Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.
Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.
Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.
They fell in love, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth first met during the filming of The Faust Fantasy in 1934/35
Anne Ziegler, the widow and singing partner of Webster Booth, died in Llandudno, North Wales, on 13 October 2003, at the age of 93. Her death brought an end to an era in British entertainment before and after the Second World War. Her death brings an end to an era for me also.
I was seventeen when I first met them at the end of 1960. They were already middle-aged, in the same age group as my parents, their top-flight stage career in Britain behind them. I was too young to have seen them at the height of their fame, but even then I thought them a shining couple, as I still do over fifty-nine years later.
Although I was too young to have seen them on stage in the days of their great success in the forties and early fifties, I believe their success was due to the wonderful blend of the voices, creating a special, instantly recognisable sound, and their contrasting good looks, she beautifully gowned, he in full evening dress. Above all, they were instantly likeable with charming personalities, and possessed an elusive ability to make people adore them.
In their day, in the thirties, forties and fifties, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were stars of stage, screen, radio, concert halls and variety theatres, and made over a thousand 78 rpms, either as duets or solos. Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.
Webster became a Mason, and was a proud member of the Savage Club, where he often sang at their legendary Saturday night entertainments. These entertainments were arranged by Joe Batten, the eminent sound recordist and producer at Columbia Records. When Webster had something important to do he always wore his distinctive striped Savage Club tie to bring him luck. While still in his early thirties, Webster was made a Life Governor of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.
Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.
By the time he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the colour film Faust in 1934, he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior. He had divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey in 1931 after she had deserted him and their small son, and married Paddy Prior, a talented dancer, comedienne and soubrette in October 1932. The couple’s marriage was happy in the beginning and they appeared together in several concert parties, the Piccadilly Revels, Scarboroough in 1933 and Sunshine at Shanklin in 1934.
Shortly after he met Anne Ziegler he took the lead in an ill-fated production of Kurt Weill’s A Kingdom for a Cow at the Savoy Theatre. His leading lady was the well-known French singer Jacqueline Francel. In Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography, Duet, he said that the play was probably ahead of its time in its handling of complex social issues, which made it too heavy for audiences of the day, who expected lighter fare in musicals. Apart from the unusual subject matter, rehearsals were stormy and the direction contradictory, so despite Weill’s pleasing music and a strong cast, the play closed after just three weeks. The London Dramatic Critic from The Scotsman gave the piece a good review, and mentioned that “Mr Webster Booth as the hero also deserves praise for his fine singing”.
Webster and Paddy Prior, his second wife.
Sadly, his marriage did not last after he met Anne. Paddy divorced him, naming Anne as co-respondent. He and Anne were married on Bonfire Night in 1938. Webster Booth soon formed a duet partnership with his wife in addition to his extensive recording, film, oratorio and concert work.
Webster was contracted to HMV for over twenty years and recorded more than a thousand solos, duets, trios and quartets. His lighter recordings include selections from Ivor Novello musicals with Helen Hill, Olive Gilbert and Stuart Robertson; Theatreland at Coronation Time with South African soprano Garda Hall, and Sam Costa; excerpts from Snow White with Nora Savage, conducted by George Scott-Wood, the composer of Shy Serenade. He made many anonymous recordings as a member of the HMV Light Opera Company. He was the “with vocal refrain” on a series of records made with Carlos Santana and his Accordion Band on the Brunswick label, and on a record of Chappell Ballads with Jack Hylton’s band. Carlos Santana was one of the many aliases used by Harry Bidgood. His better known alias was Primo Scala, the leader of another accordion band, but he did many other things like conducting film music and arranging music and while he was still at school he had written the music for his school song.
His recordings of the late nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties encompassed oratorio, opera and ballads, as well as duets with Anne. Webster’s more serious recordings were often under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, Lawrance Collingwood, Basil Cameron or rwick Braithwaite with the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. His recordings with piano accompaniment were nearly always with the eminent accompanist Gerald Moore.
Webster enjoyed telling the story of a particular recording session with Gerald Moore. They had one more song to record before the session ended. The song was Phil, the Fluter’s Ball, and Gerald Moore suggested that they should see how fast he could play it and how fast Webster could sing it with clear diction. This was no problem for the finest accompanist in the world and for a singer who had spent four years performing Gilbert and Sullivan with the D’Oyly Carte Company. His oratorio recordings are particularly fine. The solos in Samson from the moving recitative O loss of sight and the following aria,Total Eclipse, to the fiery Why does the God of Israel sleep?, with its unrelenting Handelian runs, demonstrate how easily he moved from one mood to another, always singing with flawless technique and clear diction.
He made recordings with other distinguished singers of the day in operatic ensembles, such as the quartet from Rigoletto, with Noel Edie, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates, to the trio from Faust with Joan Cross and Norman Walker. He sang duets with soprano Joan Cross and baritone Dennis Noble from La Bohème and the Miserere from Il Trovatore with Joan Cross. He recorded duets with the baritone Dennis Noble from the Victorian and Edwardian Excelsior and Watchman, what of the night? to the brilliant extended scene in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. He recorded the duet in Madame Butterfly with Australian soprano Joan Hammond.
When Joan Hammond first arrived in England from Australia, she had a sweet lyrical soprano voice. She sang her first Messiah in England with Webster as tenor soloist under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. But by the time they recorded the Madame Butterfly duet, several years later, Joan Hammond had become a dramatic soprano and her voice was very much bigger than it had been when she first arrived in England. Joan had to stand much further away from the microphone than Webster in order for the sound engineer to get the balance for the duet right. Webster also sang excerpts from Carmen with the Sadler’s Wells chorus and orchestra, with Dennis Noble, and with Nancy Evans, Anne’s old friend from Liverpool, as Carmen.
At the beginning of the Second World War, he recorded The Lost Chord at the Kingsway Hall in London, accompanied by the organist Herbert Dawson. As they were reaching the end of the song, the All Clear siren sounded, which meant they had to redo the recording to cut out the sound of the siren. There had been no air raids at that early stage of the war so presumably the sirens were being given a trial run. The blitz was yet to come and would destroy Webster’s beloved Queen’s Hall.
Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool on 22 June 1910. From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part of Marguerite for the film, the Faust Fantasy: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.
During the making of the film they fell in love , although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior, and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage to Winifred Keey. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.
