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.

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1957)

My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated. Little did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest of my life. JEAN COLLEN.

Signing autographs in South Africa – 1956.
16 August 1956 Anne and Webster appeared in Spring Quartet in Cape Town shortly after they arrived in South Africa.

17 September 1956 Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town. Cockpit Players present Spring Quartet with Anne and Webster, Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn, Gavin Houghton, Sydney Welch, directed by Leonard Schach.

17 October 1956 – Beethoven Ninth Symphony. City Hall, Johannesburg. Webster, Betsy de la Porte, Mimi Coertse, Frederick Dalberg, SABC Orchestra, Festival Choir, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.


A very poor newspaper cutting (taken by microfiche) showing Webster, Betsy de la Porte, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Mimi Coertse and Frederick Dalberg,
12 November 1956 – Night in Venice for JODS
14 November 1956 – Night in Venice for JODs.

NIGHT IN VENICE

15 November 1956 – Star “crit” by Oliver Walker.

Booths in convertible Hillman Minx outside their flat at Waverley, Highlands North.
December 1956

16 April 1957. Webster has cartoon drawn at Rand Easter Show by Roy Sumner.

21 April 1957 – Easter Sunday morning, The Crucifixion. St George’s Presbyterian Church, Noord Street, Webster, Wilfred Hutchings, Choir augmented with Johannesburg Operatic Society chorus, conducted by Drummond Bell.

Polliack’s Corner – eighth floor balcony Booth studio Singing and Stagecraft. (Photo: Gail Wilson)
Anne’s new hairstyle – July 1957.

July 1957 – Keith Jewell and The Dream of Gerontius

At Cape Town – and this is almost unbelievable (but it is true) – young organist, Keith Jewell (only 27) put on the St Matthew Passion in the City Hall. But more than that he has another three oratorios scheduled before the end of the year, one of which is Elgar’s gigantic work The Dream of Gerontius, which has never before been performed in South Africa. Webster Booth, who has sung in a number of Dreams under Malcolm Sargent at the Albert Hall will be taking a leading role.

I know for a fact – he told me a day or two ago – that Edgar Cree is itching to put it on here. While we have the orchestra, the choirs and singers like Booth right on our doorstep, my reaction is an exasperated: WHY NOT?

1 August 1957 – Anne in her first straight play in South Africa as Dearest in Angels in Love.
September 1957. The Reps did not take up the option on this play.
Advert for Adrenaline!

20 November 1957 – Scots Eisteddfod.

Anne Hamblin was awarded 95% in the Scots Eisteddfod. Webster Booth was the adjudicator.

23 November 1957 – Messiah, St George’s Presbyterian Church and St James’ Presbyterian Church, Malvern. Anne, Webster, Joy Hillier and Wilfred Hutchings, conducted by Drummond Bell.

My parents and I (aged 13) attended the performance at St James’ Presbyterian Church, Mars Street, Malvern. It was the first time I had seen Anne and Webster, although I had already heard many of their recordings on the radio.

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in the same firm as a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR in Vanderbijl Park and we were living in the Valmeidere Hotel in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

  The boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs McDonald-Rouse. Mrs McDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the Valmeidere. In due course we were introduced to the McDonald-Rouses, Heather and her husband.

Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth shortly after their arrival in South Africa the year before and had become very friendly with them. Through the grapevine, we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding, entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one of his favourite choices when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another of his wedding favourites was the ballad, My Prayer.

John Corrigan, my father’s colleague, was an elder at St James’ Presbyterian Church, then situated in Mars Street, Malvern. He invited us to a performance of Messiah to be held in the Church Hall, conducted by Drummond Bell, organist and choirmaster at the Central Presbyterian Church, St George’s. Coincidentally, the tenor and soprano soloists were to be Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. This was the first time I ever attended a performance of Messiah, and the first time I ever saw Anne and Webster. I did not know then that Webster had been one of the foremost oratorio tenors in Britain, but I had heard a number of their duet recordings, which were often played on the radio. It now seems rather incongruous that they should be singing Messiah in a suburban Church Hall when only two years before Webster’s oratorio stamping ground had been the Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Choral Society, with Sir Malcolm Sargent as conductor and other foremost oratorio soloists.

