EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – DECEMBER 1962

They are supposed to be singing at a garden party (Ah, Leave Me Not to Pine) thrown by the newly created Lord (Jamie Uys). Anne wears huge dangly earrings and Webster is wearing an evening suit with a cravat in the afternoon. They did this not long after he came out of the hospital and his chin is sunken and he doesn’t look well. Others in the cinema audience have a laugh but I see nothing amusing in it.

1 December – Go to town and singing. Anne tells me that their house was struck by lightning during last night’s storm so she didn’t get to sleep till 2.00. I pay her for the music she kindly bought for me and tell her of similar lightning experience at home a few weeks ago.

We start on Zion. She says I have a tendency to drag it. She tells me they listened to the Ninth and rather enjoyed it but thought the orchestra had no verve. She says, “I’m not trying to be big and know more but the UK orchestras have more life in them.” I tell her about Leo Quayle and she says that he was doing very well in Britain and he was mad to come back here when he had so much work over there.

We do Father of Heav’n. She says it’s a most difficult aria. We alter the words of a certain part and she says that if the examiner says anything about the alteration I can always say that Sargent did it that way.

Ruth is late and I tell Anne about Caroline’s engagement and the cocktail party of last night. She says, “Isn’t she having a lovely time now?” I agree.

Ruth eventually arrives and tells us that the party was simply fabulous. The tiles of their swimming pool are being laid today and everything in the garden is generally very rosy.

Ruth says that I mustn’t forget to come tomorrow afternoon to the City Hall. I go back to Mrs S’s. Miss Cameron comes. I practise sight-reading with Elaine.

Caroline Ormond

We have lunch and then see The Jolson Story. Caroline O’s engagement photo is in paper. She is very attractive.

2 December – Go to City Hall for dress rehearsal. In the paper there is an article by Gary A about the two Messiahs – he thinks PE has an edge on Johanesburg because of Webster.

At interval I take Ruth and Hester to the – café and we have cold drinks. Ruth says it might be fun to see The Merry Widow in Springs and we might arrange something. I tell her about the Lord Oom Piet film and she says she’d love to see it.

We take Ruth home. While we are in that direction we pass the Booths’ little house in Craighall Park. The Anglia is in the drive so I expect he must have gone to PE with Graham B or by plane.

3 December – Go to singing. The girl before me doesn’t arrive. Anne tells me she has three mosquito bites and has to take pills for them which make her drowsy. She makes tea and then we start on Father of Heav’n once more.

She says Bill Perry was accepted by PACT. She thinks Gary A was sweet about Webster. She says the orchestra in PE is very bad so apart from the soloists our Messiah will probably be far better than the PE one. He had a terrible cold when he left on Friday and he had to sing on Saturday in Uitenhage with a male voice choir so she doesn’t know how he’ll get on.

We continue with the aria. She says that I have such a pure voice I should make a fine oratorio singer. I mention the film and she looks embarrassed and says that it’s not at all dignified and I mustn’t expect it to be. She says that people who have seen it say they look nice but that’s about all. She’s worried about the show in Springs which opens of Friday night and she vows that she will never do another one even though they pay her a fortune.

At night I go to City Hall for final dress rehearsal. We have the soloists tonight. Nohline Mitchell has a lovely (but cold) contralto. Rudi Neitz is good but (as Webster mentioned) has to go down instead of up on the high notes. Gert Potgieter has a pleasant enough tenor, but, oh goodness, the soprano, Nan Mayer is simply hopeless. She sings out of tune and everyone has to grit their teeth to bear it. When Gert P finishes his Comfort ye and Ev’ry Valley, Gill says cattily, “And how does he compare with Webster Booth?”

I say that Webster’s record is far superior to Gert P and she says, “And how many years ago did he make it? He can’t sing now. He should give up.”

I say, “Admittedly he’s past his prime but when he was Gert P’s age he had a voice 500 times as good.”

She says, “I know that, but he can’t sing now.”

Iris rudely interposes and says, “I’ve always hated his voice and I shall record from PE to compare the two.”

Ruth, her mother and I go over to the café and have a drink. Mrs O says that it sounds really lovely and she’s looking forward to tomorrow night.

Ruth and I go back and I tell her of the unpleasant remarks of Gill and company. She says we must see each other over the Christmas holidays and she will phone.

Leo keeps us a little late but he is an absolute darling. Anton H comes and we present Johan with a present and sing For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow – quite the most beautiful rendering of that ditty, I think. We all get complimentary tickets for tomorrow.

At the car we meet Ruth and her mother so I introduce Mrs O to Dad.

4 December – Go to see Lord Oom Piet in the afternoon. They are the guest stars. The picture itself is quite amusing but I do feel sorry for them.

They are supposed to be singing at a garden party (Ah, Leave Me Not to Pine) thrown by the newly created Lord (Jamie Uys). Anne wears huge dangly earrings and Webster is wearing an evening suit with a cravat in the afternoon. They did this not long after he came out of the hospital and his chin is sunken and he doesn’t look well. Others in the cinema audience have a laugh but I see nothing amusing in it.

Ah, Leave Me Not to Pine, with Jamie Uys squirming in front of them. Disgraceful!

We go to the City Hall at night for Messiah. Ruth is there when I arrive and she tells me that they sent her an account because she didn’t pay her fees on Saturday. She is angry and is going to ask “the meaning of it!” She says they’re very hard up – doing a film like that and taking any engagement for money. She says they should be retired by now. “And living in a cottage in Devon,” I add.

Our singing goes very well. Leo Quayle is fine. The hall is packed and I see the soprano Rita Roberts in the audience. Soprano stays more in tune in the first half. We get a grand reception.

At interval we see the presentation to Johan. He is leaving tomorrow. I am very sorry he is going. Ruth says her chair was collapsing during the first half and she is exhausted from holding it up She is red and nervous. We say we’ll see each other on Saturday and phone each other.

The second half (apart from soprano soloist’s flatness) is excellent. There is wild applause. The Hallelujah chorus is terrific. Johan is brought on stage. Leo kisses his hands at us to signify delight. And so ends our choir for another year.

I have certainly enjoyed my choral work in the SABC and as I look back to each event I remember happy musical occasions – the Passion and Norma bring memories of the Drawing Room and Webster kissing us; Ruth making a fool of herself by mistaking the men’s cloakroom for an exit – that certainly was a night! Stravinsky, Robert Craft and the Symphony of Psalms, the Ninth and now Messiah. Of all the conductors, I think Leo Quayle was the sweetest and best. Father sat in the front row at Messiah and adored it.

5 December – Work and lunch in Ansteys. We get rave notices from RDM and Star – the Star especially says the choir was brilliant and the best of the lot!

Go to SS studio. Don’t do too much work but have illuminating chat with Gill who finally practically discloses the story about Webster she told me partially in April – about the whisky and the ladies’ cloakroom. According to her he was making up to some woman in the ladies’ dressing room at a concert and drinking whisky – or brandy!

I say, “Well, he’s never behaved badly with me.”

She says, “No. You’re his bread and butter.”

I go on, “All he’s ever done is to kiss me,” and she says, “I’m not saying he did anything more than that but it’s immoral.”

I laugh. She adds, “I don’t want to be old fashioned but I like a man to be a gentleman all the time He’s a typical showman and I feel sorry for his wife!”

I must be getting cynical but the story didn’t shock me in the least. As a matter of fact, I’d like him to kiss me again some time – I enjoyed it!

We part on friendly terms but Gill obviously thinks the worst of him.

Mrs S says she thought our performance awful but the critics begged to differ. Despite her opinion, I have a good lesson.

6 December – Go to hear the best lunch hour concert of the season – Leo Q conducts, and Adelaide Newman plays the piano most beautifully.

In the Eastern Province Newspaper, the critic says of Webster’s Elijah – that he sang with his regular superb artistry. I listen to his G and S at night. Continues with HMS Pinafore.

7 December – Go to guild and when I come home the Carmichaels from across the road are visiting. She was a singer and pianist and taught music and tells me that Webster was very involved with Kathleen Ferrier. She tells me that he has had several kidney operations, is a flirt and has led a wild life but is a wonderful singer. I like him none the less after all the damning revelations which might not even be true.

8 December – Go to singing. Hilda from St Helena answers the door. She is very well spoken and charming. Lemon is there too. Anne says The Merry Widow in Springs went very well last night but she was up till 2 every morning and on Tuesday she stayed overnight on a mine and her host had to give her a tranquilliser.

We start on Father of Heav’n and after the story about KF I feel rather embarrassed about it. To crown it all, he comes in and is charming. I ask about the oratorios and he says he had a terrible cold for Elijah but Messiah was much better. They say they knew our soprano, Nan Mayer in Britain – her father was the editor of a London Newspaper. She never got much work in Britain and must be at least 48.

I say that I had another late night last night so that’s why I can’t sing. She says that his coming back has upset everyone.

Do Zion and this isn’t much better. He says that it’s one of my ‘gargling’ days! She tells me that Mabel Fenney isn’t coming back to her husband and intends to stay in London and study. She says she’s probably got a boyfriend over there and after living in Europe nobody can really be expected to come back here.

Ruth is there to hear my bad effort and promises to phone me. I don’t know what they think I do on Friday nights.

Go to see Friends and Neighbours at night at the Intimate Theatre and it is a great laugh. Charles Vernon is unbelievably amusing and I roar. Frank Douglass, Helen Braithwaite are in it too. It cheers me up no end.

9 December – We go to Vanderbijlpark to see our old friends. We see the Alexanders – Inge is home for the weekend. They have two lovely dachshunds.

We see the Hills in passing. Mr H used to teach me music in days long ago. We pop into the Innes’s next door to them. Kathleen is now a picture of health after her terrible car accident. Sadly, she will never dance again.

