THEATRE IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1973)

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared in South Africa, as well as amateur shows in which they appeared or which were directed by them – either separately or together.

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared, as well as amateur shows directed by them – either together or separately. The list is not complete so I would be glad to hear from anyone who can add to it or enlarge on the information presented below.

SPRING QUARTET September 1956, Cape Town. Anne and Webster. Before Anne and Webster went to Johannesburg to settle, they played in Spring Quartet, straight after their trip to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle. Leonard Schach directed the play for the Cockpit Players, at the Hofmeyr Theatre. Others in the cast were  Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn, Gavin Houghton and Sydney Welch. Decor by David Crichton, costumes by Doreen Graves. At the piano were Keith Jewell and Geoffrey Miller.

In Cape Town for “Spring Quartet”. September 1956

JOHANNESBURG 1956-1967

NIGHT IN VENICE Wednesday 14 November to Saturday 1 December 1956, Reps Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Johannesburg Operatic Society, Anne Ziegler, Webster Booth, June Hern, Tom Reid, Harold Lake, Stella Beder, Director: Arnold Dover, Music: Drummond Bell.

Night in Venice.
Night in Venice November 1956

ANGELS IN LOVE 29 July 1957, Reps Theatre, Anne played the part of Dearest, with Rory McDermot, Joan Blake, Michael Turner, Arthur Hall, and Edwin Quail (Fauntleroy), directed by Minna Schneier.

31 July 1957 Anne’s first non-singing role

WALTZ TIME 31 May 1958, Springs Civic Theatre, Anne and Webster, produced by Bert Dobson for Springs Operatic Society.

MERRIE ENGLAND 16 to 21 June 1958, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London. Anne and Webster, Mabel Fenney, Pamela Emslie, Hilary Adams, Cawood Meaker, Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Doreen Egan, conducted by Jean Fowler.

16 June 1958 Merrie England, East London.
16 June 1958, Merrie England, East London

THE VAGABOND KING 1 August 1958, Durban. Anne and Webster starred in the show. Produced by Isobel McLaren (wife of singing teacher Arnold Fulton.

MERRIE ENGLAND 12 to 29 November 1958, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg, JODS. Anne and Webster starred and produced and starred in the show, with Marian Saunders, June Bass, Nohline Mitchell, Kenneth Anderson, Len Rosen, and Dudley Cock, conducted by Drummond Bell.

November 1958. Merrie England at the Reps Theatre, Johannesburg.
November 1958. Anne and Webster produced and starred in Merrie England at the Reps Theatre in Braamfontein for JODs.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Christmas 1958, City Hall, East London, Anne appeared as principal boy. Anne told me that she had also appeared in DICK WHITTINGTON in East London.

WALTZ TIME 1959, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London, Anne and Webster and East London cast.

Waltz Time East London.

THE GLASS SLIPPER December 1959, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg Repertory Players, National Theatre and Childrens Theatre, Anne Ziegler, Yvonne Theron, Siegfried Mynhardt, David Beattie, Hilda Kriseman, Olive King, Bruce Anderson, directed by Hugh Goldie. Music: Joyce Goldie (Piano conductor) Band: Leader Walter Mony, Bassoon: Richard Cherry, Clarinet: P Reinders, Percussion: A Johnson, Violin: Erica Anderson, Viola: Lance Lange, Cello: Phyllis Chaplin

The Glass Slipper, December 1959. Children’s Theatre
Anne as the Fairy Godmother pointing the way for Cinderella’s coach to go to the ball. I ushered at the Reps Theatre for one of the performances.

MIKADO 1960, Bloemfontein, Webster. I know very little about this show. I am not sure whether Webster sang in it, directed it or did both.

A COUNTRY GIRL October 1960, Produced by Anne and Webster at Little Theatre, Springs. Leads were played by Corinne van Wyk and John Wilcox.

LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS 19 December 1960 to January 1961, Playhouse, Johannesburg, Anne, Valerie Miller, Leon Eagles, John Boulter, Robert Haber and Ivor Berold, directed by Leonard Schach.