Since their arrival in South Africa, Anne and Webster had received a great deal of publicity on the radio and in the newspapers. As I have mentioned, their records were featured on South African radio a number of times each day. South Africans could not quite believe that such an illustrious theatrical couple had willingly chosen to exchange their successful careers and lives in the UK as the best-known duettists in Britain – possibly the world – to become immigrants in the colonial backwater of Johannesburg. My parents remembered them fondly from their frequent broadcasts in the UK, and seeing them in Variety and in the musical play, Sweet Yesterday at Glasgow theatres.

We sat fairly near the front of the hall on the right-hand side. I wish I could say that I remember every moment of that performance nearly sixty years ago. But sadly. I only remember snatches of it. Webster looked rather stern during the whole proceeding and I am sorry to admit that I was not immediately struck with the exquisite beauty of his voice. I did not know every aria from the Messiah then as I do now. In fact, the only piece I had heard before was the Halleluiah Chorus.

My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated. Little did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest of my life. JEAN COLLEN.

25 November 1957 – Messiah, Johannesburg Town Hall, Webster Booth(tenor)

December 1957 – The Dream of Gerontius, City Hall, Cape Town. Webster, conducted by Keith Jewell, aged 27. This was the first performance of Gerontius in South Africa.

WEBSTER BOOTH IN ORATORIO

Webster Booth and oratorioAlthough Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

Webster Booth and oratorio

Although Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

Two of my most cherished possessions are Webster’s Messiah and Elijah scores. The Messiah score had belonged to his father, Edwin Booth, whose name is written in the score, followed by Webster’s own name.

Webster’s Messiah score

Elijah cover

In the two front pages, he listed some of his Messiah dates from 1928 when he sang at the Birmingham Town Hall on 3 November 1928 with the Choral and Orchestral Union, to performances of various oratorios in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa with Robert Selley at the Oratorio Festivals there in 1961. The list includes a performance at the Royal Lodge Chapel on 15 February 1948 with Anne Ziegler in the presence of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, performances with the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society and the Hallé Concert Society. Several Good Friday Messiahs at the Albert Hall are listed, where the entire work is performed without any cuts.

His first Good Friday Messiah was on the 10 April 1936 when he was 34 years of age. The Royal Choral Society concerts were usually with his champion, Malcolm Sargent as conductor, but he also sang with Sir Thomas Beecham at the Queens Hall on 17 December 1938.

21 December 1938 Messiah

He sang in many performances of Elijah, The Creation, Joshua, Judas Maccabeus, The Creation and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. It was after an afternoon performance of this last work at the Queen’s Hall on 10 May 1941 that this beautiful hall, Webster’s favourite concert hall, was destroyed by an incendiary bomb that night. Webster preferred Handel to Bach, but I see that he did sing in a performance of the latter’s Christmas Oratorio in South Africa in 1960.

December 1938 Messiah

Another Good Friday Messiah in April 1943

I think it is sad that he did not make a recording of the Dream of Gerontius as he was renowned for his performance in this work. Neither did he take part in complete recordings of Messiah or Elijah. When I was studying with him and Anne Ziegler I learnt the part of the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius and he sang the tenor part with me – how I wish I had a recording of it now! He sang in the first performance in South Africa of the work with the young Keith Jewell, Cape Town’s city organist (then aged 27) in 1957, the year after the Booths arrived in South Africa.

People in South Africa were inclined to think that the Booths had been out of favour in the UK and that was the reason why they moved to South Africa in 1956. This was far from the case. Admittedly their recording contract with HMV had been cancelled in 1951 and I have never been able to work out why the contract was cancelled as they were both in excellent voice at the time. But they had plenty of theatre, television, radio and concert engagements in the 1950s. Webster sang his last Messiahs with the Huddersfield Choral Society in December 1955 and January 1956. They moved to South Africa because of increasing problems with the Inland Revenue rather than because they were not as popular as before.

Anne Ziegler sang in exactly one first class performance of Messiah in Blackpool in January of 1944. Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was at that time) conducted the performance with the Huddersfield Choral Society.

1944 Blackpool Messiah

As a thirteen-year-old girl, I heard Webster and Anne sing in a performance of Messiah at St James’ Presbyterian Church which was then situated in Mars Street Malvern. The advertisement below (from 1956)  shows the same soloists and choir at St George’s Presbyterian Church (the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg) which appeared a year later  at St James. Even at that young age, I was aware that it must have been a come-down for Webster to be singing this work in a suburban church in South Africa after he had been singing at the Albert Hall not very long before. While Anne sang in the performance at St James under the musical director of the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, Drummond Bell, she was not asked to sing in more important oratorio performances, such as the one at the Johannesburg City Hall a month later, or with Robert Selley at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival.