We finish up at the Watts. Mr W has been very ill with lung problems and has been away from work.

10 December – Work hard. Anne phones in the afternoon. “Hello, Jean?” “Yes?” “Darling, this is Anne.” “Hello.” She wants me to change the time from 4.30 to 3.30. I agree – it will suit me much better.

I phone Ruth at night and we talk for 40 minutes about nothing. I tell her about Gill and she tells me about a wrapping party at her house for the Press Ball. Her father is a director in an advertising agency. She is going to the Drakensberg for the long weekend.

11 December – Go to singing and meet a little boy, Eddie who used to be in my Sunday School class with a lovely little puppy. He blushes when I stop to pat it.

When I arrive no one answers the door and then lift opens and Webster emerges very quietly and I get a terrible fright. He laughs at me and says, “Really, Jean. Your nerves are bad – jumping like that!” He imitates me. “I expect she must be phoning someone.”

We go in and he complains to me about the heat and tells me that he’s had a terrible thirst all day and has been drinking a lot of tea. While he makes more tea he feeds the pigeons in a concerned fashion and I say, “Your pets,” and he smiles at me.

Anne is busy phoning the doctor about her ears and when she comes out of the office she tells him to let me hear the records. He produces Kathleen’s record first and I prepare myself for an effort in self-control. Her singing of Father of Heav’n is quite glorious. He remarks that she takes it rather slowly and he doesn’t think this necessary. She says that her broad Lancashire accent comes over very much in the way she broadens her consonants. Obviously she wasn’t very fond of her.

I then endeavour to sing the same aria. He makes me hold the music up so that I don’t have to look down and swallow. I fill in a breath mark and she says that she sees I’m left-handed. I say, “Yes, another of my faults!” She says, “Nonsense! I’m very left-handed and left-handed people are all infinitely more intelligent.” “Anyway, what’s all this about faults? If we didn’t all have faults we’d be dull!” “Yes, but I have more faults than most,” I answer.

We listen to Prepare Thyself and I am pleased to see that the singer takes a breath in the middle of the long run. When it is finished Webster sings, “And thank God that’s over!” I then sing it and he beats time along with me. It goes quite well.

They say they’re feeling the heat. “It used to be a dry heat that was pleasant but now it’s very humid,” says he. “A damp, horrible heat.”

I come home with Kathleen’s record and a huge picture of her on the cover. During the lesson, Anne mimics her accent and he says, “She was so terribly ill when she made it.”

12 December – Work in the morning and then lunch in Ansteys with Mum – very nice.

Go to SS studio. Gill is there and tells me that she is planning to go on holiday soon. We steer clear of the pet subject – I’ve had enough revelations to last me a lifetime! I have a good theory lesson with Mrs S.

13 December – Go into the library to work and meet the German cellist from the orchestra there. He tells me he is going to Cape Town for his holiday. Lunch with Mum and meet Dawn Snyman from the rink. She hasn’t been there for ages.

Lunch hour concert – Anton H and Gé K. Not bad but latter takes a lot out of himself.

Listen to G and S at night. He goes on with HMS Pinafore and plays He is an Englishman. He tells of broken bottles in “Dear old Dublin in those hectic revolutionary days when we sang this song.” He says that the programme finishes on the twenty-seventh. Next week he’s playing Pineapple Poll. “You can write down all the tunes you recognise,” says he.

14 December – Work and lunch in Capinero with Mum. Go to singing and Webster arrives first wearing his white sports jacket and feeling warm. He says he can’t imagine what has happened to Anne. He dropped her off at a quarter to three at the ABC shoe shop.

We go in together and the phone rings – someone enquiring about the musical activities at the SABC. He suggests the caller joins the choir and says it’s run by someone called van der Merwe. He stops and calls through to me to ask about it and I tell him that Johan has gone overseas and I think Pieter de V is managing it now. He says to the person on the phone, “Better phone Anton Hartman – he’s the head boy of the SABC!” After this conversation, he says he can’t imagine why the person phoned him when he could have phoned the SABC directly.

He says he had to collect a package and pay 5/- for it which he thought rather a cheek. He says that since his illness he hasn’t been able to stand the heat – sweat pours off him. I make some sympathetic noises.

We do exercises and they go so well that he says I should forget them until nearer the time or I’ll get sick of them.

We start on the first study which he plays rather hideously. Luckily the phone rings again and Anne arrives. He returns and says to me, “Did you or I make a mistake or was it the bell?” He sits down at the piano and insists on playing for me again. We get halfway through and she intervenes by giving him a huge poke in the waist. I stop singing and he teases me, “Any excuse for you to stop when I’m playing for you. Don’t you like my accompaniment?” I have a good laugh at him.

The studies go very well too and they are pleased. Anne says her hands are getting stiff – probably from old age.

We start on Open Thy Blue Eyes by Massenet and she says I must sing it twice as fast. Being a love song I must put guts into it!

We also go through I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly. I say I think it’s a bit high for me but they say it doesn’t sound strained at all. Webster tells me it sounds very fresh.

We complain about the heat and I say I should prefer a nice fog. She says the fog was all right when she was young but not now. He tells me he felt very cold in bed last night and Lemon was shivering after his recent haircut, and now today is a killer. He told me this before Anne arrives. He doesn’t look very well with his sunken jaw, rotten teeth and the suggestion of a nervous tic at his eye.

I come home on bus with Rita Marsden and she tells me she has finished matric and is going to work in the library.

15 December – Go skating after a long absence. M skating is just the same apart from some muscular stiffness. Arthur Apfel is back teaching at the rink and Armand Perren has left. There are few there that I know. When I think of the fabulous crowd we had in Erica Batchelor’s day. Still, I enjoy it once more.

We have lunch and then see No Man is an Island with Jeffrey Hunter who has gorgeous blue eyes.

I hear the choir’s recording of Oranje Blanje Blou on the radio.

16 December (Day of the Covenant) Go to family service at church and then to Betty’s to listen to the two records. Kath is wonderful despite her rolling consonants. At night I listen for the long-awaited broadcast of excerpts from Messiah and Elijah from PE. The announcer states that the soloists are Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher and Graham Burns but he doesn’t mention Webster at all. I imagine that he has made a mistake so I listen for one of the tenor arias.

The other soloists sing at least three solos each but not one of his arias are played – no explanation or apology. It makes me furious. What could have happened that they did not play one of his arias?

Imagine how he must be feeling tonight. Yet imagine what he was! Imagine him as a young man – tall, well built with dark hair and a handsome face; Britain’s wonder tenor. How awful he must feel now being spurned in this corny one-eyed country. I know what Gill and Iris will be saying.

18 December – Go to singing in the afternoon. Webster answers the door and appears quite cheerful. He tells me to help myself to a cup of tea and I clatter around with the cups.

The girl before me (Mary Harrison) is singing light songs. She’s an Australian in the cast of My Fair Lady. She sounds rather fun and being theatrical they get on well with her.

When I go in I see that they have started to redecorate the studio – white paper with silver motifs. I tell him that it looks lovely and he is very pleased.

Anne comes out and asks if I could come in the mornings while they are rehearsing for the next play at the Alex – Goodnight Mrs Puffin. It opens on the 16 January and goes into rehearsal on Friday.

He says, “We haven’t done The Swan for a hell of a long time. We had better do it.” I sing it too softly. “You are singing a Drawing room pianissimo – sing a City Hall one,” says he.

We do Blue Eyes and he comes and stands next to me and stares at the music, informing me that I’ve made a mistake with one of the notes. She says she doesn’t believe him. We do it again and he springs on me in delight when I make the mistake. He says he knew it was most unusual for me to make a mistake in my notation. He crows over me in delight.

I say I’ll fill in form for exam. She says that she’s glad she can depend on me to do things like that. Lucille, who has also to do an exam is quite helpless and has to have everything done for her. Webster says that if she passes this exam he has a good mind to do it himself! He does not appear to be particularly cast down about omission on the oratorio programme.

19 December – Go to SS studio. Gill informs me that she had a fight with Svea and proceeds to tell me all about it in a fuming fashion. She also tells me that Iris phoned her on the evening of the PE Messiah to tell her she’d got through to it. I say, “I suppose you were both able to sit down and run Webster down together?” She says, “Oh no. He hadn’t come on yet.” She herself couldn’t get through but listened on Sunday, saying that he probably wasn’t good enough to be broadcast. I say that he got a good crit and she says, “But so did Nan Mayer.” I say, “Damn it all, He wouldn’t have sung out of tune anyway.” She says acidly, “I’ve seen them having to turn their duets into a comedy act.” I make no further comment.

After that unpleasantness, I have a good and restorative lesson with Mrs S.

I get a Christmas card from Ruth and one from Gill. Ruth’s has their address printed on it.

She phones me in the evening. They had a lovely time in the Drakensberg and she met a man there who did the lighting for the Merry Widow. He didn’t like Anne but liked Webster. There were lots of fights during the show and everyone was temperamental. He said that they are very hard up now and can’t make much appearing in shows but producing brings in a lot of money.

He also told her that at a party someone insulted Webster and he was so furious that he didn’t wish to stay on. Anne refused to leave and this man danced with her for the rest of the evening. If anyone had insulted my husband I would have left with him.

She tells me that Caroline has failed her B Com exams but can write supps. She says she hopes she’ll pass her own exams. She is going to her school dance tonight and isn’t looking forward to it because of all the restrictions. We make lengthy arrangements to see Lord Oom Piet on Monday seeing they’re in it and we’re going to have lunch first. I’m to meet her outside the Carlton at 1.00. It should be interesting to see what she thinks of it.

20 December – Listen to Webster at night and he plays the ballet suite Pineapple Poll. Next week is his last G and S programme.