Anne, Dame Flora Robson, Ivan Berold
Anne and Valerie Miller

THE AMOROUS PRAWN September to October 30 1961, Alexander Theatre (previously the Reps Theatre), National Theatre, Pretoria, 31 October to November 12, Alhambra Theatre, Durban, November 15?

Webster was the Prawn, with Simon Swindell, Gabriel Bayman, Diane Wilson, Joe Stewardson, Ronald Wallace and Joan Blake, directed by Victor Melleney.

Amorous Prawn rehearsal with Joan Blake, Simon Swindell, Ronald Wallace, producer: Victor Melleney. Webster with a monocle was the Prawn.

THE DESERT SONG October to November 1961 at Springs Theatre, Anne directed this show for the Springs Operatic Society. Sylvia Watson (nee Reilly), who kindly wrote to me to tell me more about these shows was in the chorus.

THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL February 1962, Alexander Theatre, Webster took a small non-singing part with Simon Swindell, Michael McGovern, Gordon Mulholland, Joe Stewardson, directed by Albert Ninio. My piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, saw the play and remarked about Websters role, “Such a small part for such a great man.”

THE VAGABOND KING October 1962, Springs Little Theatre
Anne and Webster directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE October 1962, Bloemfontein. Webster directed this production. As a gimmick he had a chimpanzee going on to the stage with the pirates. The chimpanzee idea was not without problems. She disgraced himself during Websters opening night speech. With a quick wit he quipped, You naughty girl. I wont take you out again in a hurry.

THE MERRY WIDOW November 1962, Springs Little Theatre. Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

GOODNIGHT MRS PUFFIN January 1963, Alexander Theatre, Anne and Webster with Jane Fenn, George Moore, Deborah Francis, Leonne Carnot, Clive Pownall, Paddy Canavan, Anthony James and Michael Newell, directed by John Hayter.

The Amorous Prawn. Anne is Mrs Fordyce, with Leonne Carnot, Jane Fenn
Anne and Webster with their stage family.

THE NEW MOON, 10 April 1964, Springs Little Theatre, Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD May 1963, Alexander Theatre, JODS, Webster took the part of Colonel Fairfax at short notice with Denise Allen, June Hern, Lilian Gartside, Len Rosen, Lyle Matthews, Ethlynne Cohen and Peter Lynsky, directed by Keith Stammers-Bloxham, conducted by Desmond Wright.

Yeomen of the Guard 6 June 1963.
6 June 1963. Yeomen of the Guard.

TONIGHT AT 8.30 8 July 1964, Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, CAPE PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL (CAPAB) Anne and Webster appeared in Family Album with Yvonne Bryceland, Michael Drin, Nanette Rennie and Flora McKenna, directed by Margaret Inglis, conducted by Keith Jewell.

THE MERRY WIDOW October 1965, Bloemfontein. Anne directed this production in Bloemfontein.

The Merry Widow in Anne’s production in Bloemfontein. I don’t know her name. Do you?

THE LOVE POTION November 1966, Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Anne, with Alec Bell, Fiona Fraser and Arthur Hall, directed by Ricky Arden. This show was not a success and came off early.

THE BARTERED BRIDE November (Pretoria) 14, 17, 20, 22 December 1966, (Johannesburg), Aula Theatre, Pretoria, Civic Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Webster played non-singing role of Circus Master, with Gé Korsten, Nellie du Toit, Gert Potgieter and Oysten Liltveld, directed by Victor Melleney, conducted by Leo Quayle

The Bartered Bride?

COUNTESS MARITZA 1967, Pretoria. Anne and Webster either directed or appeared in this production or perhaps they did both.

KNYSNA 1967-1974

MERRIE ENGLAND 11  July 1968, Knysna and District Choral Society, Webster, Anne, Dorothy Davies, James Squier and Ena van der Vijver

CINDERELLA December 1968, Knysna. Anne played principal boy and wrote the script. Del le Roux, Ena van der Vijver, Dorothy Davies and Sadie Hamilton Cox were also in the cast.

