1 May – I go to the Durban icerink in the morning. It is delightfully modern and I skate well.
2 May – We go to the beach in the morning and swim in the surf. We meet Lyndith Irvine and her parents there. They live in Salisbury now. Dad and I see Light on the Piazza in the afternoon and at night the Irvines visit us at the hotel and I play the piano.
3 May – Am listening to Drawing Room with Peggy Haddon and Anna Bender playing duets. Webster says, “I give you – the misses Haddon and Bender!” Signor Vitali plays the trumpet – he remarked on the wonderful playing when we met him on that memorable evening last month. He says, “Wonderful! You make it sound so easy.” After Sarie Lamprecht sings, he says, “Bravo, Miss Lamprecht! That was quite charming.” He sings three Irish songs – the Ballymure Ballad, Trottin’ to the Fair and Maira, My Girl. I wish I could have recorded them.
Dad and I have a swim in the afternoon.
4 May – We go to the beach in the morning and have fun in the surf. I am beginning to tan.
At night we go to the Irvines’ hotel and listen to a small band in stuffy “intimate” lounge. Lyndith has a Crème de Menthe. They went to the Oyster Box today. They also visited Anne Ahlers (friend of Penny Berrington)
5 May – Go to town and postcards to friends and then see The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Good in parts – like the curate’s egg!
The Irvines phone to say the Webbs have arrived so we go to their hotel to see them. Jackie Keenan is with them. I play the piano in the lounge after walk.
6 May – Go to the beach in the morning and then it starts to rain. After lunch I have a rest and then play the “pianoforte” in the “drawing room”!
I listen to Webster at night. He continues with the Mikado.
7 May – Go to town and have lunch in Paynes department store and swim in the afternoon.
8 May – Swim in the surf. Dad and I see The Guns of Navaronne, with Gregory Peck and David Niven.
I am now listening to the Norma Broadcast – the one we did in Afrikaans at the Aula. Mimi is excellent but Jossie B sounds very worried and a little flat.
9 May – Go to town and have tea in Paynes. In the afternoon go on a coach tour to Umhlanga Rocks . We stop at the Chevron Hotel for tea and go onto the beach which is lovely. We pass through Glen Ashley (where Miss Ursula Scott lives).
I listen to Drawing Room (the second programme with Anne singing duets)
10 May – We go to beach and I come back to listen to repeat of Drawing Room. Anne’s Smilin’ Thro’ is beautiful but the other things she sings are shadows of her former glory.
The Irvines call to say goodbye. They leave tomorrow night by train for a long journey to Rhodesia. I play the piano to a packed lounge at night and they applaud loudly.
11 May – In the afternoon we go to the Playhouse to see Lover Come Back, with Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
12 May – Last full day of holiday. We go to town and have tea in Paynes with pianist playing the piano. In the afternoon I go for a ride in a motor boat with Dad then come back to pack.
13 May – Last day. We take a taxi to the airport after delightful holiday. The Marsdens meet us at Jan Smuts and take us home. Shandy is very glad to see us again! I listen to G and S at night.
14 May – Go to SABC at night. Hester and company tell me that Stravinsky is progressing nicely and there are oodles of professional singers augmenting the choir. He will conduct us on Saturday night.
See Gill and Ruth. Latter is thrilled to see me again and tells me she has been busy with exams and was delighted with my card. Johan works us hard, and guess who is singing in the chorus? Jossie Boshoff! Anton H arrives and tells us how honoured we should feel to be singing with Stravinsky who is no conductor but a very great composer and musician.
Ruth says she thinks Webster is being snobbish and big by refusing to sing in the chorus as all the good singers are in it anyway. Anne, says she, is finished and they should both stop singing publicly. “They’ve had their day,” says she.
I suppose it wouldn’t have hurt Webster’s reputation to sing with us. It would have been very sporting of him but I can understand his point of view.
15 May – Listen to half of the English version of Norma in the evening. Mimi and Jossie B’s Afrikaans accents are very much in evidence in their singing. Choir sounds much better here than in the Afrikaans version. I am reminded that at this particular recording, Webster kissed us – just to think of it!
16 May –. Singing practice goes really well and I am quite thrilled with it.
Go to piano in the afternoon. Mrs S kisses me, and when I go in a party is in progress – it is her birthday! Svea gives me cake and coffee. My lesson goes reasonably well and after it I practise scales to put in the time.
We go to Gill’s studio which is in a rather austere, grim building where music teachers of every variety conduct their lessons – Castle Mansions. Polliacks building is a palace compared with it. We go to Hillbrow to visit a friend of Gill’s – Lynn – a rather alarming but fascinating girl with unusual pictures arranged throughout her flatlet on the eighth floor.
