SOUTH AFRICA (2)

Later years in Johannesburg

Anne and Webster had never taught singing before. They had been far too busy performing in the UK to have had the time or even the inclination to teach, although an advert had appeared in the Musical Times in the middle of 1955 indicating that Webster was considering accepting a few selected pupils. As far as I know, he did not teach anyone in the UK as they decided to settle in South Africa shortly afterwards.

Musical Times 24 February 1955 Singing lessons.

Neither had formal music teaching qualifications but Anne was a competent pianist, and they adopted common sense methods of teaching singing. Above all, they had far more experience of singing professionally at the highest level than anyone else in South Africa who boasted teaching diplomas.

Anne always said that singing was merely an advanced form of speech. They concentrated on good breathing habits and on using correct vowel sounds. The basis of “straight” singing was that one sang through the vowels and tacked consonants to the beginning and end of the vowels to create good diction. There were five vowels: ah, eh, ee, oo and oh and from these vowels all words could be sung. Diphthongs in words such as “I”, were created by a combination of two basic vowels – in this case – ah and ee.

They were very particular about dropping the jaw as notes went higher in pitch. One of their exercises to master this technique was based on the sounds “rah, fah, lah, fah”. It was also essential to keep the tongue flat in the floor of the mouth just behind the teeth, and an exercise on a repeated “cah” sound was good for training the tongue to remain flat and not rise in the mouth to bottle up the vocal sound. The “mee” sound was produced as one would sing “moo”, so that the vowel was covered and focussed. The jaw had to be dropped on all the vowels in the upper register, including the “ee” and “oo” vowels, which one is inclined to sing with a closed mouth. They also emphasized that words like “near” and “dear” should be sung on a pure “ee” vowel, rather than rounding off the word so that it sounded like “nee-ahr” or “dee-ahr”.

The voice had to be placed in a forward position, “in the mask” as Anne always said, so that it resonated in the sinus cavities. They did not dwell on the different vocal registers unless they detected a distinctive “change of gear” from one register to the other.

Webster continued his oratorio singing in South Africa. Drummond Bell, who had conducted the JODS’ production of A Night in Venice the year before, was the organist and choirmaster at St George’s Presbyterian Church in Noord Street. Anne and Webster sang in Messiah at various Presbyterian Churches for Drummond Bell in November 1956 and 1957. It was at the 1957 performance of Messiah at St James Presbyterian Church, then in Mars Street, Malvern, when I, as a thirteen-year-old, heard them sing for the first time. Webster had sung in The Crucifixion at Easter 1957 for Drummond Bell. He also sang in The Dream of Gerontius in Cape Town later that year. The conductor was the young organist Keith Jewell (then aged 27). It was the first time that the work was performed in South Africa. Webster always held Keith Jewell in very high regard, and he was to appear as guest artiste in Anne and Webster’s “farewell” concert in Somerset West in 1975.  

Webster adjudicated at the Scottish eisteddfod in November 1957. Astutely, he awarded the young Anne Hamblin 95 percent for her singing. She was to do well in her singing career in Johannesburg and is still remembered for her part in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in the nineteen-seventies. Webster sang regularly in various oratorios at the annual Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley, and did Elijah at Pietermaritzburg for Barry Smith, director of music at Michaelhouse School in 1963 and The Creation for Ronald Charles, who took the position of  director of music for Michaelhouse in 1964.

Anne and Webster appeared frequently in various advertisements on screen and in the newspapers. Early in Anne’s career she had modelled for an advertisement for Craven A cigarettes. She had learnt a valuable lesson at this assignment when the photographer told her that the photograph would mean nothing unless she smiled at the camera with complete sincerity, despite her never having smoked a cigarette in her life. They had also endorsed Ronson cigarette lighters in the late nineteen-forties.

In late 1957 they were in an advert for Lloyd’s Adrenaline cream. According to the advertisement, this cream had given Webster relief to excruciating sciatic pain he had suffered on their fleeting visit to Calgary to appear in Merrie England. Apparently, Anne used the cream whenever she had an attack of fibrositis. Anne also endorsed Stork margarine, a hair preparation for middle-aged women and a floor polish. Webster appeared on film as a French boulevard roué in an ad for a product I have now forgotten, and they were featured in advertisements listening avidly to Lourenco Marques radio, and celebrating a special occasion with a glass of Skol beer. For this last ad Webster was obliged to grow a beard!