Ena van der Vyver and Anne as principal boys.

PANTOMIME December 1969, Knysna, Anne played principal boy and wrote the script but I do not know the name of the pantomime.

COX AND BOX/TRIAL BY JURY ( Date?), Knysna, George, Oudtshoorn and Ladismith (Cape)

LADY AUDLEYS SECRET December 1971, Port Elizabeth Opera House, Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society. Anne produced this show.

Alys Tayler and Ted Mayhew in Lady Audley’s Secret, PE, 1971.

DICK WHITTINGTON December 1972, Port Elizabeth Opera House, PEMADS. Webster produced and conducted for this pantomime, while Anne played Principal Boy.

Rehearsing Dick Whittington in PE>

THE MIKADO 4 to 14 April 1973, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pam Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas. Webster produced this show.

Webster at rehearsal.
Rehearsal
Me and June Evans
Me, June Evans and Neil Evans.
Me in The Mikado.
Me – back left with June Evans and other members of the chorus.

Updated 16 December 2019.

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1958 – 1959)

October 1958 –
Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring. Our charming stage
celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie
England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.
When the Booths
came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be
quick,” they said.
Cars loom large in
the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed
her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed
at which she was travelling.”
Mr Booth may have
endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!

21 January 1958 – At Home with Anne. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.

A poor newspaper cutting photocopied by microfiche. 1 February 1958.

1 February 1958 – Jennifer Vyvyan recital

A photograph of the Booths appeared in the Rand Daily Mail. They had attended the recital given by English soprano Jennifer Vyvyan in the Selborne Hall. Webster had appeared with Jennifer Vyvyan in performances of Hiawatha and Messiah in 1955 before he left the UK.

7 March 1958 with Harry Stanton.

7 March 1958. Outdoor theatre at Joubert Park.

14 March 1958. Little Theatre, Springs.

17 May 1958 Elijah at the City Hall.
20 May 1958.

31 May 1958 – Springs Operatic Society – May Time

31 May 1958 – Springs Operatic Society – May Time
31 May 1958
16 June 1958
16 June 1958

Merrie England 16 June 1958 with Mabel Fenney, Jimmy Nicholas and Pam Emslie
Anne and Webster in Merrie England, East London 1958.
Anne and Webster in Cape Town.
1 August 1958 Vagabond King, Durban.
22 July 1958.
July 1958

October 1958 – Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring.

Our charming stage celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.

When the Booths came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be quick,” they said.

Cars loom large in the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed at which she was travelling.”

Mr Booth may have endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!

November 1958 JODS

l January 1959

8 January, 12 March 1959 Variety under the stars.
17 February 1959.
February 1959.
7 March 1959 – A bed for Zandile.
12 March 1959 Merrie England – Dora Sowden.
11 April 1959 SABC Pavilion Rand Easter Show.
May 1959.
Waltz Time, East London 18 May 1959.
Anne and Lemon. Anne opens flower show at the City Hall. 1959.

At the old Carlton Hotel – the Press Club party for the All Blacks.
At home in Craighall Park.

With Lemon and Spinach.

With Lemon.

Advertising Lourenco Marques Radio.

Anne and Webster launch their Afrikaans LP – Net Maar ‘n Roos.

The Glass Slipper December 1959.

Anne plays the Fairy Godmother.

Jean Collen 30 April 2019.

MOVING TO SOUTH AFRICA

A great fuss was made of them when they came to settle in Johannesburg. They stayed for several months at Dawson’s Hotel in Johannesburg while they looked for a suitable place to live. They eventually found a pleasant flat at Waverley, just off Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North, where they lived until they bought their first house in Craighall Park several years later. They were lucky to obtain the services of Hilda, who hailed from the island of St Helena, to be their housekeeper. Hilda remained with them during their eleven years in Johannesburg.

