Babs - Linda Anderson-06

MARIE GLADYS WILSON/THOMPSON (BABS WILSON-HILL)

Babs was born in Manchester on 12 September 1908, the second child of Gertrude and Harold Wilson. As a young child, she lost her father during the First World War. She missed her father dearly as she had been very fond of him.

When Babs was in her early years she was living in Chandos Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy and went to Loreto Convent School. By this time she had been having piano lessons and had also become a very able dancer.

Babs remembers her Aunt May, only eight years older than herself, teaching her a few dances. This sparked off an interest which was later to become her career. She decided to take the subject more seriously and began lessons with the Haines School of  Dancing, Whalley Range and later at Sheila Elliot’s School of Dancing, Liverpool. Some of her early performances were in the theatre at the rear of Manchester’s Midland Hotel.

During her dancing years, Babs had been coached by Anna Ivanova who was with the Pavlova Company. Babs was later to become the Principal Ballerina in pantomime with Tom Arnold who produced performances throughout the country. She was in eight pantomimes altogether and was Principal Girl, Fairy, Witch, and Principal Dancer. She performed with and became a friend of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth and knew George Formby and his wife Beryl well.

George Formby was later to be responsible for Babs being sent to the Isle of Man during the Second World War. He saw her dressed in her WAAF’s uniform and was most amused! He wanted Babs to be part of a team in Jurby, Isle of Man, where a theatre had been set up at the RAF base there. Babs asked that this was to be secondary to her work as an MT driver. She had been advised not to be part of ENSA and so this was a good compromise. When she arrived at the Isle of Man she had her own personal transport waiting to take her to Jurby and was treated as a VIP, much to her surprise! A trunk of her costumes was shipped over to the island. Babs always made her own costumes.

One of the shows she was involved with went to London for one night where she was introduced to a member of the Royal Family. Later in the war, she was transferred to Ireland, Scotland and finally Stanmore, where at one time she was driving a 15cwt lorry and, as a Corporal, she was also driving a Staff Car. After coming out of the Services Babs went to live in Cobham Surrey. She had a very short, unsuccessful marriage and later moved back to Colwyn Bay.

Babs looks upon her move to Colwyn Bay as a successful one. She has had the advantage of both the sea, in which she was a regular swimmer for many years and the beautiful surrounding countryside. She is also surrounded by many very good friends. Over the years she has been very involved with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Her friendship with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth enabled her to spend many months with them in South Africa.  When Anne and Webster were thinking that they would never be able to return to the UK, Babs bought a bungalow for them to live in which was near to her in North Wales. They remained in this home until they died.

Babs died on 28 September 2003* (only a few weeks before Anne died on 13 October 2003).

Linda Anderson.

Babs in her beautiful garden in Colwyn Bay (photo: Linda Anderson) Babs Wilson-Hill (2) *only a few weeks before Anne’s death on 13 October 2003. Anne had met Babs when she appeared in her first pantomime in Liverpool. Anne was the principal boy, Babs the principal dancer. 1935 First Panto Anne (right) in Liverpool pantomime (1935/36) When the broadcaster, Leslie Green went to the UK in 1962 he met Babs and interviewed her for his programme Tea With Mr Green on Springbok Radio. Anne and I listened to the programme together. Here is an extract from my diary on 4 September:

4 September Go to the studio in the afternoon. Anne is there by herself and she tells me that Webster has had to do his two extra programmes before he goes (to Rhodesia) today. She told him to go home and have a rest after them if he’s tired so I might not see him. She asks if I’d like to listen to Tea with Mr Green because her girlfriend is going to be on today.

We do scales and exercises. The chemist phones and she arranges to have a silver Wellaton (hair rinse) sent up! She says her hair is a dull mousy grey and she has to do something to liven it up and stop her from looking old!

We listen to Leslie G and she tells me that Babs Wilson-Hill is her very best friend in Britain. She and Babs were in panto together in 1934 and she is very fond of her. They write to one another every week and tell each other all their worries and troubles. She is very well off – she has a lovely home and garden. She shows me a picture of her (which is on the wall). She says she misses her more than anyone else in Britain.

Leslie G introduces his programme by saying that it was due to Anne Ziegler that he is there because she had told him about Babs. He talks about the lovely garden – laburnum, willows, larkspurs, snapdragons… Babs sounds very like Anne, only more so – same laugh, the same intonation of words, very pleasant and slightly “county”. She has a house near Guildford in Surrey. Anne says that Babs wrote and said she made a terrible botch of the whole thing but she sounds terribly self-possessed to me. After it is over, Anne says that one can only have a friend like that once in a lifetime and she thinks everyone needs someone to confide in and tell their troubles to.

Jean Collen 12 September 2018.

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WILLIAM PARSONS – BARITONE

Several years ago I heard from Maria Ray, the niece of the eminent baritone, William Parsons. I was interested to find out that he had appeared with Webster in various oratorios.

Photo of William Parsons, courtesy of Maria Ray.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

References to William Parsons in my book, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, compiled by Jean Collen

17 January 1935 – Queen’s Hall, London. Royal Philharmonic Concert: Choral Symphony (Beethoven) Janet Hamilton-Smith, Margaret  McArthur, Webster Booth, William Parsons and the BBC Chorus, conducted by Felix Weingartner. Felix Weingartner by Hilda Wienerb

The Ninth Symphony (Beethoven) – The second part of the season will declare itself open on Thursday when symphony concerts are resumed at the Queen’s Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Society will give a performance of the Ninth Symphony, conducted by Dr Weingartner. The soloists at the Philharmonic concert are Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons; Dr Weingartner will conduct the BBC chorus and will preface the Ninth Symphony with Beethoven’s first.

The Times – Royal Philharmonic Society The Ninth Symphony. To hear the First and the Ninth Symphonies in one programme is an inspiration. If one man’s mind could increase its span in 25 years to the extent shown by a comparison of the two finales, then no one need despair. The resemblance in kind is as striking as the difference in degree, in spite of the fact that Beethoven employed a chorus in the late work and used but a modest Mozartian orchestra in the early. In No. I the violins grope, only much more briefly, for their theme just as the violoncellos do more searchingly in No. 9. And whereas a little scholarly ingenuity might demonstrate that the symphonic movement of No. 1 is directly descended from the ensemble of Italian Opera Buffa, we have it on Wagner’s authority that the choral variations of No. 9 lead back into music-drama. But it is more fitting now to abandon these speculations and to pay tribute to a very great, though not perhaps a flawless, performance of the two symphonies at Queen’s Hall last night under Dr. Weingartner. 

The flaws need not be specified beyond questioning the orchestral balance – the choir was conspicuously good in this respect: thus the drummer, using a hand stick, gave an admirably crisp rhythm, but too prominent a sound, while in the slow movement the horns seemed unduly retiring. Dr. Weingartner’s tempo for the trio of the scherzo did not seem too quick but was actually slightly out of proportion to the rest of the movement. But by a similar discrepancy in the choral movement he ingeniously made it possible for the choir to sing all their notes – and sing them they did – so giving the impression of speed without hurry. Another pleasing subtlety of tempo was to be observed in the Minuet of the first symphony, when at the reprise there was just the slightest increase in tension.

