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.
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.
They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”
1 March – Leslie Green says on the radio that he is going on a little jaunt next month – presumably he’s referring to the little jaunt with Anne! Roselle D sings Wouldn’t It be Loverly on Stars of Tomorrow.
2 March – I go to SS studio and work with Margaret and Elaine at dictation and ear tests and sing in the choir. Webster is great at night with his Great Voices and talks about his singing pupils saying that his young friends consider him a square – sweet!
3 March – Another very grim day today. I manage to listen to Leslie G in the afternoon and phone Ruth who enjoyed Breaking Point and is still depressed over her singing.
4 March – Work. Go to SABC at night and see numerous personalities. Nameless Afrikaans woman tells me that Anne walked out on the cast of the Merry Widow in Springs a week before it was due to open but came back for the opening night! Well, she did complain about their behaviour and told me she would never produce another thing in Springs again. Ruth and I sit together and she tells me she is going to see a throat specialist on 21st of this month and if it isn’t right she’ll have to give up singing.
5 March – Work. Go to singing and I’m there early so Webster asks me straight in. Anne is sitting sewing a rug. I admire all the decorations to the studio –it looks really lovely. We have tea and I sing well and they are pleased. She says that my breathing is a bit faulty so we work at it. He puts his hands around my waist so that I can push them away with my ribs – very romantic! She says that my voice has improved beyond all bounds. He says I must get rid of the “balloon” or else he won’t come to see me when I sing – honey!
6 March – Work hard and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I go to Mrs S’s but she’s attending a funeral and when she returns she is too upset to give me a lesson. I talk to Gill and Elaine but we don’t do much work.
8 March – Work. Go to studio where Lucille is having a lesson and singing the Maids of Cadiz. He goes with her to put 6d in the meter. I can imagine what is going on while he’s away! I sing scales and studies well and they are pleased. He makes tea and then we do Ein Schwan which goes really well and Open thy Blue Eyes. He says my breathing is very good indeed and he can’t see a balloon today!
9 March – I go to Mrs S today and work hard. When Elaine leaves I go out with her for a breather and meet Mary Harrison – she is terribly sweet and charming. I go back and sing in the ensemble and then we see Billy Budd which is very good. Listen to Webster at night.
10 March – Go to church and Mr R preaches well. See Doreen, Shorty etc. I listen to Leslie G and the Springbok’s G&S. Ruth doesn’t phone which is a bit hurtful.
11 March – Work very hard and go to the SABC at night. Ruth tells me that the Booths simply raved about my singing and say that my voice is settling down nicely. She says that she doesn’t hate Anne any more!
12 March – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle. Webster answers door and dashes off to buy tea in Thrupps. Anne is sweet and I sing my scales well. Webster makes tea and I sing Zion and Open Thy Blue Eyes. Webster and I decide I must do it in French. They have their certificate from their Royal Command performance appearance in 1945 on the wall. Anne says that someone was being rather derisive about them as teachers so she felt it was time to bring the certificate into the studio. It is fabulous and a real honour for them to have it.
13 March – Work and go to the library and meet Frances de Vries Robbe there. She tells me of her plans to study singing in the UK and make it her career. I have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and then go to the SS studio and have a long gruelling lesson! Evidently we are doing the piano exam on 20th of April which will work in with my accompanying for Webster very well indeed.
15 March – Work and go to singing. Webster says he’s sure Lucille won’t pass her exam. It just shows that one needs something extra apart from an excellent voice! Anne records the French pronunciation on tape and I sing scales and I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly. Webster sings this for me on my tape- I’m proud to have it. Anne discusses the unfairness of the SABC in auditioning Doris Bolton, a soprano originally from Staffordshire. Webster comes down on the lift with me and discusses his teeth which he hopes to get removed soon. I go to guild at night and we have an interesting talk on blood transfusions. See Ann and Brian Stratton.
16 March – I go to SS studio and work hard with Margaret and Elaine. In the afternoon we see Madame which is rather ghastly. I listen to Webster and he is great as usual. Plays recordings by John McCormack, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, and Anne, who is lovely.
17 March – Go to church and sit with Ann and Joan. Mr Taylor Cape (who christened me in Scotland) preaches well. The Diamonds come in the afternoon. Ruth phones and says she’s thinking of leaving the Booths after the exam. I think this is rather a pity. Evidently she cracked her head on the swimming pool last week and couldn’t go to the gala. Imagine – a year since the announcement of Drawing Room.
18 March – Work very hard. Go to SABC and Simon Swindell is very much in evidence. He says, “Night, night!” to everyone as he leaves. We have John Tyler as choirmaster tonight. He is excellent and amusing. I talk to Hester, Gill and Marie and remember to apologise for Ruth. We work hard at Creation.
19 March – Work. Go to singing in afternoon and meet Roselle on the bus. She tells me that she may be going back to the Booths next month. Webster answers the door and Anne goes out for a bit so I work with him. We go through exercises and studies. The first study drags a bit but the second is good. Anne comes back and we have tea together. She tells me how the SABC audition went for Doris. They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”
20 March – Go to the library and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go up to SS studio and practise and then have long lesson with Mrs S – she says I’ve improved very much. I do ear tests with Elaine.
21 March – Go into town early and have my hair set in Ansteys by Mr Paul. I meet Doreen and Betty, have lunch with Mum and then come home and work hard at singing. It certainly doesn’t seem like a year since that heavenly Drawing Room evening.
22 March – Work. Go to studio and Webster discusses the aural tests with me and worries about how well Lucille will do in the forthcoming exams! Anne and he say that they like my hair very much. Anne tells me that Mabel Fenney is getting divorced as she now has a boyfriend in London called Maurice Perkin. Webster is mocking about this and says that it wouldn’t be so bad if his name was Perkins, but Perkin is beyond the pale! We work hard at exam pieces and they say I have nothing to worry about. Webster comes down with me on the lift and tells me that he likes a little break from the studio periodically to put money in the meter!
23 March – Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. Webster says on Great Voices that he was the first person to hear the test record of Jussi Bjoerling before the war – his favourite tenor.
24 March – Phone Ruth and she tells me she has to have her tonsils out at the end of the year. Anne is most upset about this as she herself had to have her tonsils out when she was in her forties. Ruth says she thinks Webster played Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair for me last night on Great Voices! Sweet, but most unlikely. We shall see each other tomorrow night at the SABC. We visit the Bullocks in the afternoon and see their new twins who are very sweet. Mr Bullock is my father’s work colleague.
25 March – Work hard and then go to the SABC at night and work hard again with Chris Lamprecht. Ruth tells me about the birthday celebrations for Caroline, and that she herself has failed 3 tests during this last week!
26 March – Work. Go into town and meet Roselle. Webster is in the studio by himself so he gives me a cuppa! Anne arrives and tells me she might have to go into hospital to have part of a diseased tonsil removed. She is very upset. Go through all exam work. Zion is the best thing I sing today. They give me two different scores for sight-reading practice. One has her old name on it – Irené Frances Eastwood.
27 March – Go to the library and lunch with Mum. Go to the SS studio where Frances runs down Anne and Webster. I give Corrie Bakker a lesson as Gill is at a funeral today. I have a gruelling lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine.
28 March – Work hard. Leslie G mentions that he’s going to Cape Town on his jaunt with Anne soon, although he doesn’t mention her by name!
29 March – Work. Go to singing and I arrive first. We do scales to loosen my jaw. Webster arrives and they inform me that he is a “film star” at the moment in the Jim Reeves film Kimberley Jim as the innkeeper. He informs me that he has strained his shoulder on the set. We do Ein Schwan and studies and they go fairly well. Webster says I must be more abandoned! Selwyn (child following me) sings on Stars of Tomorrow.
As the innkeeper in Kimberley Jim.
30 March – Go to town with Mum and we see the Jim Reeves crowd there. We see a film with Stanley Baker as the star – Good. Webster’s Great Voices is very good. He and Anne are doing a recital a week on Monday with the SABC concert orchestra and Edgar Cree conducting.
Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne – the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!
5 September – Have lunch with mum. Opening night of The Amorous Prawn. Peter phones at night.
6 September – Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne – the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!
Oliver Walker’s crit in the Star is a dream as far as Webster is concerned. He says that he has a wonderful sense of timing.
We go to the Strattons at night and are showered with Ann’s handiwork made in connection with the Teachers’ Training College.
Article about Mabel Fenney – back in South Africa on a visit from Berlin.
Mabel Fenney back in South Africa on holiday. Returning to Berlin.
7 September – Go into town in the afternoon and book for The Amorous Prawn matinee next Saturday. Go up to Webster and Anne and Webster answers the door as large as life and in quite a gay mood.
My friend Dell is in having lesson once more singing Mimi’s aria from La Bohème and breathing badly. Anne gives her usual breathing lecture and makes her practise. Dell says, somewhat sarcastically, “I had better take up swimming to improve my breathing.” Anne says that the area around her own ribs is quite hard which is unusual for a woman and also very large. She used to be quite tiny when she was young – 89,000 years ago – but intercostal breathing developed her. She goes on about how healthy it is to breathe properly and yesterday morning after Webster’s first night when they both felt like hell, breathing did them good.
I go in and pay. Webster asks if I’d like some tea and I say I would love a cup. Anne shouts through – “Boo – will you bring the biscuits, darling?” She asks if I’m going to see him in his play and I say, “Yes. I booked today for next Saturday’s matinee.”
Anne says, “Oh, sweet! It’s really a wonderful play. The first night was one of the best I’ve been to – the audience laughed right through the whole three hours. Being British, I think you’ll really enjoy it.” I say that the crits were wonderful and she agrees emphatically. Webster says I mustn’t expect to see him till about 5 o’clock. He’s actually very modest about the whole thing.
We start on scales and she makes me smile into a little mirror. I get it right but my cheeks tremble for some reason. She, of course, has to notice this.”
