NEW ZEALAND TOUR – 1948

Pamela Davies who collaborated with me in writing Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? at the same time as my own book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth (published at the same time by LULU ) was given a scrapbook of Australian and New Zealand press cuttings related to Anne and Webster’s tour there in 1948.

List compiled by Mrs Pamela Davies, Church House, Great Comberton, Pershore, WR10 3DS Worcestershire, England.

Pamela Davies who collaborated with me in writing Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? at the same time as my own book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth (published at the same time by LULU ) was given a scrapbook of Australian and New Zealand press cuttings related to Anne and Webster’s tour there  in 1948 from the late Jean Buckley.

Jean Collen 1991
Jean Buckley with Trixie
Pamela Davies

New Zealand list compiled by Mrs Pamela Davies, Pershore,England.

On the trip to Australia aboard the maiden voyage of the Imperial Star the ship called at various South African ports, so Anne and Webster managed to do two broadcasts each in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. They picked up the ship again in Durban to sail on to Melbourne to meet their Australian accompanist from Adelaide, Clarence Black. Unfortunately their regular accompanist, Charles Forwood, was not in the best of health at this time, so chose not to travel with them on the tour.
   Clarence Black studied piano and organ at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide. When he graduated he became the organist at the Regent Theatre and gave organ recitals each Sunday afternoon. In 1951 he accompanied Peter Dawson (aged 69, but undiminished in voice and personality by advancing age) on his concert tour of Australia.

Broadcasting at the SABC in Johannesburg.

Broadcasting in Johannesburg.

WORLD FAME:  Attractive looking pair Ann Ziegler and her husband Webster Booth are known by their voices in every home possessing a radio. New Zealanders will shortly have the opportunity of seeing them in the flesh, for they are already headed for a tour of the Dominion. They are about to set sail from Liverpool with South Africa as their first port of call.


Arrival in New Zealand 1948  

Dominion (Wellington)/19/5/48 TWO ENGLISH SINGERS DUE NEXT MONTH

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler shortly due in New Zealand will make their first appearance at the Town Hall on June 1 and 2. These two stars who have achieved popularity through their contributions to light opera, musical comedy, screen and radio entertainment are assured of a warm welcome in this country as apart from their value as entertainers there is always a certain curiosity as to their personalities.     

Booth after leaving school was a clerk in a firm of Birmingham accountants.  Before this he had sung in the choir of Lincoln Cathedral.  His pleasing alto voice changed to tenor and after seeing the possibilities at the professional stage he applied for an audition, was given one and passed through the ranks as a tenor inEngland and Canada.

*Miss Ziegler has been known to the public since early childhood.  She actually gave a recital in London while still in her teens*.

*This section is completely inaccurate. She was not known to the public in her childhood and gave a singing recital at the Wigmore Hall, London when she was twenty-three years of age.

At one stage she was one of the best known of principal “boys” in pantomime in the provinces and crossed the Atlantic to play a leading part in the musical comedy Virginia.

Webster went on to oratorio under Dr Malcolm Sargent with the Huddersfield Choir and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. His career has been almost meteoric.

Otago Daily Times,26 May 1948 Otago Times.

SINGING DUO -TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND –ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH

Two of the most popular British singers, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, are to make a tour of New Zealand in the near future. Established favourites with a world audience through the medium of their broadcasts and recordings, they are also well known on the British stage and have made appearances in several films, the most recent of which The Laughing Lady has still to be released in this country. Although ranked high as singers of more serious musical forms both artists are equally well known in the realm of musical comedy.

Their partnership commenced with the film version of Faustand their recent stage successes have included a revival of The Vagabond King and a new musical Sweet Yesterday. Oratorio, opera and the concert platform have all been covered by this versatile duo.

Auckland Herald/29/5/48 Arrival from Sydney

Arrival in New Zealand.

New Zealand Concert Tour 1948.
Auckland Town Hall.

Wellington Town Hall

Wellington Town Hall.
Concert at Wellington town hall.