The soloists had the great merit of making a quartet, though Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith must be singled out for a special word of praise because she had the right kind of tone, at once clear and rich, and so used her soprano voice that every note told without effort: Mr. Webster Booth, the tenor, and Miss Margaret McArthur equally proved their ability to brush aside all the difficulties of Beethoven’s vocal writing. Mr. William Parsons only just failed to do so in the opening recitative, which if not technically is dramatically exacting – elsewhere he was admirable. The B.B.C. Chorus, fresh from a performance of the same work at the Promenades last week, were worthy of all praise. It was therefore a singularly homogenous and inspiring performance. And the mighty oak looked all the nobler for having the acorn side by side with it.

19 January 1935 – Western Morning News. Royal Philharmonic Concert – the Ninth Symphony. The orchestral playing left nothing to be desired and the choral singing was first class. The BBC Chorus having sung the work under Sir Henry Wood last week was well primed. The quartet consisted of Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons – a young team whose names are not very familiar to us, but whose engagement was well justified. The enthusiasm at the end was tremendous, and Dr Weingartner was presented with a laurel wreath.

February 1935 – Musical Times. Royal Philharmonic Society. The concert that reopened the season on January 17 was almost a great one, but not quite, because Doctor Weingartner and the orchestra were not on ideally intimate terms in Beethoven’s first and ninth symphonies. (Unless memory is at sea this was the first time that the London Philharmonic Orchestra as a whole had played either of these works). What Weingartner did to the symphonies was, however, great interpretation. He rose to consummate mastery in the choral movement, which he made one and inevitable.

The BBC Chorus, either inspiring or inspired by the conductor, or more probably both, sang with surpassing brilliance. In the solo quartet Mr William Parsons was joined by three less-known singers on the principle, no doubt, that the great ones are wasted on such music and so short a duty. Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, and Mr Webster Booth demonstrated that the less-known are also less likely to reduce Beethoven to farce by an ensemble of wobbles.

23 November 1936 – Leeds – Week of Choral Concerts. The week will be a full one from the point of view of choral concerts. Tomorrow Bach’s Mass in B minor will be sung by Leeds Philharmonic Society with Elsie Suddaby, Astra Desmond, Steuart Wilson and
William Parsons for principals, Sir Edward Bairstow conducting. On Wednesday, Bradford Old Choral Society, conducted by Mr Wilfred Knight, will sing Handel’s Acis
and Galatea, and Elgar’s Banner of St George in a miscellaneous programme shared by Olive Groves, Webster Booth and Bernard Ross…

15 December 1936 – Messiah, Albert Hall, Nottingham.
Nottingham Harmonic Society, Lilian Stiles-Allen (soprano), Mary Jarred (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), William Parsons (bass) conducted by Leslie Heward.

December 1936 Messiah

Memories of Hiawatha at the Royal Albert Hall.

22 December 1941 – Yorkshire Post Eastbrook Hall was again filled to capacity on Saturday, when the Bradford Festival Choral Society, assisted by the Northern Philharmonic Orchestra, gave its  annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Two changes had been made in the artists since the names were first announced. Perhaps the most important was the change in conductor, Mr Roy Henderson taking the place of Dr Malcolm Sargent, who was conducting the Royal Choral Society in London.

Mr Henderson, who was making his first appearance in Bradford as conductor, created a distinctly favourable impression. Obviously full of energy and enthusiasm himself, he showed that he was able to convey his feelings to the members of the chorus, who responded nobly to his many exacting demands. All the choral numbers were excellently sung, some fine climaxes being achieved. The rehearsals evidently bore fruit, for the singers were replicas of the conductor, singing with intelligence, while the diction throughout was exceptionally good.

Occasionally, Mr Henderson appeared to allow enthusiasm to get the better of him and at such times the speeds tended to be quicker than those to which we are accustomed, but audience as well as singers enjoyed the thrill of it all.

The four solo artists reached a consistently high level. Miss Joan Cross used her flexible voice exceedingly well in Rejoice Greatly, while her legato singing in Come Unto Him was very effective. Miss Muriel Gale’s rich full-toned voice was heard to great advantage especially in O, Thou That Tellest and He Shall Feed His Flock. Mr Walter Widdop, (who took the place of Mr Webster Booth) proved to be a great favourite. His opening solos were somewhat marred because Mr Henderson did not make the accompaniments flexible enough; but the latter items were very enjoyable. Mr William Parsons, who had the assistance of Mr John Paley in The Trumpet Shall Soundshowed his dramatic power, especially in The People that Walked in Darkness.

Mr H.S. Hurst was at the organ, of which instrument much more frequent use might have been made for its tone to act as a contrast to that of the orchestra.

30 December 1939, Plymouth Guildhall 

30 December 1939

18 August 1941 Dartington Hall Acis and Galatea

18 August 1941 Acis and Galatea Parsons Dartington Hall

7 December 1943 – Yorkshire Post – Huddersfield Choral Society.

Huddersfield Choral Society are to perform Handel’s Messiah at Blackpool Opera House on January 2. Dr Malcolm Sargent will conduct the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the principals will include Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons.
Anne Ziegler was the soprano soloist on this occasion.

2 January 1944 – Messiah. 2.30pm New Opera House, Blackpool. Festival performance in aid of the Mayor’s Services Welfare Fund. Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth, William Parsons, with Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Ena Baga at the organ) conducted by Dr Malcolm Sargent

4 January 1944 – Yorkshire Post Huddersfield Choir at Blackpool Two hundred and forty members of the Huddersfield Choral Society visited Blackpool on Sunday to give what proved to be a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah. An audience of more than 3,000 which packed the New Opera House in the Winter Gardens showed great enthusiasm at the close and gave the choir, the Liverpool  Philharmonic Orchestra, the principals, Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons and the conductor, Dr Malcolm Sargent, an ovation. The choir were in best voice and under Dr Sargent’s inspiring leadership provided a most artistic performance.

After the performance, the Mayor of Blackpool (Councillor J. Parkinson) and Dr Sargent warmly supported a suggestion voiced by Mr Frank Netherwood, the president of the Society that the success of the society’s first appearance in Blackpool should lead to further visits.

29 October 1947 Albert Herring (Britten)

29 October 1947 Albert Herring WP

 

Here are William Parsons and Thea Phillips singing “Waltzes from Vienna”.

JANET LIND Née REITA NUGENT (Dancer, singer and actress)

Janet Lind in 1937

I was interested to hear an interview with Janet Lind done in Australia in 1979 on YouTube recently. It may be heard at the following link: https://youtu.be/Wyz3T2Zj6YY 

She started her career in Australia as an acrobatic dancer under her birth name of Reita Nugent. I heard from Stephen Langley who uploaded the youtube video and he gave me a link to a British Pathé video of Reita Nugent doing some amazing dancing in 1928. Indian Rubber Muscles (1928)

Stephen commented as follows:

Thanks for your most informative account of her life – your blog really does her justice and the clippings are most interesting. I believe she was an extraordinary artist, and I agree that her recordings with Webster Booth reveal a great artist and natural talent. It was I who supplied the 1978 interview sourced from a deceased estate and put it on my YouTube site.

I I remember her well as I used to purchase 78s off her in the early 1980s. By then she ran a small second hand shop ( op-shop) and was not in the best of health. Years of chain smoking and I suspect alcohol consumption had aged her considerably although she maintained her poise.

She arrived in England via a long-running show in Berlin in the 1930s. Without any vocal training and unable to read a note of music, almost by chance she began singing, and changed her name to Janet Lind. She did numerous broadcasts on the BBC, not only as a singer with the big band of Louis Levy, but also as an actress in a number of straight plays.