She corrects the Delilah vowels – I tell her that she’ll have to excuse it because I was ill at the weekend when I did it. She is all sympathy and finds out that I had a stomach chill. Most of the vowels are right. She tests them as she goes through it and says, “This would sound funny on the tape.”
When we do the aria they are both very happy about it and say that there is an improvement. Webster goes to put 6d in the meter. She says the aria has come on very nicely and next week we must do something about the consonants.
When we have tea and Anne has a biscuit, she says, “I shouldn’t have this really. I’m getting so fat!” I almost choke with derisive laughter! Thankfully, I don’t say the inevitable, “Oh, nonsense, Anne. Look at me!”
I happen to be wearing a copper bracelet for it matches the clip in my hair. Anne says she hopes I’m not suffering from rheumatism. We have a good laugh about it.
I meet Webster at the bottom of the stairs and say goodbye to him.
I go to choir at night and we work through anthem which is lovely – I hope they do it properly on Sunday.
Listen to Webster at night. He presents a really charming programme. He starts with Elijah and says that it’s popular because it’s tuneful music and he thinks that, first and foremost, music should be tuneful. He plays a duet sung by Isobel Baillie and Gladys Ripley, conducted by Sir Malcolm. Next, he plays his own recording If, With All Your Hearts, with Warwick Braithwaite conducting, next Is Not His Word Like a Fire? By Harold Williams. He plays three arias from the Magic Flute, more from Gypsy Baron and ends with Nutcracker suite.
9 September In the Star there is a gorgeous picture of an almost aristocratic-looking Anne with Mr Leslie Green at first night of Amorous Prawn.
10 September Sunday Times crit by James Ambrose Brown is also excellent and says much the same about Webster – suave, man of the world. Very nice.
Mum and I go with the Diamonds to Hartebeespoort dam and we skirt Craighall Park. I like it very much – it isn’t anything like Houghton but just nice, and in-between and quite modern.
12 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum. We decide that as I am presumably going to start work soon I should go today and see Anne to arrange a time for my lessons.
She phones and Webster answers and tells him that it is Mrs Campbell, Jean’s mother. He says, “Oh yes, how d’ye do?” Mum asks to speak to Anne and he says, “Who?” and eventually obliges with Anne who says I can come at half past one.
I go up to the studio. Webster answers the door. He opens door, looks at me and says in outraged manner, “What the dickens are you doing here?” I tell him that I have an appointment at half past one and he looks relieved and tells me to have a seat for a few minutes. There is a big bass singing very loudly. Hear Webster cursing the kettle – “My God, this kettle’s got too damn hot!”
Anne comes in to see me, dressed in tight skirt and dark over-blouse. Her hair is almost straight but attractive as always. She goes through her appointment book while big bass continues to sing. We decide on Friday at 5.30 for next week. She asks, “Are you glad you’re starting work?” I say, “Not particularly. I’ve enjoyed doing nothing!”
13 September – Go for piano lesson in afternoon. I feel more at home with Mrs S now.
14 September – Go to Anne in afternoon. She answers the door looking glorious in a very low-cut summer dress. A girl is singing Hello, Young Lovers – not very well. Anne says, “That must be the Irish in you.” The girl says quite vehemently that there is no Irish blood in her. Anne says, “Oh, surely – with a name like Maureen!”
Maureen departs I get a surprise when I see that it is Maureen Schneider who was at college with me.
Anne and I have discussion about times and come to reasonably satisfactory arrangements. Webster presents me with the Samson and Delilah record with a really seductive picture on the cover. Anne says we should listen to it here first so while Webster sets up the record we start on scales. She makes me go to the mirror to see that I drop my jaw right down and then she comes over and puts her arm round me and we do it together. She says that my scales are really lovely.
Webster plays the aria and says I have in my own voice all the power and quality of Risé Stevens if I would project and bring it forward and work. He wants to hear me singing with as much richness as Risé Stevens next week. I have a wonderful voice and I must use it. I feel quite embarrassed but it must be true – he doesn’t say things without meaning them.
Webster makes tea and I sing the aria – well, I think. Webster goes to put 3d in the meter. Anne says she doesn’t think I’m too young to sing Delilah because she had a friend, Nancy Evans and she sang it at 16. She tells me that when she was 17 she joined a women’s choir of 24 voices and received more training in it than anywhere else.
I tell her that I know Maureen and Anne says she seems a sweet girl but hasn’t got a voice anywhere near mine.
We go on with the aria and it goes well. Webster’s suit arrives and Anne signs for it. Webster is in the kitchen with Roselle who is making a frantic attempt to wash the dishes. I depart with record and the signature of Webster Booth scrawled all over it.
I go to choir and then listen to Webster. Today is the 220th anniversary of Messiah so he plays some of it. It was first produced in Dublin where you can get gorgeous shrimps. Handel discovered that one of the singers – a little man from the North wasn’t singing in the right time. He said to him in broken English, “I zot you zed zat you could seeng at sight?” Replied the man, “Ay, so I did, but not at first sight!” His accents are gorgeous and I have a good laugh. He plays the chorus, The Glory of the Lord.
At the opening ladies were requested not to come to the performance wearing hoops. He, himself, has given a recital in the same music hall and he liked it. He plays his own recordings from Messiah and says that this is one of his favourite recordings and one of his best.
He goes on to Madame Butterfly which he says he doesn’t like it very much as it is built around two arias, The Love Duet and One Fine Day.
He goes on to Eldorado by Ralph Trewhela. He says it was originally written for “Anne and myself” for a radio programme but because Anne had so many commitments he was “ably partnered by Doris Brasch”.
15 September – Go to guild at night. I give the epilogue which goes very well and everyone congratulates me about it. We practise for Guild Sunday and they can’t manage one of the hymns so Mrs Russell makes the 4 from the choir sing it alone. Once again I practically sing a solo. I have to do the reading and talk about the work.
Peter walks Doreen, and me home and I get home at about 11.
16 September – We go to see Webster’s play and it is really gorgeous. When we arrive the first people I meet are Claire Judelman and Adele Fisher. Claire tells me about European trip and I tell her I’m here to see my singing teacher. First two acts are good and at the beginning of the third act I see a woman slipping in to the theatre and think it is Anne. Webster comes on – handsome, well-dressed, young-looking – perfect for his role. His diction is glorious, his acting well-timed. He makes the play and when he takes his bow I clap until my hands are red and almost blistered.
I see that Anne slips out the minute the lights go up and I am a little disappointed but when we get outside I see her a little way down the road talking to a fat garrulous man. She is wearing the same dress that she wore on Thursday, flat shoes and straight hair. I go up to her and her face lights up and I tell her, “Oh, Anne, I thought your husband was lovely.” She says, “Oh, I’m so glad you liked him. Did you enjoy the play?” I say, “Oh, yes, it was wonderful. Please tell Webster I thought he was lovely.” She asks if I came with my parents and when she sees them she smiles in charming fashion.
I come home – on air. I believe I enjoyed my little talk with Anne better than anything else that afternoon – except Webster of course. I noticed that she also clapped violently for Webster and laughed loudly at all his jokes. She probably didn’t want to be recognised because she did look a little bit of a sight. The blurb in the programme reads:
17 September – Go and have all my little children for Sunday school. Afterwards I go to Betty’s house with my record (Webster’s actually!) and we listen to Risé Stevens. She has a really thick – or should I say, velvety? – voice. I shall never sing like that. I wish Webster didn’t have such confidence in my voice. I have a nice tea with the Johnsons but feel a bit insulted when Mrs J says that she thinks Webster has a far better voice than Anne and she doesn’t like her. People – especially women of her own age seem to dislike Anne but it’s probably because she’s too attractive for them.
At night we have a guild service and I do the reading which goes off well. Afterwards we have a social and see a film about Liverpool delinquents.
18 September – Letter comes from Aunt Nellie in Scotland and she says her stepson and his wife know my teachers and remember them well. Practise piano and singing.
20 September – Go to piano lesson and all goes well. Mrs S is very affable and we concentrate entirely on the work in hand.
21 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and then go to lunch hour concert. Phillip Levy is the piano soloist. I meet Jill Harry. She doesn’t like her job and is leaving at the end of the month.
Meet Gill Mc D in the street and she is very affable for a change. I go up to studio and Anne arrives late with her hair almost straight. She says that all she seems to do is rush around. She was playing for an exam this morning and what with the Springs eisteddfod she has had “a hell of a week”. She gives me a new exercise to do so that I can get up speed.
She says I must be getting a bit sick of Oh Love so I can start a new song soon. We do Oh Love and on the trill my tongue goes up so I must get it down. We look in the mirror and her tongue goes up too! She says she didn’t pay enough attention to her tongue when she was a girl and now – “at my age I’m having to battle with it. When I’m singing publicly I know that if my tongue goes up my voice will go out of pitch and I’d hate to think that when you get to my age you’ll blame me for not insisting that you keep your tongue down!”
Maureen is ill today so Anne comes down on the lift with me to do some shopping. We talk about the play and I say how lovely I thought it was. She says, “Weren’t you shocked?” I say, no. She says she thought he was very well-cast. “Of course some snobs say that it isn’t real theatre, though, is it? But I think it’s a masterpiece.” She quotes, “Easy to write first and second acts but the third act is the telling one.” She treats me as though she is genuinely fond of me and she always brings out the best in me.
Go to choir and come home and listen to Webster. He starts with Dream of Gerontius sung by Heddle Nash and Dennis Noble. He says, “It may be of interest to you to know that I am going to sing in The Dream in PE in November.” He goes on to Tosca. He plays his own recording from it and two other recordings by the Rome opera company.
He goes on to Merrie England and says, “Anne and I have played Bessie and Raleigh innumerable times.” He plays his recording of the English Rose – one of the loveliest recordings I have heard.