The Dominion (Wellington) 2 June 1948. Last Night’s Audience Were Enthralled. Finally, Tonight TOWN HALL 8PM – THIS IS YOUR LAST OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR WEBSTER BOOTH (Tenor) And ANNE ZIEGLER (Soprano) England’s King and Queen OF SONG With CLARENCE BLACK At the Piano. Ballads and Operatic Arias blended with Gems from Musical Comedy by Artists who “sing and act superbly” and who bring to the Concert Platform the romance and glamour of the Stage and Screen.

RESERVES STILL AVAILABLE At Begg’s Today, 8/- and 6/- plus Tax, Also DAY SALES AT 8/- plus Tax, And at the Town Hall tonight From 7pm Direction: Begg’s Celebrity Artists Co.

2 June 1948 Evening Post ENGLISH SINGERS DOMINION OPENING CONCERT.

A reception as enthusiastic as any seen recently in the Town Hall was accorded the English singers Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, and the Australian pianist Clarence Black when they opened a tour of the Dominion last night.  A large audience was present.

3 June 1948 Re cocktail party the previous day, given at 33 Club in their honour attended by WB alone; AZ “indisposed”. Anne Ziegler Taken Ill : Last Night’s Concert Postponed.

Because of the sudden illness of Anne Ziegler, the Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler concert did not take place last night. Practically every seat in the Town Hall was filled when Mr C A Rendle representing the promoters announced the postponement.

Miss Ziegler became ill between 5 and 6 pm. At first it was hoped that the sickness would prove to be a passing one and even the doctor in attendance thought that such might be the case, but after 7pm it was seen that Miss Ziegler was still suffering, and in no condition to make a public appearance. In these circumstances, there was no option but to cancel the concert.

Those present were informed that it was hoped the concert would be held on Saturday night next, and all tickets and reserves would be good for that date.  The audience took the announcement in good part. This arrangement has been made possible by the cancellation of the Nelson concert.

7 June 1948 Evening Post – second Wellington
concert on Saturday night in the Town Hall. Evening Post

CAPTIVATING PAIR – Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

Of all the celebrity artists to visit New Zealand over the past few years possibly none have had the captivating stage manner so typical of the English singers Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.  At their second Wellington concert presented in the Town Hall on Saturday night, this popular couple shared all their songs with the audience rather than sung to them. Their unselfconscious miming and acting throughout both solos and duets won for them a staunch following among even the more staid concertgoers accustomed to the dignified impersonality of other artists.

They opened the programme with the duet Stay, Frederick Stay from The Pirates of Penzance (Sullivan) in which their voices blended perfectly.  There was not one false note among their choice of numbers, every item being of the type for which they are best
known. Solos and duets were both received enthusiastically by the audience, but it was in the duets that they were accorded the greatest storm of applause.

One of the most popular duets was Deep in My Heart (from The Student Prince) and We’ll Gather Lilacs (from Novello’s Perchance to Dream) as an encore was another success. Their duo programme included The Love Duet (Madame Butterfly), Coward’s I’ll See You AgainLife Begins Anew (Sweet Yesterday) and Laugh at Life from their latest film The Laughing Lady. A medley of ballads which warmed the hearts of older members of the audience comprised Until (Sanderson), Love’s Old Sweet Song (Molloy) I Hear You Calling Me (Marshall) and Two Little Words (Brahe).

Miss Ziegler’s first solo was her own arrangement Strauss’s Tales from the Vienna Woods which was superbly sung and she also sang One Fine Day from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Webster Booth sang The English Rose (German) his recording of which is considered one of his best, The Lord’s Prayer and Break of Day from the film Waltz Time.

As a climax to their programme and by popular request the two artists presented their own arrangement of the traditional Keys of Heaven. They burlesqued it delightfully and the audience loved it. 

As accompanist Clarence Black was sympathetic and never intrusive and his solo items proved so popular that he was recalled to play several encores. 