1961 Advertising Skol beer
Listening to LM Radio

1957 and 1958 were very busy years for the Booths in South Africa. In 1958, for example, they went from one production to another in as many months: Waltz Time in Springs; Merrie England in East London; Vagabond King in Durban; and Merrie England again in Johannesburg. Anne was also principal boy in pantomime in East London at the end of that year.

But 1959 was not quite as busy. They were asked to appear in East London again, this time in Waltz Time, and Anne was the Fairy Godmother in The Glass Slipper for Children’s Theatre towards the end of the year.

From then on they built up their teaching practice and began directing musicals for amateur societies in various parts of the country. In 1959 they did an interesting Sunday afternoon programme on Springbok Radio entitled Do You Remember? in which they told the story of their lives, based on their autobiography, Duet.

By the nineteen-sixties, they were no longer appearing regularly in musicals although Anne took the part of Mrs Squeezum in Lock Up Your Daughters, a restoration musical by Lionel Bart at the end of 1960. Her big song in the show was entitled When Does the Ravishing Begin? A very far cry from We’ll Gather Lilacs. In 1963, aged 61, Webster took over the role of Colonel Fairfax – the juvenile lead – in The Yeomen of the Guard for the Johannesburg Operatic Society at short notice. He had not been JODS’ original choice, but was asked to take over the part when the society decided that the singer in the role could not cope with it. In 1964 Webster and Anne appeared in a Cape Performing Art’s Board (CAPAB) production of Noel Coward’s Family Album, a one-act play in Tonight at 8.30. It could hardly be called a musical although there was some singing in it.

They appeared in a number of straight plays in the nineteen-sixties. Webster was the Prawn in The Amorous Prawn and took the small part of the Doctor in a very long and serious play called The Andersonville Trial in 1962. They played Mr and Mrs Fordyce in the comedy, Goodnight Mrs Puffin at the beginning of 1963 and, just before they left Johannesburg for Knysna, Webster was the Circus Barker in the Performing Art’s Company of the Transvaal’s (PACT’s) production of The Bartered Bride, while Anne played the wife of a circus performer in The Love Potion for the same company at the same time.

They remained in Johannesburg until the middle of 1967. Anne was suffering from hay fever, which grew acuter the longer she remained in Johannesburg. There were times, especially at night, when she could hardly breathe. Anne had a number of allergy tests done, but these did not pinpoint the exact cause of her hay fever. They decided to move to the coast in the hope that Anne’s hay fever would ease, and in the hope of a more peaceful life as they grew older.

At the beginning of 1967, they went on a coastal holiday. They thought Port St Johns in the (then) Transkei was very attractive but slightly too remote for them. The village of Knysna on the Garden Route was more to their taste. They bought a house in Paradise, Knysna and returned to Johannesburg to put their affairs in order and plan their move to the coast.

3 Knysna and Somerset West

It must have given them a sense of déjá vu to receive such a great welcome in Knysna. Anne’s hay fever vanished within a few weeks and she concluded that the dust from the mine dumps in Johannesburg had been the cause of it.

They were soon as busy as ever, with concerts, ranging from oratorio with the Knysna and District Choral Society, to variety concerts with local artistes, and pantomimes, in which Anne not only played the principal boy once again but wrote the scripts into the bargain. They started teaching in Knysna and trained several talented singers, in particular the soprano, Ena van der Vyver, who sang in many performances with them.

Anne was asked to produce several shows for the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society, and Webster produced The Mikado in East London in 1973. 

Mikado rehearsal East London 1973 Photo Pearl Harris

Anne’s life-long friend Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) visited them in Knysna from the UK, and Anne went to Portugal and the UK to spend a holiday with her and to appear in a British TV show at the same time. Anne and Webster were getting older and Anne, in particular, longed to return home to the UK.

In 1975 they moved to Somerset West, believing that the cost of living there was lower than in upmarket Knysna. They bought a cottage in Picardy Avenue with a beautiful view of the mountain, but despite being nearer to Cape Town they were not offered much radio work and did not find many singing students. Webster ran the Somerset West and District Choral Society and presented several oratorios, but he was not even paid for his work with this society.