21 December – Go into town and meet Ruth in Ansteys. We talk for a little while and then I go to the studio. Webster answers the door and complains bitterly about the heat and makes me help myself to tea. Mary departs after wishing them a happy Christmas.

We start on Father of Heav’n and this goes much better today except for my diphthongs which he imitates. We do Zion. He says I do it much more easily than the other. He wonders why.

Their scripts are left on the piano for all in sundry to see. She asks if she thanked me for my card. She says, “It was so sweet of you,” to which I give a watery grin.

I wish them a happy Christmas and they wish me one too. She tells me she expects they’ll be working over Christmas with rehearsals and so on. I say hello to Ruth once more and depart in grim frame of mind.

Mr Stabler comes with a present at night and then I go carol singing with the guild. Archie and David have supps at varsity too. We have fun in my usual dull boring uninteresting way and I act gaily with pain gnawing at my heart.

22 December – I phone Ruth early in the morning. She went to a party last night and hated every moment of it and didn’t dance once. The school dance, however, was nice and she enjoyed it.

We discuss our parents’ ages and she tells me that her mother and father are both 50. We agree that our parents are all wonderful for their ages. She says that Webster isn’t bad for his age but Anne is very worried about the way he drinks. He’s not quite an alcoholic, mind you, but he loves drinking!

The swimming pool is finished and she says that I must go one afternoon to swim there. It’s very quiet, for her sisters are at work and we’ll have fun. She is so sweet. At the beginning of this year I made a resolution to make her my friend and pass my music exams. I’ve managed to do both, thank heaven.

We arrange to meet at a quarter to ten on Monday outside the Carlton. Unfortunately, I decline into a state of dire illness and am indisposed in a most excruciating fashion for the best part of the day.

23 December – Am ill today as well – no church, no nothing!

24 December – Go into town and buy Ruth a present. I meet her outside the Carlton. She’s a bit late but terribly apologetic so I don’t mind having to wait for her. We go to Capri and she tells me that she has not been made a prefect next year and hasn’t had her report yet. She tells me about a new boyfriend called Peter.

We enjoy the film and have a good giggle at them. His head trembles – I didn’t notice before – shame. His bad teeth are also very much in evidence. She gives me a present and I give her one.

We go to Greatermans so that she can get the tip of her shoe mended. Caroline is going to work in the Standard Bank and continue with her commerce degree part-time.

I take her to lunch in Ansteys. She says she prefers Webster to Anne because he’s always the same and never has moods. Her father is a partner in an advertising agency and had to work his way up from the bottom. When he came out to SA he didn’t like it but he couldn’t afford to go back to Scotland so he stuck it out. She says her parents had George Moore and his wife to lunch one day and GM drank a lot.

We have great fun and she promises to phone me after the New Year and I will be able to go out to swim at her house. We wish each other a happy Christmas and part cheerfully.

I meet Elna H on bus. She’s still studying ballet and doing commercial art.

Webster’s new programme Great Voices starts at 7.30 on the first Saturday of the year.

Ruth’s present is a pair of blue slipperettes which are very sweet.

25 December – We spend a quiet Christmas day at home and enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner. In the afternoon I listen to the programme of carols of our choir which we did last year. It takes me back to the night we made that recording.

26 December -We go to His Majesty’s to see The Music Man with Robert Preston, Shirley Jones and Hermione Gingold. It is very pleasant and Robert Preston is full of energy.

27 December – Story about Goodnight Mrs Puffin and big picture of Anne and Webster who play Ma and Pa in the play.

Listen to last G and S. He plays all his favourite Sullivan music: Invocation from Iolanthe, selection from Gondoliers, the Wine song from The Rose of Persia and the Long Day Closes by the Tommy Handley Memorial Choir, “which was formed from Tommy Handley’s famous singing friends so that we could pay tribute to this great comedian.” One way of saying you’re famous! He wishes everyone a fabulous new year and invites them to join him a week on Saturday to hear his new programme, Great Voices.

28 December Go to singing in the afternoon determined to be bright and have a fabulous time. Webster answers the door and I give him a fright with my cheerful greeting, so much so that he tells me not to bother with the cold tea – he’ll make me a fresh cup later on. I chat gaily to Anne who tells me how run off their feet they are with the play but they still managed to have a lovely Christmas. I tell her that Ruth and I saw their picture and enjoyed it very much but thought Jamie Uys should have let them finish their song before he jumped in the river. They both have a great laugh at this.

Anne tells me that they went this morning to have their passports stamped as aliens and he says indignantly that they had to wait one and a half hours to have it done. I tell her we went a few months ago. We agree it would be madness to lose one’s British citizenship. Hilda, however, was not allowed to have permanent residence in this country. They’re very cross about it.

We start on Zion and I sing it very well. He brings me some tea. They tell me that they had a Christmas card from Uncle Mac who told them that poor Anderson Tyrer died on the boat home – possibly from a heart attack. Webster says rather callously, “Uncle Mac must be about 100 – I only hope he lasts long enough for you to get your diploma!”

Also, poor Bill Perry lost all his brothers and sisters in a head-on collision. He had to go to identify the bodies on Christmas eve.

She says I may either come at 10 next Thursday or 4.30 next Friday – the two times are between Ruth and me. I say that I’m sure she would like to go on Thursday and he says they might give her a lift in seeing they virtually pass her door – lucky Ruth.

I wish them a happy new year most effusively and shake Anne’s hand – she gets a surprise. I wonder what to do about him but his hand is already out ready to shake mine with a strong, firm, dependable grip – he holds it for ages. He says something about celebrating Hogmanay in joking tones and she says, presumably trying to imitate Scots accent. “Are you not having a party?” They’re going to one. “But we should really be at home learning our lines.”

I feel quite elated when I leave today. My hand tingles with their handshakes – ridiculous, I know!

Webster says that he was very cold yesterday and they nearly lit the fire. He says that last Boxing day they did light the fire and sat huddled in front of it. She says she went out last night to do a Springbok programme Password and had to wear winter clothes.

29 December – Death of Anderson T reported in paper. He was a famous composer and conductor. In SABC Bulletin there is another article about Great Voices, remarking on the fact that he doesn’t intend to put in his own recordings. He started off at a salary of £4 a week as a singer – and now look at him! They are to appear as Entertainers at Home in Paddy O’Byrne’s Sunday morning programme on 13 January.

30 December – Gary A says that G and S was one of the Top Ten radio programmes of the year.

Go to church and Cecil Oberholzer takes the service. There are very few there.

31 December – Here we are at the end of another year. My only real achievements were passing the exams. Next year I have to pass my finals and earn some money with music.

As far as personal relations go – I’ve made real friends with Ruth and I’m very happy about it. I was sorry to see the last of Peter C and Peter S. As for the Booths – they’ve caused me heartache but they’re the only ones who can make me feel elated. I am as fond of them now as I was when I first met them. I’m glad Webster got over his illness and is now prospering theatrically – I got to know Anne well during his illness and I’m grateful for that.

The SABC has helped me developing musicianship and I have enjoyed my experiences there. It is a pity that we shan’t have Johan with us next year.

It’s been a varied and interesting year if not always a happy one. I hope that next year, despite the hard work in store for me, will be interesting and happy at the same time.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – NOVEMBER 1962

I go to singing in the afternoon. When I go up Anne answers and invites me in to listen to a friend of theirs on the radio – Geoffrey Parsons who used to be their accompanist and is now out here accompanying Erik Friedman, the violinist. Leslie Green has him to tea this afternoon. When I go in Webster is quite immersed in the broadcast but eventually sees me and says hello. The interference on the radio is rather bad and I hardly hear the chap at all – the only thing I gather is that he is an Australian and would like to go back. Webster keeps shouting to Geoffrey, “Speak up, Geoff!” When Leslie’s interview finishes they tell me that originally he had asked Webster to tea, but this was the only time Geoffrey could go. Anne shows me a picture of them with Geoffrey.

1 November – Work hard and swot in reference library where all the poor tired students sit staring blankly at their notes. One chap actually falls asleep and wakes up looking dazed.

At night I go to SABC. Ruth doesn’t come. Johan takes us and Gill runs him down to me. I fear our Messiah will provoke some rotten eggs from the audience unless it improves greatly.

At interval I chat to Iris, Gill, Hester and a middle-aged gent with a leer. Hester tells me she’s in Form 1V at Roodepoort Afrikaans High School and would like to make singing her career. She is rather a nice girl and not ‘loud’ as Ruth described her last night.

2 November – Go to the dentist and miraculously get away with only two fillings but am told to call again in February for a check-up. Buy a lovely dress for tonight, have lunch with mum and have my hair set.

At night I go with Margaret and her mother to the concert. Margaret tends to be rather an erratic driver and Mrs M is most nervous. At Crown Mines hall I enquire about the choir competition in which Ruth conducted and Miss Cameron was the judge. Girls consider it a matter of great hilarity that Ruth’s choir came last and that she conducted in an odd fashion. They tell me that she beat time in wide, uneven strokes and nearly fell off the stage. I laugh at Suzanne’s and others’ description of the event but I still feel so sorry for Ruth. She has a great opinion of herself so perhaps it’s a good thing for her to be cut down to size occasionally.

Concert goes very well indeed and our singing is good. Ellen, my redhead ex SABC friend does a monologue and recitation. A pupil of Walter Mony’s plays one of the pieces WM played in Drawing Room, and at once I am back in Studio G30 reliving those glorious Drawing Room days once more. What fun they were.

Mrs S is in a very jovial mood. Margaret gives me a lift home.

3 November – Go to SS studios. Mrs S says she’d like to see me on the South African Society of Music Teachers’ panel of performers! Have coffee and do ear tests and sing in the SS ensemble.