An early broadcast in October of 1935.

The songs featured in the YouTube broadcast are with Louis Levy’s brassy big band and she is remembered today primarily as a regular vocalist with this band.

Louis Levy

 

 

 

 

 

 

1936. A letter in one of the Australian papers.

She also made several recordings with Webster Booth for HMV in 1936 and 1937, and these are very much more pleasing to my ear than the songs she sang with Louis Levy’s band. Despite her lack of musical and vocal training she had an excellent natural voice. Click on the link to listen:

This Year of Theatreland (1936)

Home and Beauty (1937)

She flourished as a performer in England in the last half of the 1930s, often singing songs made popular by Jessie Matthews. She was billed as “the girl with a smile in her voice”.

Music from the Movies with Louis Levy and his Symphony Orchestra, Janet Lind and Robert Ashley.

21 January 1937

 

 

25 July 1939

She returned to Australia in 1940 with her husband, Mr Hall.

10 October 1940

8 April 1941

I am not sure how long she continued her theatrical career in Australia, but by the 1970s she was living in Melbourne and running an op- shop – some people called it an antique shop; others were less complimentary about it. In her 1979 interview she had no trace of an Australian accent. Presumably that is why she took part in a number of straight plays on the BBC in the 1930s.

Stephen added: A friend of mine recalls buying a pile of 78s  from her in the late 70s and she sheepishly said…’I am on some of those’…   He didn’t believe her at the time and only realised later that she had been a star. I also recall sitting in the studio at 3CR ( as an observer)  a few days after she died and there was a big tribute to her from those who knew her better than I . I have this on a cassette somewhere so may try and upload it too.

Despite her theatrical and vocal success in earlier decades, in old age she was casual and deprecating about her achievements. Many other singers who studied singing earnestly would have given a lot to have had such a successful career!

Jean Collen

16 February 2018/updated 28 February 2018.

JEAN BUCKLEY (26 May 1930 – 20 July 2017)

In 1943, Jean Buckley (née Newman) was thirteen years of age, living in wartime Manchester. Jean, an only child, was originally from London and the family had lived in Brighton for a time. When the war came her father decided that they might be safer living in Manchester. This did not prove to be the case. Jean spent many nights in a damp air raid shelter as German bombs fell on the city.

Jean had always loved Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’s singing. She had a clear memory of hearing Webster singing Phil, the Fluter’s Ball with Fred Hartley and his quintet on the radio when she was a young child. As light relief from the sleepless nights in the damp air raid shelter, she and her mother attended many of their concerts and broadcasts in the city. They went backstage to see the couple and Jean saved her pocket money and collected coupons so that she could buy gifts to present to Anne when they went backstage. Anne and Webster saw Jean so often that they sent them complimentary tickets for broadcasts of Variety Bandbox and Variety Fanfare. She remembers Webster coming into the dressing room and greeting them with, “How are my two lovelies this evening?”

When Jean left school she went to work for Singer’s Sewing Machines and became a top sales woman with the company. Unknown to Anne and Webster she began to take singing lessons on a part time basis at the Northern School of Music and managed to obtain a few engagements. She told me that she did not mention this to the Booths in case they felt obliged to use their influence to advance her singing career.

Jean married Maurice Buckley in 1956 but was very upset when Anne and Webster decided to move to South Africa in the same year. They kept in touch with the Booths and she sent them copies of The Stage and other British newspapers while they were living there.

Maurice and Jean Buckley (1956)

When they returned to the UK in 1978 they lived near Jean and Maurice, and spent a lot of time with them. Jean said that Webster always enjoyed watching cricket on TV with Maurice. Jean baked a cake for Anne and Webster’s fortieth wedding anniversary in 1978.

Jean and her poodle, Trixie

A few years later, Jean and Maurice celebrated their Silver wedding anniversary. Here is a lovely photograph of Anne and Webster on that happy occasion. I used this photo as a front cover to my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

Anne and Webster (1981)

When Webster became ill and was admitted to a nursing home, Jean visited him regularly and took him out for a drive or for tea occasionally to give him a break from the nursing home. She put a tape recording of his records on the car radio. He disliked the nursing home and never wanted to return after his outing with Jean.

After his death, Jean did a great deal for Anne in one way and another. Jean was very hurt when Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson Hill introduced her to someone as “Anne’s greatest fan.” Jean replied, “I think I might be considered Anne’s greatest friend by now.”

The first time I heard of plans to establish a scholarship in Webster Booth’s name at the Royal Northern College of Music was in a letter from Anne Ziegler, dated 20 November 1985, just over a year after Webster Booth’s death on 21 June 1984.

Anne mentioned that a coffee morning had been held in the local church hall in aid of the Webster Booth Memorial Fund. Jean had proposed the idea of providing a scholarship in Webster’s name for a tenor to attend the RNCM for a year’s post-graduate study. Jean and her husband, Maurice worked hard to raise money for the Fund and by the time Anne wrote to me £1,600 had been raised towards the initial goal of £3,500. Anne’s letter continued:

November 20 1985 Anne to me

I wondered why the scholarship was to be awarded at the RNCM as Webster had studied singing with Dr Richard Wassall at the Midland Institute in Birmingham, fitting in lessons after he finished work at a firm of accountants. I knew that conductor Sir Charles Groves was chairman of the RNCM council at that time and Webster had often referred to him affectionately as “Charlie Groves” who had often conducted him in radio broadcasts, so I though that perhaps this was why Jean had chosen the RNCM for the Award.

Many years later, Jean told me why she had chosen the RNCM. In her late teens, she had studied singing part-time at the Northern School of Music, Manchester. This school and the Royal Manchester College of Music amalgamated in 1975 to form the Royal Northern College of Music, which was producing singing graduates of a very high calibre. Manchester was not too far from North Wales where Anne, Jean and Maurice lived. The trip to the College for the annual competition would not be too onerous for Anne as she grew older and it would not be necessary to stay overnight in the city after the Award had been presented.

Jean’s friend, journalist and broadcaster Natalie Anglesey, interviewed her on the BBC about the Webster Booth Memorial Fund, bringing news of it to a wider radio audience. Jean’s interview with Natalie

 Jean continued to raise funds by making things to sell, doing clothing alterations for a small fee, organising raffles, and collecting donations to the Fund from friends, fans, relatives of Webster and Anne, and local neighbours. Donations were often as little as £1 or £2, but occasionally bigger donations were made by societies such as the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society. Webster’s older brother, Edwin Norman Booth, his wife Annie and daughter Margaret took great interest in the progress of the Fund and helped Jean with fund-raising. Annie made beautiful rag dolls to sell, and each member of the family made regular substantial donations. Jean’s early singing training at the Northern College also benefited the Fund in a round-about way. She and her accompanist, Maureen, began entertaining at hotels around Llandudno and all the money Jean earned in this way went towards the fund. To publicise the Award she gave talks to various societies and clubs about Anne and Webster’s career.

Anne and Jean in Penrhyn Bay before going to the Royal Northern College, Manchester for the prize winners’ concert for the Webster Booth prize.

I did not meet Jean when I visited Anne in Penrhyn Bay in 1990, although Anne told me a great deal about her while I was there. Jean had even made a cake for our tea! Jean and I began our correspondence in 2007 and we often said how sorry we were that we had not met each other in 1990 as we could have become good friends.

After Webster’s death, Anne went on holiday with the Buckleys every year. They usually took self-catering accommodation and Jean did all the cooking.