During those intervening four years, Anne was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in a concert party in 1935 called Summer Smiles during the summer season at Ryde, an engagement she did not really enjoy much. There she acquired her first devoted fan, a girl aged 15, who kept in close touch with her for the rest of her life.
She played principal boy in her first pantomime, Mother Goose, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, which starred George Formby. In this pantomime she met Babs Wilson-Hill, the principal dancer in the show, who was to remain her closest friend for most of her life. During the 1936 pantomime season she and Babs appeared in another highly successful pantomime, Cinderella, in Edinburgh, this time with the Scottish comedian Will Fyffe as the star attraction.
Anne and Webster were both extremely popular and prolific broadcasters on the BBC, as well as the various European commercial broadcasting stations geared to the British market, such as Radio Lyons, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Normandy and Radio Eireann. Glancing through copies of The Radio Pictorial, commercial radio’s equivalent of The Radio Times, one sees frequent articles about them. Radio stars in the thirties obviously held the equivalent status of pop stars today.
Despite Anne’s success on stage and radio, recording companies had not shown any interest in putting her voice on record. She made a test recording of the Waltz Song from Merrie England in 1935, a recording which Webster managed to obtain from HMV. Eventually she did make a few solo recordings and sang in a Noel Coward medley with Joyce Grenfell and Graham Payn, but the bulk of her recordings were duets with Webster. My favourite solo recording of Anne’s is Raymond Loughborough’s A Song in the Night, which she sang on a Pathé film short in 1936.
Webster went to New York with her, hoping to find some stage work of his own, but, despite his great voice, he did not make any impact on the cut-throat American musical world. He attended various auditions in New York as an unknown, while in England he was already an established performer in oratorio, recording, films, and the West End stage. He returned to England, crestfallen at his lack of success, and resumed his numerous engagements. Anne, in the meantime, was hailed as a Broadway star and offered a film contract in Hollywood, with the idea that she would be the successor to Jeanette McDonald. The offer was tempting, but she turned it down to return to England and marry Webster Booth when his divorce from Paddy Prior was made final.
For most of her life Anne maintained that marriage to Webster meant more to her than any Hollywood contract, although in later years she sometimes reflected on what her life would have been like had she accepted the contract and become a Hollywood star.
Even before Webster’s divorce was made final they formed a duet partnership on stage, in addition to their solo work. From April 1938 they were singing together for Clarkson Rose. This is an advert from September of 1938, the month before Webster’s divorce was finalised.
Their first duet recording was made in the year after their marriage in 1939 – If You were the Only Girl in the World, with A Paradise for Two on the flip side. Before this official recording she had sung with him as an anonymous soprano voice in a radio series in 1937 called The Voice of Romance. In this series he too was anonymous, but by this time, most people would have recognised his distinctive voice.
In 1940 they accepted an offer from agent Julius Darewski to join the variety circuit. The money was good and they were well received on the variety halls, always doing their act without the aid of a microphone. If Webster Booth’s voice filled the Albert Hall when he sang the tenor part in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha in Native American dress under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, the same voice, in harmony with his wife’s, filled the variety theatres from the London Palladium to all points of the United Kingdom.
They were the epitomé of glamour and romance. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was always in immaculate evening attire, she in a range of crinoline gowns, some designed by Norman Hartnell. Their act was interspersed with what seemed like off-the-cuff banter, but every word and move was meticulously planned, and the lighting plot carefully worked out for the most telling impact.
Apart from the usual operatic arias and musical comedy duets, Anne and Webster sang and recorded a number of ballads, arranged as duets, and an interesting and difficult arrangement of Chopin’s famous Nocturne in C sharp minor, arranged by Maurice Besley. As often as not Webster would arrange the duet part himself if none had been written.
Jean Collen COPYRIGHT 2005
Updated April 2019.
She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled.
1 June – Go into Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. I have a look at the picture of the juvenile lead (Colonel Fairfax) in the OK.
3 June – Go to SABC at night and Chris Lamprecht takes us. Ruth and I meet at interval and have a good chat. She says that they were charming to her on Saturday – lucky her! We’ll see each other at the theory exam on Saturday.
4 June – Work. Go to singing and Anne is there by herself. Webster is exhausted with rehearsing The Yeomen. The musical director, Desmond Wright picked him out for singing flat in the quartet! I don’t believe it! He hardly even retaliated! We work very hard and I send my love to him and wish him luck for the opening night. She wishes me luck for my theory exam on Saturday.
5 June – Go to studio and work hard. I lunch in Ansteys with Mum. A Mr Haagen comes to the studio in the afternoon to give Jossie Boshoff a lesson. I have a lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine. Gill, Corrie and everyone think that JB is the limit!
6 June – Webster was obviously the hit of the evening for both critics say that although his singing is not all it once was, his great sense of timing, his experience of G&S in D’Oyly Carte, and his perfect diction carried the show through admirably.
7 June – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle’s sister on the bus. Anne is in the studio by herself again. She has her hair in curls on top of her head (set for the first night). She tells me over tea that he stole the show. We work hard and she is very pleased. Selwyn comes after me and I wash the dishes before I leave. I meet Brian McDade on the bus coming home.
8 June – Go to write theory exam and Ruth is there writing one too. Afterwards we have a cup of coffee in De Beers and she tells me that Anne raved about my concentration yesterday. I go up to Mrs S and deteriorate from then on. I faint 3 times while singing in the choir and my father has to come in to town to fetch me. I am ill for the rest of the day and Mrs S phones to see how I’m keeping.
9 June – Dora Sowden gives Webster a super crit in the Sunday Times.
10 June – Work. Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that she might be going to Cape Town music school next year. We work hard with Chris Lamprecht.
11 June – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon and tell Anne about the fainting attack on Saturday morning. She is very sympathetic and tells me that she had much the same trouble herself, especially when she was on tour. She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled. I wash our teacups after my lesson and this pleases her.
12 June – Go to SS studios and work at ear tests with Edith Sanders. Lunch in Ansteys with Mum and have my piano lesson in the afternoon. I meet Colleen McM on the bus – she is back working in an office and feeling miserable.
13 June – Go to SS studios and work with Edith Sanders again. I have lunch in the restaurant opposite Show Service and see Leon Gluckman there.