8 June 1948 Nelson Evening Mail. At the School of Music last night.

11 June 1948 Taranaki Daily News, Opera House, New Plymouth last night.

14 June 1948 Manawatu Evening Standard, Palmerston North Opera House on Saturday night. Their second and final concert in Palmerston North to be on Tuesday evening.

15 June 1948 Wanganui Herald Wanganui Opera House last night.

18 June 1948 Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune, Hastings. Municipal Theatre, Hastings last night. To appear in Napier tomorrow night.

21 June 1948 Daily Telegraph, Napier. Napier Municipal Theatre on Saturday night.

21 June 1948. Gisborne Herald. Talk given today by Webster Booth to members of Gisborne Rotary Club, where he complained about the lack of back-stage heating in New Zealand’s theatres.

22 June 1948 Gisborne Herald. Gisborne Opera house last night.

24 June 1948 Rotorua Post. Municipal Theatre, Rotorua last night. Interview given by Webster Booth today. The eleventh concert of their tour, the first concert with back-stage heating at Municipal Theatre, Rotorua.

25 June 1948. Wailatu Times, Hamilton. Theatre Royal, Hamilton last night.

29 June 1948. Northern Advocate. Whangarei Town Hall last night.

30 June 1948 Auckland Star. Town Hall, the first of two Auckland concerts.

6 July 1948 Timaru Herald. Theatre Royal, Timaru last night.

6 July 1948 Re great demand for tickets for recital on Wednesday, July 14th at Civic Theatre: followed by one at St James Theatre, Gore on Thursday July 15.

7 July 1948 Otago Daily Times Arrived Dunedin yesterday,
an interview on their arrival, and photo of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in their hotel lounge.

7 July 1948 Evening Star, Dunedin. Another interview this morning apparently when Webster and Anne were at the Town Hall, inspecting the stage.


8 July 1948 Town Hall, Dunedin Otago Daily Times Otago Daily Times

COMMUNITY SING

A special attraction at the Sing to be held tomorrow in the Strand Theatre in aid of the Food for Britain campaign will be Mr Clarence Black, pianist and accompanist for Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.  Donations may be sent to Mr J F Himburg, Charles Begg, who with Mr A J Pettitt will assist Mr M P Desmoulins to lead the singing.

Town Hall last night (Dunedin) Otago Daily Times

8 July 1948 CHARMING VOICES ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH – EXCELLENT COLLABORATION

On the concert stage Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth are a law unto themselves.
Their programme at the Town Hall last night could hardly be described as a vocal recital for their stage technique was a combination of musical comedy and film art. That it had charm and musical qualities was undeniable, for the large audience was attentive and enthusiastic throughout. Anne Ziegler has a pleasant soprano voice which she used without effort, or forcing and she moves about the stage with an easy grace and charm born of habit.

Webster Booth has a fine tenor voice with excellent quality and carrying power in his high register and in his singing of The Flower Song from Carmen and The English Rose from Merrie England:

FLOWER SONG (CARMEN) he gave a glimpse of what he might do with such a voice had he chosen a more serious musical career.

Anne Ziegler’s most serious contribution was They Call Me Mimi from La Bohème. It was, however in the duets that the audience found their greatest pleasure. The collaboration was excellent and though I found their gestures and movements on the stage somewhat meaningless there was a sophisticated charm about their deportment that disarmed criticism. They chatted informally, made jokes with
a local flavor and took the audience into their confidence. The response was all that could be expected and the artists frequently expressed their gratitude for the reception they received.

The pianist, Mr Clarence Black, was a sympathetic accompanist even to lending a hand with dramatic gestures in the duet The Keys of Heaven: 

KEYS OF HEAVEN https://clyp.it/ygd3sncd

He also played two groups of solos with competence and musical feeling.

9 July 1948 Otago Daily Times Town Hall (Dunedin) last night

9 July 1948 Otago Daily Times FINAL PERFORMANCE- OVERSEAS SINGERS – AUDIENCE CAPTIVATED

Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth captivated the large audience in their appearance at the Town Hall last night.  Once again their duets revealed their greatest audience appeal and their musical comedy numbers, in particular, were received with a spontaneous and enthusiastic applause which compelled them to return to the stage again and again.