Maurice and Jean on holiday with Anne and Bonnie in the 1990s.

Jean did a great deal to help Anne as she got older. She and Maurice created an en suite room in their home and would have been happy to have Anne to live there if ever she felt unable to continue living in her own home. Even when Maurice became ill, Jean still took Anne shopping, to doctor’s appointments and to the annual prize winners’ concert at the RNCM. When Anne’s gardener could not continue working Jean even helped Anne with the gardening!

Sadly, Anne and Jean fell out over a trivial matter several years before Anne’s death and they were never reconciled. I corresponded regularly with Jean for over ten years and I was sad when she lost her sight and had to move to a frail care home. She developed Alzheimer’s disease and I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to be in strange surroundings, unable to see and not remembering very much. She was an only child and had no children of her own. I was sad to hear that she died on 20 July 2017 at the age of eighty-seven. I hope she is now at peace. I will treasure the letters and emails she wrote to me, and the photos and memorabilia she sent to me. She will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered by me and friends who loved her.

Jean Collen ©

23 July 2017

 

RUTH ORMOND (1945 – 1964)

After Ruth’s death my life became more somber and earnest. I was no longer a giddy naïve teenager any longer. I had to grow up fast and face life as an adult. I have had little contact with the Ormonds over the years since Ruth’s death, but I will always remember Ruth as one of my dearest friends.

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My friend, Ruth Ormond, 1963 

Ruth Ormond was a pupil of Anne and Webster’s and they told me about her when I went to audition to join the SABC choir at the end of 1961 as she had joined the choir a few months earlier. She was still at school, about a year and a half younger than me and she was also Scottish. We soon became great friends with our common interest in singing and our admiration and affection for Anne and Webster.

By early 1964, Ruth had left Parktown Girls’ High School, passed the matriculation examination and was preparing to go to Cape Town University to do a BA (Music) degree. I completed my ATCL practical singing diploma in October of 1963 and had started teaching my first pupils in Anne and Webster’s studio on the day they were not teaching there themselves. I put my teaching skills to further practical use by giving Ruth some harmony lessons so that she would be up to standard when she started her course in Cape Town. I knew I would miss her very much when she went to ‘Varsity, but she would be back for the July holidays and we had promised to write to each other.
Just before she left for Cape Town, I spent a happy day at her home in Parkwood. We swam in the kidney-shaped pool for the last time and later her mother took us for lunch to a pleasant tea garden in Bryanston which was quite rural in those days. The midday symphony concert was on the English Service of the SABC and I was impressed at Mrs Ormond’s ability to identify every composition correctly before the title was announced on the radio. I could see where Ruth had inherited her love of music.
Ruth settled down in the University residence of Baxter Hall. She was a good correspondent and told me about her singing lessons with Madame Adelaide Armhold. Madame Armhold wanted Ruth to concentrate on breathing exercises for the next six months before she sang any songs.
In April, I passed my LTCL exam and obtained honours in the Higher Local Piano exam.
On Friday morning, 1 May 1964, I received a letter from Ruth. She had remained in Cape Town for the short Easter holidays and had celebrated her nineteenth birthday there on 6 April. The Easter holiday was short so it had hardly seemed worth her returning to Jo’burg when she had only just settled in at Baxter Hall. In her letter she told me, “Before you can cough it’ll be July and I’ll see you again.”
That evening I was going to sing at a concert with the Sylvia Sullivan Choristers. I was waiting for my lift when the phone rang. It was Ruth’s older sister Caroline to tell me the awful and unbelievable news that Ruth had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage that morning and had died within an hour of developing an excruciating headache.
Caroline Ormond.
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Ruth had always been fit and healthy. She had never missed a day at school. Stunned, I phoned Anne and Webster’s number and spoke to Webster. He was devastated with the news and could not talk for long. It was too late to put off the lift, so my parents had to make my excuses for I certainly was not in a fit state to sing at a concert that night. A short while later Anne phoned and she spent a long time on the phone talking to me about Ruth. We were deeply saddened at the loss of a very dear person. She had been like a sister to me.
I saw her mother several times after Ruth’s death. She gave me some of Ruth’s music, and the photograph that appears at the top of this post. It was taken shortly before Ruth went to Cape Town. Her parents established a memorial prize in her name at Cape Town University. Each year it is awarded to the most promising first year singing student.
After Ruth’s death my life became more somber and earnest. I was no longer a giddy naïve teenager any longer. I had to grow up fast and face life as an adult. I have had little contact with the Ormonds over the years since Ruth’s death, but I will always remember Ruth as one of my dearest friends.
Jean Collen 22 April 2017.

GARDA HALL (1900 – 1968) – SOUTH AFRICAN SOPRANO

 

 

                                                   GARDA HALL (1900 – 1968)

Today South African soprano, Garda Hall, is hardly remembered in South Africa where she was born, or in the United Kingdom where she lived for most of her life and had a distinguished career as a singer. The only reason why I know anything about Garda Hall at all is that Webster Booth mentioned that he had sung and recorded with her on several occasions.  Her descendant, Quentin Hall, who lives in Western Australia, has shared some of his extensive family research with me so I thought I would write a short article about his distinguished ancestor.

Garda Hall was born in Durban, Natal in 1900 in the middle of the South African War. Garda was given the unusual middle name of Colenso, presumably in commemoration of the Battle of Colenso in 1899. Her parents were George Ernest Hall (1869 – 1933), originally from Torquay, Devon, and Maude Kate Amy Breeds (1878 – September 1959). Quentin presumes that George and Maude married in South Africa rather than the UK and the Breeds surname suggests to me that Garda’s mother was a South African of Dutch origin, rather than British.

Garda moved from Durban to Pietermaritzburg when she was seven years of age and attended the private Girls’ Collegiate School there. Her father owned a bicycle shop in Pietermaritzburg called Hall’s –The Cycle Specialists and sold it to the Jowett family when the family settled in England. The cycling business remained Hall’s – The Cyclist Specialists until 1952 when Walter and his brother eventually changed the name of the business to Jowett Brothers.

HALL’S – THE CYCLE SPECIALISTS

JOWETT BROTHERS

Garda was not noted for her musical prowess at school. Apparently the music teacher told her that she was singing out of tune and asked her to leave the music class! It should be pointed out that some children who sing out of tune begin to sing in tune as they mature. Despite being good enough to be accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in 1920 and doing well there, several critics remarked on occasional lapses of intonation when she became a professional singer.

In 1920, she boarded the Norman Castle in Durban with her mother, who was 41 at the time.

NORMAN CASTLE

They arrived in Southampton on 9 August 1920 and Garda began her vocal studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the beginning of the new term in September, taking lessons with the renowned singing teacher, Frederick King who trained many notable singers including Norman Allin, Miriam Licette, Carmen Hill and Robert Radford. T. Arnold Fulton, the Scottish organist and choral director of the London Select Choir and the choir at St Columba’s Church in London where he was organist and choir master, acted as studio accompanist to Frederic King at the Royal Academy. Some years later Arnold Fulton moved to South Africa and taught singing based on the methods he had learnt from Frederic King.

Garda obtained the diplomas of ARAM and LRAM. Interestingly, she apparently trained as a mezzo soprano at the Academy, yet sang as a lyric soprano during her subsequent career as a singer. She was awarded the Gilbert Betjemann Gold Medal at the Academy for operatic singing in 1923.