14 June – Anne phones in the morning with a king-size attack of the ‘flu. Evidently Webster is almost as bad. I promise to phone Ruth for her and do so in the afternoon to put her off. We go to Yeomen of the Guard at night and it is really gorgeous. Webster sings beautifully and (as I tell him afterwards) makes a charming young man. I go back to see Webster in his dressing room and say how much I enjoyed it. He is terribly pleased. He has a large glass of whisky sitting on the table. He says his temperature is down and Anne is feeling much better tonight. He is a real honey and as unassuming as always. I say, “Ta, ta,” and leave him to dress and get home to bed to nurse his ‘flu.
15 June – Go into the SS studio and rave about the Yeomen. Mrs S is very derisive about it. I work with Margaret and Elaine, sing in the choir and chat to Binky. Come home with Margaret. See Fast Lady (Stanley Black). Listen to Great Voices and he plays a woman of 69 singing. He says, “I wonder if I’ll sound as good as that when I’m 69!”
17 June – Anne phones me in the morning and says she is still sick. We talk for an hour and I think it cheers her up. She runs down Julietta Stanners-B for the peppermint green costume she produced for Webster in the last act. He’s still sick but managing to crawl on stage every night. She says she’ll let me know on Friday about the arrangements for the next six weeks, and certainly, I may have the studio key once more. I go to SABC at night and chat to Ruth. We have rehearsal for Friday and Anton Hartman comes into the studio to talk to us.
18 June – Go to SS studio and work with Edith. Have lunch in Ansteys and then see Sparrows Can’t Sing – an excellent and unusual film. Clive Parnell sits in front of me. Ruth phones to ask me to go to the SABC. Chris L is a pig to everyone in general and Ruth in particular -ugh!
19 June – Go to SS studio and practise. I lunch in Ansteys, have piano lesson and work with Elaine. I phone Anne at night and she still feels revolting even though she’s up. She’s not even sure if she’ll come in on Friday. She says that if she does, she wants Webster to come in with her to offset things as it is too much for her to cope with everyone on her own.
20 June – I go to final rehearsal for SABC in the evening. For a change, Chris L is very affable. Ruth is going for her singing lesson at home on Wednesday but they are not making up the two lessons she missed. She’s cross.
21 June – I go to singing in the afternoon and Anne is back in the studio once more. Lucille, Anne and I have tea together and then I have my lesson. Father of Heav’n goes fairly well. Anne asks me to go in on Wednesday to work for Webster and also next Friday. I’m going to fetch the keys tomorrow. We sing in the Light music concert at the City Hall conducted by Jos Kleiber and it goes well. Ruth remarks that Jos Kleiber is very energetic! Anton H and Edgar Cree congratulate us on our performance.
22 June – Phone early in the morning and speak to Webster to remind Anne about the key. He is sweet to me. I go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine and then go up to Anne’s to get the keys. I say hello to Robin Gordon and “Clara Butt”! I return to sing in Mrs S’s choir and come home with Margaret. I listen to Webster at night and he plays a super duet by him and Dennis Noble.
24 June – Go into town and buy some clothes. Practise with Margaret. Lunch with Mum in Capeniro. I go home on the bus with Colleen McM who tells me about Norma D’s husband and other theatrical gossip. Anne phones in the afternoon and asks me to go in for an hour tomorrow. Go to SABC at night. Ruth saw the Yeomen but didn’t go backstage to see Webster. She saw Anne in the audience but didn’t talk to her. She says she thought his voice was rather awful yet I thought he sang well. Work at Creation.
25 June – Go to singing for an hour and Webster is back in slightly disgruntled frame of mind. Work fearfully hard at Father of Heav’n but he is sparing with his praise. I sing the Landon Ronald song cycle and Anne raves about my singing and moans at him for being so grim. I have to play for him tomorrow at 3 o’clock. I hope he is in a better mood tomorrow!
26 June – Go into Booth’s studio and practise. Webster arrives in the afternoon and we have Heather Coxon first. I make tea for us and then we have Colleen, and after her our two demons. When Graham has his lesson Webster shines singing all his bass arias. Webster brings me home and talks about the Yeomen and how tiring it was to change into three different sets of tights at every performance!
27 June – Go to studio and work in the lovely calm atmosphere. Yvonne Marais’s mother phones to say she’s sick so I phone Anne to let her know so that she can come in later. She is grateful. Go to ghastly lunch hour concert featuring Jossie B, then come home and wash hair.
28 June – Go to studio and get a lift into town with Mr McKenzie. Webster comes in the afternoon moaning about the rain. Lucille arrives with her boyfriend and they sing a duet together. She’s there for an hour and then we have tea. I have my lesson and sing unusually well and he is pleased for a change. Selwyn comes and then we have an hour’s break before Betsy Oosthuizen and Graham. Webster brings me home in the Hillman, cursing the rain and the cold engine.
29 June – Go to town with Dad and we see Raising the Wind again – I love that film. Webster’s programme is super.
30 June – Have fairly quiet Sunday. Webster phones unexpectedly at night for no apparent reason except to chat with me. He tells me that he doesn’t think I owe them anything for July because of all the work I’m doing with him. We talk about various pupils, Brian Morris and Drummond Bell. He says he’ll go in tomorrow on his own as he can probably manage by himself as everyone is so awful and don’t need a proper accompanist!
He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.
1 May – I wallow in “advanced depression” today. How will I manage after these two halcyon weeks are over? Have lunch with mum and then go to the studio and sing in that hallowed atmosphere. Go to Mrs S, chat to Elaine and teach Corrie Bakker.
2 May – Go to the studio, have lunch there and go to the lunch hour concert. I meet Webster in town and he asks me to put money in the meter for him which I do while he panics and goes to the AA to renew his subscription. He tells me he really enjoyed himself on Tuesday night. I’m so pleased. Colleen sings well but the next two are not so good. He sings duets with the last pupil. He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.
3 May – Webster phones in the morning to tell me that Lucille isn’t coming this afternoon – I am glad! I go into the studio and entertain Mr Knowles-Lewis (who won the hymn competition last year) until Webster arrives. We have Norma and Selwyn. Anne phones to say that she is home safely and quite exhausted. . The others come and go and then all the heaven of two lovely weeks is finished. Webster thanks me and says he loved having me play for him and if Anne doesn’t feel up to coming in tomorrow he’ll phone me. He takes me home in his car for the very last time. He says quite pensively that, “I’ll miss my Sylvia Pass next week.” We part until Tuesday when I will return to being an ordinary pupil once again.
