1 June – College again. We have a long day which is rather depressing after the excitement of the week. This is broken by the lunch hour concert conducted by Jeremy Schulman with Annie Kossman as first violin. They play Poet and Peasant overture. Alan Solomon plays a violin solo with orchestra – Symphonie Espagnol. Last – Knightsbridge March by Coates. I meet Pat Eastwood again in the afternoon.
At night Mr Stratton calls for me for choir and this is enjoyable – any chance to sing is nice for me. A young tenor comes to practise songs for a wedding on Saturday – he’s singing This is My Lovely Day. He has a good voice but a face as miserable as death!
Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. First, he plays a quartet from the Verdi Requiem. Webster says, “Verdi seemed to have a grudge against sopranos. In this record the soprano has to hold a note for twenty seconds – a real test of breathing if ever there was one!”
Plays an aria from Judas Maccabeus sung by Isobel Baillie. “Isobel is my ideal singer of oratorio. The way she floats up to the high Bs and B flats is beautiful to hear. It’s a long time since she visited this country, but I know she is well loved by all who saw and heard her.”
He talks about Faust and says, “I met Anne Ziegler during the filming of Faust. Of course, I was Faust and she the heroine, Marguerite. We used to be so tired doing it that it took the make-up man all his time to cover up our tired looks.”
This leads him into Rosemarie and he plays recordings by George Tsotsi, Frederick Harvey and Julie Andrews. The last sings Pretty Things and, says Webster. “Very prettily she sings it too!” He says he knew Julie Andrews as a child prodigy of 12 years old singing coloratura opera arias and making a lot of money for her parents. She lost her beautiful voice but still has a very workable, pleasing voice and acting talent to go with it.
He clears his throat violently, plays the Soldiers’ March and starts reminiscing about Canada and the Rockies and how much he and Anne enjoyed being there when they did a concert performance of Merrie England in Calgary in 1953. He says that a brown bear pulled at Anne’s skirt and that this was a very happy period of their lives. He plays the finale from Faust with himself, Joan Cross and Norman Walker.
Webster says, “Now Anne will join me in singing Indian Love Call. I’ve heard this record before but I shall never cease to wonder at their voices. So long as that record continues to be played they will be remembered for ever. He ends with the overture to Oklahoma! and then it’s “Goodnight until next week!”
2 June – College and thank heaven for the weekend. In the afternoon I buy a Durban paper and there is the advert for their concert in the city hall for over 60s – 25 cents a ticket with limited seating for the general public at 50 cents a ticket!
Go to guild at night. We have a bible quiz which is quite good fun but wouldn’t I rather have been at the Durban concert!
3 June – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and Dad and buy a few songs. Come home and sing and sing. Hear Webster and Anne singing Only a Rose on Freddie Carlé’s programme – feel terribly happy about this – too gorgeous for words!
6 June – College and then to studio. Phone rings and Anne comes through and says to him, “Webster, Salisbury wants you.” Webster speaks to someone in Salisbury and I hear him say, “Well Anne could come up too if necessary.” Anne comes into the kitchen wearing a red hat to cover absolutely straight unset hair, and a black dress and coat with wings for sleeves. She looks a bit corny all round. I go in and pay her and this makes her happy.
Anne and Webster meeting All Blacks at residence of New Zealand ambassador, Lower Houghton.
We start on singing and she informs me brightly that I’m going to get a new exercise today to get the tongue flat. “ca, ca, ca” – very exhausting. She says, “Nothing is impossible.” Says Webster, “Once you get this you’ll wonder why you couldn’t do it all along.” We do The Lass and my breathing is dreadful. He says I’m expounding too much energy in diction and does a cruel imitation of this. We start again with breathing and he sings with me and breathes with me as well, and it goes better.
Anne tells me I have some excellent notes but I shall have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to be a contralto, do I mind? “Most singers are so disappointed when they hear that they’re going to be contraltos because they think sopranos are far more romantic.” She says this in her most stagy, catty voice. Webster says that I shall definitely have to start on some contralto oratorio arias. O, Rest in the Lord would be best. I say that I shall copy it into a manuscript book for next week. He looks surprised that I should be able to do this.