In the afternoon I go to a cocktail party with Mum and the Lisofskys – a farewell party for Mr Thomas of Shimwells at the house of Mr Immink in Montreux. It is a very nice house with a swimming pool. However my thoughts are with Pirates of Penzance in Bloemfontein. It’s the first night tonight. I shall probably see Webster on Monday after a long absence of three weeks.

4 November – Play in morning and afternoon at the Sunday School anniversary – I play well and the children sing far better than I expected.

Ruth phones at night – still with the crack-pot idea of auditioning tomorrow. She wants to have an extra lesson tomorrow but 3 is too early, so would I mind changing from 3.30 to 3. I don’t mind, so I agree. She says Anne refused to phone me because she thought I’d be cross if she changed my lesson again! I tell Ruth I’m not going to audition but she is persistent and determined. I still refuse. Says that Anne sends her love to me but she didn’t talk very long and didn’t say much about Webster’s play.

I hear glorious recording of Webster singing The Bells of St Mary’s and manage to record most of it.

5 November – Their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. In the afternoon I go to singing. Anne and I have a long discussion about opera. I half-promise to audition. Webster arrives, wearing an old tattered raincoat and I am delighted to see him once more. He carries on as though my feelings are reciprocated. He doesn’t know what we’re talking about but tells me that whatever I’m going to do will be a cake-walk. I wonder.

I ask about Bloemfontein and The Pirates and he tells me a funny story. He decided to have a gimmick so they borrowed a chimp from the local zoo to come on stage with the pirates. Everyone was delighted with the chimp and she nearly stopped the show. When he was holding her and making a speech after the show she disgraced herself, so he said, “You naughty girl! I’ll never take you out again!” I have a good laugh.

I sing extremely well and tell them my master-plan for ATCL in August. He says that he is quite certain I can do it and I needn’t worry. Anne says she’ll look up an extra time for me and let me know about it tomorrow. She says she wishes all her pupils worked as hard as I did and mastered things as easily. Lucille has 4 lessons a week and is studying full time, trying to do the exam Ruth and I did, and she still can’t master the pieces for it.

Webster says I mustn’t drag too much in Zion. I feel quite nervous today. Webster comes down in the lift with me to see about his parking meter which is out of order and we talk in a friendly fashion. He comes out into Pritchard Street and stands with me for a few moments. He really looks well and more like his old self.

Go to SABC at night and Ruth comes ready for the audition. When she sees the large crowd she changes her mind. We fill in forms but I don’t hand mine in either. She told Webster she thought he was looking very handsome and evidently Anne’s face was a picture.

6 November – It rains again but I manage into town through it all. I go to singing and Webster answers the door still looking extremely healthy. He says, “Oh, hello dear,” in extremely friendly accents.

A little girl of about 12 is singing The Honeysuckle and the Bee in a rather sweet little voice. Anne seems rather lost teaching her, but he is sweet and understanding towards her.

When I go in, Webster calls me over to the window and points at the crowns on top of His Majesty’s which are lit up, and asks me, “Doesn’t that sight gladden your Scottish heart?” We both agree that it is lovely to see the good old crowns up on the theatre again. He asks if I’d like some tea and furnishes me with a rather lukewarm cup.

Anne says that if I come at 10 on Saturday during this month, she’ll arrange for me to come on Friday next month after The Merry Widow in Springs.

I tell them about the audition and how we didn’t take it in the end and how the people had to wait for ages. They sent one of their pupils to the audition. She has a great voice but sings everything quite seriously with burlesque actions like Anna Russel. As if this is not sufficient explanation, Webster insists on giving me a demonstration which makes me laugh.

We start on Zion and Anne makes him sing it along with me. He stands next to me so that he can see my manuscript and tells me that it’s an excellent copy. We sing it together and I try to breathe in exactly the same places that he does. He sings most beautifully but drowns my voice without any effort. I don’t mind being drowned out by such a lovely and great voice as his.

He says that with persistent effort I shall easily master it. I also sing Ein Schwan. When I leave Webster says, “Aren’t you coming next Saturday?” and looks quite disappointed because I’m not.

I listen to Anne on the radio. She plays her test record from Merrie England and tells us about their trip to Calgary for Merrie England, and then plays his recording of Where Haven Lies from A Princess of Kensington, and says, “My favourite tenor!” afterwards, and their two duets from King’s Rhapsody.

7 November – Go to SS studio and talk to Gill. We do some theory and then I have a nice lesson with Mrs S who wishes me luck for Saturday.

8 November – Work hard and then have lunch in Ansteys with mum. Jossie Boshoff, of all people, is having her lunch there also. I go to lunch hour concert where I see Dora Sowden looking her usual gypsy-like self. Soloist on piano, Yonti Solomon is excellent, and conductor, Edgar Cree, good as usual.

Go to SABC at night. We work with Pieter de V and he wades into I. Silansky, who is furious about it.

At interval Ruth buys me a cold drink and tells me that she is beginning to get bored with singing and wonders if a change of teacher would do her any good. Then she says she knows she couldn’t possibly leave them because they would be hurt. She’s so very fond of Webster, and when he dies she’ll miss him more than she would miss Anne!

I don’t get round to telling her about ATCL but I really must on Monday for she’s going to have a lesson at 10.30 on Saturday after me, so she shall have to know.

Gill gives me my share of the fee from the Indian Eisteddfod.

9 November – Listen to Webster when I get up. He continues Pirates and he is very much in possession of his senses and is very good.

Go to guild at night and Mr R tells me he’d like to come and hear us singing the Ninth symphony. This is flattering but perhaps he’d like a comp for the show.

10 November – Go and write theory exam at Selbourne hall. I meet Svea and we go in together. Arnold F is there in all his glory and calls everyone darling and drags them to their places. Exam isn’t bad, but I think I made two mistakes. I see Bridget Anderson (Bruce Anderson’s daughter) from the SS ensemble and tall chap who sings in church choir.

Go to Mrs S’s afterwards and talk to Mrs du P. Belinda Bozzoli talks about Ruth and says she has quite a sweet voice. Belinda is applying for an American Field Scholarship. She had an American girl on AFS living with her family while she was over here.

In the SABC bulletin there is an article about Webster and his G and S programme. We have lunch and see The Lion which is very good.

Cecil Williams has been placed under house arrest. He lives all by himself in a flat in Anstey’s building.

11 November – Go to Sunday School which goes fairly well and then go with Doreen and Betty to Memorial service at Boys’ school. The boys’ band plays a lament and Mr R gives the address.

12 November – Go to SABC at night and meet Gill in animated conversation with Gerrit Bonn. She saw My Fair Lady and enjoyed it. I go to the café with her so that she can have a meal.

We work hard. Gideon Fagan, who is to conduct us, comes to listen to the Ninth Symphony and poor Johan gets very flustered.

At interval Ruth, Hester and I go for a walk and Ruth (when we pass the Drawing Room studio) takes it upon herself to relate the kissing episode we had with Webster there. Poor Hester thinks we are two naughty girls! Ruth has a speed domestic science test on Saturday morning so she’s going to singing next Tuesday instead. I tell her about my plans for the diploma and she says she’s sure I’ll get it.

In the second half we do Messiah with Johan. Ruth leaves her Latin book behind so Hester gives it to me so I will have to arrange to get it to her. I’m quite worried about the test she’s supposed to have using the book. Iris brings me home.

13 November – I phone Ruth about her Latin book but she says she’ll borrow a book from someone.

Geoffrey Parsons.

I go to singing in the afternoon. When I go up Anne answers and invites me in to listen to a friend of theirs on the radio – Geoffrey Parsons who used to be their accompanist and is now out here accompanying Erik Friedman, the violinist. Leslie Green has him to tea this afternoon. When I go in Webster is quite immersed in the broadcast but eventually sees me and says hello. The interference on the radio is rather bad and I hardly hear the chap at all – the only thing I gather is that he is an Australian and would like to go back. Webster keeps shouting to Geoffrey, “Speak up, Geoff!” When Leslie’s interview finishes they tell me that originally he had asked Webster to tea, but this was the only time Geoffrey could go. Anne shows me a picture of them with Geoffrey.

In the society page.

Webster says in teasing tones, “I suppose you want tea?” I say, “Yes please,” and he proceeds to make some. Anne has a look at my ATCL syllabus and says I must make use of my Scottish accent and sing a Scottish folk song. They pore over various books and Webster suggests a song – I don’t catch the title but he finds it most amusing and roars with cynical laughter.

I do my studies and they say that I must keep pace up in the first one, especially the demisemiquavers. He stands and counts while I sing and it goes better. He says they are most complicated.

Do Ein Schwan. He plonks himself down in a chair opposite and stares at me during the whole song and then has the cheek to say that I look a bit nervous. I tell him in dignified tones that it is the lack of accompaniment that makes me nervous.

We go through Zion and he sings along with me and then accuses me of singing a G natural where there should be a G sharp! We succeed in going through the lot without any further interruption. I say it sounds worse every time. He says I’m talking nonsense. I’m getting on with it very well. He says that everything in the Christmas Oratorio is difficult. He sang it two years ago in Kimberley and had to battle with it. He gives me a long list of the oratorios in which he has sung recently. He is going over Elijah for some reason. I say goodbye to him and he says in his ‘folksy’ voice, “Ta, ta!”

Talk to Anne at the door for a while about the Ninth Symphony and tell her about Gideon Fagan coming last night and Johan’s forced resignation. She is disgusted with this and says that she’d believe anything despicable happening in the SABC. We part on most friendly terms. Says that we must start on Zion on Saturday.

Listening to Erik Friedman at the moment and it’s nice to have a vague association with him.