We have supper in the Lili Marlene restaurant. We return to SABC after depositing Svea at Blood Transfusion and hang around in the foyer. Ruth arrives looking very smart. The orchestra is there and we practise hard. The tubist (Englishman) does his best to amuse us and Andy Johnson (the drummer) is good fun too. After hearing the piece with orchestra I can only ask, is Stravinsky mad? It certainly looks like it.
Mrs S is there sitting next to Jossie B. She is most affable to Ruth and me.
Ruth says that Drawing Room was a great flop. She hasn’t a good word to say about them, it seems. Iris Williams gives me a lift home.
17 May – I listen to Drawing Room – the one with trumpeter, Signor Vitali, and Sarie Lamprecht. Webster sings Friend o’ Mine and a Tosti song, Beauty’s Eyes.
Go to choir at night. Talk to Andy Johnson and Iris beforehand. We work very hard with Johan. Ruth tells me that she had a big fight with Eleanor (another member of the choir) who kept Ruth and her father waiting for twenty minutes.
18 May – Go to the studio and am greeted by a tired-looking Anne who says, “Hello, stranger.” She thanks me for my postcard and tells me that Piet van Zyl (rugby Springbok who won a prize at the recent eisteddfod) has had a stroke and she is most upset about it. Lucille’s grandmother died last week and Webster is having a most awful time with toothache. “He had toothache a couple of days ago and thought that a few whiskies and soda would sort it out but when it persisted he had to have the tooth out. There was an abscess in the gum and last night he sat up in bed trembling violently and I had to go and fetch two hot-water bottles for him. Today he had a penicillin injection so he’s sleeping now.”
Poor Webster, and poor her having to do all the work and worry about him.
Singing doesn’t go too badly today except for lower register.
We talk of Stravinsky and I tell her about Jossie Boshoff etc. She says that it was a pure cheek to ask Webster and not even offer him a fee – after all, they make their living by singing.
He phones and says he feels a bit better now and has woken up. She talks to him like a mother to her little boy and calls him darling. She says he can stand a lot of pain but this was all too much for him.
Say goodbye – it’s nice to be back but what a lot of bad things have happened since I’ve been away.
19 May – I am up early and go for my piano lesson. My chromatic scales are shocking. Have ear tests wit Elaine Commons and a few others. I hear someone whisper that I have a lovely voice – cheering. Leave with Margaret who tells me that she could sing top C recently but now she’s singing badly.
I go to Ansteys with mother and after lunch we see The Absent Minded Professor which is amusing.
Go to SABC at night. Anna Bender is at one piano; Gordon Beasley at the other, Kathleen Allister on the harp and Andy Johnson on drums. Robert Craft, a thin, pale man with glasses and lovely hands appears and in a soft American accent starts working with us on Symphony of Psalms. Edgar Cree and Johan are seated on the side, and Dora Sowden in a purple turban, sits next to Ruth.
Suddenly Anton H enters with small, stooped little man with large nose, a bald head and high forehead, wearing two pairs of glasses – it is the Maestro Stravinsky, the greatest living composer and musician in the world today. We all stand up and clap violently. I feel quite overwhelmed.
We continue our rehearsal and Robert Craft is very happy with us. Johan talks a lot to Stravinsky who has taken a great liking to him. S follows the score, and beats his music violently.
Ruth tells me that Anne phoned her at 6.30 this morning to say that Webster was sick. Could she go to the house. Ruth agrees. At 8.30 Anne phones once more to tell her that he is far worse than before, very ill indeed in fact, and she is calling the Doctor immediately so don’t come.
There is a picture of Anne in the paper being presented with a bouquet at the Varsity production of Vagabond King. Her dress is very low cut and hair rather strange. She looks tired.
The second half goes well. We do the Bach and Stravinsky looks happy and so does Robert Craft. He lets us depart. “I’ll give a booby prize to the last one out!” says he.
20 May. Sunday school. Afterwards Mr Rainer asks if I would care to take over the post as pianist in junior Sunday School and take a class there. As it will be good experience for me, I accept although I will be sorry to leave the little boys.
When I get home parents tell me that I ought to phone Anne to see how Webster is and if I can do anything at the studio for her. I do so, telling Anne that I heard Webster was not very well yesterday.
“Were you phoning to ask about him – how sweet! He’s still in a lot of pain and getting penicillin but he’s improving slowly.’
“I’m so glad. I wondered, seeing I’ve nothing much to do, if I could help you in the studio next week? I could answer the door and the phone and so on if he wasn’t able to manage in.”