The Love Duet from Puccini’s Butterfly was their most delightful number in the first half of the programme, the pure tenor and pleasing soprano voices blending perfectly.
In One Fine Day after the interval Anne Ziegler again thrilled the listeners. To finish their programme the artist sang a medley of popular ballads. This started a clamour for encores which engaged the singers for some 15 minutes longer than the scheduled programme and the audience persisted in its attempts to recall them even after they had prepared to leave.

The pianist, Clarence Black, again proved a sympathetic accompanist and a talented solo performer.

.The concerts continued at various places until the end of July. After that Webster and Anne continued their tour to Australia.

New Zealand song recorded by Anne and Webster  in 1948: BLUE SMOKE (RURU KARAITIANA)

Jean Collen 4 April 2019.

BOOKS ABOUT WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER by JEAN COLLEN

Since 2006 I have written and published books about my former singing teachers and life-long friends, the famous British duettists, soprano, Anne Ziegler (1910-2003) and tenor, Webster Booth (1902-1984). The books are available as paperbacks and ebooks. The latest book is a digitised version of their joint autobiography, Duet which was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. I am most grateful to John Marwood for proofreading it meticulously. Currently, I am revising and enlarging my first – and most popular book – Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. 

All my nonfiction books, written by Jean Collen are available at: https://www.lulu.com/duettists

All my fiction books written under the pen name of Fiona Compton are available at: https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/fiona_compton.

I began my singing studies with famous British duettists Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, when I was seventeen. Two years later they asked me to act as studio accompanist for Webster. I completed the ATCL and LTCL singing diplomas and remained friends with them until their deaths.

Since 2006 I have written and published books about my former singing teachers and life-long friends, the famous British duettists, soprano, Anne Ziegler (1910-2003) and tenor, Webster Booth (1902-1984). The books are available as paperbacks and ebooks. The latest book is a digitised version of their joint autobiography, Duet which was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. I am most grateful to John Marwood for proofreading it meticulously. Currently, I am revising and enlarging my first – and most popular book – Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

List Price:$16.00Price:$14.40You Save: $1.60 ( 10% )Prints in 3-5 business days


The book summarises Anne and Webster’s rapid rise to fame, which is already well documented in their own autobiography entitled Duet. (1951). The book’s main focus is on their lives and careers from 1956 in South Africa, their friendship with me, and their “third” career after they returned home to the UK in 1978.

Do You Remember Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth? (in collaboration with Pamela Davies of Pershore) (2006)

List Price:$16.57Price:$14.91You Save: $1.66 ( 10% )Prints in 3-5 business days. This book tells Pamela Davies’ story of her keen admiration of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in the forties and early fifties. Shortly after Anne and Webster returned to the UK from South Africa in 1978, Pamela began corresponding with Anne and became good friends with her. The book includes THE BODY OF WORK OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH, compiled and edited by Jean Collen. Jean has listed many of their engagements on stage, screen, radio and television from 1924 to 1994.

A SCATTERED GARLAND: GLEANINGS FROM THE LIVES AND CAREERS OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER (2008) in 4 volumes. The books are available as paperbacks and epubs.

Price:$10.45 Prints in 3-5 business days. A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the Lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler was originally published in one volume but because of the additional material I have discovered the work now extends to four volumes: Volume 1: Early days (1920s – 1939)

Volume 2: Years at the top in the UK (1940 – 1956)

Volume 3 South Africa (1956 – 1977)

Volume 4: Back in the UK (1978 – 2003) and additional information.

The work includes articles, criticisms, cuttings, and extracts from the online archives of The Times, The Scotsman and The Stage, and other newspapers. In Volume 2, I have included material from New Zealand and Australian newspapers and in Volume 3 there is material from South African newspapers. Occasionally I have supplemented this material with my own notes. All my own writing is italicised. Book 1 contains information about the early days of their careers.