Then he says, “I’m going to let you into a secret. When I first took Anne to the recording studios for a test recording, the song which she sang was Bessie’s Waltz song. When she signed her first contract the company gave me the test record and I have it here with me now.” He says after the record is over, “Not bad for a young beginner, is it?”
Next week he is going to play more from The Dream, Der Rosenkavalier and the White Horse Inn.
23 September – Go into town in the morning and meet Ann and Leona preparing to study in Rhodes Park library. I go to Central library and then to John Orrs. When I come out the first people I meet are Webster and Anne and Lemon. Anne is wearing black and white striped dress. She is terribly sweet and Webster gives me big grin. Lemon dashes around madly. What a lovely surprise. Meet Liz Moir as I’m going down Eloff Street.
27 September – Go for lesson with Mrs S. Her studio houses the Trinity College examinations room. Imagine my surprise when I hear a well-known voice talking to someone, “You’ll have to come and have dinner with us then.” I decide not to greet her in case she thinks I’m taking singing with Mrs S instead of with them.
I have my lesson and Mrs S loads me with work which I shall do. On the bus home I think that I should have greeted Anne for I shall have to mention it to her tomorrow so that she understands that I’m doing piano and not singing with Mrs S.
28 September – I have lunch with Mum and then go to a lovely lunch hour concert – Sonette Heyns sings and Edgar Cree conducts. I meet Jill and Lynn afterwards and we talk for a while.
I kill time in the library for a while and then go up to studio. Anne is wearing a pink striped dress. Middle-aged pupil called Nellie is having a lesson. Webster is playing a recording of his Abide With Me (Liddle) and he says, “I’ll play this for you one Thursday night – say a fortnight from today.
Nellie departs and Webster tells me to go in. Before we start on scales Anne tells me about all the prizes they had won at the Springs eisteddfod. I say, “Were you at the Trinity College examination rooms yesterday?” She says she was, and I tell her I was going for a piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan and I heard her speaking to someone. She said she was speaking to the old examiner from Britain who comes out every year and looks about 90 although he’s only 70!
We start on scales and on one note Webster says, “That was glorious – sing it again!” Over tea I tell Webster rather nervously that I loved his play. He says, “Oh, did you like it? It is fun, isn’t it. Did the others like it?” I say, “Yes, it was lovely.”
Anne says that on that day after the show she went out to see a particular garden. The roof was off on the Hillman and she was wearing flat shoes so she arrived looking a dreadful sight but didn’t expect to see anyone she knew. When she walked in all her friends were there and she felt terribly embarrassed.
We do Roslein and it is agreed that it is an improvement beyond bounds from the last time I sang it. We do Hark, Hark, the Lark and she decides that we should do it. We look at it in one of her books which she has had since school days. He says he hates it for he sang too much of it as a choir boy.
I listen to Webster at night and find complete peace listening to him. He plays a few excerpts from The Dream sung by Heddle Nash and Gladys Ripley. He says he found it very difficult at first but then decided it was the loveliest oratorio of the lot.
Then he goes on to The Rosenkavalier which he sang in 1938 at Covent Garden with Erich Kleiber conducting. He tells the story of Lotte Lehmann’s husband being arrested by the Nazis and she was so upset that she was unable to continue with the performance.
He plays some pieces from The White Horse Inn and says that he spent many happy weeks in the Austrian Alps where the musical is set.
2 August – Another interview – at this rate I will never get the job I want – or even the job I don’t want!
3 August – I am thankful to see Webster looking hale and hearty when I go to studio. I ask how he is and he says in self-pitying little voice, “Well, I’m not as bad as I was but it’s still hanging over me, but I’ll soon shake it off.” He tries to make a cup of tea but a fuse blows so he is upset because we can’t have tea after all. Listen to Dell singing Il Bacio – very well, I must admit. Hear Anne telling her that she started to learn languages as part of her musical training with John Tobin and, of course, she went all over the continent with her family.
Anne tells Dell to sing the last part of the song again and Dells says, “I think I’ve done enough for today, Miss Ziegler – she doesn’t want ME to hear her sing badly. Anne says, “Well, we’ll shut the door!”
When she goes I pay Anne and start on scales. She is thrilled with my tongue in the exercises. We go up quite high – On the high note my voice goes back and she imitates me and then says, “That’s unkind, isn’t it?” and I say, “Yes,” with my tongue in my cheek. She says, “Jean, you’ll have to excuse my hands,” and glances fondly at her lily-white, smooth hands, “But I’ve been gardening like mad yesterday. Someone gave me some plants and they simply had to go in.” I make a polite remark and somehow cannot imagine her digging in the garden.
We start on Oh Love and Anne makes Webster come and sing it with me. He can’t read the words so he sings them incorrectly. She looks around at him and he IS quite injured at being pulled up by her. Anyway, Webster and I get on quite well, but we must have looked a jolly funny couple of duettists as he’s about 43 years older than me. She says I must imagine that I am Delilah, trying to woo Samson and cut his hair off, and look on the aria vulgarly as chorus, verse, chorus, as they do in the jolly old musical comedy. “Singing is like selling Cappuccino stockings in John Orrs. You have to put everything you know into it to sell your songs.” Nice vulgar ideas from an ethereal Sweetheart of Song!
I tell her that I was listening to my voice on the tape and it sounds very cold and she replies with the nice, well-worn lecture, “Smile, use your eyes, have no inhibitions. She writes “Smile” on top of the Delilah song and says, “I should add ‘darn you’ as well, shouldn’t I? Yes?”
I depart and she admires my colour scheme. I say goodbye to Webster and he replies. He’s like a spaniel puppy today.
I go up to choir at night and tell Mr S that I want to sing a solo in the choir sometime. He is delighted and says that he’s crying out for soloists. When we come home, Mr S tells Mrs Weakly that I’m going to sing a solo. I don’t know whether she thinks this is a good idea or not!
Webster at night – I listen and record the programme. He starts off with two items from the Beecham recording of Solomon, a choral piece from the Brahms Requiem to Robert Schumann. Then he plays his own recording from Rigoletto, This One or That One, Care Nome sung by “my old friend, Gwen Catley, one of the most popular coloratura sopranos in Britain.” Gwen Catley has a lovely lyrical voice and she is really gorgeous. Then comes the quartet from Rigoletto – Webster, Edith Coates, Arnold Mattie and Noel Eadie.
King’s Rhapsody. Webster and Anne were asked by Ivor to make duet arrangements of – Someday My Heart will Awake and The Gates of Paradise, and finally We’ll Gather Lilacs from Perchance to Dream.
4 August – At night the guild goes to Fotheringham’s bakery and we have a bread-baking demonstration. I go with Joan, Ann, Dorothy and Mr and Mrs Spargo. Mr S says that instead of gadding about they could be listening to programmes on the radio, “like to your singing teacher, Jean.”
We have an interesting time at the bakery and cakes and drinks afterwards. On the way home Mrs S raves about the Booths. She tells me that she loves his programme. “He’s a lovely, kindly man – is he like that in real life?” “Yes, he’s a honey.”
“Anne Ziegler is sweet too of course. I remember hearing them sing Messiah and they sang it so reverently. They’re a lovely, humble, reverent couple and I love the way he says “Anne and I” on the radio.” They ask where they live and where their studio is and I tell them about singing with Webster yesterday and about his ‘flu. We part on very good terms.
7 August – Go into town to the dentist and meet Muriel Hicks and Michelle Aronstam from Vanderbijlpark. Both are at Teachers’ Training college, as is Janet Lockhart-Ross, and Biddy Lawrence. Jackie Keenan and Irene Stanton are at Natal Varsity. Betsy Draper is doing a Rhodesian matric and Pam Nicolai and Valerie le Cordeur work at Iscor.
8 August. – Go skating in morning and practise in the afternoon. Listen to Ivor Dennis at night and he reaches the very top of my list by playing a record by Webster – by Coleridge-Taylor. He says, “Most of the listeners will probably know that Webster and his charming wife came to settle here some years ago and they are heard often on the radio.” He is a sweet old man and plays very nicely indeed.
10 August – Go for an interview at SABC – very Afrikaans indeed. Talk to Pieter de Waal on the lift. I don’t think I’m going to get a job there!
Go to the studio and Webster answers the door in kindly, unclish fashion. Dell doesn’t do so well today and I am happy – bad me! When I go into the studio Anne is powdering her face and tells me that her eyes feel as though she has been crying for two days. They are happy with my scales and I feel a little more self-confident than I have done lately. Webster says, “Now do the same with Delilah’s aria.”
He makes tea and Anne says brightly, “Let’s have some of the new biscuits. Will you have one, Jean? They’re delicious.” We go on with the Samson and Delilah aria and they say it has improved but I must clip my consonants with the tip of the tongue. Webster is very red in the face today and doesn’t look very well. Anne gives me a few tongue exercises for my consonants and Webster dashes off to put 3d in his parking meter. I tell Anne that I might be starting work soon and what shall I do about lessons? She says that after 5 pm is a busy time but she’ll arrange something – never fear. She sounds reassuring so I hope she can.
11 August – Listen to Webster at night – he doesn’t play any of his own records. First Owen Brannigan singing The Trumpet Shall Sound, something from the Brahms’ Requiem, a chant by a Russian choir, and arias from Othello and songs from Kismet.
17 August – Go for interview at Barclays Bank, Simmond Street. I’m going to start there in October. Have lunch with Mummy and then go to Afrikaans eisteddfod and see about 20 little grade one girls singing – eek!
Go up to studio and Webster answers door and says in funny accent, “Helloo – Sit ye down.” Listen to Dell singing. Anne says something about Dell going to night spots and they suggest she is “hitting the bottle!” Dell goes out. She is wearing a leopard skin coat. I go in and Webster says impudently, “And how is Delilah today?” They are in the throes of the Afrikaans eisteddfod and have had two firsts and a second and hope for a few more prizes tonight. She is dressed to kill in a dress made of coat material.