4 May – I feel sad that my two wonderful weeks are over. I go into Mrs S and have a theory lesson. The choir arrives and we are stooges for two people endeavouring to pass the class teachers’ exam. I have a chat with the TCL secretary and see dear old Uncle Mac for the last time.
I phone Ruth in the afternoon and she says Webster raved and raved about me during her lesson this morning, saying how good I was at accompanying and how the experience has boosted my ego and how he loved having dinner with me and my parents. She says Anne regarded him very coldly when he spoke so fulsomely about me! I phone Anne in the afternoon and we talk for a whole hour about everything under the sun. She tells me that they would have loved to retire to a smallholding in Devon but there wasn’t enough money to do so. I don’t have the impression that she is annoyed with me in any way. I listen to Webster at night.
7 May – Webster phones to remind me to fill in my form for the Trinity diploma exam which I have already done. Go to singing and Anne is looking a little tired. She says she didn’t like all the self-centred South African people she met on her trip around the country with Leslie Green. She says she will be a step-grandmother soon as Webster’s son’s wife is going to have a baby in December. We work at the unaccompanied folk song. Webster tells me that Uncle Mac is going to be doing the exams in September. They had him to dinner on Sunday.
8 May – Work at harmony and go to town and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to SS studios and have a harmony lesson. Mummy phones in the middle of it to say that Webster phoned and wants me to audition at the Brooke on Saturday morning. There is a picture of them in the paper. Phone Anne at night and she says that BB is interested in hearing me but as this is a private audition I mustn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. She says she felt she had to do something for me after our chat on Saturday.
10 May – Go to dentist and have lunch with Mum and then a gruelling harmony lesson. Go to singing and Webster gives me tea. Anne and I go over Gypsy Moon for the audition. Anne says, “You’re a beautiful girl and if you were my daughter I’d be very proud of you.” Go over Father of Heav’n and Webster says he’s playing Kath’s record of it tomorrow night. Anne wishes me a lot of luck and is pleased to hear that I enjoyed their autobiography. She tells me to phone tomorrow night.
11 May – Go for audition at the Brooke Theatre and give Colleen a lift there. We go in and feel nervous. Colleen sings well and should get a part. I sing fairly well and Brian Brooke says I could have a small part which will give me some experience. I go to Mrs S afterwards and sing in ensemble. We see A Touch of Mink. I phone Anne at night and she is pleased and thinks I should take up his offer. I listen to Webster’s Great Voices – he plays Kath and Harry Lauder and talks about Bel Canto.
13 May – Work hard and go to SABC at night. See John Steenkamp and Mrs S. Ruth is there and we work hard with Chris Lamprecht.
14 May – Work hard. Go to singing in the afternoon. Little boy is having a lesson before me. Anne comes into the kitchen on the verge of tears to moan to me about the child. Webster is more tolerant. She tells me to watch out for Brian Brooke as he’s a wolf – the younger, the better! Sing Massenet and go through the unaccompanied song with Webster which goes well. Norma comes after me looking heavenly and theatrical.
15 May – Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and we meet Mrs McDonald-Rouse and Mrs Moody. Former tells me to give her love to Webster and Anne. Go to Mrs S and have a long lesson. I chat to Elaine (newly recovered from mumps).
16 May – Lunch with Mum and then go to hear Adelaide Newman and Hans Mommer. Anne arrives rather late and first gives an audition to girl, Heather. I go through all my songs and when Webster arrives he records Father of Heav’n. I feel miserable about it. He makes tea and I wash up afterwards.
18 May – Go to Brooke theatre in the morning and he and Bill Walker audition a few more people. In the end there are 8 of us trying for 4 parts as nuns. Bill Walker’s wife is my rival so I can only hope for the best. BB is quite sweet and calls me darling. Go back to Mrs S afterwards and chat to Suzanne Bilski. I get Betty home on the bus. We see Days of Wine and Roses in the afternoon. I meet Ila Silanski there.
21 May – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon. We go through Love’s Sickness and Webster makes tea. Evidently Colleen didn’t get any part at all for BB was disappointed with her speaking voice and advised her to take speech lessons. They are not pleased about it. I tell them of my experience with Bill Walker’s wife! More or less at the last minute, Webster is going to take the part of Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard for JODS as they do not think the man currently doing the role is up to it. Should be fun. I do the French song well and am there for ages.
22 May – Work and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. I go to Mrs S for harmony lesson and chat with Gill. I do ear tests with Edith Sanders and we decide to go to the studio regularly in the mornings to do ear tests in preparation for the forthcoming diploma exams. Edith has perfect pitch!
24 May – Go to singing. Anne is there by herself as Webster is rehearsing madly for The Yeomen so I make tea for us all – Lucille is there too, having had a lesson before me. Anne tells me that she and Webster had indigestion after eating a sheep’s heart casserole! We decide to do some Landon Ronald songs for a change – she sings them for me in her heavenly voice. They are too gorgeous for words.
25 May – Go to Mrs S and then to Brooke theatre where some of the people don’t turn up. BB tells me to come back again next week but I’m not sure if I shall. We see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Webster plays duets by Dennis Noble and himself and a song by Bennie Veenemans, the boy soprano. He played that record to me in the studio when I was playing for him.
26 May – Go to church and copy and transpose Anne’s Landon Ronald songs.
27 May – Work. Go to SABC and we have Mr Tyler once more. We work at English folk and traditional songs.
28 May – Go to dentist, lunch hour concert and library. I see Michael Newell. Go to singing and Webster is back again. Norma arrives too early and upsets things. We do the Landon Ronald songs and he is delighted with the transposition. They are disgusted about Brian Brooke.
29 May – Go into SS studio early and Elaine and I do some theory together. Mrs S comes in and tells us that Stan’s mother has died. I lunch with Mum in Ansteys.
30 May – Go to SS studios again and work hard. Lunch with Mum and come home on the bus with Margaret. She tells me that Peter Lynsky (Jack Point in the Yeomen) is a lecturer at Teachers’ Training College.
31 May – Republic Day. We see To Kill a Mocking Bird with Gregory Peck. It is very good indeed.
I get rather a shock because Webster does not do the programme this evening. They say that unfortunately he is indisposed, so Paddy O’Byrne reads from his script. I feel like howling, honestly I do! It sounds absolutely ridiculous but it would be futile if I could never hear or see him again. I’m shocked with myself for saying this but I’m afraid it’s true. I cannot help myself.
1 July – Go to Sunday School in the morning. Play for them but little boys are too much for me to handle! I get the play script from Gail and stay to church. Mr R very good.