1 Early days in Johannesburg

Anne and Webster had toured the Cape towards the end of 1955 with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra and returned to the UK so that Webster could fulfil oratorio engagements over Christmas.8 November 1955 - Rand Daily Mail.8 November 1955 8 November 19552

12 Dec 1955
The Booths arrive back in the UK from their South African tour on 12 December 1955.

Towards the end of January 1956, they were back in South Africa to appear in major cities in the Transvaal, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, and Pietermaritzburg, before doing a tour of the country districts of the Transvaal. In this second tour, they were accompanied by Arthur Tatler on the piano. There was even a notice in The Rand Daily Mail advising people of the time of their plane’s arrival at 5.50 pm on Saturday afternoon 28 January. 10 January 1956 2

They were entertained by the Mayor, Leslie Hurd, in the mayoral parlour. The Mayor spoke to the assembled gathering of local celebrities about the fact that he shared a Christian name with Webster.

The critics were rather severe in their judgement of their recital, viewing them as ballad singers rather than operatic singers, although both Dora Sowden from The Rand Daily Mail and Oliver Walker from The Star agreed that Anne and Webster knew how to charm their audiences. The writers of the “women’s’ pages” were much more enthusiastic about them. Amelia from the Women’s Journal in The Star gave a fulsome report of one of their concerts on 20 February 1956:

“When the two appeared in the City Hall on Thursday night the crowd was screaming to stamping stage with enthusiasm even though the artists had been most generous in their encores.

Miss Ziegler wore one of the lovely crinolines which she always chooses for stage appearances. This one had a black velvet bodice and a skirt of gold and black tissue brocade. With her diamond jewellery she was a scintillating figure under the lights.”

They had made up their minds to settle in the country and returned to the UK merely to sort out their affairs and make arrangements to have their belongings shipped to South Africa.  They travelled onboard the Pretoria Castle to Cape Town in July 1956. Before they went to Johannesburg they appeared in Spring Quartet in Cape Town under the direction of Leonard Schach.

Dawson's Hotel 1972
Dawson’s Hotel 1972. Thanks to Frans Erasmus for allowing me to use this photo

A great fuss was made of them when they came to settle in Johannesburg. They stayed for several months at Dawson’s Hotel in Johannesburg while they looked for a suitable place to live. They eventually found a pleasant flat at Waverley, just off Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North, where they lived until they bought their first house in Craighall Park several years later. They were lucky to obtain the services of Hilda, who hailed from the island of St Helena, to be their housekeeper. Hilda remained with them during their eleven years in Johannesburg.

Waverley, Highlands North
Anne and Webster in the Hillman Convertible outside their flat in Waverley, Highlands North (1956).

They had an engagement to star in A Night in Venice with the Johannesburg Operatic Society in November, and Webster was asked to sing the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at a Symphony concert. The work was presented as part of the Johannesburg Festival to celebrate Johannesburg’s seventieth birthday. Sir Malcolm Sargent, who had conducted Webster at several concerts in London the previous year, conducted the concert, while the other soloists were Webster’s old friend, Betsy de la Porte (contralto), whom he remembered from his early days singing at Masonic dinners, Frederick Dalberg (bass) and the young coloratura soprano, Mimi Coertse, who was beginning to make a name for herself  in Vienna.

1956 Night in Venice3
Anne and Webster in “A Night in Venice” for the Johannesburg Operatic Society”.

Rather incongruously Webster took the Tommy Handley part in a series of ITMA scripts acquired by Springbok Radio, the commercial station of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the SABC). This thirteen-week series was entitled Light up and Laugh, sponsored by Gold Flake Cigarettes, and produced by the Herrick-Merrill production house.