I ask how they enjoyed Durban and Anne says theatrically, “It was lovely! Very rushed of course, but we managed to get a dip in the sea on Saturday morning, but it was freezing. Both concerts went marvellously – the second one was in the open air.”
Anne asks me if I can go at 4.30 next Tuesday. Will it be convenient? Oh, yes. Offers me an Eetsummore biscuit but I decline with thanks. Anne escorts me to door still in red hat, angel-like coat and straight reddish-blonde hair. Today she was in one of her stagy and therefore less attractive moods.
8 June – Go to lunch hour concert – Edgar Cree conducting. The soloist is Cecilia Wessels – a large lady in her fifties looking every inch the typical prima donna of fifty years ago. On the loud notes her voice (dramatic soprano) is excellent but her soft notes tend to crack. Apparently, she is very well known and there is a saying about her, “Don’t say ships; say Wessels!”
At night Mr Stratton takes me to choir and we have reasonable time – all would be so much more pleasant if Mrs Weakley shut up a little. Come home and listen to Webster while lying in bed. He plays an aria from Messiah sung by American bass-baritone, Donald Gramm – Why Do the Nations?
Webster talks about Bach and says that he and Bach have something in common – they were both educated at a cathedral school – free! But there the resemblance ends. Plays the Cantata for Ascension Day sung by four dear friends – Eva Turner, Kathleen Ferrier and two others whose names I don’t catch.
Next he plays something from Thais by Massenet, and then Don Pasquale. Rossini was in poor health when writing this and died in an asylum. Next come three songs from My Fair Lady sung by Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stan Holloway. He says, “Anne always says that Rex should have been her brother-in-law but her sister married an Edinburgh accountant instead.” Re Julie Andrews, “We’ve known her since she was ten years of age and at one time she trained with Anne’s former singing teacher – Lilian Stiles-Allen who might be known to older listeners as an oratorio soprano.” Stan Holloway: “I’ve known Stan since his concert party days. All three were dear friends of ours.” What a lot of name-dropping in one session! But I’ve always admired the three, especially Rex Harrison for what he did for Kay Kendall.
Lastly, he plays Merry Widow by Mantovani – Manty as he is affectionately known. Lovely programme but none of his records there, I notice.
9 June College. Gail Blue leaves today – she has found a job!
Go to guild at night. George Fleetwood, Claudie, Rose and I go with Kippie to Parkwood guild and after much searching we find the hall and enter late amidst the rendering of a song by an unfortunate young baritone.
A play is presented – The Late Mr Wesley which is very good and the girl turns out to be Wendy Smith from the rink. Afterwards, we greet each other effusively and she tells me that she’s doing a BSc at varsity and she must come to the rink some time. She is terribly sweet and her acting was lovely. Also meet Lynnette Roberts from college and she is most effusive too. In her effusion she knocks a cup of tea on to George and his suit! Rushes for cloth to wipe it and apologises – effusively!
10 June – Go skating this morning. Neill is there and is gay (when not bragging) and so is Menina full of a long holiday in Durban. Dawn V comes and she too is full of herself. My skating is still the same as it was a year or two ago! Talk on and off and am pestered by Dawn to dance. I have actually lost all lust for skating – the only reason I go there now is for a social occasion. I hope that my interest in singing will not peter out as my interest for skating has but I have been brought up on music so maybe it’ll win through!
In the afternoon I go with parents to see Tunes of Glory with Alec Guiness, John Mills and Duncan Macrae (Parents knew him in Britain). It is an excellent picture set in Edinburgh and I enjoy it immensely.
11 June Eleven kids in Sunday school today including Michael Ferguson and Mark – what a time I have! In the afternoon I practise singing and sing in choir at church at night. Mr R’s sermon is excellent and after service Leaders’ representatives are elected – Daddy is elected on to the committee.
12 June – Mother’s birthday (60!) College. In the afternoon I happen to meet Dawn Snyman outside the CNA. She hasn’t changed a bit after a year and is still a darling. She says that Erica Batchelor has gone for a holiday overseas. Dawn is going to visit Chubby. Says she wrote five letters to her and got a postcard in return! We talk about Kay and the rink and she says she is at Modern Methods business college. We say we’ll probably see each other at the rink. She is a pet. I always liked her.
Practise singing at night for great day tomorrow.