2 July – Go to choir in the evening. I go up to 2c with Anna Marie and we see Hugh Rouse reading newscast. He won’t be doing that for much longer, I’m afraid.
We rehearse quite hard. Ruth is away and Gill is not there so I talk to Scots couple and a girl who is doing the same TC exam as me in August. We have a pleasant time – it is nice to get to know others in the choir for Ruth and I have a tendency to live in a little world or our own. Iris gives me a lift home.
3 July – I work extremely hard today and enjoy it. I hear JB Priestley talking about Ryder Haggard. He has a lovely, soothing voice.
At night we all listen to Anne’s new programme – Music for Romance. I’m afraid the summing up of this would be tried and found wanting. She spoke nicely of course in a sophisticated and deep drawl but she didn’t play one of their records. When I first met her I thought her such a pet – unaffected, charming. She has changed.
4 July – I lunch with Mum in the Capinero and then I meet Gill who is going to collect her clarinet from Gerrit Bonn at the SABC. I go with her and say hello to Johan and Gerrit B. I wait in the foyer while she collects the clarinet and am fed peppermints by two girls who are waiting to go to the Radio Record Club.
I go to Mrs S’s studio with Gill (complete with clarinet) and she demonstrates it to me but not much sound comes out yet!
We do ear tests which go well and then I sight-sing – I do this far better than Gill. She is fairly impressed.
Rita, Mrs S and I have coffee and then I have a nice lesson with Mrs S in which she asks me to join her choir, the Sylvia Sullivan Choristers, which rehearses on Saturdays at noon. Should be fun. She is pleased with my work and I feel quite elated. She plays a record of the Chopin Mazurka I am working on.
There is a picture of Webster in the Rhodesian paper just after his illness and he looks really awful.
He is going to be in a film about a Boer who inherits an English title called Lord Oom Piet.
I go to first play rehearsal at night and feel that I don’t do badly at all. My North country accent is a fair treat. Fun!
5 July – Have lunch with mum again and then go to lunch hour concert which is crowded out. I see Roselle reclining in a box, Jill Harry, and the lady who sits next to Ruth at choir. Quite a few children are there and they make a lot of noise. Gideon Fagan conducts and Walter Mony is the soloist. He is very good but naturally is angry at the noise – I don’t blame him!
Listen to Webster at night. He continues The Yeomen and gives us Martyn Green. Unfortunately Webster’s voice is very croaky.
6 July – Go to studio and Anne answers the door looking really awful and I feel sorry for her. She tells me that Webster is very seriously ill indeed and is now in hospital.
On the fourth day of his trip to Bulawayo, he collapsed and the doctors thought he had pneumonia because he couldn’t breathe. He managed to return home and was examined by their doctor here who was so worried about him that he sent for a specialist. He took blood tests and decided that he had developed a fever. It was too expensive for him to be treated at home so they put him into the fever hospital with a temperature of 103 degrees. She isn’t allowed to see him and today someone from the municipality rang up and asked if she was the wife of the “suspected typhoid case.” She says he can’t have typhoid fever but they’ll have to wait a week before they have the results of the tests.
When I got home I look up typhoid fever in a medical book. Within seven days red spots develop so maybe he does have it. Also, the heart valves have been affected. Poor, poor Webster. I am so very sorry for him and I pray that he will be well.
She makes us tea and I help and say (to cheer her up) that I liked her programme. She says she thought she sounded rather dull and slow but she’s rectified this in the second one. Let’s hope so!
My exercises (due to shock maybe?) go out of tune and she says it may be the result of my out-of-tune piano because I have a good ear. We go through them again and they get a little better – but not much! She says I must go through them bar by bar at home to get the tune firmly imprinted in my mind.
Sweet Polly Oliver is quite good – a little dull perhaps – but good. Mayday Carol is also better and My Mother is technically perfect but needs a little more light and shade. The studies go very well and she says, “I see you’ve been doing what your Uncle Boo told you!” She asks to borrow the music to practise them if she’s going to be my accompanist at the exam. I’ve to collect them on Tuesday evening before choir. Also, I have to go a bit later at 4.30 for the next two weeks because the little boy is going on holiday.
I say I hope Webster will feel a bit better and that she’ll get good news of him. She puts on a face of studied tragedy. I’m so sorry for him and I do want him to get well. To think that only two months ago – almost to the day – he was so happy doing Drawing Room and kissing Ruth and me.
Go to guild at night and we have the best evening for a long time. At fellowship I pray in round of prayer – my first ever public prayer. I pray for the sick but my heart was praying for Webster. We also pray for the poor Sharpe girls whose father died of a heart attack on Wednesday.
We have a games evening and I play the piano. All very jolly and good fun.
7 July – Go to rehearsal early – 8.30am and we work quite hard. Peter Spargo brings me home for tape recorder and we record hymn for communion which goes quite well.
I go into Mrs S’s studio to sing in ensemble. Most of the girls are from Parktown Girls’ High. Mrs S makes me take the altos and then she comes in to helps us. She says she hopes to get a broadcast for us.
I have lunch with parents in Galaxy and we see Susan Slade with Connie Francis who is very good. All most enjoyable.
8 July – Go to Sunday School and play for them. Church is conducted by Mr Huth.
I listen to Leslie Green, Die Goeie Ou Tyd, Time to Remember and Life with the Lyons. Gary A is “bitterly disappointed with Music for Romance”. Says that the public want to hear her own recorded stage appearances. Good for Gary. I agree.
9 July – Develop another cold so as today is Family Day (alias The Queen’s Birthday) I nurse it – grue, ghastly etc!
10 July – Work and nurse cold in the morning. I phone Johan’s secretary to apologise for not attending choir tonight.
I go into town to buy tissues and go up to the studio to collect music. Anne answers and, lo and behold, she has left it on top of the piano at home – she’s so sorry! What can she say? Will it be all right on Friday. I expect so.
Webster has a normal temperature now and if he’s all right by Saturday they may let him out of hospital. As yet, they don’t know what’s the matter with him but I expect if his temperature is normal he must be quite well. I say, “I’m so glad,” – perhaps a little too fervently, but it is the truth.
She is all apologies for not bringing the music but it doesn’t really matter because I really wanted to know about Webster. Thank God he is better.