Scales go quite well and they are pleased with high B. Webster says the Delilah aria is too pedantic and does one of his gruesome imitations. He says I must think of my voice as a ‘cello, and pretends he is playing it. He is funny at times. Anne tells me how much she likes my white hat. She says, “Oh, it’s sweet, isn’t it, Boo?” He studies it for a moment and says that it’s utterly charming. We say goodbye and I grin at Roselle, whose mother is with her. Come down on the lift whistling Only a Rose in complete abandon.
At choir I sing solo 4 times. I am to sing it on Sunday night. Am listening to Webster now. He plays excerpts from La Bohème – him singing Your Tiny Hand is Frozen, then the duet in the last act with Webster and Joan Cross, and a duet with Dennis Noble.
20 August – Practise song for tonight – God help me! Absolutely massive congregation (for our church) about 80 or 90 and I feel grim – cold hands, warm face, and I try to think uplifting and confident thoughts. My doom arrives and I manage through it fairly well if not a bit tremblingly in my own heart.
Everyone in the choir says that it is good and I feel relieved that it is over. Well, that is my first solo over with reasonable success and I don’t think I let my parents or Webster and Anne down too badly. Let’s hope that future solos will be successively one per cent better and that I will actually enjoy singing them. Whew!
21 August – Go to eisteddfod in afternoon at Library theatre. Girls (Form 2) sing solos – My Skat is ‘n Boerseun.
24 August I practise the piano in the morning and then go to the Booths in the afternoon. Webster answers and looking worried, says, “I didn’t even hear you knocking!” We start on scales and they are both delighted – I get B flat comfortably. They make me smile while I’m singing. Webster does this in wicked fashion by mimicking me and then he makes me sing The Lass with the Delicate Air and makes me smile again. High A in this is beautiful and they think so too.
Everything goes well. After about four lines of Delilah aria Anne stops me and I wonder what on earth I have done wrong. Webster looks quite thrilled and says, “That note was absolutely beautiful.” Anne says she had to stop me to tell me so. I feel very flattered. We do the aria again and work through it thoroughly.
Anne says, “You have a really lovely voice but you mustn’t be so mean with it – you must let everyone hear its beauty.” I say, “It must be the Scots in me,” and we all have a good laugh.
Anne says that she’s been using all her spare time for the garden and her hands are in a terrible state – they look like the hands of a charwoman. I look at them – they’re lily-white – so I can’t resist saying that they look very nice. She says they’re very dry and she always puts oil in her bath for them but it still doesn’t help.
Webster goes down to put money in the parking meter. She says they have a recording of Delilah at home so she’ll lend it to me. It is done by Risé Stevens. I say that this is very kind of her.
She has a violent choking fit – swallows saliva wrong way and dashes up and into the kitchen to get some water. While she is there Roselle arrives with friend and I hear her telling Anne that friend has a lovely voice and she’d like Anne to audition her and give her verdict. Friend is evidently very nervous but she still thinks that Anne will put her into an opera right away!
Webster comes back and I finish the aria with reasonable success. Webster tells me, “You may think you look silly, but you don’t.”
Listen to Webster at night. He starts by playing O Thou That Tellest by a counter-tenor. He then plays Lift Up Your Heads by Jo’burg African Choral society. Very well sung indeed. He goes on to La Bohème – a well-known aria on every page. He goes on to Naughty Marietta and then plays, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life “sung by Anne and myself.” Afterwards he says, “Well, that was Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth!” He plays out with the Pizzicato Polka.
He’s singing a solo on Monday night at the Yeoville Presbyterian Church.
26 August – At night I notice Webster’s solo appearamce mentioned in the church columns and also get quite a shock.
The other day when Dell asked if she could change her lesson to Tuesday, Anne said, “Well, it’s OK for this Tuesday but the next week is his first night.” I thought at the time that she meant they were going to Lucia di Lammermoor in Pretoria but it says in the paper tonight that Webster is playing in the West End comedy success The Amorous Prawn as the title character, with Joan Blake and Simon Swindell! I didn’t even know about it. Dad says we can go to see Webster in the play so that’s something to look forward to.
27 August. Sunday school. Mark is very naughty. In the afternoon go to Spargos and have a lovely time. We go for a drive and see Waverley, the block of flats where Webster and Anne used to live. We look in Rosebank shops. When we arrive back Mrs S pumps me with innumerable questions about Webster and Anne – Are they well off? Are they religious? I say I think they’re quite comfortable, that they are Anglicans but I don’t say whether they are religious. After dinner we go to Church. Ann comes and tells me that my singing last Sunday was gorgeous and it was a very difficult thing to sing. Leona says she liked the singing but not the aria! I wonder if the Spargos want Joan to do singing. Poor them – they’d be a little worried if they could see the huge picture of Webster and Anne advertising beer!
Webster, Joan Blake and Ronald Hall in The Amorous Prawn
29 August – Go into town today for an interview with Sylvia Sullivan with whom I’m going to study piano. She has a very nice studio in Edinburgh Court in Von Brandis Street– quite a few rooms to it. She is middle-aged possibly as old as Anne. She is quite plump but very nice. I’m going to start next Wednesday.
I have to go to dentist afterwards so I go into John Orrs to kill time. The first person I see is Dell carrying a big bunch of flowers, with eye shadow plastered indiscriminately round the relevant regions and wearing her artificial leopard skin coat. She is going up to Webster and Anne. She has changed her time – perhaps because she doesn’t want me to hear her singing. She doesn’t see me but I expect she wouldn’t have been very affable had she seen me. I wonder if the flowers were for Anne.
30 August – Have lunch with mum and then pay another call to the dentist. I’ll be glad when it’s all over for another three months. At night I see another picture of Webster in paper with the rest of the cast – Simon Swindell, Gabriel Bayman, Joan Blake and Victor Melleney. Joan B has a protective arm around Webster’s shoulder. Caption is, “Comedy rehearsal is no joke,” and the whole cast looks grim. Webster looks cute with monocle but what will Anne say about Joan B?
31 August – My 18th Birthday. Go for lesson and Anne is wearing a black jersey – very sexy indeed. A girl is there singing an Afrikaans song terribly and they battle over it with her. She tells them that she is having pupils on Saturday from a quarter to eight till 5 in the afternoon. She says she is not a bit nervous about singing because she has been on the stage since she was three. She is singing this song at a wedding and is worried about it. I expect, by the way she talks, that she will be a really gorgeous-looking girl, but she isn’t. She is tall with glasses and I dislike her on sight!
They are both thrilled with my scales but Anne says I must smile. She takes me over to the mirror so that I can practise there and puts her arm around me in protective fashion. I look in the mirror feeling like a cabbage next to her. I don’t really understand why I should smile when I’m singing scales!
We do Delilah aria and Webster says I mustn’t do it like a little girl because I am a grown woman! I say that I’m afraid to sing too loud in case I go out of tune. He says, “Well, you’re here to learn to sing, so sing out of tune!” We go through the aria again with reasonable success. Anne says I must fill in all the vowel sounds for next week to see that I understand which ones I must use. I say, a little sarcastically, that instead of going out at night I can sit at home doing this!
Roselle’s mother phones to say that Roselle can’t come because she has an inflamed throat and has to stay in bed. Anne says to Webster, “I hope you reminded her that it is a five-week month so we won’t be making up the lesson.” No word of sympathy for poor Roselle and her throat.
When I go, I remark that I hope it will soon be cooler and she says, “Oh, but I love the summer. I think it’s gorgeous.”
I listen to Webster on the radio. He starts with the Sanctus from the Solemn Mass by Beethoven with Elisabeth Schwartzkopf and three other German singers. Webster says that the music is very hard on the voice. He plays Malotte’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer sung by himself. Gerald Moore and Bertram Harrison are his accompanists. It is lovely. At this very moment, I am of the opinion that Webster is far more sincere in what he says than Anne. He has Magic Flute as his opera, one of the two operas in which he sang at Covent Garden (NOT the principal role). He plays the opening scene from Gypsy Baron and this is really lovely. Webster forgot to bring the Samson and Delilah record for me. Perhaps he is too busy with the play.
2 February – Work hard at the library – the hours are unbearable so I may be going to business college instead.
3 February – Am definitely going to business college! Have lunch in town with Mum and Dad and then wander around and look in the Belfast – I meet Inge Alexander there and we talk for a while. Practise my piece at night.
4 February – I go for my lesson today. First, I miss the tram and then the lift in Polliacks Building leaves without me and I have to wait for ages for it to return to the ground floor. I imagine I shall be frightfully late, but when I arrive at the studio Webster answers the door with their little Maltese poodle (Lemon) in his arms and he asks me to have a seat. I pet Lemon, and Webster warns me that he goes for ankles. I sit in the kitchen and play with Lemon and listen to them teaching a girl to sing. They all sing together and this make me giggle with Lemon.
Girl – all these other girls seem elusive and nondescript – goes and Anne calls me in and we discuss Lemon. She says that he’s the loveliest pet she’s ever had – she’s crackers over him.
Webster goes out for a while and Anne says to Lemon, “Now come and sit down at my feet and be obedient.” For a moment I forget that Lemon is there and then I realise who she was talking to! I tell her my mistake and we have a good laugh.
Anne says that my diction in the poem is now perfect, but everything must be a hundred percent, “So use yer face and yer eyes!” I endeavour to do this to the best of my ability – impossible! Anne says, “A smile lifts the voice and gives it light and shade.” Webster comes back and she calls to him, “Oh, Boo, this is much better!” and he replies, “Yes, I could hear she was smiling.”
We start on the movement again. 1) Move from waist down. 2) Move knees (flexibility) and 3) Know every move. She asks, “Did you see Lock Up Your Daughters, Jean?”