“Oh, Jean, that’s terribly sweet of you and if he isn’t up to it, I’ll phone you by all means, but I think he’ll be able to record his G and S tomorrow morning and he might be well enough to go to the studio.”
“Well, I hope he feels much better soon. Do tell him that.”
“I will, Jean. I appreciate your offer very much and I know he will too. God bless you, Jean. Goodbye.”
Listen to G and S. Webster plays full recording of A Wand’ring Minstrel, “conducted by my old friend and fellow Birmingham citizen, Leslie Heward.” He promises to play Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes which is on the flip side, shortly.
He continues with Mikado and tells us that Ko Ko means Pickles so if you have a friend called Wilfred Pickles, as I have, it’ll be quite in keeping to call him Ko Ko!”
21 May – Work hard at music. Anne doesn’t phone so I presume Webster is better now or perhaps she thinks I might be more of a hindrance than a help to her!
Parents and self go to final rehearsal for Stravinsky concert in the City Hall. Quite a lot of visitors arrive and sit in the gallery. Robert Craft goes through the whole Symphony of Psalms which takes 25 minutes. Stravinsky and his wife sit in front with Edgar Cree and listen to it all. Stravinsky is very tired and puts his feet up.
At interval Mum and Dad leave and I collect Ruth. We go across to café and she asks about Webster so I’m able to tell her that he’s improving. The Ormonds arrive – he dressed in a duffle coat and cap. Mr O says I brighten up the front row of the choir. They buy us cold drinks and we discuss everything.
Ruth and I return and are overwhelmed by a group of Parktown Girls who are most impressed with Ruth and me. Ruth tells them, “Of course, we’re not just singing in the Stravinsky concert. We’re in the SABC choir all the time.” She tells them that the Bach is pretty dreich! I have a good laugh at the word but she doesn’t even realise how Scottish it is.
We practise walking in. The steps are frightfully steep and we do the Bach again. We get tickets for tomorrow – “With the compliments of the SABC,” and some of them get Robert Craft’s autograph. He is conducting us, and Stravinsky is conducting Petrouchka. Mum and Dad enjoyed the rehearsal but thought it sounds a little weird.
22 May – Practise and then rest in the afternoon ready for the big occasion. I go into the City Hall in my long white dress. I stand with Ila Silansky and Anna Marie and we survey the audience. We go into the mayoral reception rooms to leave our things.
Ruth arrives wearing her mother’s coat so, as I have my coat on as well, we look like peas in a pod together. We go onto the stage of the crammed City Hall prepared for the concert. Anna Bender and Kathleen Allister look quite delightful as does Annie Kossman. Braam Ver Hoef, the orchestra leader, comes on and finally Robert Craft in white tie and tails, still looking very pale. We sing Vom Himmel Hoch and then he conducts the orchestra. After that we sing the Symphony of Psalms, which goes very well. We are given a tremendous ovation and Robert Craft brings Johan on to take a bow as the choirmaster. We all applaud him.
At the interval, we hear from all sides how wonderful everyone in the choir was – so young and talented, and wasn’t the symphony delightful? In the second half we are kept at least 5 minutes waiting for Stravinsky. Anton H leads him on to the stage. He looks around at the audience as though he is frightened and bows and waves his hands to them.
He conducts Fireworks and Petrouchka without a baton. His whole attention is focused on his music and he forgets the huge audience in the City Hall. He licks his finger each time he turns a page.
During Petrouchka he loses his place in the score but manages to find it again. Then it is all over and we hear the greatest ovation, possibly in the history of music in South Africa. Anton H has to lead him on three times more to take bows. The last time he leaves he pats each of the members of the orchestra that he passes, like a father.
We go outside and I wait with Iris for her husband. We see Percy Tucker and Dame Flora Robson with his party. She wears no make-up at all but looks a rather sweet woman.
23 May – Dora S praises Stravinsky to the heights but thinks Robert Craft and choir were bloodless and insignificant.
Oliver Walker praises Stravinsky but says Robert Craft is no “sorcerer’s apprentice”. He says that the third movement of the Psalms was good although the diction was poor. We sounded – says he – more harassed than exalted!
Go to Mrs S in the afternoon and do a lot of ear tests. I’m very good at them. Gill groans and moans about Johan, and Hartman not allowing her to see Robert Craft who has some of her music, and weren’t the write-ups awful?
I listen to Drawing Room at night – the second last one, alas. The soloists are Maisie Flink, Walter Mony, Graham Burns and Doris Brasch. It’s the best programme yet – lovely songs and nice instrumental pieces. Webster joins Graham Burns in a duet, Watchman, what of the night?