In 1957 the first South African performance of The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar) was presented at the City Hall in Cape Town with Webster in the main role, conducted by Keith Jewell (aged 27).

The Dream of Gerontius was also presented in Port Elizabeth at the Oratorio Festival conducted by Robert Selley, where Webster was a soloist from 1957 to 1962.

27 November 1961 – SABC bulletin.

In 1963 Webster was invited to sing in a performance of Elijah with the combined choirs of Michaelhouse and St Anne’s in Natal, conducted by the young Barry Smith who was musical director at Michaelhouse at the time.

The following year he sang in a performance of Creation with the same singers. This time Ronald Charles was the musical director at Michaelhouse.

By that time Webster was 64 years of age. When he moved to Knysna he presented excerpts of various oratorios with the Knysna Choral Society and (in his late sixties) sang several bass solos in Elijah in 1968, something he had always wanted to do as he had a very wide range and a resonant lower register.

Webster’s oratorio recordings include the arias from Handel’s Messiah, Judas Maccabeus, Samson, and Acis and Galatea, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St Paul, and Haydn’s Creation.

Jean Collen

12 July 2017.

Revised and enlarged on 13 March 2019.

 

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: JUNE 1963

She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled.

1 June – Go into Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. I have a look at the picture of the juvenile lead (Colonel Fairfax) in the OK.

Webster as Colonel Fairfax

3 June – Go to SABC at night and Chris Lamprecht takes us. Ruth and I meet at interval and have a good chat. She says that they were charming to her on Saturday – lucky her! We’ll see each other at the theory exam on Saturday.

4 June – Work. Go to singing and Anne is there by herself. Webster is exhausted with rehearsing The Yeomen. The musical director, Desmond Wright picked him out for singing flat in the quartet! I don’t believe it! He hardly even retaliated! We work very hard and I send my love to him and wish him luck for the opening night. She wishes me luck for my theory exam on Saturday.

5 June – Go to studio and work hard. I lunch in Ansteys with Mum. A Mr Haagen comes to the studio in the afternoon to give Jossie Boshoff a lesson. I have a lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine. Gill, Corrie and everyone think that JB is the limit!

6 June – Webster was obviously the hit of the evening for both critics say that although his singing is not all it once was, his great sense of timing, his experience of G&S in D’Oyly Carte, and his perfect diction carried the show through admirably.

Lewis Sowden – Rand Daily Mail.

7 June – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle’s sister on the bus. Anne is in the studio by herself again. She has her hair in curls on top of her head (set for the first night). She tells me over tea that he stole the show. We work hard and she is very pleased. Selwyn comes after me and I wash the dishes before I leave. I meet Brian McDade on the bus coming home.

Oliver Walker – the Yeomen of the Guard crit.

8 June – Go to write theory exam and Ruth is there writing one too. Afterwards we have a cup of coffee in De Beers and she tells me that Anne raved about my concentration yesterday. I go up to Mrs S and deteriorate from then on. I faint 3 times while singing in the choir and my father has to come in to town to fetch me. I am ill for the rest of the day and Mrs S phones to see how I’m keeping.

9 June – Dora Sowden gives Webster a super crit in the Sunday Times.

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10 June – Work. Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that she might be going to Cape Town music school next year. We work hard with Chris Lamprecht.

11 June – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon and tell Anne about the fainting attack on Saturday morning. She is very sympathetic and tells me that she had much the same trouble herself, especially when she was on tour. She also tells me that Hilda is going to visit her family in St Helena soon and will be away for six and a half weeks so I shall probably be accompanying for Webster again on alternate days. Apparently, he is threatening a cold today but will have to persevere with the Yeomen. She says he’d be very hurt if I didn’t go and say hello backstage on Friday night. I sing exceptionally well today and she is thrilled. I wash our teacups after my lesson and this pleases her.

12 June – Go to SS studios and work at ear tests with Edith Sanders. Lunch in Ansteys with Mum and have my piano lesson in the afternoon. I meet Colleen McM on the bus – she is back working in an office and feeling miserable.

13 June – Go to SS studios and work with Edith Sanders again. I have lunch in the restaurant opposite Show Service and see Leon Gluckman there.