13 June In afternoon go to reference library and read Stage Who’s Who and Television and Radio Who’s Who – both very eloquent about Webster and Anne – makes me feel terribly insignificant and then very determined to do well at singing!
Go to the studio and Webster answers the door and says, “Anne isn’t back yet, but just have a seat till she comes – she won’t be long.” I sit down and listen to Webster coughing. Anne doesn’t come in for ages so Webster says that I had better come into the studio and he’ll make a cup of tea while we wait for her. He says, “I have to go to Rhodesia the week after next, dammit, and God knows how much music I have to take with me.” I make the necessary grunts in reply. Then he says, “I don’t know what’s happened to Anne – she only went to John Orrs and that was half an hour ago.” Anne duly returns after I have had a nice feast on the photographs. She is wearing a fur coat. She apologises for being late. She went to John Orrs to buy a pattern and all the patterns she wanted were out of stock and won’t be in for six weeks.
Anne removes her coat and says, “Well, my dear, let’s start.” Webster brings tea and I drink it. He says to her, “I’m so sorry, I put sugar in it, darling.”
She says archly, “Monster! We’ve had three cups of tea today and I’ve had sugar in every one of them!”
We start on the ca-ca exercise and I tell Anne how exhausting I find it as a prologue. She is delighted and they both stare at my tongue and are charmed with it. Anne says that I must have practised thoroughly which is very different from most of her other pupils who don’t pay any attention to what she tells them to do!
I mention that they asked me to copy O, Rest in the Lord and I produce my copy. They are both thrilled with the manuscript copy and Anne says that Webster will be coming to me to copy out music for him.
We do it and it goes very well. We concentrate on it line by line, and Webster gives a demonstration – no imitations of me this week – and they tell me that my voice seems to have improved and is settling down nicely. We end with The Lass and Anne says that a two and a half octave range is quite fantastic and I have the makings of an excellent singer.
When she sees me to the door, she asks, “Are you glad you’re doing singing, Jean?” and I say, “Oh, yes. I love it!” and boy, I really do. Ernest is waiting to go in for his lesson and gives me an earnest look. Say goodbye and come away gaily – a little more cheered than at other times.
15 June College. We go to lunch hour concert. Edgar Cree conducts the Ballet suite from Faust and a waltz from Eugene Onegin. Adelaide Newman is one of the best pianists I have heard.
At night I go to choir with Mr Stratton. When I arrive home I listen to Webster and he is excellent as usual. He starts off with an excerpt from the Mozart Requiem and then plays part of the Ninth Symphony, but says that although he likes to listen to it, he loathes singing it, although he has sung it under three twin knights – Sargent, Beecham and Wood, and also Felix Weingartner.
Next he plays two pieces from Cavaliera Rusticana, an opera about ordinary people. He says the opera is very bloody, “A lovely cheerful night’s entertainment.” He plays The Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, which is unpleasant, in my opinion.
“It’s amazed at how many South Africans we meet here can remember us in Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi, specially written for us by Kenneth Leslie-Smith. I would like to play you three songs recorded from the show sung by Anne and me.”
The first is a duet, Life Begins Anew followed by Anne singing Sweet Yesterday and the last one is a rousing one by Webster called Morning Glory. What voices they had! He finishes with some more Lehar.
16 June – College – Go to guild at night and we have Victoria guild over so there is quite a crowd. Playing goes very well and we see two films on refugees – one with Yul Brunner. Ann takes the epilogue.
17 June Go skating – Dawn and friend, Sally, MJ and Neill are there and we have glorious time. Neill does aeroplane spins with Dawn which come on nicely and a double spin with me which is gorgeous. I have regained old form and all is terribly gay.
In the afternoon I practise singing and at night we go to Mr and Mrs Scott – they have a lovely little flat in Reynolds View. We listen to the Gondoliers and they are full of praise for Webster and Anne. See programme of Dancing Years – they are in advert – Sweethearts of Song.
18 June Sunday school then beautiful sermon by Mr Cape. Peter tells me that he has to take speech lessons for preaching so he wants the Booth’s telephone numbers. The Alexanders come in the afternoon with Mrs Radzewitz’s mother.