In 1976 there was civil unrest in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Babs realised that Anne and Webster were keen to return to the UK, but could not afford to buy or rent accommodation there. She kindly offered to buy a property for them where they could live rent-free for the rest of their lives. The offer was too good to refuse. At the beginning of 1978 they returned to the UK and, to their surprise, soon embarked on their “third” career.

Jean Collen 9 July 2018.

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BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1975)

 

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BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following list from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.

MOBILGAS MELODY WORLD 16 February 1956/57? Springbok Radio, 
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in a programme compèred by Michael Drinn.

LIGHT UP AND LAUGH – ITMA, December1956. Thirteen-week series on Springbok Radio, recorded at the Brooke Theatre. Webster (rather incongruously!) took Tommy Handley’s part in South African presentation of ITMA scripts.

ELDORADO, (Ralph Trewhela) 1957. Anne and Webster took the leading roles in this musical, directed by Frank Douglass, SABC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Jeremy Schulman. Work commissioned by SABC for 21st anniversary programme.

AT HOME WITH ANNE, commenced on 21 January 1958. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.

DO YOU REMEMBER? 1959 to 24 April 1960, Anne and Webster presented weekly music programme on Springbok Radio on Sunday afternoon. They spoke about their illustrious careers and the people with whom they had worked. I have asked numerous times whether there are any copies of this programme still in the archives of Springbok Radio. Sadly, I have had no response to my query.+

Anne in a recording of a broadcast at SABC, 1963

CONCERT HOUR 1960 – English service of the SABC. SABC Concert Orchestra, Rita Roberts, Webster Booth, Asaf and Philharmonic Choirs, conducted by Anton Hartman. 

DOUGLAS LAWS Record show, 4 October 1960. Anne and Webster appeared as guest artistes.

MESSIAH 8 December 1960. Webster sang tenor solos in the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley.

TEST YOURSELF 1960. Anne and Webster presented this quiz show together on Springbok Radio.

OPERA, ORATORIO AND OPERETTA (ON WINGS OF SONG) Wednesdays at 8.30 pm, later Thursday, 9.20 pm, 1961. Webster presented a weekly programme of recordings (including some of their own) on the English Service.

DREAM OF GERONTIUS, MESSIAH, 27 November 1961. Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival broadcast Monday and Wednesday at 8.00 pm. Webster had appeared in the first performance of the Dream of Gerontius in South Africa in Cape Town in 1957. Webster, with Emelie Hooke, Joyce Scotcher, Harold Hart, Port Elizabeth Orchestra, directed by Robert Selley.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 1962, 1963. When the copyright on Gilbert’s words ended, Webster presented a weekly programme on the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas on the English Service. During his illness in 1962, Paddy O’Byrne read the scripts of this programme.

DRAWING ROOM, April 1962. Webster presented a short series of drawing room concerts before a studio audience on the English Service. He and Anne sang in this series, and a number of guest artistes took part. He also sang duets with the bass, Graham Burns. The guest artistes were Doris Brasch, Rita Roberts, Gert Potgieter, Gé Korsten, Graham Burns, Jean Gluckman, Kathleen Allister and Walter Mony The accompanist was Anna Bender.

1962 Drawing room-02

Here is a recording from The Drawing Room. Webster is accompanied by Anna Bender.

FRIEND O’ MINE (1962)

MUSIC FOR ROMANCE, August 1962. Anne presented a series of programmes in which she presented recordings and reminisced about her life and career in England.

PORT ELIZABETH ORATORIO FESTIVAL, November 1962. Elijah and Messiah. 
Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. 
The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape. Excerpts were broadcast nationally later, but strangely, none of Webster’s recordings were used in the national broadcast.

RECITAL WITH ORCHESTRA 8 April1963. Anne and Webster sang a programme of duets, with orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree, on the English service.

BALLADS OLD AND NEW, October 1963. Webster presented this short series on the English Service towards the end of 1963.

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE, November 1963. A short series, which attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Music Hall on the English Service. Anne and Webster were guest artistes on this programme. 

Webster, Anne, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson sing a quartet in the programme
GREAT VOICES, 1963-1964. Webster presented this series on the English Service. He was unkindly criticised by the critic Jon Sylvester of The Star for including some of his own recordings on the programme, yet most people expected to hear Webster Booth the singer, as well as Webster Booth, lately-turned broadcaster. If one listens to recordings of Webster Booth, one will realise that he had a very great voice indeed and should be remembered today as a great singer, rather than as a romantic duettist. I sent a letter of protest to Jon Silvester under the pseudonym of Pooh Bah.