14 June – Anne phones in the morning with a king-size attack of the ‘flu. Evidently Webster is almost as bad. I promise to phone Ruth for her and do so in the afternoon to put her off. We go to Yeomen of the Guard at night and it is really gorgeous. Webster sings beautifully and (as I tell him afterwards) makes a charming young man. I go back to see Webster in his dressing room and say how much I enjoyed it. He is terribly pleased. He has a large glass of whisky sitting on the table. He says his temperature is down and Anne is feeling much better tonight. He is a real honey and as unassuming as always. I say, “Ta, ta,” and leave him to dress and get home to bed to nurse his ‘flu.

The Yeomen of the Guard

15 June – Go into the SS studio and rave about the Yeomen. Mrs S is very derisive about it. I work with Margaret and Elaine, sing in the choir and chat to Binky. Come home with Margaret. See Fast Lady (Stanley Black). Listen to Great Voices and he plays a woman of 69 singing. He says, “I wonder if I’ll sound as good as that when I’m 69!”

17 June – Anne phones me in the morning and says she is still sick. We talk for an hour and I think it cheers her up. She runs down Julietta Stanners-B for the peppermint green costume she produced for Webster in the last act. He’s still sick but managing to crawl on stage every night. She says she’ll let me know on Friday about the arrangements for the next six weeks, and certainly, I may have the studio key once more. I go to SABC at night and chat to Ruth. We have rehearsal for Friday and Anton Hartman comes into the studio to talk to us.

18 June – Go to SS studio and work with Edith. Have lunch in Ansteys and then see Sparrows Can’t Sing – an excellent and unusual film. Clive Parnell sits in front of me. Ruth phones to ask me to go to the SABC. Chris L is a pig to everyone in general and Ruth in particular -ugh!

19 June – Go to SS studio and practise. I lunch in Ansteys, have piano lesson and work with Elaine. I phone Anne at night and she still feels revolting even though she’s up. She’s not even sure if she’ll come in on Friday. She says that if she does, she wants Webster to come in with her to offset things as it is too much for her to cope with everyone on her own.

20 June – I go to final rehearsal for SABC in the evening. For a change, Chris L is very affable. Ruth is going for her singing lesson at home on Wednesday but they are not making up the two lessons she missed. She’s cross.

21 June – I go to singing in the afternoon and Anne is back in the studio once more. Lucille, Anne and I have tea together and then I have my lesson. Father of Heav’n goes fairly well. Anne asks me to go in on Wednesday to work for Webster and also next Friday. I’m going to fetch the keys tomorrow. We sing in the Light music concert at the City Hall conducted by Jos Kleiber and it goes well. Ruth remarks that Jos Kleiber is very energetic! Anton H and Edgar Cree congratulate us on our performance.

22 June – Phone early in the morning and speak to Webster to remind Anne about the key. He is sweet to me. I go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine and then go up to Anne’s to get the keys. I say hello to Robin Gordon and “Clara Butt”! I return to sing in Mrs S’s choir and come home with Margaret. I listen to Webster at night and he plays a super duet by him and Dennis Noble.

24 June – Go into town and buy some clothes. Practise with Margaret. Lunch with Mum in Capeniro. I go home on the bus with Colleen McM who tells me about Norma D’s husband and other theatrical gossip. Anne phones in the afternoon and asks me to go in for an hour tomorrow. Go to SABC at night. Ruth saw the Yeomen but didn’t go backstage to see Webster. She saw Anne in the audience but didn’t talk to her. She says she thought his voice was rather awful yet I thought he sang well. Work at Creation.

25 June – Go to singing for an hour and Webster is back in slightly disgruntled frame of mind. Work fearfully hard at Father of Heav’n but he is sparing with his praise. I sing the Landon Ronald song cycle and Anne raves about my singing and moans at him for being so grim. I have to play for him tomorrow at 3 o’clock. I hope he is in a better mood tomorrow!

26 June – Go into Booth’s studio and practise. Webster arrives in the afternoon and we have Heather Coxon first. I make tea for us and then we have Colleen, and after her our two demons. When Graham has his lesson Webster shines singing all his bass arias. Webster brings me home and talks about the Yeomen and how tiring it was to change into three different sets of tights at every performance!

27 June – Go to studio and work in the lovely calm atmosphere. Yvonne Marais’s mother phones to say she’s sick so I phone Anne to let her know so that she can come in later. She is grateful. Go to ghastly lunch hour concert featuring Jossie B, then come home and wash hair.

28 June – Go to studio and get a lift into town with Mr McKenzie. Webster comes in the afternoon moaning about the rain. Lucille arrives with her boyfriend and they sing a duet together. She’s there for an hour and then we have tea. I have my lesson and sing unusually well and he is pleased for a change. Selwyn comes and then we have an hour’s break before Betsy Oosthuizen and Graham. Webster brings me home in the Hillman, cursing the rain and the cold engine.