Although Anne had driven a car in her youth she had allowed her British driving licence to lapse after she married Webster. The Booths had two cars at their disposal in Johannesburg: a sea-green Zephyr and a pale blue Hillman convertible. Anne had to do a South African driving test and was taught by an Afrikaans ex-traffic policeman. On her first lesson he made her drive along Louis Botha Avenue, the main road from Pretoria through the suburbs into Johannesburg. There was a bus boycott on at the time. Thousands of people were walking along Louis Botha Avenue from the townships of Alexandra and Sophiatown to their work places in the city centre. Anne was very nervous, fearing that she might knock somebody down. Despite the adverse circumstances of her first driving lessons she soon passed her test and proved to be an excellent driver. She went on driving until shortly before her death in 2003.

In the first year or two after their arrival in South Africa they were fêted by everyone, invited to all the society parties and offered all kinds of engagements. Anne took her first non-singing part in Angels in Love, the story of Little Lord Fauntleroy and his mother, Dearest, played by Anne. They replayed their parts in A Night in Venice to Durban audiences. They even went to East London to sing at the city’s Hobby Exhibition, and were heard often on the radio. Not only did they do frequent broadcasts but their records were played constantly by other presenters, who marvelled that such a famous couple had chosen to settle in South Africa.

In 1957 they opened their School of Singing and Stagecraft at their studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Corner. They held a party to celebrate the opening of the studio and invited musical and society glitterati, who eagerly crammed into the studio for the occasion and were suitably impressed by the array of pictures of Anne and Webster, taken with internationally famous friends and colleagues, adorning one of the studio walls.

Polliack's Corner
Polliack’s Corner, Pritchard Street – the building to the right with balconies. The studio was on the eighth floor.

The original plan was that Webster would teach singing, while Anne would teach stagecraft, but in the end they both taught singing, and Anne acted as accompanist to the students. At first there were not many students as their fees per month were much higher than those of local singing teachers. Eventually they reduced the fees in order to attract more students. I began having singing lessons with them at the end of 1960 after I had finished school. The fee was £4-4-0 a month.

Anne Ziegler studio fees

In 1963 Anne told me that all the local Johannesburg celebrities and socialites who had tried to cultivate them when they first arrived in South Africa, soon left them alone once they realised that they were not as wealthy as they had imagined, and actually had to work for a living, and were not free to attend the races and other such “society” activities.

Jean Collen 7 July 2018

ACCOMPANYING FOR WEBSTER AGAIN.

Later that week we went to see The Yeomen at the old Reps Theatre in Braamfontein, now named the Alexander Theatre after Muriel Alexander. We were very impressed by Webster’s performance as the somewhat elderly Colonel Fairfax, who wins Elsie Maynard and breaks poor Jack Point’s heart in the process. Anne told me that Webster would be very hurt if I didn’t go backstage to see him afterwards, so I did. He was fighting off the ‘flu and did not look well, although from the auditorium nobody would have realised that he was ill.

This article is mainly from my book, available at: Lulu.com

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I had played for Webster for two weeks while Anne was away in April and assumed that I would no longer be needed now that she had returned. Anne and Webster insisted that I keep the spare keys to the studio so that I could work there when they were not teaching. I was preparing for the ATCL singing examination in October and Grade 8 piano the following year, so I found the studio, high above the hustle and bustle of downtown Johannesburg, the ideal place to work and practise. In return, I answered queries, took messages on the phone, and answered the door to visitors.

Towards the end of May the Johannesburg Operatic Society (JODS) asked Webster to take over the role of Colonel Fairfax in their production of The Yeomen of the Guard at short notice. This was an incongruously youthful role for someone aged sixty-one, but he acquitted himself as well as he always did and lifted the production with his dynamic stage presence and undiminished vocal gifts. The show opened to mixed reviews, but all the critics had great praise for Webster. Dora Sowden headed her review in one of the Sunday papers:”Webster towers”. He had certainly taken on a remarkable feat as the juvenile lead at sixty-one.