Feel grim at this and have to lie, “No, I would have loved to of course but we just didn’t seem to find the time.” What a whopper! How could I have told her, “My father didn’t approve of this risque play!” She talks and demonstrates different movements such as the “Cor blimey cockney movement” (as she calls it), the burlesque movement and others. She says, “Come with me towards the mirror, Jean, dear!” Talks about the way Indians and Africans walk. “You must enter a room, stage, anywhere without apologising for living. Even if old Dr Verwoerd comes in, still feel that you are just as good as him!” Yay for Anne’s attitude. Wish I could do all this.
Says I must work out every move beforehand because for two minutes everybody’s attention will be focused on me and the adjudicator will be waiting for me to make a mistake. Says that dozens of people have said to them, “But you and Webster are so natural on stage.” She takes me by the hand and we stand in some corny position in front of it (like foxtrotting at the rink) and she says that they might appear natural but every move is planned and they even know exactly where they will put their feet.
They are going on holiday soon and will be back about the 5 March and she will phone me on the Monday after they get back to make an arrangement for lessons. However, I’m still going to her on Monday afternoon. Shall have to work hard tomorrow.
Anne says she gets rheumatism in her neck – that must be grim. She is wearing exactly the same shoes I bought the other day – I shall never be able to wear them to the studio. Webster says goodbye to me and Anne comes with me to the door, and Lemon is in the offing. Webster says, “The whole family is here today.” They give me practically a whole hour today. They are honeys. Webster looks rather grim in a light white sports jacket.
Meet Mummy and buy a briefcase for college – Harvard Commercial College in Pritchard Street under the direction of Mr Pelkowitz, then we have lunch with Dad and see Make Mine Mink with Terry Thomas and Hattie Jacques which is good!
6 February – I start my commercial course at Harvard Commercial College in President Street, near the library today. I find Jill Harry from school there, so there is a known Jeppe face amongst the other girls who are mainly from the northern suburbs, putting in time until they find a suitable husband. When we come out of college in the afternoon I moon around for an hour, walking round and round the block between John Orrs and Polliacks. I get tired of doing this so I go up to the Booths – terribly early but desperate.
Webster answers the door and takes me into the waiting room cum kitchenette while he dries the dishes. He asks me about college and the brief job in the library and is hang of a sweet. He tells me that he has been walking around town for hours this afternoon in sweltering heat. I ask whether I can help him dry the dishes, but he says resignedly, “No, I’m used to it.” He offers me a cup of tea but I refuse – I’m too tired to live, far less drink tea. While sitting there I think how sweet they are and how horrible everyone else is to be so nasty about them.
I go in at Anne’s bidding – I feel at times as though she’s the Queen granting an audience to a very lowly subject, and she says, “How are you?” I say, “Tired,” which makes a change from “Fine”.
She gets me to do Shall I Compare Thee? and tells me that it is absolutely perfect and she wouldn’t interfere with it in any way. Praise indeed. She spends ages going through the book to find some new ones for me to do while she is away on holiday. Eventually, after a long search – in which time I realise that the photo on the table is of Leslie Green – she chooses three poems – one Scots one – To a Field Mouse, and she makes me read them, sits next to me and listens, then criticises, reads them over herself and says my Scots accent is so cute.
Gets Webster to put the poems on tape – they sound ghastly and she had said, while tape was still running, “Oh, darling, I’ll read this poem too!” We practically kill ourselves when it is played back. Anne says I pitch my voice too high when I start. She says it’s like some of their early speeches where they sounded quite burlesque because of the high pitch of their voices. Webster calls through asking for something. She looks at me in such a puzzled fashion and asks what he said. I say, “Something about ink.” and she calls, “Oh, Boo, we haven’t any.” Poor old Boo!
Anne makes arrangements for my next lesson. I am in credit and she owes me a lesson – 10 March, a whole month away – boo-hoo (no pun intended) and she makes me write down the times. Webster hands me a pen. He checks my phone number and asks what suburb the number stands for – I say Kensington, and he looks enlightened and says, “Oh, of course, Kensington!”
I wish them a lovely holiday and they are pleased. I hope they do have a lovely holiday. They deserve it.
8 February – Listen to Leslie Green and Marjorie Gordon and do homework. Play piano and sing (seriously in both cases) at night. Have worked out three poems starting on Friday thus giving me a week each for two short ones and two weeks for long one. All during this time must keep up Shall I Compare Thee.
9 February – Webster and Anne leave on holiday. Very miserable and rainy but dare say they would leave anyway.
Spend lunchtime on the college veranda with Jill H, Audrey and Lynnette and we consider whether it would be a good idea to spend our lunchtime in the bar across street – decide against it!
Learn Fair Daffodils We Weep to See on tram in about ten minutes – good, eh?
10 February – Meet Doreen Craig on the bus and we discuss the guild outing at the old age home. I am to play a selection of songs. Perhaps I can wangle We’ll Gather Lilacs (Webster and Anne’s song!)
At guild at night we go to Rosettenville church and have mock Olympics which is quite fun. Doreen and I go and return with Mr Russell, the minister. We talk – or gabble would be a better name for our conversation!
18 February – I go to the rink and I’m delighted to see Kay Tilley there after a long absence. Kay is still at college in her second year. She says she thinks Anne is not as good as Webster – the first approving opinion of him I have heard for a long time…
20 February – College once more. Jill tells me that Colleen O’Donaghue has got into varsity. We sit on library steps at lunch. Listen to Leslie Green in the afternoon. He’s sweet.
22 February – I am absent from college today because I still feel ill. It’s worth it thought because I hear Sweethearts sung in Afrikaans (very well) by Webster and Anne. I feel really proud of them. They have wonderful voices no matter what people say.
I was thinking yesterday that the present generation of performers don’t really have much talent – Elvis Presley, Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard etc. earn much more money than Mr MacMillan (British PM) yet they’re positively amateurish compared with the Booths. Even now, in middle age, they are wonderful. Britain doesn’t know what they’re missing not to have them living there any more. It is sad that they should have had to come to South Africa to make a living – and even here they are constantly criticised by ignorant people.
23 February – I practise for our concert at the Old Folks Home. Doreen phones to talk about this and I feel as though I’m preparing for a first night at the London Palladium.
24 February – College goes well as always. At home I read the autobiography of Noel Coward which doesn’t cheer me up any owing to talk of bad performances of his which took place in London theatres, and don’t really apply to playing at old folks’ home!
Go up to guild at night feeling vaguely theatrical. I am first, with Doreen a close second. We speak to Peter Casteling and he agrees to lead the singing and is very affable. Doreen organises lifts for us – Peter, me, and Doreen go with Mr Russell. At OPH we hear great hilarity – old people are already singing to the accompaniment of an old lady who plays extremely well. Peter C leads the singing. When singing Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ he says, “Now lets give it big licks for the benefit of our Scottish pianist!” Dave shows slides; Kippy gives a talk, and I play hymns. Then, while we are having tea, the old lady plays again – a bit loudly, but still very well indeed. Peter asks me to play again. I do so because of vague recollections that an artist must never play hard to get, and also because I want to shove all the songs the Booths sing down their ears! Play We’ll Gather Lilacs, Operette, and Only a Rose (Webster and Anne’s signature tune).
Joan and Doreen tell me with great surprise, “You played so well tonight.” Obviously a good piano and a lively imagination contributed to that. Peter says, when he introduces me for a second time, “I don’t think I’ve introduced you properly to our Scottish pianist, born at the bottom of the banks of Loch Lomond – Miss Jean Campbell!” All very nice in a terribly small way I know, but how I’d love to revel in things like that often. I wouldn’t be a pianist of course, but an actress – professional at that! But these are dreams that will probably never come true. In the meantime, I shall have to make do with giving speeches at guild, playing at old folks’ homes, spouting poetry at eisteddfods (if I don’t go dry-mouthed) and doing speech with Anne. Webster and Anne are the luckiest people I know. They have had world-fame and respect, and now they are still great celebrities over here.
March Ann, Brian and Mr and Mrs Stratton come at night. Mr S goes back home to fetch music and comes back with it to sing for us while I play. He has a lovely baritone voice. When Ann is in my room she sees picture of Anne and says, “What a lovely picture of Anne Ziegler!” She has never mentioned Anne before – except with derision!
3 March – I get Gill McDade home on the tram. We talk theatre. I am put off when she tells me that Lock Up Your Daughters was wonderful except for Anne who gave her the shivers because she yelled far too much. I tell her that I expect the play was terrible and that Anne is sweet and a real darling. I should like to know how they achieved such fame and popularity when everybody I know seems to have terrible vindictive downs against them.
4 March – Go to the ice rink today and Susan comes. I skate for a time and then get the shock of my life when I see Gwyn Jones arriving, complete with Springbok colours blazer – whew! I go in and tell Sue about his arrival and we both talk to him for ages. He was allowed into the rink again on Tuesday. I’m glad to see him back. Says he had a gorgeous time in Scotland and at the Olympics and didn’t need any oxygen. He shows us various routines – very good, considering how long he’s been away from skating. We talk about the Goon Show and Peter Sellers. I mimic his Scottish accent in recent film – terrific fun. Gwyn carries on madly on ice.
5 March Booths are back from their holiday today!
7 March – George Formby dies.
8 March – Sir Thomas Beecham dies. Wendy phones at night about Cliff Richard and so does Peter (hymns – 4!).
9 March – Cliff Richard arrives today – mobbing outside Carlton in evidence from the morning.
10 March – After college I come home in terrible rain and then – the time I have looked forward to for a month arrives – I go for my lesson with the Booths. When I arrive I bang on the door and nobody answers. I begin to think vile thoughts, thinking they have forgotten me again, and decide to wait until five past five and then leave. A number of prospective models arrive for Madge Wallace’s modelling school next door and they eye me and I eye them with mutual disdain. Madge Wallace comes out and asks whether I’m waiting for her.