Price:$10.92 Prints in 3-5 business days. This is the second volume of A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the Lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, and includes articles, criticisms, cuttings, and extracts from the online archives of The Times, The Scotsman and The Stage. In this edition, I have included extracts from New Zealand and Australian newspapers from the Booths’ extensive tour there in 1948. Occasionally I have supplemented these articles with my own observations. All my own writing is italicised.

Price:$10.92 Prints in 3-5 business days. When I was 17 years old I began my singing studies with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in their studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Building in Pritchard Street, central Johannesburg, where they taught Singing and Stagecraft. A few years later I became Webster’s studio accompanist when Anne (who was accompanist as well as teacher) had other commitments. I studied with them for five years and did my Associate and Licentiate singing diplomas under their guidance. Despite several years when Anne and I were estranged, we remained friends until Webster’s death in 1984 and Anne’s in 2003. I published the story of my relationship with Anne and Webster on Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/duettists) in April 2006 in a book entitled Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. Because Volume 3 concerns my direct relationship with the Booths I have mentioned events briefly if I consider them to be relevant to the story.

Price:$10.00 Prints in 3-5 business days. Volume 4 covers the last period of the lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler. They returned to the UK in 1978 and were welcomed by fans who remembered them from the forties and fifties when they had been at the top of the tree. It also covers the sad time when Webster’s health was failing. He died in 1984 and Anne remained in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another 19 years until her death in October of 2003.

In this volume, I have written extensively about the life of Paddy Prior, Webster’s second wife. She was a very talented performer in her own right. After her brief marriage to Webster, she divorced him in 1938 because of his adultery with Anne. Sadly, the scandal of the divorce was soon forgotten and he and Anne achieved great success in the 1940s while Paddy’s own career remained static. I was glad to hear that she married again in Tasmania some years later.

I have updated the book about British radio and television broadcasts by Webster and Anne, dating from 1927 to 1994. The last broadcast was “The Webster Booth Story” presented by Robin Gregory in 1994, 10 years after Webster’s death. This book is available as a PDF only and may be seen at https://www.lulu.com/duettists.

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler: Excerpts from ‘Gramophone’ & Discography” (2009) List Price:$7.04 Price:$6.34 You Save: $0.70 (10%) Prints in 3-5 business days It is made up of articles and reviews about the recordings made by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler (1929 to the present). The discography section has been completely revised and updated and includes an almost complete discography of their solo and duet recordings and some of their surviving radio broadcasts.

Price:$12.50 Prints in 3-5 business days. Duet, the autobiography of famous British duettists, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. Sixty-five years later I have digitised the book and made it available as a paperback, epub and pdf book.

My sincere thanks to John Marwood who proofread the book most painstakingly for me. Webster and Anne tell the exciting story of their rise to fame, and their sensational romance. After Webster’s divorce from Paddy Prior, his second wife, he and Anne married and became the most popular duettists of their day, earning them the deserved title of “Sweethearts of Song”.

📷 📷 📷 📷 📷By Fiona Compton May 31, 2016 I read this book many years ago and am delighted that it has been digitised and once again available to those who are interested in reading about the illustrious careers of tenor Webster Booth and soprano Anne Ziegler. Although the book was written in part by a ghost-writer, the tone of the alternate chapters written in turn by Anne and Webster captures the personalities of both writers – Webster’s writing is more measured and thoughtful than Anne’s enthusiastic, spontaneous writing.

Webster Booth had one of the finest British tenor voices of the twentieth century and had a distinguished career in oratorio and recording in his own right. Anne Ziegler had a pleasant light soprano voice and a charming personality, but she was never in the same vocal class as her husband. This book is entitled Duet, so the emphasis of the book is on the work the couple did together as romantic duettists in musicals and films and on the radio, TV, concert and variety stage.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I would have liked to have heard more about Webster’s distinguished solo singing career. No doubt this book was responsible for giving people the idea that Webster was merely a romantic duettist in partnership with his wife, doing nothing more than singing light songs together with her. Despite this reservation, the book moves at a lightning pace and is most enjoyable. I recommend it highly.