11 July – Work in the morning and then go into town. I meet Eleanor – Ruth’s enemy – on the bus. She is affable and most la-de-da and talks about everything but Ruth. I rather think she used to be quite nauseated with Ruth and me drooling over Anne and Webster all the time!
I have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and it is quite like old times. The second trumpeter is still there drooling over his roast chicken and green peas.
I go up to Mrs S’s and do ear tests with Elaine, Rita and Gill. Latter tells me that next week we are recording the commercial record unaccompanied. All goes well. We have coffee and then I have my lesson in which I do scales and a Czerny technical exercise which (I think) I sight-read well. Have to go and “perform” on Saturday immediately after play rehearsal – how ghastly!
Go to rehearsal at night – I don’t know my words very well – must really learn them. We practise with our recording. Peter S brings me home and also fetched me. He is a very easy chap to talk to but oh, so learned!
The record Net Maar ‘n Roos is on sale in Ansteys so evidently it couldn’t have been terribly popular.
12 July – Work very hard and listen to Leslie Green – recording in Trafalgar Square – talks of pigeons, rain, London bobbies and buses and makes me feel quite nostalgic about it all.
Am now in bed waiting for G and S. It is a simply glorious programme. He finishes The Yeomen and plays a record by “my dear old friend, Winifred Lawson. Winnie made this in 1921.”
He then plays one of Sullivan’s part songs, The Long Day Closes – a record made after the funeral of Tommy Handley by eight of his singing friends – the most famous singers in Britain at that time – Norman Allin, Parry Jones, Trefor Jones and of course, “myself”. The proceeds went to the Tommy Handley Memorial fund. Good for them.
He finishes with his own recording of Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes seeing he’s starting to play the Gondoliers next week. It is very beautiful indeed and I enjoy it. Tonight was one of the loveliest programmes he’s done for ages. I’m so happy he’s better.
13 July – I go up to studio and Anne is there listening to Leslie Green broadcasting from London. I say I listened yesterday and felt quite nostalgic hearing his broadcast from Trafalgar Square and him talking about the pigeons. She says they had a letter from him yesterday and he has absolutely fallen in love with London. He’s very pro-British – both his parents were from Yorkshire and had broad accents.
She says that since Webster was taken ill she has felt more home-sick than ever. She hates South Africa and simply can’t settle here. “Maybe if I went back to Britain for a holiday that would settle me but I just can’t settle here now!”
I say that my mother is just the same and she says that the people here are very ill-mannered. She has to put the car into the garage in Plein Street and people are ready to run her down and bump into her. She has reached the point where she stops her car and gives them a mouthful! She says, “Webster was always there to help me but now there’s no one.”
Webster is getting out of hospital on Monday but the membranes of his heart are severely damaged and next week he has to stay in bed and have a cardiograph every day and then he’ll have to rest up for two or three weeks. She went to see him through a glass and could only wave at him but he was able to write her a letter on Tuesday.
My singing goes quite well today – best for a long time. We do studies and they are better for leaving them alone for a bit. Bedfordshire Carol is still a bit out of tune but she says that if I “think flat” on the D it should come right. I do this and it improves. My Mother and Polly Oliver are better because of vast practice. She says I must practise octaves and come down on all vowels to achieve evenness. She praises (sincerely) the tone of my voice and I feel elated.
She says Ruth sent her a postcard and she feels so sorry for her still being at school – I don’t! I envy her. We decide that after this exam we’ll burn the music.
I have a nice long lesson today as Bill Perry doesn’t turn up. It is just like old times. I feel elated and light as air but a little sad for Anne being so homesick and poor Webster still being ill.
Anne has been under a terrible strain running the studio, worrying about Webster and feeling homesick. If I had such a darling husband as him I’d feel pretty awful too.
14 July – I go to Mrs S’s studio. I play my pieces to Elaine and she plays hers to me. We work a little and then have coffee and cake with Mrs S, and her sister, Mrs Du Plessis. We work a bit more. Elaine says my pieces are excellent and then we play to Mrs S’s friend, Miss Cameron. The choir arrives and I play the piano for the altos. They all know Ruth and are impressed that I sing in the SABC choir. Their names are Shelley, Linda and Leila.
Go in the afternoon to see West Side Story which is, in my opinion, rather ghastly and too modern and ugly for words. That’s not music – that’s dis-chord!
15 July – Go to Sunday school and play the piano for them. I go with Joan to hear Peter C’s sermon – a great improvement from the last one. He speaks slower which aids matter considerably.
Listen to the radio – Leslie Green, Time to Remember and Life with the Lyons.
16 July – Have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get the unaccompanied song in tune but have found another that I can sing perfectly in tune so I’m going to try and learn it beautifully for Friday and hope that Anne will allow me to sing it in the exam. It’s a bit late but I think it would be worth it.
In the evening I go to the SABC and the first person I come across is Gill V complete with her clarinet. I go and have supper with her.
We go into 1a to make the recording as Guest Stars of the Kreel Orphanage on the commercial record they have made and which is soon to be released. We sing our two Volksliedjies, unaccompanied. We manage to complete one song by the interval. Graham Green is the controller – he also did the controlling for Drawing Room. A photographer comes to take our picture.
At the interval, I try to play Gill’s clarinet and we all have a hilarious time. The noise I produce gets more squeaky as I proceed! After interval we record the first song Die Lied van Jong Suid Afrika. The sentiment of both songs is decidedly pro-Nat.
We also get our wages tonight which is perhaps the best part of the whole evening. I am quite surprised by the amount – far more than I expected. My first fee for singing!
17 July – Work and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I treat her with my fee!
Work hard in the afternoon and listen to Leslie G in Kew Gardens.
Anne’s programme at night is still pretty awful as far as the music is concerned but her speaking is sweet and next fortnight she’s to play the Vagabond King so let’s hope it’s their beautiful recordings of it.
18 July – Work hard and then have lunch with mum and go up to the SS studio. Elaine and I sight-read duets together. We have coffee and then I have my lesson which goes quite well. I play on 1 September. I’m not looking forward to it.
We go for a drive at night to Hillbrow.
19 July – Go to shops, library, and park today with Shandy and we have fun.
I listen to Leslie G. He goes to the Tower of London where there is an actual rehearsal of the D’Oyly Carte company for Yeomen of the Guard. Then he goes to Petticoat Lane and tells of having high tea for 3/-. Am now in bed waiting for You Know Who!