I say, “No, actually I’m waiting for the Booths, but as it’s five I doubt whether they’ll come now.”
She says, “Yes, they will, but they’re always late. Why not take a seat in my studio until they arrive and watch the models.” I do this – models are still extremely disdainful, but the seat is very welcome. Eventually I see Anne at the door of her studio and forget all social graces and go out to Anne who was looking a bit worried. Maybe she thought I had changed studios and was going to take up modelling instead!
Anyway, she is a honey as always – quite brown after holiday and wearing sunglasses. She says their holiday was gorgeous. I go into the studio and sit on studio couch and look at these infernal pictures. I say infernal because they all reflect their fame which I shall never achieve! I hear someone clearing their throat at the door – Webster Booth!
Never in all my living experience can I describe what a shock I receive when I see him – he has grown a beard! I ask you – a beard! A horrible bristly beard, very grey which clashes with the colour of his hair, and moustache. I hope I didn’t let my feeling of horror show. I ask him how he enjoyed his holiday and he talks through his teeth with ecstasy, “It was wonderful,” he says.
Anne and I start on Shall I? and she says it is good but I must have no inhibitions, shyness, or embarrassment of any kind. (Q. Am I showing all those negatives?) We do the other Shakespearean sonnet, Being Your Slave and suddenly she decides that I do that far better than the other. She says, “I’m almost tempted… What do you think Boo, don’t you think Jean could do this better for the eisteddfod?”
He says, “Is it a sonnet?”
“Yes, it’s got fourteen lines.”
“But Anne, are you sure it hasn’t got fourteen lines by accident?”
She asks me what I think – I don’t really mind. She says, “It’s much less hackneyed, but I must smile when I do it. She makes me walk into the room smiling and makes me look at myself in the mirror – I always look vile in their mirrors! She says, “Walk on your toes, head up, shoulders down, and a slight movement of hips wouldn’t go amiss!”
Begins to wax eloquent and continues, “There’s nothing so attractive as seeing a beautiful girl walking on to a stage with a lovely smile. Even if the adjudicator doesn’t smile back, don’t worry – he won’t be in the Profession. A person in the Profession would always smile back at you. In Springs when I was adjudicating I smiled at every contestant just to cheer them up!”
At the end of my lesson she says to me, “You have a lovely face, so smile!” Gives me a big grin which I reciprocate in practised manner and feel quite touched at her good acting. During the whole session Webster chipped in once to say I must clip off “world-without-end-hour”. She says that my diction is good but I can afford to be less pedantic now. Both come with me to the door. A rather nice chap is waiting for his lesson – gives me a grin – sweet! Say bye-bye about a dozen times. (Must remember to say cheerio) and then get lift and come down.
See their car with its GB plate – after five years one would think they might remove it. It’s a green Zephyr – that is, it isn’t a Jag, Rolls or a Mercedes like Daphne Darras’s father, but still, its theirs!
11 March Go to rink. Sue comes and while she, I and Carol Ann (little American) are sitting in cloakroom Mrs Nicholls (Denise’s mother) comes in and tells us that Lennie and Glenda have won British junior pairs championships. She is nearly crying with excitement and I must say that a lump comes to my throat too. Sue and I are utterly thrilled and say so. Good show!
We go out and talk to Gwyn about it, and I must say, that he takes it all in good heart and says how terrific it is. Go on ice and talk to Neill about it too and we are all thrilled. Menina Klein comes and we talk – I tell her about Webster and Anne and she nearly does her nut over them, telling me how lucky I am and how famous they are.
Gwyn is as mad as usual and carries on on the ice wonderfully. Sue has (at least her dad has) a new car and she wants a name for it. Gwyn says in disgustingly – or should I say – deliciously rude manner – why not a chemical formula: ShoneT! My goodness! Says he saw Cliff last night – he thought him good but too screamy. Sue skates gorgeously as usual and so does Gwyn. We fool about and make spectacles of ourselves – everyone watches us – wonderful fun! Neill buys me a cold drink and is sweet but a terrible bragger. Still, he is cute. Afterwards I walk down the road with him and catch a bus on the other side of the road. Lovely morning and am thrilled about Lennie and Glenda.
14 March College – fine. Come into town again and wait outside the Carlton for Wendy to go to see Cliff Richard. Girls and boys are waiting for Cliff to come out of the hotel – all in vain. Wendy comes and we have supper in the Capinero and talk to Carol Balfour afterwards.
Go to Coliseum and feel the atmosphere! Show is very good and so are supporting turns, especially young comedian, Norman Vaughan – amusing and can play the guitar, tap and sing. Cliff and Shadows are lovely and we all clap to the beat. I really enjoyed it, although, on reflection, I prefer Tommy Steele but Cliff is good fun.
17 March. College. We are all thankful for the weekend ahead. I come home with Ann and Colleen O’Donaghue. Talk is centred around college and all the projects Ann has to do for Teacher’s Training College. I come back to town in rather a strange frame of mind and feel rather a failure theatrically speaking. Go up on the lift and think they probably won’t be there yet, so I knock. I am shocked when I realise that somebody is singing and I’ve interrupted them.
Webster answers door – still with beard – and is affable. Takes me into the kitchen and asks me if I want a cup of black tea. I decide to accept so he tells me to help myself. I do so and he disappears. I drink tea and then wash and dry spoon, cup and saucer.
Girl – her name is Roselle – sings Someday My Heart will Awake really gloriously and touches high A with great ease – the sort of singing that touches the heart. Anne says, “Very cheap, very common, but lovely.” After lesson, Roselle tells Webster and Anne she loves singing far more than the piano and could give her whole life to it. She is very eloquent about the whole thing – something I could never be. I am very surprised when I see that Roselle is only a girl of about fourteen – very plain and a bit stodgy, but my goodness, her voice will be her fortune.
I go in next – an anti-climax for all – and say that Roselle’s voice is too gorgeous for words. They are both enthusiastic about it too and enlarge on her. She could only sing to the A above middle C when she first came but can now reach high A. Has a great future if she’ll work. She loves singing and is very musical. Webster says, “The day she came, I knew she was going to be good. She has a voice like an adult.” (He places the accent on the ULT)
Webster gives me a long lecture. “When I was young, the famous character actor, Bransby Williams gave me a tip. He said, “When you walk onto the stage, feel proud of yourself as if you’re just as good – if not better – than anybody else. It’s something I have never forgotten.” He gives a demonstration of Bransby Williams walking onto the stage.
Anne says, “He wouldn’t have been so arrogant, Boo.”
“He wasn’t arrogant, but he was self-assured.”
I tell them that I don’t feel nervous on the stage in a play, only when I’m doing something by myself. They say that is understandable, but one must be able to be a soloist as well as an actor. Anne says that she has to accompany some of the singers and she feels nervous. How unusual! On leaving, Webster says I shall have to get onto some plays – very good idea. I’m sick of spouting poetry…
18 March Copy music, play piano and listen to radio in morning. Go to lunch with Mum and Dad in and then we go to see Midnight Lace with Doris Day and Rex Harrison. It is a really good thriller – Doris Day excels herself in this dramatic role. Rex Harrison is excellent too with beautiful diction.
When we come home I see Jeppe girls coming from the swimming gala. I talk to Dawn Vivian and she tells me that Jeppe came seventh out of nine! Parktown came first – watch out for bragging at college on Monday! Girls are far more demure than usual – Miss Reid and Miss Allen are following them in their car to keep order!
21 March College. Mr Pelkowitz says it’s OK for tomorrow – prize-giving at school so shall have a holiday. Wendy phones this evening and we discuss the prize giving. I am meeting her tomorrow at 9.45. It will be funny going back to school again.
Play the piano and then listen to the radio. I am barely seated at the radio when the phone rings again. I wonder if it is Wendy phoning again and wonder what on earth she wants.
Voice, which isn’t Wendy’s says, “Hello, is that Jean speaking?” I reply “Yes,” and wonder if it is Mrs Watt or Mrs Corrigan. Then mysterious voice says, “Oh, Jean this is Anne Ziegler speaking.” I nearly die on the spot. My heart jumps into my throat and I say in surprised voice, “Oh, good evening.”
“I just phoned about your lesson, Jean. Do you think you could possibly make it Thursday instead of Friday?”
“Yes, Mrs Booth – that would be fine – what time?”
“Four o’clock – would that suit you?”
“Yes, that’ll be perfect.” I reply in slightly dazed tone.
“Well, goodbye, Jean. We’ll see you then. Don’t forget – Thursday 4 o’clock.”
“Goodbye,” I reply in cheerful yet distraught fashion.
I go through to the lounge feeling a great shock, but it’s rather a nice feeling really. Can I forget, “This is Anne Ziegler,” – To have a name so famous and to use it so carelessly. I don’t know what or why it is, but when I speak to them I forget their fame and their singing, but this incident gives me a gentle reminder of who they are – not Webster and Anne as they have become to me, but Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, the famous singers.
22 March. We have prize-giving today. It is very strange returning to school – seeing the girls again. Winnie, Gay and Hazel J are nurses. Sit next to Claire J and Audrey D. Miss Reid’s report on last year’s events is cold and impartial – take a deep breath at mention of Miss Scott (who taught us English so brilliantly for a term). We get our prizes (matric certificate!) and talk. Gill Clarke is there – gushing and facetious as usual – utterly charming all the same.
Go into town and Mum buys a tangerine jacket for me in the Belfast – lovely.