14 November – Have lunch in Ansteys wit Mum and see Arnold Fulton having lunch there.

I go tothe SS studio. Gill says she’s heard our commercial recording and thinks it is quite awful. She played it to her classes as an example of bad singing! She says she’ll be glad when Johan goes. She doesn’t seem to have a good word about anyone!

We do some ear tests. I have nice lesson and Mrs S says that if I work there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do Advanced Senior in March. We start working on harmony and I shall probably do the next theory exam in June. She says I may be excused for a while on Saturday morning seeing I’m having singing lessons this month.

15 November – Go to lunch hour concert. Anton Hartman conducts Bob Borowsky and Ethné Seftel. Work in the afternoon and listen to Leslie G. I expect he’ll have Webster to tea next Tuesday. He has John Silver today.

Go to choir at night. Gill, Iris and Winkle? are there so I chat to Winkle and she tells me about her singing teacher. Johan works us hard and we don’t finish till after 10.

16 November – Listen to Webster who goes on with the Pirates. He sounds so benign and sweet – which he isn’t. He’s a big tease.

17 November – Go to a performance in the morning and play quite well. Have coffee and then go to singing.

Anne arrives, telling me that she is really exhausted producing Merry Widow in Springs. They work in Brakpan all day and then go to Spring for rehearsals and the cast turns up half an hour late. She says they’ll never go to Springs again to produce another show.

We start on scales and she’s pleased about the way I’ve managed to cover the break in my voice. I go from bottom G to top B without any effort. We do Zion and then Webster arrives. His face is bright red and he informs me he had a big night last night. I say I went out too so that’s why I’m so woolly today as well. Anne tells me that they went to two dos last night and didn’t get in till about 2.30 this morning.

He says, “I’m going to make a good hot cup of black coffee. Would you like one too?” I say I’m not quite as bad as all that but I’ll take a white cup. He asks Anne what she wants and she says, “Well, I don’t happen to be in a state where I require black coffee, thank you, darling.”

We go through Zion once again and if the last two movements are hurried up I can get through the run with enough breath.

We do exercises and I get into a bit of a fandango as to where I must breathe in one of them. Into the bargain, the keys in the piano stick and I can’t help laughing at that too!

He brings me a cup of scalding coffee and says, “I really need this or else I shan’t be able to get through today.” Anne says, “I must say, you look simply awful today. Perhaps it’s that yellow shirt you have on.”

“No, it’s the way I feel today after last night.”

“Well, the fact that you drank too much is nothing to be proud of!” says she.

I do Ein Schwan and it goes much better apart from the fact that I don’t cover the vowels sufficiently. In Zion he says I sound a bit hooty on the top notes and gives one of his amusing imitations. Do first study as well and it is not at all bad.

He continues to emote about late nights and alcohol and says that he can’t stand them any more.

He sees me to the door and says goodbye in most affable fashion. The funny thing about him is that he is at his nicest self when he has a hangover.

I go back to Mrs S and sing in the ensemble. I walk down the road with Margaret who tells me she’s not very fond of the Parktown girls. She thinks they are a bunch of little snobs.

Have lunch in Capinero and then we see Surprise Package with Noel Coward.

18 November – Dad has a dreadful pain in his leg today so we have a worrying time. I fetch prescription at chemist and there is an improvement.

19 November -Dad better today.

Go to SABC and we work hard with Johan and Peggy Haddon (who played in Drawing Room) accompanies us. Gideon Fagan proves more cheerful this week and seems quite pleased with us.

I tell Ruth that Leslie G might have Webster to tea tomorrow. It would be fun to listen to that with Anne. She has a laugh about the bad hangover.

20 November – Go to singing and Ruth answers the door telling me that they are listening to Webster on Tea with Mr Green and that Anne is feeling sick.

Gary Allighan writes about the forthcoming oratorio season

Webster talks to Leslie about Bloemfontein and the chimp, and says that the grenadilla vines in their garden are dripping with fruit at the moment, and how long he has been in South Africa.

Ruth goes after telling Anne that she’ll pay her for this month next month. Anne tells me she feels very sick and doesn’t know whether she has apricot sickness or gastric ‘flu. She has a running tummy and feels sick and miserable and can’t eat a thing. She should really be in bed but doesn’t like to leave him in the studio to cope with the piano playing as he isn’t very good at it.

We start on Zion and it goes fairly well but I feel miserable at inflicting my voice on her when she feels sick. He arrives, fresh from his Leslie Green interview and is pleased that we think it was nice. He asks in most concerned tones how she is feeling. She says she is feeling dreadful and will go to bed the minute she gets home. He asks if he should call the doctor. She says she’ll wait till tomorrow and see how she feels in the morning. He suggests a gin and tonic but she says she couldn’t look at one – he mustn’t talk nonsense.

We do the studies and I lose bottom C. He says, “What did you do with that one, dear? Swallow it?” They don’t go too badly but my feeling of concern persists.

I tell her before he arrives about Dad and his cramp on Sunday with neuritis. She says she’s troubled with a slipped disc and has dreadful pain with it and always has to soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes every morning to relieve the stiffness.

Afterwards I talk about Messiah. He says he is very friendly with Leo Quayle and he’s good. Webster is going to PE to sing in Messiah and Elijah soon and the excerpts are to be broadcast on the 16 December between 5.30 and 6.30 pm. We talk about Rudi Neitz and he says that although he’s got a great voice his range is limited and last year he sang Messiah up an octave on the low notes.

I say goodbye eventually and tell Anne that I really hope she will feel better soon. She is shivery and cold and in a very bad way. She has only had a cup of black coffee and two boiled eggs all day and her tummy feels swollen.

Anne’s programme is lovely She plays recordings from Waltz Time and Laughing Lady. The next programme is her last.

I saw a poster there advertising an Elijah in Britain – Gladys Ripley, Harold Williams and Webster.

21 November – Have lunch with Mum in Ansteys – this reminds me of Cecil Williams who has flown the country rather than endure house arrest. He’s going to the UK.

Go to SS studio. Gill is there, recovered from her misplaced vertebrae – it’s in its right place once again. She’s teaching Corrie and I look at a South African Stage Who’s Who? My two pals are featured most prominently in it with pictures – he’s wearing a white tie and evening suit. It says he was considered the greatest oratorio tenor of his generation, and talks about their appearances at the Palladium, the Royal Command performance of 1945 and their private visit to the Royal Lodge.

When Gill finishes teaching I mention all this to her and she laughs derisively, saying it’s all nonsense. She says, “He can’t sing any more.”

I inform her that he’s going to sing Messiah and Elijah in PE. She says, “Oh, no! He should give up singing and stick to teaching.” She does make me sick when she runs him down.

Have a good lesson and try to phone Anne to see how she is but no one answers. Either she is all right or else she is alone and sick.

22 November – Work hard and then go to lunch hour concert. Jill Tonkin (from Lace on Her Petticoat) is there. Anton Hartman conducts and Aubrey Rainier is the cello soloist. He plays beautifully.

Webster finishes Pirates and starts on HMS Pinafore. In this recording he is still under the influence of his hangover but he gets through without a mistake even though his speech is rather thick.

23 November – Go to SABC for an orchestral rehearsal. Gideon Fagan is a grand and sensitive conductor and everything goes really well.

At interval Ruth, Hester and I go to Campbells and have a cold drink. Ruth pays. Gé Korsten, who is singing solos in Messiah, is also there. He certainly is a good looking man.

Ruth says that Anne told her she was very bad at Latin and scripture at school and was so naughty that they asked her to leave. She learnt singing with John Tobin and used to blush throughout her lessons. Ruth says she thinks she was putting on a big act on Tuesday. I don’t really think so.

We go through the Ninth after interval. It really sounds grand. Gideon F is a real gentleman.

24 November – Get a lift to town from Mr McKenzie in his Jaguar. Go to singing in the morning. Anne arrives and is quite well again. I tell her about the Ninth and say that I thought Gé K strained his voice a lot. She says that he isn’t really a tenor – merely a high baritone – and it must take a lot out of him to do the high solo part in the Ninth.

I say that I think Graham B has a glorious voice. She tells me a story about him. At one time he was a hopeless alcoholic but through some religious organisation, he was helped back to sobriety. He was very thankful and consequently became very religious.

A few years ago he went with Webster to sing Messiah in PE and when they were all gathered in the dressing room, Graham remarked, “This is such a beautiful work – a glorification of God – I think it would be very fitting if we all said a prayer before we sing. Shall we all kneel down?”

The others, including Robert Selley, were horrified but they could do nothing else but kneel down while he prayed. The next night, the cynical performers decided not to go into the dressing room if Graham Burns was going to be there so they spent their time waiting to go on stage huddled in the cloakroom.

Robert Selley took about three years to ask Graham back. Anne thinks that Graham was stupid to force religion on to everyone. I laugh to please her, but it doesn’t seem so very silly. I admire him for giving up alcohol.

We do some scales and she gives me a new exercise – a chord and a third up to mee-ee-ray-ay-fa-a-a-a-a-. It is to cover the break. It is very good.

During the first study Webster comes in and he makes me do it again to correct the timing. I tend to drag it.

We do Zion. She says I must make the sound richer. I sing the legato exercise for him. He says I’m putting ‘hs’ in and I must get rid of them.

Ruth is waiting for her lesson when I go so we talk about the Ninth and he says, “Oh, were you working last night?”

I tell him that Gé K had a face like a beetroot and I thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. He tells me derisively that he’s not really a tenor anyway. “I used to be a very high tenor and I found that work difficult to sing – it’ll ruin him. Why, he finds it difficult to sing top G!”

I get my certificate for the singing exam today.