I get rather a shock because Webster does not do the programme this evening. They say that unfortunately he is indisposed, so Paddy O’Byrne reads from his script. I feel like howling, honestly I do! It sounds absolutely ridiculous but it would be futile if I could never hear or see him again. I’m shocked with myself for saying this but I’m afraid it’s true. I cannot help myself.
Paddy O’B is excellent and from Webster’s script he tells us, “A pupil of mine lent me a record because he thought I was one of the singers. I made it such a long while ago that I’d forgotten about it. It has George Baker, Alice Moxon and Dennis Noble on it, and of course, myself. “ It is lovely – a selection from Gondoliers and his voice is glorious.
“This small company was called the Light Opera Company but we didn’t mind not being in the full company because the pay was the same.”
He starts with the overture to the Gondoliers and says, “I saw The Gondoliers in Birmingham the night before my audition and thought how bright and fresh everything looked. Imagine my dismay when the next morning I walked on to the stage and saw such tatty and dingy props! But who am I to disillusion the theatre-going public who have been my bread and butter for so many years?”
Paddy O’B goes on with the story. I feel so sorry that Webster wasn’t able to do it himself. I hope to heaven he is a bit stronger now. It’s so difficult to imagine such a strong, dependable, kindly man like that very ill and weak but no doubt he is and he must get better.
20 July – Go to the library and then to the studio in the afternoon. Anne answers the door and once more is in the middle of listening to Leslie G. I go in and listen too. He is on the train on his way to Edinburgh and describes the carriage, the friendly ticket collectors, the punctual time-keeping and the fast train. He went to visit a friend of Anne’s (Babs) and thought her garden was the loveliest in England.
Anne says that hearing him talk about all that she remembers so well makes shivers go down her spine and she feels so homesick. Strangely enough, I do too. When I listen to these programmes I always want to cry.
Webster is home now but he is still very weak and has to stay in bed. Last night and today he had a most terrible pain in his chest at the back of his breast bone so she called the doctor, and the specialist is coming for a cardiograph tomorrow. The virus cannot be killed and will only go in its own good time.
She tells me to come at a quarter to four next week and then, after my lesson, we can listen to Leslie Green and have tea together. That should be great fun.
I moot Hush My Dear and Anne is delighted with it. She says I must cover it more and all will be well. She spoke to Webster about the other one and he said he thought it was a state of mind with me. If he can say things like that he must be getting better.
All my songs go really well today and she is delighted. She says I am now singing quite beautifully and interpreting the songs well. Exercises are good and she says that my attack must be bang in the middle of the note. We finish with scale exercises. I think, with a bit of luck, I should pass the flipping exam!
Anne says that it is very tiring to sing properly because of the concentration it requires. Someone told her that it was simply pleasure, but brother, that is a fib!
I tell her to give Webster my love and tell him that I hope he will soon be well. She says, “God bless you, Jean,” and I depart.
I don’t know whether her awful gnawing homesickness makes her sweeter and more sincere but I do know that these last two lessons have been glorious and such fun, even though she’s worried about him. I think I cheer her up in some funny way – it must be that I’m British and love Britain as much as she does and she can confide how homesick she is to me when she can’t to a South African. She used to make a pretence of adoring this country but now she doesn’t have to because she knows that I understand how she feels.
Go to guild at night and we have a talk on guide dogs by young, handsome Mr Dawson and a demonstration by a lovely Alsatian. Very interesting.
21 July – Go to rehearsal for play and we mess around at the piano. Joan Rudman plays and I sing and they are greatly impressed and it gives me good practice at the same time.
Go to the studio and do ear tests with Pam and Olive. We have choir practice – only 3 altos and 4 sopranos are there. We combine with the sopranos today and it sounds very good.
Have lunch with parents at Galaxy and we see Follow that Dream with Elvis Presley who is quite decent for a change and very funny.
22 July. – Go to Sunday school. Playing and lesson go well.
In the afternoon the Alexanders come with Inge. They have a nice new Opel Rekord.
I listen to Leslie G and he plays a lovely record by Anne and Webster which I record. I turn over to Die Goei Ou Tyd and Francois van Heyningen plays a section from Glamorous Night with Webster singing Shine Through My Dreams and Fold Your Wings with Muriel Barron. Sunday has some really good radio programmes.
23 July – Leslie G is in Scotland – Loch Lomond, Stirling and Edinburgh.
Go to SABC at night. We start on Messiah and I really enjoy it and sight- read it well. Ruth is due tonight but she doesn’t arrive. I suppose she’s too exhausted after flying back.
Gill, Iris and I have coffee at interval and Gill says hello to Uncle Edgar and he grins at me as well. We do the Ninth Symphony after interval. Poor Iris might be having an operation soon.
24 July – Leslie G’s programme from the UK doesn’t arrive in time so we hear one he made in Jo’burg before he left. Quite disappointing not to hear from ‘home’ as Anne calls it.
25 July – Go to music in the afternoon and do ear tests wit Gill and Rita. Mrs S asks Gill to adjudicate at an Indian Eisteddfod at beginning of September so she asks me to go with her and be a second opinion. I agree to do this – will be a very good experience.
I have lesson which goes well. Mrs S says I must come as soon as rehearsal is over on Saturday and work with Elaine.
Go to rehearsal at night and it goes reasonably well. Archie is quite good but Shorty is hopeless. I cannot imagine play going on on 17 August.
Mummy listens to the radio in order to record Leslie G but instead of him, John Silver is on. He says that the programme hasn’t arrived yet but one wonders if his programmes were a little too pro-British for the SABC. They just have to put it on for Friday for we’ve such a lovely day planned and it must come off!
26 July – Have a rather grim day of feeling ill again. However, I manage to listen to Leslie G – he’s back, thank goodness. He’s still in Scotland and talks of Edinburgh, Stirling and Falkirk.
I am now in bed waiting for G and S and wondering who will broadcast it tonight. Paddy O’B does it again. The station announcer says once again that he is sorry that Webster is still indisposed. Paddy O’B goes on with the Gondoliers which is nice and also plays a quartet with Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis and Leo Sheffield, lent to Webster by a friend – Norman Roberts. Henry Lytton is quite fabulous. Webster says in his script that he thinks they were far livelier than they are today. Paddy O’B sounds horrified at this!
27 July – Go up to studio. Peter (someone) a tenor with a glorious voice is singing the Serenade from Frasquita and Hear my song, Violetta. Anne says, “We’ll lend you our record of it. It’s a very good recording – we made it when we were young and sprightly and still had voices!” Hear her say that Webster is once again in the fever hospital!