29 June – Go to town with Dad and we see Raising the Wind again – I love that film. Webster’s programme is super.

30 June – Have fairly quiet Sunday. Webster phones unexpectedly at night for no apparent reason except to chat with me. He tells me that he doesn’t think I owe them anything for July because of all the work I’m doing with him. We talk about various pupils, Brian Morris and Drummond Bell. He says he’ll go in tomorrow on his own as he can probably manage by himself as everyone is so awful and don’t need a proper accompanist!


EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – JUNE 1961

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.

Anne and Webster 1960

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.

net maar 'n roos (2)

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).

1961 arriving in salisbury

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.

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.

MY FIRST MEMORIES OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER (1957 – 1960)

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in Rogers-Jenkins where a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR (now Arcelor Mittal) in Vanderbijl Park, was working and we were living in the Valmeidere boarding house in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in Rogers-Jenkins where a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR (now Arcelor Mittal) in Vanderbijl Park, was working and we were living in the Valmeidere boarding house in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

 

            My parents and me in Vanderbijlpark (1950) 

The school year in South Africa runs from January to December, so I, aged thirteen, went to yet another new school just in time to prepare to write the end of year exams in subjects with seemingly different syllabuses to the ones I had been studying at the Vaal High School in Vanderbijlpark. I staggered into the middle of the busy road each morning, praying that I would not be knocked down by a speeding car, in order to catch a rattling tram on its way down the hill to Jeppe Girls’ High School, clad in my new green dress and black blazer with white stripes. The most important part of the uniform seemed to be the white panama hat adorned with ribbon of school colours and a badge in the front. There was a strict rule that thishat had to be worn at all times when outside of school. Heaven help anyone who removed it, or worse still, forgot to wear it.

The boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs MacDonald-Rouse. Mrs MacDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the Valmeidere. In due course, we were introduced to the MacDonald-Rouses, Heather and her husband.

Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, shortly after their arrival in Johannesburg the year before and had become extremely friendly with them. Through the grapevine we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one he sang when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another lighter wedding favourite of his was the ballad, My Prayer.

Click on the link to hear Webster singing: BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

It was not long before we were introduced to Mr and Mrs MacDonald-Rouse, their daughter, Heather and her new husband when they dined at the hotel one evening. We were invited to a performance of the concert party and enjoyed the singing of Janet Goldsborough (later Swart), an energetic bone player, and a comedian, who was related to the famous Scottish comedian, Harry Gordon.

My father’s colleague at Rogers-Jenkins, John Corrigan, was an elder at St James’ Presbyterian Church, then situated in Mars Street, Malvern. He invited us to a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Church, with Anne and Webster as soprano and tenor soloists. I can’t remember very much about the performance. I thought Webster looked rather stern, and I still have a distinct vision of Anne, her hair styled in a feathery Italian Boy, having tea at the interval, and being utterly charming to the tea ladies.

Anne2

Looking back on this occasion I realise that it could not have been very easy for Webster who had been a top oratorio performer in the UK, often singing at the Royal Albert Hall and other great concert halls, to be singing the same work in a little suburban Church hall.

They had sung the Messiah in various Presbyterian churches the year before also.

12 December 1956, Messiah, St George's Presbyterian, Johannesburg

In mid-1958, my parents, doubtful of what the future in South Africa held, made a bid to return to the UK. We lived in Southampton – yet another new school another different syllabus, new subjects and girls with Hampshire accents. My mode of transport in Southampton was a crowded bus from the suburb of Bitterne to St Anne’s Convent Grammar School. It was winter, so the bus journey began in the dark and ended in the dark by the time I reached home in the late afternoon.

One of my parents’ friends had a grand piano on which I was allowed to practise and receive music lessons. The gentleman had a collection of 78 records which had belonged to his late wife. While his son and his friends chatted about various forms of jazz in the sitting room, I looked through the record collection in the dining room and was delighted to find a number of Anne and Webster’s recordings. After listening to their fill of Chris Barber records, the young men departed and I was able to play the duet records on the ancient record player. I enjoyed listening to the records and thinking that I had heard Anne and Webster singing in Johannesburg the previous year and knew something about them.