25 November – I hear Geoffrey Parsons accompanying Erick Friedman and he is excellent.

26 November – Don’t feel very well but manage to final rehearsal at City Hall. Gideon Fagan is excellent. I meet Ruth’s sister, Caroline and see her mother. Mr O is in bed with virus ‘flu.

27 November – Go to singing in the afternoon and I sit in the studio for about five minutes before Webster notices me. “Did you really come in with Anne?” he asks. Anne sorts out the various eccentricities connected with my lessons and he gives me a cup of tea. He tells me he has some ghastly things to cheer me up today – the pieces for my diploma.

We start on the studies for which he plays. He doesn’t play the first one too badly so I manage to sing it well and he admits this at the end of it. He plays the second one so badly that I start to laugh in the middle of it. I think he is slightly insulted and when he gets to the end, he says, “Well, it was almost right. If you can sing to that accompaniment you can sing to any accompaniment!”

Anne returns from the office after telling someone coldly on the phone that it is not enough notice to call an hour before a lesson to say that they can’t come. She is not sitting in the studio waiting for them to arrive.

I go through the exercises and songs for the diploma – Purcell and Fauré. She spent an hour in Kelly’s this morning trying to get them for me. They are particularly stupid there, according to her. Next time she’ll try Charles Manning. I recommend him for his son Howard was jolly decent when I went in for the syllabus.

Webster goes through all his oratorios to find a suitable recit and aria for me. He asks if I’d like to do Father of Heav’n with a recit following the aria. I have always thought it most beautiful since I heard Kathleen singing it.

Anne is not fond of it but I persist and so does he. He says to her, “Ah, but you must listen to Kathleen’s recording.” He always says her name in hallowed tones – it gives me a shock every time I hear it. Anne looks very black about it.

For no reason at all, she says, “For heaven’s sake, stop fidgeting and fussing, Boo. You make me quite sick!” He looks very hurt but continues to inform me that I simply must hear Kathleen’s singing of it.

I tell Webster that I hope he’ll do very well with his oratorios in PE. He says in teasing tones, “And I certainly hope you’ll do well in your concerts too, Jean!”

I laugh at the way he says this. He says that he knows Gé K will never do these solos properly tonight. “He’ll probably have to belt it all out to sing at all!”

He gives me his own copy of Judas Maccabeus to look at Father of Heav’n. She says, “Won’t you need it at all, darling?” and he replies, “No! I’ll never sing that again in this world. The only time I shall probably sing it again is in the next world!” It is a very high role so I presume he means that he can’t reach the top notes any more. Poor Webster.

I depart cheerfully with enough work to keep me going for years. I go through his score – his name is signed on the cover and he has listed his appearances on the front cover – 1933 somewhere in Wales. Imagine it – over ten years before I was born.

Dad takes me (in long white dress) to Symphony concert in City Hall. We all stand around in the foyer looking particularly wraith-like. Ruth and Hester have had their hair set. Ruth tells me that Caroline and her mother adore me. We go up to stage door entrance and march onto the stage where we see a full house before us.

Gideon Fagan conducts beautifully and with great feeling. At interval we go and sing scales in the mayoral chambers. I tell Ruth about the Graham Burns incident. She doesn’t think it funny either. Her father is much worse and has sinus trouble on top of everything else.

The Ninth symphony goes very well and our singing is excellent. Gideon has such a lovely feel of the music. The soloists are good although Gé is a little off the beat and there is the usual great applause, bouquets and everything. They bring Johan on stage and the applause is thunderous. I always leave occasions like these with red hands.

Outside, while waiting for Dad to arrive Pieter DeV comes up to me and tells me it was grand and, “U het mooi gesing!” I say, “Dankie, dankie!” and all is most convivial.

28 November – Crits of concert are faily decent. I work at ATCL pieces in morning in a slightly haphazard and gloat over Webster’s Judas.

Go to music in afternoon. Gerrit Bon told Gill that the orchestra was bad but we were fairly good. Have lesson with Mrs S and get my certificate.

Go to hear Margaret sing at Teachers’ Training College. Meet Ann, Leona and the Spargos. Choral work isn’t bad, recorder group quite painful. Margaret is sweet but very nervous.

29 November – Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum. We meet Sue Johnson from the rink with her hair cut short. She is just the same but never has time to go to the rink now that she’s at ‘varsity.

I go to lunch hour concert. Anton H conducts overture from Norma and Cecilia Wessels, a soprano of at least sixty sings. Her top notes are still good but bottom notes poor. It seems a pity she should have to go on singing when she is so old. Pieter de V is sitting with Yonti Solomon in a box.

Webster goes on with HMS Pinafore at night.

30 November – Go to SABC. Leo Quayle comes and is a real honey – he’s about 50 – very gentle and sweet and certainly gets good results from the choir. He’s South African. He tells us about conducting God Save the Queen at Covent Garden. The Scotsman from PE tells me at interval that he’d love to be singing with Robert Selley’s Festival choir this year too.

Hester tells me that Ruth came last night with her mother but they’re having a cocktail party for her sister’s engagement tonight.

Daddy fetches me. I must say that I think Leo is my favourite conductor so far.

The Booths’ film Lord Oom Piet starring Bob Courtney, Madelaine Usher and Jamie Uys is on at the Capri so I must try to see it sometime next week.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – OCTOBER 1962

We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

1 October – Go up to the studio for report cards and Webster answers looking quite well. He greets me with, “I don’t know what Ruth is going to say when she hears but you’ve beaten her.” I say, “But she sang nicely – much better than I did.” “The examiner didn’t seem to think so!” he says with a hollow laugh. Anne brings in the cards. I have 76% and Ruth has 72%. We have exactly the same for our exercises which I think is rather unfair considering how well Ruth sang them.

Go to SABC and when Ruth arrives I give her the report and she is thankful to have passed. Iris and Ila Silansky talk to us at interval and I get rather carried away defending Webster (whom Ila and Iris don’t like for some unknown reason).

There is a rumour that Johan is leaving the SABC. I see the Ormonds’ new black Rover.

2 October – I work hard in the morning and then Mum and I go to Ansteys for lunch. I’m at the studio first. Webster and Anne arrive, looking very smart. I tell them of my desire to do Higher Local and skip Senior. Webster says, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t.” I add that I want to do it in April and they are still quite complacent and pleased about the idea.

They look out all the Bach and Handel arias and try to decide which one to do. We swither over Father of Heav’n but they decide it is too long. “When I played the record Kathleen made of it, I had to cut it,” Webster tells me. We decide on an aria from the Christmas Oratorio by Bach called Prepare Thyself Zion. It is very nice and he sings it for me very softly and sweetly. There is another aria in the work that is beautiful and I must look at it at home when I’m copying out the Zion one – Slumber Beloved. The book belonged to Mabel Fenney (who taught at our school. Webster says he’d like me to do the same aria as she did for my final exam.

They tell me to get The Swan by Grieg. “I can tell you before we start that any song by Granville Bantock would be difficult, so we won’t do that one,” says he flatly.

They tell me that another of their pupils has just started on the exam I have finished and is doing Polly Oliver. He told her that he had another pupil who would probably be delighted to throw the old music at her!

We talk about Mrs Fenney and Anne tells me that she worked very hard indeed and used to come into the studio before they arrived and practised like mad. She adds that the tragedy of it was that she fell madly in love with Webster and showered him with so much attention that the poor darling was very embarrassed. I roar with laughter and look at him and he looks rather uncomfortable and says he must confess he felt rather flattered. Anne says that towards the end it was rather awful – not that she blamed her for she had such an awful husband! Everyone falls for Webster. “She was a bit mad,” says Anne. I think I’m a bit mad myself to be doing this exam. We have a good laugh and I depart feeling quite elated.

3 October – Work hard in the morning copying from the Christmas Oratorio. After lunch, I say goodbye to Mum and toddle into town to purchase The Swan and the new vocal studies.

Go up to studio and Gill is there in the midst of practising for a last minute accordion duet she is to play at the SA Championships. Miss Margaret Cameron comes up and takes a fancy to me and shows me her book of kitchen tea verses with illustrations by Heather McDonald-Rouse. Apparently she has known her for years. Shealso did the script for Mrs McD-R’s concert on Saturday night in Malvern.

Gill departs to practise with her partner – a chap called Lynn from Durban – “Who would just suit you,” she says. She tells me that Johan has been given the sack. I am so sorry.

I am left alone in the studio and Arnold Fulton phones to inquire about speech exams – he seems to haunt me and I’m sure I’m haunting him.

I come home and try over songs and studies – all most complicated and heaven knows why I have decided to torture myself once more.

4 October – Go to SABC at night. Ruth doesn’t come. Johan works us hard and plays the organ beautifully – I’m so sorry he’s leaving. I really can’t understand that he would have been “given the sack”!

5 October – Work. Dad takes Mum and me for a run to Pretoria which is fun despite the rain.

I listen to recorded version of G and S from last night. Patience is very good. I think Dennis (the boy whose mother made apple tart for Anne, Webster and me) sings Danny Boy on Stars of Tomorrow.

6 October – Go to town and music library. I get three very dry, highly scientific music books. I have to take one back on Monday as it is a work of reference.

Meet Gill who is delighted to have come second in the accordion duet competition. Lynn bought her a brooch to say thank you for playing with him.

Have lunch in Capinero with Mum and Dad and then we see Black Tights, a ballet affair with Cyd Charisse and Moira Shearer. Meet Iris there with her family.

8 October – Go into town with Mum. We have lunch in Ansteys and then go to hear organ recital given by Harry Stanton in the city hall. Very few attend but he plays wonderfully all the same and we enjoy it.

Webster, Petrina Fry and Anne at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford.