Go in and in my excitement say, “What’s happened to Webster?” Anne says that he is terribly ill once again. Over the weekend he had terrible pains and the specialist decided that his heart was all right. It must be indigestion so he put him on a diet – no alcohol ( which he couldn’t tolerate for he must have at least one whisky and soda before dinner) and only ten cigarettes a day. The pains persisted and on Tuesday they were so bad that he had to have the doctor in again and his temperature was up. Doctor decided that he had better go to hospital again and have x-rays as the virus must have flared up again.
Wednesday and Thursday they were too busy to do x-rays but they thought it was either gallstones or something pressing against the heart.
Today Anne went along and sat with him while he was x-rayed and the radiographer was terribly rude and said he’d have to come back tomorrow (when there’ll be about 50 people there!). He said he had no intention of coming back again, so she said, “Do as you please. If you want to die, I don’t care!”
However, whether he likes it or not, he has to go back tomorrow. They’re allowing him to have a gin and tonic because he can’t go without it. He absolutely hated having to go back to hospital and is in a grim room. I’m so very sorry for him.
Anne says she thinks perhaps his gums could have affected his system but they won’t listen to her. She says she’d rather have all this happening to her because he’s in such agony.
We decide that we’ve wasted so much time we can’t listen to Leslie G today but I have tea anyway.
I sing – not too badly – considering. I haven’t been very well myself but I feel wretched about him. We go through everything and as tickets haven’t arrived Anne has to phone Arnold Fulton tonight. She says I can phone her at home on Sunday night to hear the outcome of the call. After all that work the tickets must come!
I say goodbye and send Webster my love. Poor, poor pet – he’s had one hang of a bad time and he must get better. How I pray he will get well.
When I get home Ruth has phoned. She phones again at 5.30 and tells me simply astounding unbelievable news – they (her family) have won £40,000 on the Ndola sweep! Can you imagine! I am utterly delighted and she tells me her parents are driving up from Natal today in a state of great excitement. I ask what they will do with all that money and she says they will probably go overseas and buy a new car. I am thrilled for her sake. She is a darling and deserves all the happiness she can get.
She says she phoned Anne but I’m the only one she has told about the money and she’s terribly sorry about him. It shows what a sweet lovely child she is to be concerned with him after winning £40,000! She’s coming to choir on Monday – I can’t wait to see her. I’m surprised at myself for I don’t feel envious. I’m just delighted for her.
28 July – Go early in the morning for rehearsal. Shorty, who is supposed to be my husband in the play, insists on giving me slobbery kisses and putting his arms around me at every opportunity. I survive, however.
Go to town where I see Johan in a bottle-green t-shirt and sports jacket looking far removed from being Anton Hartman’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice!
I arrive at SS studio in time for coffee and then practise Viva Voce with Pam and Elaine. This proves rather grilling with Mrs S listening to every word. Luckily I have to ask the questions rather than answer them. The choral singing goes rather nicely. Shelly, Leila, Mary and Belinda Bozzoli are the altos.
Have lunch with parents in Galaxy and come across Sally Bowling there. She looks older and more sophisticated than I remember her. She doesn’t go skating much now.
We see The Silver Key by Edgar Wallace – very exciting, and an excellent short on Russian culture – singing, ballet etc.
29 July – Go to Sunday school and play the piano. David Dury shows me all the postcards from Ireland. I promise Mr Russell to train the soloists which should be fun. He gives an excellent sermon today.
In the afternoon we have another rehearsal which goes well. Play is shaping up very well indeed. Later I have to phone Anne. She has not phoned Arnold Fulton yet. “I just haven’t had a minute with the two programmes. Would you do it?” She is so insincerely charming that I can’t really refuse. I say I’ll phone tomorrow afternoon. I’ll phone her about it on Tuesday.
Webster is a bit better and had an x-ray for gallstones today and is to have a stomach x-ray on Wednesday. She doesn’t sound terribly upset about him either – she is in one of her more callous moods tonight!
30 July – Work hard and intermittently spend time phoning Arnold Fulton but he’s not there.
Go to SABC tonight. Ruth arrives and is quite unchanged despite the £40,000. They are going to buy a Rover and her parents are going to Scotland and then around the world in September. They’re going to have another two servants and each of the girls has £100 to spend on clothes. She says she doesn’t intend to swank about it or get big-headed but she’s quite thrilled at the minute.
She says that Anne is acting very strangely and she is disgusted that Anne is charging us a fee for accompaniment. We enlarge on this. Ruth is rather sweet and says, “Money is no object to me now but I still think it’s a bit much.”
She says they sent Webster a whole lot of books to read in hospital. I’d like to be able to do that too, but alas – impecunious me!
We sing Messiah and Gill is rather acid about Tufty’s successful audition with Bruce Anderson. “They have to take people whether they can sing or not!” Poor Tufty.
At interval, Ruth and I disappear and she tells me about her holiday, Alan and Anne and Webster. She doesn’t seem so gone on them any more. She goes and asks Johan for her wages and says, “The more I get, the more I want! Life’s too short not to be happy!” Some philosophy this!
We do the Ninth and then Johan tells us that next week, as the orchestra is going on tour, we shall probably have Edgar Cree to take us. Come home with Iris and feel quite elated.
31 July – I get through to Arnold Fulton today and discover that he is as Scottish as the day he was born. He says he sent the forms to them so they must have gone astray. He tells me to fill in a form with all the particulars and send them to him.
I phone Anne and tell her this news. She tends on the brittle side but it quite affable. Webster has no gallstones and just has to have his stomach x-rayed and he might be home on Thursday all going well. I say that it’s lovely about Ruth isn’t it? And she says, “It’s not true!” Presumably, this is an expression of pleasure.
Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and post letter to Arnold Fulton. Leslie G is in the Midlands today.
Listen to Anne’s programme tonight and have to say that it is quite fabulous. The reason is that she plays their own records and talks about Webster a lot. She plays Wunderbar, Only a Rose and Love Me Tonight. She says, “You’ll have to excuse the surface of that record. It’s probably getting old, just as Webster and I are also!” There is a slight tremor in her voice at this – somehow, it touches my heart. Her programme is fabulous and if it goes on like that it will probably run for ages.
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.Continue reading “EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARY – SEPTEMBER 1961”
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.