6 June 1963 The Yeomen of the Guard, JODs Alexander Theatre RDM (2)

Later that week we went to see The Yeomen at the old Reps Theatre in Braamfontein, now named the Alexander Theatre after Muriel Alexander. We were very impressed by Webster’s performance as the somewhat elderly Colonel Fairfax, who wins Elsie Maynard and breaks poor Jack Point’s heart in the process. Anne told me that Webster would be very hurt if I didn’t go backstage to see him afterwards, so I did. He was fighting off the ‘flu and did not look well, although from the auditorium nobody would have realised that he was ill.

1963 Yeomen of the Guard 1963-06

In June, while Webster was still involved with The Yeomen, Anne told me that their housekeeper, Hilda, who was from the island of St Helena, was planning a trip home for six and a half weeks. Anne and Webster had decided to do alternate days in the studio while she was away as they would have to do the housework and cooking themselves. Would I care to accompany for Webster again? I did not have to think twice about it before agreeing to do so.

After Hilda left on her trip I settled into accompanying for Webster once again. Anne came in on alternate teaching days so occasionally I had a lesson with her. One Monday afternoon Ruth phoned me at the studio to ask whether I would like to have dinner with her family before going to the SABC choir meeting afterwards. Webster gladly agreed to take me to Parkwood instead of Kensington, as it was on his direct route home. We drove past Zoo Lake and he pointed out his bowling club, saying it was the loveliest setting in the world in which to play bowls. He had played golf in England, but could not afford to do so in South Africa.

I had a pleasant dinner with the Ormonds, and then Mr Ormond transported us to the meeting in his big black Rover which had been bought from the proceeds of the £40,000 Mrs Ormond had won in the Rhodesian Sweep the year before. There was a party after the meeting and Ruth and I chatted to Anton Hartman, the chief orchestral conductor at the SABC. Toward the end of June, we sang in the Light Music Festival where we did a number of unaccompanied American, German and Afrikaans folk songs. The Dutch conductor Jos Cleber conducted the orchestra, with Gert Potgieter and Bob Borowsky as soloists. Ruth was working for matric exams, and I for my singing diploma so we decided to take leave of absence from the choir, with the idea of returning when our respective examinations were behind us.

One evening, after we finished work at the studio, Webster took me with him to see one of The Three Petersen Brothers in connection with going into partnership with them in a new film company. Webster introduced me as: “This is Miss Campbell. She plays for me.” The Petersen brother concerned looked mystified. Webster had to explain to him exactly what it was I played! Although they had a long discussion, nothing came of the film company as far as Webster was concerned.

In July Anne had a very bad cold which lingered on for a long time, and Webster had a funny turn one evening. He lost his vision, and his head was spinning even when he was lying down. Anne told me that she wanted him to see the doctor about the state of his general health and his general grumpiness, but he refused to do so. She admitted that he hated teaching everyone apart from his few “pets”. She was very worried about him.

From the way he treated Lucille at her lessons, I gathered that she was one of the “pets”. She was having her twenty-first birthday party and had invited them to her party, but they had another engagement and could not attend. For some reason I felt quite jealous of her and was glad that they weren’t going to her party!

A few days later Webster told me that Anne’s cold was no better. He wanted her to see the doctor about it but instead she had insisted on going to Leslie Green’s draughty house for dinner. She was not pleased when he told her she would be better off staying in bed and trying to get rid of her cold.

One evening I was washing the dishes in the kitchen before we left the studio for the night, when I overheard him telling Gertie, our last pupil of the day, for whom I had just played the accompaniment of Softly Awakes my Heart from Samson and Delilah, what a wonderful musician I was at only nineteen. Praise indeed.

When Hilda returned from her St Helena holiday, the Booths went to sing at a concert in the country with Desmond Wright, who had conducted The Yeomen, as their accompanist. Webster told me that the only reason he had not asked me to play for them at this concert was because he thought that another woman on the stage would draw the audience’s attention away from Anne.

They made a great fuss of my twentieth birthday at the end of August, with Anne singing Happy Birthday to me, and both of them kissing me to wish me a happy day. There was a present of lipstick and matching nail varnish waiting for me on top of the piano when I went in for my lesson. I was very touched that they had remembered my birthday. Ruth had her lesson after mine, so I waited for her, as we were going out for coffee after her lesson.