At night go to SABC – we work madly on Ninth Symphony and Messiah. Talk to Ruth who is feeling very miserable because she has broken up with Alan as he was getting a bit too serious. She had a lesson on Saturday and is going to do the next exam – Senior. We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

9 October – I manage to get the diploma syllabus from Mannings. The contents frighten me to death but I’m determined to see it through.

Go up to studio and Webster is there by himself. He tells me that Anne has gone shopping and should have been back hours ago – he is quite worried about her.

He is in the middle of mending a plug which has lost its screw and he seems to find this a most complicated procedure. He curses it in no dignified terms. I ask him how he enjoyed Margaret Inglis’ wedding and he says, “Oh, it was jolly! We had such a delightful time. It was a very small affair.”

He makes me a cup of tea and we take it over to the piano. He starts to get very agitated about Anne and says, “I always worry about her when she doesn’t get back in time. She could easily have been run down by a car.” Knowing Anne, I doubt whether that would be at all likely.

We start on the HL studies and exercises with him playing the piano with sausage fingers. They go quite well, but he says I must learn to cut out the intrusive ‘h’ – it’s bad. Remember what the examiner said in the report.

The studies are fairly complicated and he says that he thinks I should turn the acciacatura into an appoggiatura seeing the note is dotted – I hope he’s right. He suddenly turns round to me and asks whether I read music better with my eyes or my fingers. I say, “My fingers!” He says “I can’t read music with my fingers – they’re too stiff now and I don’t practise much on the piano, but I don’t find it at all difficult to sing at sight!”

He goes to phone the garage because their car is there. Anne arrives in in the middle of the call and tells me she has had to spend forty minutes in Kelly’s – they’re so stupid.

We go through studies and The Swan and he says I must sing it in German. He asks about solo parts in Ninth Symphony. I say that I think Gé Korsten and Graham Burns are going to sing the tenor and bass roles – he looks quite crestfallen at this.

A woman they both detest arrives and Webster gives her a cup of tea. Anne talks to me about the heat and I say that there will probably be a storm later. There always seems to be a storm on the evening of her programme. I tell her that we all enjoy it very much. She is pleased and tells me that although it is a great success the SABC is taking it off at Christmas. I say that it’s about the most enjoyable programme on the radio and it’s a shame to have it taken off so quickly. Needless to say, we part on very friendly terms.

Listen to Anne at night and she is quite wonderful – conjures up London Palladium memories with Tommy Trinder, and them singing So Deep is the Night.

Plays Lock Up Your Daughters – a mistake – and My Fair Lady. She tells us about Rex Harrison almost becoming her brother-in-law. He worked in the Liverpool Repertory company, lived near them and took a fancy to her sister Phyllis. Perhaps it’s just as well that he didn’t marry her sister, judging by his amorous adventures.

I felt sorry for Webster today. He looked so old and tired and acted in a doddery manner, merely a skeleton of the former man. He has to go to Bloemfontein to direct The Pirates of Penzance soon so perhaps that will put some life into him.

11 October – Go to Mrs S in the afternoon. She had bad weather when she was away in Cape Town. We go through the piles of theory I have completed while she was away. I have to go on Saturday for ear tests.

Listen to Webster on G and S at night – he repeats about half of last week’s programme but still manages to get through the first act of Patience after three weeks at it, after much twisting of the tongue over “The Dragoon guards.”

13 October – Go to SS studio in morning. Margaret is there so I go through some of her ear tests with her.

We lunch in Capinero and Mum brings me a letter from Suzanne Pitchford my old Winchester Castle pal whom I haven’t heard from for almost three years. She’s working in Barclays Bank and seems very happy in Brighton and has a steady boyfriend with whom she intends to “rest her case”.

We see Sergeants Three which I enjoy and hear Only a Rose at night sung by my two pals.

14 October – Go to Sunday School and practise for anniversary.

We go to Diamonds in afternoon and pass Anne’s car outside the SABC. Webster is going to Bloemfontein soon so perhaps he is recording his G and S programme today.

15 October – Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that Webster went to Bloemfontein to produce Pirates of Penzance on Friday. He might have said goodbye! We pretend to mope about it and Gill asks why I’m sad. Ruth says, “Because her lover is away!” Have a laugh.

At interval, Ruth says she much prefers Webster to Anne. She has a laugh when I imitate him talking about Margaret Inglis’ wedding.

16 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there in a crimson dress looking hot and flustered. We have tea and moan about the heat. She says it is so hot and dry that she could cry at the slightest provocation.

We start on scales and I sing them to “mee” – I tell her I sound like a sheep. I manage to reach top C. I do exercises and studies and decide that they are quite nauseating. She tells me that Mabel Fenney got her diploma in Berlin and is now going to London to carry on studying either with Keith Faulkner or at the Royal Academy. Her husband is still here, stuck outside of PE managing a cheap hotel. She has been away for over two years and the only way he manages to support her is by gambling on the stock exchange. She flew over here last year and the first thing she did was to drive straight to their house and sat with Webster (who had ‘flu at the time) for practically the whole day. She says it was really very painful for everyone and the more Webster snubbed her, the more she made up to him. He practically ignored her in the end but nothing put her off.

She says that Ruth is having a swimming pool – have I seen it yet? That is the first I’ve heard of it. We discuss the Rover and she says that they’re being quite sensible with their money and not buying another house.

17 October – I work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. We buy a gorgeous hat afterwards.

Go to SS studio where Gill tells me that Tufty is thinking of following Johan when he goes overseas. I have a good lesson and then have tea with Miss Cameron and Mrs S.

18 October Go to SABC at night and possibly due to the horrors of Latin or a compelling desire to listen to G and S, Ruth doesn’t come.

Roger O’Hogan (choirmaster at St Mary’s, Yeoville) takes us, and is excellent. He was one of the judges in the recent hymn competition. I talk to Tufty and Gill but they’re not as much fun as Ruth.

19 October – I listen to a recorded version of G and S. Webster finishes Patience at last and says that next week he has something interesting for the listeners but he imagines some eyebrows will be raised at it. If he’s going to start playing jazzed up G and S I shall die.

Have lunch with Mum and then go to Piccadilly to see Raising the Wind, a British comedy about music students with James R. Justice, Kenneth Williams and Liz Fraser. It is a wonderful film. How I’d adore to go to a London music college.

20 October – Go to SS studios and work with Margaret and then sing in ensemble. Margaret tells us corny jokes just as she used to do at school.

Go to see Roman Holiday in the afternoon.

22 October – Go to SABC. Pieter de Vaal takes us. Ruth tells me that her singing is growing harsh owing to her mother forcing her to sing high notes. She was talking to Anne and saying how depressed she felt and Anne said, “Well, never mind. You’re not the only one. I get depressed with all these pupils. I can’t stand any of them. There’s only four I like and that’s you, Jean, Lucille and someone else.” (she couldn’t remember the name). Ruth told her that she was only including our names to be polite and Anne replied, “No, darling. I really mean it.” Well, that is something!

23 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there by herself in a shocking pink hat. She makes tea and phones about the car – they’ve bought a new Anglia and it’s giving them a lot of trouble. It has to be ready for next Wednesday because she’s driving down to Bloemfontein to fetch Webster.

We have tea and she is very depressed. “I’ve never felt so unhappy in all my life. I hate this city and the whole country. The people are so inconsiderate and rude here and I loathe it. I’ve hated it from the very first but now here, by myself, I hate it more than ever. If I had a family it might be all right but for a woman all by herself, it’s awful.” I feel very sorry for her.

We start on Ein Schwan and it goes fairly well. We go through it a few times and it improves. She says that Ruth’s voice is tending on the harsh side, probably owing to the Ninth symphony (Probably owing to her mother more likely!) She’s terribly depressed with the weather and Alan. I say – at Ruth’s bidding from last night – that she was much cheerier now. Anne says, “Oh, how sweet. I’m very fond of her indeed.”

She tells me that a shop in Edinburgh sent her a parcel of white heather and she had to pay 20 cents on it because the intimation from the post office never arrived. She says heather tends to get very messy.

We work on the Bach aria and take down Mabel’s breath marks. She tells me that Mabel had wonderful breath control. They had a letter from her the other day and it was quite sensible. “Whether it’s because she’s found a new boyfriend or not, I don’t know, but it was a normal letter, like you or I would write!”

We work at the aria and Anne says, “Mum’ll have to work at the accompaniment of that soon!” We do study and she says that it is really excellent and I have memorised it well for it is very difficult indeed.

There is a picture of Anne in the paper in connection with Music for Romance, and Webster sings Love, Could I Only Tell Thee on the radio. Her programme is wonderful. She plays Blossom Time with recordings by Richard Tauber and says she went to see the film with the “young man of the moment after a lovers’ quarrel”.

Plays Annie, Get Your Gun and talks of attending the London first night. Goes on to Merrie England and tells of the production which took place in the grounds of Luton Hoo with a chorus of 600 including the Luton Girls’ Choir and a seating capacity for thousands. She plays his recording of The English Rose, and The Night Was Made for Love, which he made in 1935 with George Melachrino in the orchestra playing the clarinet. He had a cold when he made it.

I’ll bet they will go back to England the moment he gets his post-war credits, and good luck to them!

24 October – In the morning Mum and I go to get registered as aliens which, as someone remarked, is rather like going to prison. We have lunch in Ansteys to cheer us up and this is nice.

Go to SS studio and talk to Gill who runs down Mrs S and raves about Gerrit Bonn, whom she calls by his Christian name now. She does some ear tests with me. I have a good lesson but I have a cold coming on – my third this year. I ask Gill to excuse me from choir tomorrow night if I don’t manage to get there.

25 October – Stay in bed in the morning with ghastly cold – feel stiff, cold, achy and miserable. In the afternoon I phone Ruth to tell her that I can’t go tonight and we talk for half an hour.