GILBERT R. BETJEMANN PRIZE WINNERS. Garda Hall (1923)

Not long after she graduated, she sang at the first Grand Ballad Concert of the season at the Guildhall, Plymouth on 29 September 1923, and in 1925 she made a triumphant return to Pietermaritzburg and Durban and gave several successful recitals while she was there. The closing item which she sang at the Pietermaritzburg concert was Poor Wand’ring One from The Pirates of Penzance. I wonder what her disapproving music mistress at ;the Collegiate School thought about this! If she had left South Africa as a second-rate, sometimes out of tune mezzo, she had returned to the country of her birth as an engaging lyric soprano. At the time of her trip her parents were living in Winkelspruit on the South Coast of Natal, but by 1930 the whole family moved to 137 King Henry’s Road, South Hampstead, the address where Garda remained until her death in 1968.

Towards the end of that year Garda sang in Burnley in aid of the Police Convalescent fund. Two of her fellow artistes were distinguished singers of the day – Muriel Brunskill (contralto) and Tudor Davies (tenor). At a concert the following year, the critic remarked on her clean-cut articulation (in English and French) and her ability to sing a comfortable high E. However, he disapproved of “an almost continuous vibrato which adversely affected her intonation”. He suggested that she should work on her breathing to correct this fault – shades of that music mistress in Pietermaritzburg!

1926 was an auspicious year for Garda as she began recording for His Master’s Voice (HMV). One of her notable recordings was the Mozart Requiem with  the Philharmonic Choir and orchestra, conducted by Charles Kennedy Scott on 6 July at the Queen’s Hall.Other singers on the recording were Nellie Walker, Sydney Coltham and Edward Halland. She was also bridesmaid at the wedding of baritone Roy Henderson and Bertha Smyth in March. The couple had met when studying at the Royal Academy, presumably at the same time as Garda herself.

CHERRY RIPE (Arr. Lehmann)

SOFT FOOTED SNOW (Sigurd Lee)

 

DOWN IN THE FOREST (Landon Ronald)

During the twenties, Garda was making a name for herself as a popular concert singer, recording artiste and broadcaster, although critics were still concerned about her violent vibrato and doubtful intonation as opposed to her vocal good points of agility and wide range. She was singing with the finest singers of the day, as can be seen in this article of 1928:

Eminent singers (1928)

Advertisement for Bath Pump Room.

An Orchestral Concert – 5GB Daventry (Experimental), 15 January 1929 16.00(From Birmingham) THE BIRMINGHAM STUDIO ORCHESTRA – Conducted by FRANK CANTELL.GARDA HALL (Soprano).

A BRASS BAND CONCERT – 2LO London, 25 May 1929 15.30 S.B. from Newcastle. Artists from the London Studio: GARDA HALL (Soprano), WATCYN WATCYNS (Baritone). The MARSDEN COLLIERY BAND Conducted by JACK BODDICE.

Famous Northern Resorts – 2ZY Manchester, 18 September 1929 20.00Scarborough – The SPA ORCHESTRA Conducted by ALICK MACLEAN.(Leader, PACK BEARD) Accompanist, S. HANLON DEAN Relayed from the Spa S.B. from Hull.GARDA HALL (Soprano)

On 6 March 1930 Webster Booth was establishing himself on record, radio, as the Duke of Buckingham in the West End production of The Three Musketeers, and as a tenor soloist in oratorio, but he was still entertaining at dinners and benefit concerts, such as one at the Finsbury Town Hall for the Clerkenwell Benevolent Society, where South African soprano, Garda Hall was one of the other entertainers. Charles Forwood, who was to become the permanent accompanist of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth when they went on the variety stage in 1940, accompanied at this concert.

OLD FINSBURY TOWN HALL

The Wireless Military Band – National Programme Daventry, 22 April 1930 19.45 Conducted by B. WALTON O’DONNELL, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

An Orchestral Concert – Regional Programme London, 24 November 1930 20.35 A Cowen Programme – THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS. GARDA HALL (Soprano) and Orchestra Aria, Bloom on, bloom on, my Roses(The Rose Maiden) The Swallows, Cradle Song, A Birthday.

A newspaper cutting on 20 March 1930 reads as follows: The Clerkenwell Benevolent Society benefited to a considerable extent as a result of a concert at the Finsbury Town Hall on March 6. There was a generous provision of talent, among those to please a large and enthusiastic audience being Garda Hall, Doris Smerdon, Gladys Limage, Doris Godfrey, Hilda Gladney Woolf, Maidie Hebditch, Webster Booth, Ashmoor Burch, Charles Hayes, Fred Wildon and Lloyd Shakespeare, with Charles Forwood as accompanist. It is interesting that some of these names are still remembered today, while others are completely unknown.

Later  in that year, Garda returned to South Africa and her parents came to England on board the Gloucester Castle to make their home with her. For a short time they lived at 142 King Henry’s Drive, Hampstead, but later moved to 137 King Henry’s Drive, where she remained until her death in 1968.

THE HALL HOUSE IN HAMPSTEAD.

THE BAND OF H.M. ROYAL AIR FORCE Regional Programme London, 2 January 1931 21.00 (By permission of tho AIR COUNCIL) Conducted by Flight Lieut . J. H. AMERS, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

An Orchestral Concert – National Programme London, 31 January 1931 19.30 GARDA HALL (Soprano), DALE SMITH (Baritone), THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA
Conducted by PERCY PITT

A Concert 5WA Cardiff, 20 March 1931 19.45 Relayed from THE Public HALL, BRITON FERRY. GARDA HALL (Soprano), JOHN MOREL (Baritone) BRITON FERRY I.L.P. MALE VOICE PARTY,Conducted by D. L. MORGAN. NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES (Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru) (Leader, LOUIS LEVITUS) Conducted by WARWICK BRAITHWAITE

The Gershom Parkington Quintet Regional Programme London, 1 May 1931 20.00 GARDA HALL (Soprano), HARRY ISAACS (Pianoforte).

The Children’s Hour – Regional Programme Midland, 7 October 1931 17.15 Songs by GARDA HALL (Soprano), WILLIAM JONES and his Banjo, A Tale of Spain and the Rolling Main, by ROBERT ASCROFT.

 

In March 1932 Garda took part in a broadcast of popular opera with another South African singer who had made a career in the UK, the contralto Betsy de la Porte. In the same year, she sang in a concert devoted to Viennese music at the Pump Room in Bath. The conductor was Edward Dunn, and baritone George Baker, Webster’s great friend and mentor, was the other soloist. Several years later, Garda suggested to Edward Dunn that he should apply for the position of musical director of Durban Opera. He was chosen from 200 candidates and remained in South Africa for the rest of his life. The last I heard of him was when he was conducting the Johannesburg Philharmonic Society and giving lectures on musical appreciation in the sixties.

In May 1932 Garda made a 12-inch recording of Musical Comedy Gems (1) and Musical Comedy Gems (2) with George Baker (C2412) of songs from The Chocolate Soldier, The Desert Song, Rose Marie and The Merry Widow.

                                                George Baker and Garda Hall

GEORGE BAKER (BARITONE) AND GARDA HALL

The B.B.C. Orchestra Regional Programme London, 22 July 1932 20.00(SECTION E) Led by MARIE WILSON, Conducted by B. WALTON O’DONNELL.GARDA HALL (Soprano).