While I was in England Anne and Webster starred in and directed Merrie England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society (JODS) in 1958. Although they had been in South Africa for less than two years, Anne was complaining that she never had a full chorus at rehearsals. The show received good notices, but the committee of JODS was not impressed that the production only made a profit of ₤300.

They were very popular in East London in the Border region of the Eastern Cape, where they had given a concert in the City Hall on their initial tour in November 1955. They appeared in a number of shows there in the late nineteen fifties. In 1958 they starred in Merrie England, and followed this with Waltz Time in 1959. Anne also played principal boy in an East London pantomime, Puss in Boots. She sang I’ll follow my secret heart after she had “fought the dragon and won the lady”. They also sang at the East London Hobbies Fair in 1957.

 By the end of 1958 my parents decided that we would return to South Africa so we were on our way back on board the Pretoria Castle, the same ship on which Anne and Webster had travelled to South Africa in July 1956.

 
 
Despite my disrupted education I was back at Jeppe Girls’ High,admitted to Form IV for my final two years at school, which would culminate in writing the matriculation exams at the end of 1960. My father had returned to his old job with Mr Corrigan, and my parents bought a house in Juno Street, Kensington, having decided that life in South Africa, despite its uncertain political future was easier than life back in the UK where the weather was hard, the cost of living high, and Southampton was still full of bomb sites thirteen years after the war. 
21 Juno Street, Kensington – as it is now.

 

We had returned to Jo’burg at the beginning of 1959 and I next saw Anne at the end of that year. My friend Gillian McDade was a year ahead of me at school and had been head girl at Jeppe Girls’ High that year. She was as keen on the theatre as I was and we had appeared in a Scottish school play together in early 1958, entitled Lace on Her Petticoat. Her mother was involved with the Children’s Theatre Organisation, and Gillian asked if I would like to usher for a matinee performance with her at the Reps Theatre (later the Alexander Theatre) in Braamfontein, where Anne was playing the Fairy Godmother in Children’s Theatre’s production of The Glass Slipper.

December 1959 Glass Slipper3

 The house was full so there were no spare seats for the teenage voluntary ushers, but I was delighted to watch the enchanting show seated on the carpeted stairs of the darkened auditorium. Anne Ziegler was playing the Fairy Godmother and pointed Cinderella on her way in a glass coach drawn by a donkey. She looked every inch an ethereal Fairy Godmother in her gossamer crinoline gown.

In 1960 Anne and Webster came to the Methodist Church in Roberts Avenue, Kensington to sing in a Variety show that had been arranged to raise money for Church funds. It was the first time I had seen their variety act. Once again they looked wonderful, with Anne in a tangerine evening dress and Webster immaculate in evening suit. I loved their charming act, once again done on the small stage of a suburban Church hall rather than in one of the great Variety Halls in the UK where they had been performing only a few years before. The banter between the duets appeared to be entirely off the cuff, but Anne told me later that their words and movements were always meticulously planned.

At the interval I waited rather nervously for them to ask for their autographs. Webster, ever the gentleman, held the door open for me to precede him into the Vestry, where they graciously signed my book for me. Strangely enough I was the only autograph hunter that evening. They were both charming to me.

Do you remember? on Springbok Radio saw them reminiscing on their illustrious lives in Britain, based on their autobiography, Duet, published by Stanley Paul in 1951. We all listened avidly to this programme every Sunday afternoon.

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East London cast of Merrie England (1958). Mabel Fenney (later Perkin) was Jill-All-Alone on the left of the photograph
 

When I was in my final year at Jeppe Girls’ High School in 1960, the permanent music mistress, Miss Diane Heller, went on long leave, and Mrs Mabel Fenney took her place for a term. She had sung the part of Jill-All-Alone in the 1958 East London production of Merrie England, where she had first met Anne and Webster in their roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh. She came up to Johannesburg to have lessons with them as she prepared for several advanced diploma singing examinations. By the time she arrived at Jeppe she had already won the University of South Africa overseas teaching bursary and was due to leave for Berlin to study at the Hochschule for two years. Her husband, Eric Fenney remained in South Africa and had agreed to pay for her keep in Berlin.

We all looked on Mabel as a very glamorous figure in comparison with some of our more staid academic teachers. She was lively and enthusiastic and took us on various outings to the opera. Most teachers wrote 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 my musical school friend, Margaret Masterton. 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. Mabel left for Berlin and I hoped that I might have a good enough voice to study singing with Anne and Webster when I left school at the end of the year.

 
Jean Collen (revised 6 November 2019)
 
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