I met Webster in the street shortly after this cutting appeared in The Star and he asked me if I had written it. I asked him how he knew, and he replied that I was the only one who could have written it!

Pooh Bah
Me (as Pooh Bah) sent a letter of protest to Jon Silvester!

SUNDAY AT HOME 1963. English Service. Paddy O’Byrne conducted a fifteen minute interview with Anne and Webster at their home in Craighall Park. Click on the link to listen to the broadcast:  PADDY O’BYRNE PRESENTED SUNDAY AT HOME WITH ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH (1963)

OPERA AND OPERETTA, July 1964, Monday, 7.35 pm. Webster returned to the English Service with this series.

IF THE SHOE FITS, Christmas 1964. Webster and Anne starred in this Christmas pantomime on the English Service.

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMME 1965. Anne and Webster presented a series of children’s programmes, directed by Kathleen Davydd.

TEN O’CLOCK AND ALL’S WELL, September 1966. Webster was guest presenter for a week in this short series on the English Service. Earlier in the year he had presented a “sort of housewives’ choice” programme early in the morning.

By that time I was living in the UK but Webster told me about TEN O’CLOCK AND ALL’S WELL in a letter dated 19 September 1966.September 7 66 LWB2


 

 

 

ORCHESTRAL CONCERT (FOR JOHANNESBURG EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY)  
2 October 1966, CITY HALL, JOHANNESBURG. Anne and Webster were soloists, with the SABC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree. 
O lovely night (Anne and Webster) 
Drink to me only with thine eyes (Anne)
Lehar medley (Anne and Webster) 
The Holy City (Webster) 
Love’s old sweet song (Anne and Webster) We’ll gather lilacs (Anne and Webster) 
Selection from Bitter Sweet (Anne and Webster)

MELODY MARKET, May 1967. Webster presented this programme in the early morning on the English Service.  “A sort of housewife’s choice,” was how he described it. It was the last programme for the SABC before he and Anne left Johannesburg for Knysna a month or so later. 

SOUTH AFRICA A TOUCH OF THE BRITISH, 29 May 1973. BBC TV. 
Documentary. Anne and Webster appeared in this documentary. Anne said that she had had enough of South Africa and wanted to go home to die. The programme ended with Anne and Webster singing We’ll gather lilacs

PETER BROOMFIELD’S OPEN HOUSE, 20 March 1975. English Service. 
Anne and Webster were guests of Peter Broomfield on his morning programme, broadcast from Cape Town, on the English Service. Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) who was on a visit from the UK, and Anne and Webster’s singing dog, Silva were also present in the studio. Silva sang along to a Harry Lauder record! 

A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 19 and 26 October 1975. English Service. Webster reminisced about his career in the theatre. Click on the link to hear this programme: A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS 1

A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 2 and 9 November 1975. English Service. Anne reminisced about her career in the theatre. Click on the link to hear the programme: A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS 2

WOMENS’ WORLD, English Service,1975 – Pamela Deal, who had conducted the first interview with Anne and Webster when they stopped off briefly on their way to Australia in 1948, interviewed them again when they decided to stop singing in public. They had given a farewell concert in Somerset West towards the end of 1975. This decision was rescinded when they moved back to the UK in early 1978 and found that people remembered them and wanted to see and hear them once again.

 When Anne and Webster left South Africa their voices were rarely heard on South African radio. Ronald Charles, the broadcaster and musician who had been the musical director at Michaelhouse in the sixties, played several of Webster’s oratorio recordings from his personal collection on his classical request programme. As far as I know, most of the 78s in the SABC record library were discarded, but as time passed, a number of their recordings were released on CD. Occasionally a recording was played on Uit Vergange se Dae on Radio Pretoria. 

The late Paddy O’Byrne was always happy to play a recording when he was with the SABC and later at Radio Today, although his access to their recordings was extremely limited. Clare Marshall, on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star on Radio Today 1485, was about the only broadcaster in South Africa to feature their recordings regularly. Sadly, her programme is no longer on the air as the station has changed direction recently. After I wrote my book Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth Clare invited me to be her guest on her Morning Star programme on 28 April 2013. Click on the link at: My interview with Clare Marshall on “Morning Star” (28 April 2013)



Compiled by Jean Collen. Updated in 2017.