Suitable Songs – Regional Programme London, 6 August 1932 21.15 (Part VII). Arranged and Produced by GORDON MCCONNEL. GARDA HALL, PARRY JONES, FOSTER RICHARDSON.  EDGAR LANE (Compere) WALTER RANDALL (Pianist) THE REVUE CHORUS and The B.B.C. THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, S. Kneale Kelley. Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS

Popular Opera-II National Programme Daventry, 28 December 1932 20.00 Scenes from Verdi, Humperdinck and Flotow. Produced by GORDON MCCONNEL.

Garda Hall (Soprano), Betsy de la Porte (Contralto), Jan Van Der Gucht (Tenor), Stuart Robertson (Baritone), Franklyn Kelsey (Bass), Mary Hamlin (Soprano), Gladys Winmill (Contralto), Doris Owens (Contralto), Rosalind Rowsell (Soprano) , Stanley Riley (Bass), Bradbridge White (Tenor), Victor Utting (Bass). Narrator, Ivan Samson. The Wireless Chorus (Section B) – Chorus-Master, Cyril Dalmaine. B.B.C. Orchestra (Section D) – Led by Marie Wilson. Conducted by Stanford Robinson

Victorian Ballads – Regional Programme London, 16 March 1933 19.30 withGARDA HALL (Soprano) and LEONARD GOWINGS (Tenor) accompanied by THE LESLIE BRIDGEWATER QUINTET.

THE B.B.C. THEATRE ORCHESTRA Regional Programme London, 15 May 1933 21.00 Leader, MONTAGUE BREARLEY. Conductor – STANFORD ROBINSON, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

On 22 May 1933, Frederic King, Garda’s singing teacher at the academy, died at the age of 80, and on 1 October of the same year, Webster was on the same bill as Garda Hall at the Palladium. Other performers on that bill were Debroy Somers and his band, Leonard Henry (compère), Raie da Costa (the brilliant South African pianist who died at an early age) and Stainless Stephen. Webster had also been booked to sing at the National Sunday League concerts at the Finsbury Park Empire, and the same artistes as those at the Palladium were due to perform at the Lewisham Town Hall later in October.

Raie da Costa plays in 1933.

A Popular Concert – Regional Programme Midland, 27 January 1934 19.15 Relayed from The Central Hall, Walsall. GARDA HALL (soprano), HENRY CUMMINGS (baritone), MARGOT MACGIBBON, (violin) FREDERICK JACKSON (piano)

Garda Hall and Trefor Jones to sing in "Creation".
Garda Hall and Trefor Jones sing in “The Creation” at the Caird Hall, Dundee with the Dundee Amateur Choral Union. Article: 3 January 1934.

A Part of THE CREATION – Regional Programme Scotland, 7 February 1934 20.45 (Haydn) THE DUNDEE AMATEUR CHORAL UNION GARDA HALL (soprano), TREFOR JONES (tenor), JOSEPH FARRINGTON (bass) THE SCOTTISH ORCHESTRA Conducted by CHARLES M. COWE. At the Pianoforte, M. MARSHALL BIRD. Relayed from The Caird Hall, Dundee

On 15 March 1934 Garda Hall sang in Torquay with the Municipal Orchestra there and the short newspaper article announcing the date pointed out that her father had been a Torquay man. She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.

THE TORQUAY MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA National Programme Daventry, 27 March 1934 15.00 Conductor, ERNEST W. GOSS. GARDA HALL (soprano). Relayed from The Pavilion, Torquay (West Regional Programme)

Songs of Sir Frederic Cowen – National Programme Daventry, 2 April 1934 19.30 sung by GARDA HALL (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS (baritone) Accompanied by THE COMPOSER. GARDA HALL Songs about roses :Deep in a Beauteous Garden, The Sweetest Rose of all, Day Dreams, The Roses of Sadi, Blue Skies and Roses. HAROLD WILLIAMS Poems by Sir Walter Scott :Anna Marie, The Bonny Owl Border Ballad

THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 29 May 1934 21.20(Section C) – Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by JOHN ANSELL. GARDA HALL (soprano).

LESLIE JEFFRIES and THE GRAND HOTEL, EASTBOURNE, ORCHESTRA. National Programme Daventry, 2 September 1934 21.05 GARDA HALL(soprano) Relayed from The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne.

She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.
Promenade Concert – National Programme Daventry, 6 October 1934 20.00 Last concert of the season – Relayed from The Queen’s Hall, London (Sole Lessees, Messrs. Chappell and Co., Ltd.).GARDA HALL (soprano), ROBERT EASTON (bass), EILEEN JOYCE (pianoforte), THE B.B.C SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by Sir HENRY WOOD

THE BOURNEMOUTH MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 18 November 1934 21.00 Conductor, RICHARD AUSTIN. GARDA HALL (soprano). Relayed from The Pavilion, Bournemouth

THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 24 December 1934 22.00 (Section E) Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by JULIAN CLIFFORD. GARDA HALL (soprano)

THE LONDON PALLADIUM ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 26 May 1935 18.45  Conductor, RICHARD CREAN, GARDA HALL (soprano).

A Variety of Music – Regional Programme Northern, 1 August 1935 21.00 with JACK LORIMER, RONALD HILL, Clive ERARD, DORIS HARE, ALBERT RICHARDSON, G. KITCHENER, RAY WALLACE, STANLEY BROWN, GARDA HALL, JOHN TURNER, BERT MEREDITH, FREDDIE GARDNER AND HIS RHYTHM  FIVE. THE RHYTHM BROTHERS. THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK. Compere, BRYAN MICHIE.(From Regional)

Songs From The Shows (No. 38) – Regional Programme London, 15 October 1935 21.00 Contrasting Composers-2 – SIDNEY JONES and COLE PORTER. BETTY BOLTON, GARDA HALL, REGINALD PURDELL, JANET LIND, C. DENIER WARREN, ROBERT GEDDES, THE THREE GINX. THE BBC VARIETY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS. Conducted by STANFORD ROBINSON. At the pianos, HARRY S. PEPPER and DORIS ARNOLD. Compere, JOHN WATT.

Songs of the Seasons – Regional Programme London, 3 November 1935 17.30 By Frederic H. Cowen. GARDA HALL (soprano), JOYCE NEWTON (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS baritone). JOYCE NEWTON – Autumn : To a Flower. GARDA HALL – Winter : Snowflakes. JOYCE NEWTON  – Winter : The Snowstorm. HAROLD WILLIAMS – Christmas Time: The Wassailer’s Song. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON Spring : Duets To Daffodils, Violets, GARDA HALL – Spring : The Swallows . HAROLD* WILLIAMS – Summer : Anna Marie. JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Summer’s here. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Duet Birds.

On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.

THE LESLIE BRIDGEWATER HARP QUINTET – National Programme Daventry, 8 December 1935 14.15 GARDA HALL (soprano).

Pleasure Gardens – National Programme Daventry, 15 May 1936 20.00 A Picture in Words and Music of London’s Old Pleasure Gardens at Vauxhall. Devised by JOHN F. RUSSELL and HOLT MARVELL. Music selected and arranged by ALFRED REYNOLDS. GARDA HALL (soprano), JAN VAN DER GUCHT (tenor), MORGAN DAVIES (baritone) A Section of THE BBC MEN’S CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, Montague Brearley ,Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK

THE BBC ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 3 June 1936 21.30(Section C) -Led by MARIE WILSON, Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS. GARDA HALL (soprano) New Songs for Old Regional Programme London, 17 August 1936 20.00 Part 5. A Programme arranged and produced by GORDON MCCONNEL. VERA LENNOX, DENIS O’NEIL, GEORGE BAKER, GARDA HALL. Compere, CYRIL NASH . THE BBC REVUE CHORUS and THE BBC VARIETY ORCHESTRA. Conducted by CHARLES SHADWELL .