Webster said, “Don’t drink too much whisky,” as we left. It was another lovely day.

They had acquired a protégé, a talented boy soprano called Robin Lister, whom they were coaching in preparation for his first LP recording. Robin had an exceptional voice, resembling a mature female soprano rather than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He had been having lessons with a teacher in Benoni, but left her to study with Anne and Webster. Before his voice broke he made several recordings supervised by Anne and Webster. He became very well known and sang at a number of concerts. After his voice broke, he continued his lessons with the Booths, changing from singing to piano. The last I heard was that he became an engineer and had immigrated to Australia.

Webster phoned me before he left for Michaelhouse School in Natal to sing Elijah to ask whether I would play at an audition for two of their boy sopranos for Amahl and the Night Visitors the following Saturday. I agreed to do so and wished him well for the Elijah performance. “I know you’ll sing beautifully,” I added, and he replied, “Bless you, dear”.

On Saturday morning the two boys, Denis Andrews and Selwyn Lotzof, together with their parents and I arrived at Gwen Clark’s sumptuous penthouse at the top of Anstey’s Building, where the audition was to be held. The boys acquitted themselves well and we were given a lovely tea afterwards, but neither was chosen to sing the part of Amahl. Instead they decided to import a boy from Britain. Webster said that Ruth could have done the part, if suitably disguised, as her voice was like a boy’s, with absolutely no vibrato.

I went back to the studio after the audition to let Anne know how the boys had fared. She had had a tiring morning teaching all by herself, as Webster was at Michaelhouse to sing in a performance of Elijah, conducted by Barry Smith, the musical director at Michaelhouse at the time. He and Anne had not parted on good terms when he left for Michaelhouse so she had been rather surprised that he phoned her when he arrived there.

Anne insisted on making us coffee before she left. She spoke of Jo’burg “high” society, who had gone out of its way to cultivate them when they first arrived in South Africa as international stars, but soon dropped them when they realised that they were not rolling in money and were obliged to work for a living and were not able to go with them to race meetings or the like.

My diploma was pending and I spent a lot of time practising ear tests at Sylvia Sullivan’s studio with Edith Sanders, who was working for a piano diploma. She had perfect pitch, so I admired her sense of pitch which made ear tests very easy and she admired my competent sight-reading, which had improved remarkably since the early days of accompanying for Webster.

My Associate diploma, once again with Guy McGrath as examiner and Anne as accompanist, went well in all departments. 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. By this time Mabel had passed her final exam at the Höchschule in Berlin. She was divorced from her first husband, Eric Fenney, who had financed her stay in Berlin, and had recently married Maurice Perkin in England.

About a week after the exam Webster phoned me at the studio to ask me to look up something about one of his “great voices” for his radio programme in my musical dictionary. He had seen the heavy tome and always termed it as my Bible.

I met my mother for lunch in Anstey’s that day and was pleased to hear that I had passed the Associate exam with 77%.

When I went to the studio in the afternoon, Webster answered the door. We had our usual shilling bet on passing or failing the exam.


“I owe you a shilling”, I said, handing it to him.


“What’s this for?” he asked as I went into the kitchen-cum-waiting room.


“I’ve passed my exam!” I announced as I sat down.


“Congratulations, darling,” he cried, bending down to kiss me.

We told Anne the good news when I went into the studio for my lesson.
“Did you know about it when I phoned you this morning?” Webster asked.


Anne asked sharply, ‘Why did you phone Jean?”


“I wanted her to look up something in her Bible for me,” he replied mildly.


“Whatever for? We have four Bibles at home!” she retorted, regarding us both with suspicion.


“It’s not a Bible really. It’s a music dictionary,” he explained.

She obviously did not believe a word he told her. I felt embarrassed to suddenly be the object of unfounded suspicions when we had always got on so well together. The episode put a damper on my exam success.

Jean Collen Updated 6 November 2019.