While dad is twiddling with the radio he comes across a well-known voice on the English programme – Webster presenting a new programme – Webster Booth presents opera, oratorio and operetta. It is lovely to hear his voice on the radio unexpectedly and to know that I know him. He reminisces about his youth – born in Birmingham then advised to go for audition at Lincoln Cathedral school which would give him a free education. He was accepted and became a boy chorister, trained by Piggy (nicknamed because he snorted while he was conducting). Life at Lincoln gave him a rigorous musical training for four years until he was thirteen when his voice broke. He was told, “Don’t sing for two years and then you’ll be a tenor.” He followed the advice, but he hoped to be a bass rather than a tenor. He says in typical Webster manner, “I have made 350 solo recordings and many duets with Anne Ziegler.”
He fills this talk in with record he has made – religious aria, aria from Carmen and several others – oh, yes – How Lovely are Thy Dwellings. He plays some Gilbert and Sullivan overtures too. It is a gorgeous programme – not only because it’s him but because he’s so interesting and presents himself so well, and because his singing is beautiful and cannot be surpassed. Please let me have the courage to tell him that his programme was wonderful when I see him tomorrow. No one who has good taste can deny that!
23 March Go to college again and work hard and feel dead by the end of it all. I kill time for an hour in Anstey’s and then meander slowly up to the studio, feeling quite strange in the lift as I usually do.
Anne arrives after me and is charming as usual. She admires my tangerine jersey acquired yesterday. We go in and I sit down for a minute and look at the photos. She sits down and I do poem – swallow “per chance” for some reason – perhaps because Webster opens the door at that very moment. Webster stampedes – that’s the word for it – in, and it takes him a few seconds to realise that I’m there! He says, “Oh, hello Jean. I didn’t realise you were there!” I ask you!
He says that six weeks ago he wrote to hire a wig and it didn’t arrive, and now he has had a letter to say would he please return it. He is furious and goes into the office to phone up about it.
Anne tells me that they haven’t had any tickets for the eisteddfod. How can people make arrangements for Easter with this infernal eisteddfod looming? Their maid is going into hospital for a tonsillitis operation so she won’t have any help in the house. She has to come into town for eisteddfod about nine times, so doesn’t know what to do.
She says that if I’m nervous I should take deep breaths as this is very calming. Swears, using hell in one of its forms – can’t remember what exactly she says! She says it’s time I started on plays now. She pores over innumerable scripts and brings out Spring Quartet – they were in it in Cape Town when they first arrived in the country in 1956. She explains the plot to me and I do the part of a Scottish girl in Austria while she reads all the other parts. It is gorgeous acting with her. She says that Scottish comes very naturally to me so she’d like me to try something else. She finds And So to Bed when the phone rings and Webster looks up the part – Mistress Pepys – and hands it to me after much searching. They played Mistress Knight and King Charles II in the touring production in the UK in 1953/54. She comes back from the phone and tells me that I should take the script home and study Mistress Pepys which should be done with a slight French accent.
She’ll phone me if she gets any news of the eisteddfod. I say goodbye and shout goodbye to Webster who is in the office. He is affable in a dazed fashion and shouts, “Oh, goodbye, Jean.”
Armed with the script which they had used at the height of their fame – I walk down Eloff Street feeling spontaneous and happy. I glance through the script on the bus and laugh at some remarks Anne had written in the back of it.
Betty phones at night – Peter, 1 o’clock on Saturday – coming here. And now, as Pepys would say, “Goodnight, sweet dreams and so to bed!”
25 March Go to visit Mr and Mrs Jones who have stand at Hartebeespoort Dam with rest of teachers. We have a really gorgeous time. I go with Fred Shaw, Joan Spargo, Wendy Price-Williams and Dorothy Shaw – houseboat in wilderness of shrubs adjoining the dam – really beautiful. Ann, Peter, Leona are already there when we arrive. Mr Jones is a local preacher who preached once at our church.
Go home eventually with Fred. Peter comes too and we sing on the way home. Peter has a good voice – should have it trained with Webster! We discuss them. Wendy says how wonderful it was when they sang Wunderbar at church concert, and she loved it when Anne said to Webster, “Just wait till I get you home!”
We all sing this and other songs and Wendy tells me I have a wonderful voice – I should join the choir – says this so sincerely it fairly bucks me up. I adore singing. I put my heart and soul into it – I love it!
29 March Webster with his gorgeous programme again – it has been renamed On Wings of Song and it is introduced with the Booths’ recording of the song. Webster sounds familiar and yet a complete stranger.
He tells of applying for the post of tenor soloist at a certain cathedral, but turned it down for the salary of £200 a year was too low. He started his singing training with Dr Richard Wassall and started to sing tenor solos in the choir.
While working in an accountant’s office, he gets offers from oratorio agents and began singing all over the country – including in Wales and Scotland – and so became reasonably well-known in oratorio circles.
He is proud that he sang with Harold Williams, whom he considers to be the baritone of his generation. He plays some of his own recordings, all conducted by “my old friend, Sir Malcolm Sargent”. He also plays the overture to Merrie England, in which he took the tenor lead with Dr Wassall.
He makes all this so interesting and his records are beautiful – plays arias from Messiah and Elijah and other songs. What a man, what a voice and how nice he really is. To think I’ll see him tomorrow and he will once more become that rather vague person, dominated by Anne.
30 March Go for lesson. Arrive early and hear snuffles of Lemon at the door. Man who has come up on the lift with me comes into the studio too. I go in and Webster holds Lemon in his arms and asks customary question, “Are you wearing stockings?” I say, “Yes, but please put Lemon down.” I play with him – what a sweetie. Anne comes into kitchen looking too beautiful for words in red and white sheath dress and she tells me she is dead tired because of all the work she had to do at home without the maid who has gone into hospital for her tonsil operation. Between the worry of the eisteddfod and the heat, she’s dead beat. She takes me into the studio and Webster introduces me to the man called André van der Merwe. He says, “We’re sorry we haven’t been able to spend more time with you while you were here,” and A vd M departs – saddened, me thinks.
Anne gives me tickets for the eisteddfod and says she doesn’t know if she’ll manage to be there to hear me. Webster disappears to make tea. She says that she’ll have to accompany a singer in the Duncan Hall, so she isn’t quite sure… I say, “Anne, please don’t come. I shan’t feel so badly if you’re not there.” She laughs and says that she’s sure I shan’t do anything badly. Now I come to think of it, I don’t suppose she has any intention of coming to hear me recite the silly poem at the eisteddfod!
Webster returns and Anne searches for her And So to Bed script. I realise that this is the moment, so I say, “I thought your programme was terrific last night, Webster.” He turns around and says, “Oh, thank you, but I wasn’t too happy with it last night. I could hardly hear it either with the crowd around the radio. I was better pleased with the first one, but next week is a nice one.” I assure him that I enjoyed both of them and he is obviously pleased, but tries to appear nonchalant.
Anne takes me over and shows me pictures of And So to Bed. Mistress Pepys with Charles and Pepys (played by Leslie Henson) with Anne looking as gorgeous as anything. I make appropriate remarks and then we start. Webster promises to do Charles, but we don’t get that far. I really enjoy doing the play with Anne. She’s terribly vulgar in explaining character – be bitchy and wish the other woman to hell. She seems pleased with my acting and French accent. She says that I pick up my cues well and I obviously have been taught to do this. Webster turns around and says that I do it very well and could do the part anywhere – rather a compliment coming from him when he usually tries to criticise me.
In the middle of this there is a knock at the door and a stodgy little girl of about nine enters the room. Anne’s expression changes to ice and she says in a horribly cold voice, “Oh, it’s you Sally. You had better sit in the kitchen for a while.”
Anne tells me that this kid hasn’t turned up for her lesson for six weeks and yesterday her mother phoned up for a lesson for her today. Anne was flaming mad, but said, “OK, 3.30.” She didn’t turn up then and has turned up now and they are expecting someone else after me. Webster comes in and Anne says flatly that Sally can’t have a lesson today. We continue with our play without further disturbance and all is convivial.
During tea a discussion arises about different teas. Anne says that in Britain they used to drink Indian tea and she loathes Ceylon tea. She has discovered an imported blend in Thrupps, and compared to it, this tea tastes like DDT. Webster says, “What nonsense,” and I am inclined to agree with him but more politely. When I leave they both wish me luck. I say goodbye to Webster and Lemon. and Anne comes with me to the door and wishes me luck yet again and see I win a prize! I shan’t! What pets they are. Anne tells me how she loved Daddy’s Scots accent.
7 January 1960 – Today Gillian McDade (last year’s head girl at Jeppe) phones me and I congratulate her on her first class matric pass. She promises to sell me her Ridout English textbook and asks me to usher with her at the Reps theatre (later the Alexander) for The Glass Slipper and I accept with thanks.
I meet her on the tram and she tells me about her holiday with Margaret Robson. We get to the Reps and see Miss Jacobson with her nephew. We usher the audience to their seats. The house is full so we sit on the carpeted steps of the side aisle to watch the play which is really marvellous. Anne Ziegler as the Fairy Godmother is my favourite, and boy, has she got a voice!
24 April 1960 – Have a quiet morning and finish knitting my new pullover which is a fair success. In the afternoon I go with dad and the dog, Shandy to his work for him to check up on something and then we go for a run to Alberton and Germiston.
Listen to Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in the last programme of the series Do You Remember? on Springbok Radio. They say they have a tiny cottage in Craighall Park, and are sorry to end their programme because they have been happy to share their reminiscences with everyone. As George Moore says afterwards, we seem to be saying goodbye to everybody today. All the things that we know and love are taken away and replaced by something new, but we will always feel nostalgia for what has gone.
26 May 1960 (Ascension Day) – Have a quiet day but have calls from Mr Moody and Mrs McDonald-Rouse asking us to go to a Caledonian concert on Saturday night. It’s going to be a very busy weekend for Friday night is our church Variety concert with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.