On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.Webster Booth at the height of his fame.

In 1936 Webster sang with Garda again on 16 September at a Shrewsbury Carnival Concert. Other performers were Ronald Gourley (entertainer) and theAlfredo Campoli Trio

Shrewsbury Carnival Concert – Regional Programme Midland, 6 September 1936 21.00 from the Granada Theatre, Shrewsbury. GARDA HALL (soprano), WEBSTER BOOTH (tenor), RONALD GOURLEY (entertainer) THE ALFREDO CAMPOLI TRIO 

Alfredo Campoli (2)
Violinist Alfredo Campoli

Child singer Ann Stephens with whistling by Ronald Gourley

Ann Stephens
Ann Stephens

I have been reading B.C. Hilliam’s autobiography Flotsam’s Follies (Flotsam of Flotsam and Jetsam) and discovered that Garda Hall sang in his song cycle, Autumn’s Orchestra. It was performed at the Queen’s Hall, with Garda Hall, Gladys Ripley, Heddle Nash, and Malcolm McEachern as vocalists and Albert Sandler as violinist.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam's follies

MARIE BURKE in Comic Opera VII – Regional Programme London, 18 September 1936 21.20 Songs and Scenas from three famous Comic Operas, Arranged and Produced by GORDON McCONNEL. 1 The Emerald Isle – Lyrics by Basil Hood, Music by Arthur Sullivan and Edward German. Veronique – English Lyrics by Lilian Eldee, (with alterations and additions by Percy Greenbank ), Music by Andre Messager  3. The Grand Duchess – English Lyrics by Adrian Ross, Music by Offenbach. DICK FRANCIS, GARDA HALL,JAN VAN DER GUCHT, MICHAEL COLE, BERNARD ANSELL and MARIE BURKE. THE BBC REVUE CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA. Conducted by ALFRED REYNOLDS.

THE BBC ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 17 October 1936 20.15 (Section C) Led by LAURANCE TURNER, Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS,GARDA HALL (soprano)

THE WORTHING MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 22 November 1936 21.05 Leader, HARRY Lipman, Conductor, HERBERT LODGE,GARDA HALL (soprano)ARTHUR WAYNE (pianoforte) from the Town Hall, Worthing.

THE BBC ORCHESTRA –National Programme Daventry, 19 January 1937 18.25(Section E)  – Led by Laurance Turner, Conducted by Joseph Lewis, Garda Hall(soprano)

ALBERT SANDLER and THE PARK LANE HOTEL ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 14 March 1937 21.35 Garda Hall (soprano) from the Park Lane Hotel. At the pianoforte J. A. BYFIELD

SONGS FROM THE SHOWS No. 45 – Regional Programme London, 1 May 1937 18.00 Film Songs, No. 11. Garda Hall, Brian Lawrance, Evie Hayes, Sam Costa, The Three Ginx. The BBC Variety Orchestra and BBC Chorus – Conducted by Charles Shadwell. At the Pianos: Harry S. Pepper and Doris Arnold. Music arranged by Doris Arnold and orchestrated by Wally Wallond . Compered and produced by John Watt.

THE BOURNEMOUTH MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA Regional Programme Wales, 2 May 1937 21.05Leader, Harold Fairhurst .Conductor, Richard Austin. Garda Hall (soprano) from the Pavilion, Bournemouth.

PASTORAL – National Programme Daventry, 8 July 1937 22.20 A Programme in Praise of Quiet Things. Music by Alan Paul. Verse and Prose selected by Ann Baker. Presented by William MacLurg. Garda Hall (soprano), Jean Pougnet (violin), David Martin (violin), William Primrose (viola) Anthony Pini (violoncello), Alan Paul (pianoforte)GARDA HALL AND QUINTET: Quiet The Lambs, Blessed Care, All my Treasures.

Pastoral is a programme of verse, prose, and music upon the themes of quiet and the countryside. The music throughout has been written by Alan Paul who will himself be at the piano for the first programme ever given of his own serious music.

Paul was born in Glasgow and was a student at the Glasgow Athenaeum, now called the Scottish Academy of Music, from 1917 to 1921, when he came to London to join the Royal College of Music. In his first year there he had to make some money to

help with his fees and left the college for four months to go on tour with Polly (sequel to The Beggar’s Opera). About a year ago he joined the BBC.

In May 1937 Theatreland at Coronation Time was released featuring Stuart Robertson, Garda Hall, Webster Booth and Sam Costa. The critic in Gramophone remarked, “Mr Booth sings gloriously, Mr Robertson defiantly, Miss Hall charmingly, while Mr Costa contributes a fleeting reminiscence of a more sophisticated and yet oh so simple entertainment.” The 12”78rpm, HMV C2903 cost 4/-. Click on the above link to hear the recording which has been restored by Mike Taylor.

MURDER IN THE EMBASSY – Regional Programme London, 4 August 1937 21.00  A Melodrama by Francis Durbridge with Incidental Music by Augustus Franzel. Ann Codrington, Ruth Beresford. A Gypsy Orchestra, conducted by Augustus Franzel, and The BBC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Mark H. Lubbock. Production by Archie Campbell. Captain Michael Rostard, of the Westonian army, nephew of General Rostard: Jack Melford. Sir Charles Fanshaw, of the Foreign Office.: Norman Shelley
Benson, Sir Charles’s valet: Ernest Sefton
*Madame Vaskaya, a famous continental soprano: Garda Hall
Countess Elsa Sieler, daughter of Count Sieler: Jane Carr
General Rostard, Prime Minister and virtual dictator of Westonia: Henry Victor
Mr Hiram E Miller, of Detroit: Fred Duprez
Baron Von Klemm, the Westonian Ambassador.: Boris Ranevsky
Paul Vendorest, a servant at the Westonian Embassy.: .Paul Vernon
A Singer: Morgan Davies
Inspector Davis, of Scotland Yard: Edwin Ellis
Count Sieler, Dictator of Falkenstein: Ernest Sefton
Announcer: Barry Ferguson

  There is an entry for Garda Hall in Who’s Who in Music (1937): Hall, Garda ARAM, LRAM. Born Durban, educated at Royal Academy of Music. Betjemann Gold Medalist. Singing, Chamber music, oratorio, operatic. Recreation: gardening. Address: 137 King Henry’s Road NW3. Telephone: Primrose 4436

GEORGIAN MELODIES – National Programme Daventry, 6 February 1938 21.05  A Musical Sequence selected and arranged by Gwen Williams and Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Roy Henderson (baritone), An Octet from the BBC Chorus, The BBC Theatre Orchestra. Leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson .

HALL, Garda - The Evening Telegraph and Post (Dundee, Scotland), Thur, Feb 24, 1938; pg. 6

Braza (violinist), John Turner (tenor) Garda Hall (soprano), Will Kings (entertainer). Dundee police concert. Evening Telegraph and Post, Dundee (February 1938)

Reverie (No. 6) – National Programme Daventry, 25 June 1938 22.15 – The BBC Theatre Orchestra, leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Freda Townson (mezzo-soprano) O would that my love?/The Harvest Field (Mendelssohn) Dôme épais (Lakmé) (Delibes) Already, shades of night/ Alas my chosen swain(The Queen of Spades)

MUSIC BY ERIC COATES – Regional Programme London, 9 June 1939 18.00 BBC Orchestra (Section E) Led by Laurance Turner, Conducted by the composer. GARDA HALL AND ORCHESTRA The Mill o’ Dreams, Back o’ the Moon, Dream o’ Nights, The Man in the Moon, Bluebells.Homeward to you, Your Name, Music of the Night.

C.E.M.A. CONCERT- BBC Home Service Basic, 3 October 1940 13.15  Organised in collaboration with a Miners’ Welfare Institute  Somewhere in the Midlands. Garda Hall (soprano), Dale Smith (baritone), Samuel Kutcher (violin), Accompanist, Harry Isaacs .

Garda continued singing during the war, often at CEMA concerts and in oratorio. She sang Messiah at the Albert Hall, Nottingham in December 1940.

MESSIAH IN NOTTINGHAM

27 March 1942

MESSIAH AT BRIGHTON

22 January 1943

CEMA CONCERT

The final cutting about Garda Hall appeared on 5 January 1945.

Sunday concert

I could find nothing more about her, apart from her entry in the Musicians Who’s Who in 1949, which was much the same as the 1937 entry. In 1945 she was 45 years of age so I cannot believe that she retired from singing at such an early age. Perhaps she taught singing after she retired from the concert platform, although there is no proof of this.  Her mother died in the late 1950s and she herself died on 7 June 1968. She did not marry. If anyone has further information about Garda Hall, I would be very glad to hear from you.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince – two busy months in the life of Pietermaritzburg Bill Bizley

British Newspaper archive

Quentin Hall of Western Australia for genealogical research on his relative, Garda Hall

Jean Collen

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5 August 2014

Updated:  9 April, 2016.

 

 

 

 

MABEL FENNEY, later PERKIN, née GREENWOOD

Pamela Davies, with whom I collaborated in writing a book entitled Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? in 2005, asked me recently whether I went to study with Anne and Webster because of their duet singing, but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was entirely due to Mabel that decided me  to study singing with Anne and Webster and to make music my career.

Mabel Fenney later Perkin, née
 Greenwood (1960)
When I was in my final year at Jeppe High School for Girls in 1960, the permanent music mistress, Miss Diane Heller, went on long leave, and Mrs Mabel Fenney took her place for a term. Mabel was born Mabel Greenwood on Shakespeare’s birthday in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire in 1919. Her mother was a true contralto and had sung in several professional productions. The Greenwoods moved to East London in the Eastern Cape, South Africa when Mabel and her sister were children.
East London Photographs: Marius GarbThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is maimie-amdram.jpg
 
Mabel showed singing and acting talent from an early age and did her initial singing exams and diplomas in East London, trained by a gentleman she referred to as “Pop Lee”, and sang and acted in many local musicals, plays and recitals. Her favourite role was as Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard. She married fellow Lancastrian, Eric Fenney, and instead of pursuing a singing career, she helped him run his plumbing business in East London. 
Scenes from The Yeomen of the Guard in East London with Mabel Fenney as Mabel, Harold Fairbrother as Colonel Fairfax, Joy Huggett as Phoebe and Jimmy Nicholas as Jack Point. Unfortunately I do not know the names of the other principals (circa 1955)
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East London (South Africa) production of Yeomen of the Guard. Thanks to Julian Nicholas, son of Jimmy Nicholas for this photograph.
 
When the Dramatic Society of East London invited Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler to star in the 1958 production of Merrie England, she and Eric stood surety for their salaries.  It was in this production where she first met them, playing their roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh. She played the part of Jill-All-Alone in the production.

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The following year the society put on Waltz Time, again with Anne and Webster in the leading roles, but, for some reason, she was not asked take part in this production.
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Waltz Time, East London, 1959.
Instead she went to Johannesburg to have lessons with Anne and Webster in preparation for several advanced diploma singing examinations. By the time she arrived at Jeppe High School for Girls she had already won the University of South Africa’s overseas teaching bursary and was due to leave for Berlin to study at the Hochschule there for two years. Her husband, Eric Fenney had agreed to pay her living expenses while she was studying in Berlin.
 
We schoolgirls looked on Mabel as a very glamorous figure in comparison with some of our staid academic teachers. She was lively and enthusiastic and took us on various outings to the opera. Most teachers had written off one of the naughtiest classes in the school as impossible to teach, but Mabel developed a good relationship with the girls in that class. She taught them to sing Brother James’ Air, which they performed creditably at the final assembly of the term, giving staff and pupils a pleasant surprise.
 
Towards the end of her term at Jeppe, Mabel gave a memorable recital in the school hall one afternoon. The event had not been widely publicised, so there were not many people present, but I was there with singing school friends, Margaret Plevin (née Masterton) and Valerie Vogt (née Figgins). We were impressed by her performance. The Booths had decided that she was a mezzo soprano rather than soprano, so she had sung a mezzo repertoire for her diploma exams. I will always remember her singing of the Habanera and Seguidilla from Carmen. At the end of one of the arias she threw a rose coquettishly to her schoolgirl audience. We were completely captivated.
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Mabel returned for a holiday to the Eastern Cape in August 1961 and gave this interview to the papers.
Pamela Davies, with whom I collaborated in writing a book entitled Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? in 2005, asked me recently whether I went to study with Anne and Webster because of their duet singing, but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was entirely due to Mabel that decided me  to study singing with Anne and Webster and to make music my career.
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In 1963 I sang my Trinity College Associate diploma, with Guy McGrath as examiner and Anne as my accompanist. It went well. After the exam, I went with Anne in her pale blue Anglia to Macey’s, a store in the city, where she bought a new carpet sweeper. On the way there she told me that she thought I was going to be another Mabel Fenney. I felt that she had paid me a great compliment in comparing me to Mabel. By this time Mabel had passed her final exam at the Hochschule, although her Professor had disagreed with the Booths’ assessment of her voice and made her revert to her original soprano.
 
She met her second husband, Maurice Perkin, originally from Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire while she was abroad, and after her divorce from Eric Fenney and remarriage to Maurice, she lived and worked in London for a number of years before returning to South Africa with Maurice. During her time there she sang the role of Susannah in a semi-professional production of The Marriage of Figaro.
 
I met her again when she was living in Florida (South Africa) in 1976 and we became good friends, visiting each other nearly every week. We also sang duets together at a number of concerts until she and Maurice retired to Uvongo on the South Coast of Natal in the early nineties.
 
We wrote regularly and I spent a happy holiday with them in Uvongo in the late 1990s. Mabel – or Maimie, as we called her – always said that she had so many interests other than singing and these had prevented her from having the driving ambition to establish herself as a professional singer. She read widely, loved animals, was a keen gardener and an authority on herbs, and took great interest in history. She and Maurice made frequent trips to the Kruger National Park, where she was as interested in the birds they spotted there as in the big five group of animals.
 
When Anne and Webster returned to the UK and did a series of radio programmes on the BBC called Only a Rose, they singled her out as one of their most talented and hard-working students.
 
Yesterday I was saddened to learn of her sudden death on 6 March 2011, just over a month short of her ninety-second birthday. She will be sadly missed, but ever remembered by me.
 
Jean Collen ©
24 March 2011
Updated: 25 August 2019.
 
 
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