I have decided to continue with the diaries and will occasionally add chapters on this page. All my fiction books, written under the pen name of Fiona Compton, are available at: https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/fiona_compton

I will list the Fiona Compton fiction books separately. Jean Collen.

Charles Forwood, accompanist to Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951.

Charles Forwood was the Booths’ accompanist for over ten years and is mentioned in several places in Anne and Webster’s autobiography Duet, published in 1951. He was a number of years older than them and had been playing the piano from the early years of the twentieth century.

In the early 1950s Anne and Webster were earning £250 a concert and paying their accompanist £30 a week, as it was stipulated in their contracts that they should pay the accompanist out of their own pocket.

Pamela Davies, who wrote the book, Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? mentions the part Charles Forwood played at the Harold Williams’ concerts, particularly one she attended in March of 1947:

Anne and Webster on stage at the Garrick Theatre, Southport with Charles Forwood playing the piano.

P 129 Anne, talking about her mother: “During my song Mother had crept on and on to the stage until she could look through the window at me signing , and there she stood, quite visible from the auditorium, a small figure with a black feather in her black hat, and resting on a long black umbrella! She saw Charlie Forwood, our accompanist, look up at her from the piano with horror in his face, so to comfort him she nodded her head and waved to him, the audience by this time being very much more interested in her than in me!”

P 133 Webster: “Much depended on our accompanist, and it was at this point in our career that Charles Forwood joined us. Hayward Clarke was unable to come to Blackpool owing to a previous contract at Newquay. We asked Charles if he would take us on, not dreaming that he would, for he was a well-known accompanist and concert arranger in the city and West End, and we always felt honoured if a booking came through him – it always meant a first-class show. However, the war had robbed him of many of his engagements, and he felt that a summer at the seaside would be pleasanter than wartime London. He has now been our accompanist, friend, adviser and a stern coach for eleven years, having given up all his old connections to remain with us. In that time we have never had a word in writing in the form of a contract, nor ever needed one. How delightful in these days of forms and mistrust to be able to do business like that.”

P163 Anne: “During those difficult days of the war, and indeed ever since, everything has been made much easier for us both by Charlie Forwood, our accompanist. When I first knew Webster a booking from Charlie always gave real delight to us – accompanied by some trepidation, for though he was the perfect accompanist he demanded the very best a singer could do. Whether the audience was enthusiastic or not did not matter; only if we sang well enough to please Charlie’s own most critical taste would he put his hands on our shoulders and say, “Well done!” But if we did not breathe in the right place, or, as Charlie would say, “Paint the picture”, then he would make no comment, give us our music back, pay us – and we were down in the deeps of depressions for days!

Webster has told how Charlie joined us as our own accompanist at Blackpool in 1940. He is still with us. Now, as always, it doesn’t matter to him how the audience applaud. If we have sung well, he will still say, “Well done!” If he puts the music back in the case and says nothing, we still creep away like a couple of rebuked children.

He says his father, who was a printer, enjoyed the nickname of M.O.B. (which Webster says means Miserable Old Bounder), and Charlie loves to think that the same words apply to him. They don’t really; he just tries to make people think so. A perfect accompanist, as a coach he has probably forgotten more than most coaches today have learned. He used to play the violin in a string quartet on the White Star luxury cruises. If he took a studio and taught singing he would make a fortune. But he won’t. He won’t have a telephone at his old-world Surrey cottage – wise man! – and when we want to get in touch with him urgently we have to telephone the local grocer, who sends a message by the next passer-by. To us, he is our Rock of Gibraltar.”

When the Booths went on their tour to New Zealand and Australia, Charles Forwood did not think his health would stand the rigorous tour so an Australian accompanist from Adelaide, Clarence Black was their accompanist for the New Zealand and Australian trip.

MABEL FENNEY, later PERKIN, née GREENWOOD

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

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

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