27 May 1960 – Go to confirmation class but only Ann Stratton, Rosemary Nixon and I arrive so we don’t have it. I have my autograph book handy and learn that Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth have to leave straight after the first half of the show, so Ann promises that she will come with me backstage. The harmonica band and the accordion band are excellent. Dawn Berrange, the girl ventriloquist is really talented and witty.
Then came Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, and I promise you, they are fabulous. She wears a gorgeous tangerine sheath dress with sequins, very low cut with a wide panel at the back. Her hands are very long and slim and she wears a large diamond ring. He wears tails and seems to be growing a moustache. Their turn was honestly wonderful and they sang terrific songs, including Ivor Novello’s My Dearest Dear, I Can Give You the Starlight, Fold your Wings – all the songs I try to sing but the notes are too high for me. They fool about a bit and she is very piquant and fun. They may be losing their voices, as everyone tells me, but certainly not their charm.
As soon as their performance is over Ann and I rush out and wait by the vestry to catch them as they leave, but eventually Ann leaves me alone to go and serve tea. Anne comes out first and I ask for her autograph. She says, “Why certainly,” and proceeds to sign my book. She is very nice and not at all standoffish. He comes along after her and says that we had better go into the vestry so that he can sign my book. By this stage, I was in such a flap that I am going to let him go into the vestry before me, but he stood behind like a gentleman and ushered me into the vestry where he signed my book. After this, they were ushered out through the church. They are fabulous!
It was a great concert and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was such a lovely day: Cookie Matthews back at the ice rink, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth…
5 October. Picture of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth together with David Davies advertising their Afrikaans LP in paper at night.
l0 October See Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’s long: player in one of the shops. Looks quite nice but how does one sing We’ll Gather Lilacs in Afrikaans? I write to them at night to ask about a place in their singing school. Here’s hopin’!
l7 October. Swot in afternoon and read the paper at night. There is a photo of Rosalind Fuller in it, looking charming. Also there is a rather strange article about Webster Booth. Evidently he went to a talent show incognito as Charlie Eastwood. He sang, and then the audience was told who he was! Incidentally “Eastwood” is his wife”s maiden name. Her stage name is Anne Ziegler. Very strange this!
4 December. Come home with Wendy Scott-Hayward, feeling rather sad about leaving school.
When I arrive, Mum phones and tells me she phoned Anne Ziegler! Says that Anne was charming and I have to go to see her on Thursday evening. I am thrilled. Mum says she has an English accent and is sweet.
Mummy says that Anne Ziegler was very friendly and conversation went more or less like this:
M. I understand, you run a school of Singing and Stagecraft. My daughter is interested in doing drama.
A. Oh yes, speech training. How old is she?
A. Oh lovely. What’s her name?
M. Jean Campbell.
A. Oh, what a lovely Scots name!
They go on to make an appointment. I have to go at 5.30 to the studio on Thursday. I’m so nervous!
8 December 1960 Johannesburg.
I meet Mum in the Capinero restaurant and we have something to eat which I can hardly digest owing to extreme excitement, and then we proceed to Polliacks building and go up to the eighth floor on a horrifying lift. When we arrive outside the studio we can hear a girl singing so we wait till the singing stops before we knock. Anne comes to the door herself and is very bright with gingery-blonde hair, big blue-green eyes with lots of eye make-up on, wearing a striped dress. She is taller than I imagined her to be and she says, “Oh, please take a seat in there,” pointing to a kitchenette with a washbasin. “I”ll be with you in a minute.” We sit in kitchenette and listen to her teaching the girl to sing. Anne has a strong, purposeful voice with a touch of English accent. She’s from Liverpool originally but it doesn’t sound as though she has any traces of a Liverpool accent.
After fifteen minutes the girl leaves and Anne takes us into her large studio which has a grand piano at one end, a big mirror at the other and a divan (converted into a studio couch) against the wall. On the wall behind the studio couch are a whole lot of photographs of her and Webster in different shows, featured with various celebrities, and an excellent cartoon of him. She apologises for keeping us and says that her husband is in Port Elizabeth at the moment, so she has to cope alone. She says, “He’s singing Messiah tonight and it will be broadcast on the English programme”.
She asks what I want to do and I tell her “Drama,” and she asks, “Will I have to get rid of a dreadful South African accent?” I say that I am from Scotland and she says, “Yes, I think you have more of a Scottish accent than a South African one. You have a really good Scottish background.” We discuss suitable times for lessons and she says, “Next week I”ll be rehearsing like mad for my play at the Playhouse and I don’t want to mess you around, so can you start the week before Christmas?” I say yes, any time, then she looks up her appointment book and asks if Thursday 22nd would suit. “Yes, certainly.” She says that she finds it difficult to get S Africans to sound “h” as in hark and also the vowel sounds are difficult. She tells me that singing is merely an advanced form of talking – merely!
We get up to depart and she says to me suddenly, “You’ve got a lovely face.” I nearly faint on the spot. Mum says archly, “She doesn’t think so.” Anne stares at me and says, “0h, but she has, and a lovely smile too. Make the most of it!” Oh, brother! She apologises again for keeping us waiting and wishes us goodbye. She’s a honey!
I’ve never met or spoken to anyone as famous as that before and I thought I should be frightfully nervous and that she would be snooty and standoffish, but truly, I felt at home with her. My heart didn’t jump wildly in my mouth as it has done for lesser people. I’m sure I shall get on very well with her. She tells me to bring a Shakespeare and poetry, so here’s hoping. Perhaps this is the start of something new. All I can say is, that Anne Ziegler is a regular honey.
22 December 1960. Go into town in the morning and get Gill Mc D on the tram and it feels like old times – drama groups etc. We talk of the theatre. She tells me that Percy Tucker says that people with clean minds book for Jack and the Beanstalk whereas the dirty-minded book for Lock Up Your Daughters!
Go up to Polliacks eighth floor (trying to tell this impartially) – knock at the door about a dozen, times but there is no answer: Begin to feel furious and ready to scream with wrath when suddenly Webster appears, armed with briefcase. He looks at me quizzically and I say to him that I am meant to be having a lesson. He is mystified but quite charming. He takes me in and apologises for being late – traffic was so bad. He then goes into the little office and looks up his appointment book and comes out looking a bit frustrated and tells me that my lesson is down with his wife and she didn’t come in this morning.
I look at him rather coldly and he tells me that she’s in a play, you know, yes I do. Well, last night it went very badly and she is in a real fandangle about it and has to go to an extra rehearsal in the afternoon and is most upset. She did mean to come into the Studio in the morning but because of the rehearsal in the afternoon she didn’t. He will phone her.
I hear him talking to the maid, “Hilda, is the madam in?”
Evidently the madam is not in so after great confusion over finding telephone numbers, he phones Heather McDonald-Rouse and says, “Oh, Heather, is Anne there?”
Anne is there for they have a conversation and he does not seem exactly pleased with her. He comes out and says, “Anne just doesn’t know what to say, she’s so ashamed!” He asks if I could come next week and says, “I’ll make a big cross next to your name for next time.” Naturally, I have to agree and he asks if I came from far. I say, “Not particularly,” rather dryly. He apologises once again – more apologetically than ever – and says that he would take me himself but he is frightened that Anne would not approve of what he might give me. He is, on the whole, quite charming and genuinely upset about his wife’s behaviour, but I am very disappointed. I can’t help it – I just never believed that she would forget!
However, I have met Webster so that’s something. He is very nice, with rather a red face, and his speaking voice is beautiful – just as it is when he speaks over the radio.
29 December 1960 – Go for a lesson today with Anne. When I go up to the studio I hear rather good piano playing which is either him or her because Anne answers the door and he is in the studio. She apologises for last week and I say that it was quite all right. The Press, in the form of a girl reporter and male photographer, arrive so I retire to kitchenette till they leave. They ask her whether she would like to go back to Britain and she says she would like to see her friends again, and the snow. Says that she thinks that theatre audiences here could be more spontaneous and not so complacent. She talks a bit more about the theatre and reporter asks if she has any vices. She says, “Well I don”t smoke and I drink very moderately,” and interview ends.
Anne calls me in and is hang of a sweet, tells me to relax and read She Walks in Beauty. I do this with her sitting next to me, making me feel a wee bit nervous.
She says it is fairly good and she will record my voice so that I’ll be able to hear my mistakes. When one goes on the stage one must not give a hint as to where one comes from. She was born and bred in Lancashire but she hopes she doesn’t sound like a Lancastrian on stage. Webster was born in Birmingham and only when he is in a paddy does he reveal his accent. She doesn’t want to kill my Scots accent but on the stage..
Anne makes me read She Walks in Beauty on the tape and I hear it played; she points out faults in my vowels and then she reads it – really beautifully – and makes me read it again and says it is an improvement. Webster says that he thinks my diction is very good and looks impressed. She says that I must use my face for expression and goes over the poem again, bringing out the meaning in the words.
She says that I must learn to breathe properly. She puts her hands on my ribs and tells me to take a deep breath. I do this and then she tells me to put my hands on her ribs to feel how deep a breath she takes. Honestly! Her ribs expand like anything! No wonder she has a beautiful voice. She makes me do it again so that the upper part of my chest does not move and says that I shall have to practise in front of a mirror in the morning – naked to see that I only move ribs out to the side!
She says I must learn the poem by heart and gives me an exercise to improve breathing which requires the use of vocal cords! Webster says, “Surely she is good enough not to need that exercise,” but Anne says, “It will do her good to improve her breathing.” She thinks I am going to get on well and comes with me to the door and wishes me a happy New Year. I say, “The same to you,” and depart happy.
She is very vivacious and completely natural. I have to go for a lesson next Tuesday at 11.30 – as if I could forget. She has had her hair rinsed and it is now auburn, but she is very beautiful still with utterly gorgeous blue eyes. Webster is nice too of course, but he does not have half the vivacity she possesses. She is adorable.
I will not describe my future lessons full, but I thought I’d include this extract as it was my very first lesson with the Booths.