There is a picture of the choir with Stravinsky in the Star. I can pick myself out from the crowd on the stage quite well.
24 May Anne phones about 11. “Hello, is that Mrs Campbell?” “No, this is Jean.” “Oh, Jean, this is Anne … Ziegler.”
She tells me she’s phoning about the audition tonight. Did Ruth tell me about it? Evidently they just want to see us if we’re in the SABC choir and we don’t have to sing. Anne says if we get accepted we had better “lie doggo” – an old British expression says she – from Johan for a bit and then talk to him about it afterwards. I tell Anne that we have decided to ask him if we may be excused for a few months but if he refuses we’ll just stay in the choir.
We discuss Stravinsky. She says she listened to the concert but it just isn’t her kind of music. She prefers a little more melody.
We discuss Webster’s sore teeth. She says he sweated it out on Monday morning and was determined to go into the studio in the afternoon but he just couldn’t make it and it was too late to phone me. He was in the whole of Tuesday but had a bad time of it. Today he’s gone to have the other tooth out and feels a little better.
She says she really appreciated my kind offer but didn’t like to phone me so late when I had Stravinsky to worry about. “Bless you,” says she. We spoke for twenty minutes on the phone.
At night Dad takes me to the Duncan Hall. I tell Ruth about Anne phoning and she says she had a lovely lesson. Anne told her that if you are unwell the first thing to go is the voice. She says that she’s unwell at the moment so hopes we don’t have to sing.
She says, “We’re the best-looking girls in the whole hall!” Anton Hartman arrives and tells us they need 7 altos, 8 sopranos, 10 tenors and 10 basses. Evidently we are in and are told to collect our music from Solly Aronowsky, 406 Internation House, Loveday Street. Ask for a Miss Basson. The first rehearsal is 6 June at Duncan Hall.
25 May – I receive £100-0-0 from Aunt Nellie! I nearly faint – my money worries are over for a while.
I go to the studio in the afternoon. Webster answers the door looking very smart in a black pinstripe suit. He says he still feels a bit grim, “But I think I’ll live.”
Boy, Chris, who cannot sing in tune is having a lesson. He is a bass and having awful trouble. Webster sings his song but Chris still cannot get it. Eventually he leaves after telling me I must have suffered and I must remember that he is strictly an amateur!
Anne is in no mood for giggling and tells me that the boy is hopeless and whenever he comes she goes and sits in the office. I say he does sing out of tune. Webster says that Chris is afraid he’ll ruin his piping or his rowing – why does he sing then? Anne says it takes her an hour to get over it every week.
They ask about the opera and I tell them how they want 10 basses and 10 tenors. He says, “Where will they get 10 tenors? There aren’t 10 tenors in Johannesburg!” Bragger!
We do scales and he keeps saying, “We must do set exercises and then record My Mother Bids Me.” He imitates my faults. As far as I can see, his teeth are all there!
Someone phones and Anne answers. He goes to the office and says, “Tell her you can’t talk now. You’re busy giving a lesson.”
She shouts, “I can’t do that. It would be rude!”
He comes out in an awful rage and tells me that it is such a cheek of people to phone in the middle of a lesson for once one runs late it’s quite fatal. He points out the few mistakes and I watch his hand tremble slightly. He fetches tea and Anne returns and we try to record second verse once more.
As I go, he asks, “How did you enjoy yourself? It’s the first time I’ve seen you since you got back from your holiday.” At least he remembered that I did go on holiday in the first place. I say I had a lovely time and he says, “Lucky girl. I wish I could get away!” If only he knew it – his life is an eternal holiday.
David Fletcher gives me a lift down Juno Street. At night I go to guild and we have a braai which is fun. Peter is very much in evidence.
27 May – Go to Sunday School and have my little boys for the last time. Feel quite sad.
I listen to G and S. He must have recorded this last Monday when he was still under the weather. He starts on Ruddigore and says that he never sang the tenor role in this because the tenor has to dance a hornpipe and no one ever took the trouble to teach him the hornpipe!
Of the main character he says, “He has the manners of a Marquis and the morals of a Methodist!”
29 May – In the afternoon I phone Ruth to check on address in International House. Her sister, very nicely spoken, answers the phone. Ruth says she had an awful lesson on Saturday and couldn’t sing to save her life. She also thought that Webster looks far better than usual.
30 May – We see Taxi to Tobruk with Hardy Kruger and listen to the last Drawing Room which is excellent. He sings a duet with Graham Burns – The Battle Eve.