19 June – College – come home with Margaret Masterton on the bus and ask her how her parents are enjoying their holiday in the UK. She tells me that her father died in Scotland two weeks ago. I feel rotten about it. Poor Margaret and poor Mrs M. She says that she’s dreading her mother’s return and can’t believe that her father is dead.
We talk about singing and her exams and I tell her about Webster and Anne and singing – contralto etc. She says that Yvonne Hudson (Miss Kempton Park) is learning with Anne. We talk about Drummond Bell which takes Margaret’s mind of her sadness. Apparently, her father knew that he was dying and wanted to return to Scotland to die there.
20 June College and then singing lesson. They are discussing various songs when I go in – keep on talking about Sweet Yesterday. I sit in the kitchenette and think how gorgeous their record of it sounded on Thursday night.
Anne comes in – is quite charming and her hair looks lovely. She asks if I can change times from Tuesday to Thursday at 4 o’clock. I say that it will be fine. She says she hates messing me around but that will be settled. She says she’s going up to Rhodesia the week after next but will talk to me about that later.
I sure will have a musical Thursday – lunch hour concert, Webster and Anne, choir and then Webster at night.
We start on scales – ca-ing away – and Anne is very pleased with my tongue. We go on to Rest in the Lord and I don’t do it too badly. Webster sings a bit of it with me and tells me that I must sing louder. He stands further away and tells me to sing loudly, so I do. He says, “It’s beginning to sound like a voice now!” What did it sound like before, I wonder! Webster says, “It’s terrible, but I can’t find that contralto book I wanted for Jean – It had Father of Heav’n in it and everything.”
He starts rummaging through all the music albums and Anne says, “Let’s try He Shall Feed His Flock while we’re waiting for him.” My copy of it is “out of date” so she alters it – first wrongly –and she says, “Oh, darling, I’m sorry,” and alters it once more and we start again. She says that I have some beautiful notes in the aria and I must try to get the same quality into all the notes and it’ll sound gorgeous.
Webster says that I mustn’t be afraid of having a good sing. She says, “I hope you don’t feel as though you’ll make a fool of yourself in front of us.” “Good God, no!” Webster says vehemently.
It goes quite well today and they are sweet. Anne says very proudly, “Webster is going up to Rhodesia next week to adjudicate.” I say, “That is lovely.” She also tells me that she is going up the week after next and will have to alter my time again – she’s sorry.
When I leave, Ernest is there once again. Peter is not mentioned so undoubtedly he has not yet phoned. If he decides to go to Nora Taylor I couldn’t give a darn! Listen to the radio at night and Ivor Dennis is excellent in his little programme.
21 June – Hear Kathleen Ferrier singing on the Afrikaans programme. She sings folk songs – The Keel Row, Blow the Wind Southerly, The White Lily, Ma Bonny Lad, Willow, Willow. If that’s what a contralto can do, please let me be one.
22 June – Anne’s 51st birthday. Go up to choir at night – Mr S isn’t there because Mrs S is ill, so we go through the hymns in a haphazard fashion. Ann and Leona come down to excuse him. Joan tells me that she went to see The Dancing Years last Saturday night and loved it, She makes me la away at Waltz of My Heart.
Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. He starts with the Verdi Requiem – Libera and Dies Irae. Soprano ends on pianissimo top B. Very nice but very heavy. He plays his own recording of a recit and aria from Samson conducted by Stanford Robinson with the BBC orchestra – very beautiful indeed. He plays parts of Carmen conducted by Thomas Beecham and sung by Victoria de los Angeles.
He plays parts of Annie Get Your Gun. Emile Littler presented it in London and their friend, Wendy Toye produced it. He says they were at the first night of the show and the audience wouldn’t let the cast go so they had to sing all the numbers from the show over again. When they were in Australia it got the same reception. He ends with the overture to Gipsy Princess which he sang many times for the BBC. The recording is played by their old friend Mantovani.
24 June – Have lunch in and have a look in Polliack’s. Net Maar ‘n Roos is displayed in the window. Mummy says I can have the record some time. We see No Love for Johnny with Peter Finch, Mary Peach, Stan Holloway and Billie Whitelaw – excellent.
Mr and Mrs Diamond come at night and I sing for them. They are impressed and I feel happy.
Webster arrives in Salisbury, (then Rhodesia).
29 June – Go to Anne in the afternoon and have a really gorgeous time. I arrive earlier than her and hear her coming out of the lift and thanking the man profusely for holding the door open for her. She wears a red hat and cape-like coat. She says, “Oh, hello, Jean. Did you think I wasn’t coming?” “Oh no, Anne. I was here early.” “The other two before you have ‘flu so that’s why I’m here so late.”
We go in and she fouters around in the office and I look at the pictures and I try to figure out who some of the people are – I only recognise Leslie Green and the Royal family. Anne asks if I can come on the Monday (a public holiday) because she’s going up to Rhodesia next week on Sunday. Yes, of course I can!
We start on ca exercise which she says is marvellous and dead on. She says that I must do 4 cas at a time on the same note in the same exercise and then my placing will be “bang on”.
We do He Shall Feed His Flock. She says it’s going to be gorgeous but I must watch that I don’t spread my “ees”. She says, “I can say what I like about Boo and I know that we have our little squabbles, but I must admit that he has really beautiful diction. It doesn’t matter what he sings – opera, oratorio or pop musical comedy – his vowels are just the same. He was trained in the right way since he was seven years old as a choir boy and he has never forgotten that basic training. You are just at the right age to be trained in the proper way, Jean, and no matter what you do in the future you’ll always be able to fall back on your first basic training. I think it’s wonderful the way you do everything I tell you to. You’re a good girl and you have a lovely voice.”
She asks, “Do you like singing, Jean, and I say profoundly, “Oh, yes. I like it very much.” Not very eloquent but very true.
We go on to Rest in the Lord and this goes well until we reach, “And wait…” and then my tongue goes into the wrong position. She takes me over to the mirror to see that I get my tongue down and she looks in the mirror and says, “Don’t mind me keeping my hat on, but my hair’s such a mess that I couldn’t possibly take it off. I’m going to have it done tomorrow though, so it’ll be OK again!”
She says that she thinks I’m losing my breath too quickly because of the “h” and that she gets her “hs” out without moving her ribs with her abdomen. She gives me a demonstration, and honestly, it is quite marvellous. She tells me to feel her ribs and puts my hands on them with hers – they’re gloriously warm compared with my cold ones. She’s a miracle with her breathing.
We do The Lass and when it comes to top A it sounds terrible to me – not so much terrible but because my parents have said it sounds terrible. She says, “Jean, you have a really beautiful note there. No! Don’t make a face. I wouldn’t tell you that if it was rotten. But look happy about it and don’t let people see you’re thinking, “Oh, God, I can never reach this!”
When we finish, Anne says, “You know, Jean, you really and truly have a beautiful voice.” I feel quite overcome at this and look a bit grim. She says, “Well, aren’t you happy about it? You look as if it was something terrible.” I manage to get out a strangled, “Thank you,” and she looks at me and says, “Jean, I really believe that you are shy. Please, whatever you do, don’t feel shy with me. I don’t know about HIM, but please never feel shy with me, dear.”
I tell Anne to have a nice time in Rhodesia and we say goodbye… She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She’s so generous and natural – she’s an angel.
Listen to Webster at night. He starts off with something from Elijah. He says that there seems to be everything in the record that he likes – his favourite baritone, Harold Williams, his favourite choral society, Huddersfield, and his favourite conductor, Sir Malcolm. It is a lovely record and Harold Williams is excellent. Webster says HW’s voice is nectar to his ears. Next he plays the quartet from Elijah, Rest Thy Hearts Upon the Lord.
Webster talks about Handel playing the organ for a choral society near Bushy Heath. “Where Anne and I spent much time filming Gounod’s Faust. Evidently the society had a collection of very high tenors and it was for them that Handel wrote Acis and Galatea. Webster plays his own recording this, Love Sounds the Alarm conducted by Warwick Braithwaite. ‘Well, you can see what I mean about the high notes, can’t you?” he says when the record is finished.
He goes on to Lucia di Lammermoor and says that Mimi C is coming out next August to do this and she’ll have a good two hours of coloratura singing to do. He plays two arias from the opera. He plays three songs from The Song of Norway which, he says, he saw in London. It was produced in America in the open air with an artificial iceberg for the skating ballet. He plays Freddie and His Fiddle and Strange music. He will play more of this next week and some items from The Vagabond King.