She says Anne is going to Bloemfontein so she’s going to miss a lesson as there are 5 weeks in the month. We talk of her picture being in the paper and she tells me about the scrapbook she has full of press-cuttings. I relate a story of my own scrapbooks. She says that some girls at her school don’t like them and one said she heard them sing at the Wanderers and though they were dreadful. Ruth says she was so cross that she nearly slapped the girl in question. We decide that they are lucky to have at least two people who’ll stick up for them, come hell or high water. She tells me jokingly that with Webster being away my resistance is low and that explains my cold. Her mother met Diane Todd (who starred in My Fair Lady and thought she was common.

Listen to Webster at night and he does give us a surprise by playing a version of Mikado recorded for American TV and produced by Martyn Green, with Stan Holloway as Pooh-Bah and Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko. Next week he’s playing Pirates of Penzance as he is “having the pleasure of producing it in the charming new Bloemfontein Civic Theatre.”

27 October – Go to SS studio. Elaine and I spend time doing technical exercises and after tea, I play ear tests for everyone.

28 October – Go to Sunday school and we have our last practice before the anniversary. One little girl tells me that she knows I take singing lessons because they heard me singing when I played the piano and heard how beautifully I could sing!

David Cross tells me that I’ve been nominated to stand for literary CCD minute secretary. I don’t commit myself to anything.

In the paper, Gary A says that G and S is finishing at the end of the year and will be replaced with Webster presenting a programme called Great Voices. Gary A thinks it will run even longer than G and S.

Lord Oom Piet!
Lord Oom Piet

29 October Go to SABC. We rehearse with Pieter de V. At interval I am introduced by Ruth to Hester, the new girl who sits next to her. She informs us that she pays £1-10-0 a month for singing lessons with a Mrs du Preez in Roodepoort. Ruth remarks patronisingly that when she improves she can always go into town and learn with someone great!

30 October – Anne phones early in the morning and tells me that “something has come up” and she can’t possibly go into the studio at all today, but could I come next Monday at 3.30 to make up for it. I could. She says that Ruth told her I wasn’t keeping very well. I say, no, I’m not – next Monday will be better. She says she hopes I’ll be better. Degenerate into a state of illness and nausea. Mum has to come home. Spend day in sheer torture.

31 October – Ruth phones me at night to worry me further. The Performing Arts Council is holding auditions on Monday evening for singers. She’d like to audition – would I? I don’t commit myself. Evidently she had a grand lesson this afternoon and got in at 3.50. Anne had already phoned her mother to see what the matter was. Anyway she had a charming time having a little tea party with Anne and singing intermittently. Evidently Anne is missing Webster in the worst way and says she loathes teaching without him and if he goes away again she feels like refusing to teach. His first night is on Saturday and they are coming back on Sunday. She told Anne to send Webster all her love!

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – APRIL 1962

We listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over (with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it – he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We both go red.

1 April – Go to SABC in the afternoon. Johan takes men and Harry Stanton the ladies. We practise Norma and there is an improvement. Tufty has become very friendly with Gill. Talk to Ruth at interval. Says she’s very tired after dance last night. She is going on Wednesday and is shocked about the cruel cartoon.

I was going to listen to Webster but tape breaks down three-quarters of the way through. Station announcer apologises to listeners “and Mr Webster Booth.” I am livid.

2 April – Go to SABC in evening. Gill comes early and I go with her to have supper. Ruth is there wearing blue jeans and a duffle coat. She says she also calls the Booths by their Christian names. “Stage people like that!” I hope she’s right!

4 April – Work quite hard in the morning and then go to music in afternoon.

At night I go to the SABC for Drawing Room recording. Anne and Webster greet us all – rather like the King and Queen greeting their loyal subjects – and we sit down in tense nervous state. Anne looks gorgeous in a low-cut black sheath dress and mink stole.

Programme begins and Anne sings two songs (one by Ivor Novello with his writing on it) – the Little Damozel, and He’ll Say That for My Love (Handel). She has expression and all else required of a singer. Bob Barowsky sings and a bassoonist plays. Anne and Webster sing The Second Minuet and Drink to Me Only. He puts his hand on her bare shoulder as they sing.

Ruth asks him for a lift home and he says, “Certainly, darling.” The second broadcast is fabulous. Anne sings If No One Ever Marries Me and Smilin’ Through. They sing two more duets – Love’s Old Sweet Song and another. Ruth and I wait afterwards and talk to Anne. I tell her that her singing made me cry and she is thrilled, “The highest compliment you can pay a singer!” she says. She was worried about what her voice might sound like with the cold. While we are talking a Lancashire woman comes and congratulates her and says she heard her twenty years ago in Sheffield – she’s English, you know. Says Anne, “Yes, I thought you were!” We all laugh and she says, “Oh, ‘ave I still got me accent?”

Come home after a really delightful evening. When you hear an artist like Anne you realise how far you have to go to be even half as good. It makes me feel utterly hopeless.

5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme of last week – Gé Korsten etc.

6 April – Public holiday and Ruth’s seventeenth birthday. Have a rest in the morning and then go into town for singing lesson. Webster answers door wearing white jersey with green, yellow and red stripes!

Go in. Anne is wearing tight black stovies and revealing jersey. I do scales and am in bad form – if I see them sing the next lesson is harrowing for I know how far I have to go!

Webster makes tea for me. He forgets the sugar so goes to fetch some and Anne tells me of Peter Broomfield’s remark on the radio. “Last night Hennie Joubert accompanied Mi-mi-mi-mi – all the way!”

We do Where E’er You Walk and somehow I just cannot sing well and feel awful. She says I mustn’t sing too loudly in Norma. “Everyone has their off days,” Webster says, “Today is one of mine.” (Probably to cheer me up).

7 April –  Collect my long white SABC dress and go to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s at night.

8 April – Go to Sunday School in the morning I really like the new children now.

Go to SABC in the afternoon. Mr Miller, one of the second violins in the orchestra, is on my bus. The full orchestra, Anton Hartman, Mimi Coertse, Gé K and other soloists are there. Anton works us hard. Mimi is petulant and bossy but she sings beautifully.

At interval Ruth tells me she got a Maria Callas record for her birthday and a card from the Booths. Yesterday Anne wasn’t feeling well so she asked Ruth to go to the house for a lesson while Webster went to the studio. She’s coming home with Gill and me tomorrow in Gill’s car. We manage to record last quarter of Norma.

Listen to Webster’s G and S programme at night. He says, “After my costume was made for this part I had my photograph taken and this constitutes one of my few claims to fame. They put the photo into a series of G and S cigarette cards. That dates me, doesn’t it?” He plays Princess Ida and I fall asleep halfway through.

9 April – Have sudden urge to have my hair cut and set so have this done at Marie Distler in the morning and feel a boost to my morale. I meet Diane Munro on the bus and she doesn’t recognise me, but when she realises who I am she likes the new look a lot.

I go to the SABC and we get on the bus to Pretoria. Ruth says the Booth’s house is small and not much to look at from the outside, but charming but whimsical within.

When we arrive in Pretoria we are fed with hamburgers at Tukkies’ cafeteria. We go into the Aula theatre – it seats 3000 people. We work hard.

Anton lets us go home at 11.00 pm. Ruth and I go home with Gill. She and Ruth have an argument about the choir on the journey home. Ruth has a very nice house, white double-storey with undergrowth and trees in the garden. Gill stays quite near her (also in Parkwood) and has a flatlet to herself. I go to sleep quickly.

10 April – Go to town with Gill and then go home. Go to SABC once more, armed with box containing white dress.

Ruth and Gill arrive and we sit at the very back of the bus. Ruth says Anne and Webster should have had children of their own. She whistles beautifully and we travel along in a state of semi-consciousness. We arrive and change into our dresses, parade around for a while and have a meat roll for supper in the cafeteria.

The house is absolutely packed – men in evening dress, orchestra in evening dress, and furs flying, Hartman in tails and Mimi in a black dress with silver top showing her vast chest. She sings well and there are shouts of “bravo!”. She takes bows and we take bows and it is interval.

Gill has tea with Uncle Edgar and Johan, but Ruth and I don’t have anything to drink!

Second half is much better although Jossie Boshoff lets the side down. We finish at ten. Cheers, curtain calls, excitement, bouquets for soloists, an orchid for Mimi…

Return to Parkwood and Ruth is very rude about Edgar Cree, saying that he had a broad accent and puts on his good one. Gill says that he studied at Cambridge. I say I like him as a broadcaster. Gill and Ruth are probably enemies for life.

11 April – Go into town very early in the morning and get home in time for breakfast. Farewell to Parkwood.

Decide to have a rest when there is a knock at the door – Roselle arrives with music and a dog. She wasn’t placed in the eisteddfod and is most disappointed. We sing for each other and record the results.

Go to music in the afternoon and go to SABC in the evening. We go into studio and Anton H begins his recording. At interval, Ruth and I go to have a cold drink at nearby café and return with the same object in view – the recording of The Drawing Room!

We listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over (with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it – he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We both go red.

He tells us the programme is gorgeous, particularly the brilliant trumpeter. Why don’t we come in and we tell him we’re recording with Mimi. He says, “Oh yes. You’re working.”

He tells us about the eisteddfod. The tenor got a first and quite a few more were highly placed.

We say we’ll have to be going and Ruth walks straight into the men’s cloakroom! He says diplomatically, “The exit is there, and the ladies is over there!” We depart – Ruth nearly hysterical and I very red.

We go back to recording and tell Gill and Tufty about the kiss and Gill says, “Since I saw Webster Booth going into the ladies change rooms with a bottle of brandy, I’ve had no time for him!”

I leave before the recording ends and look out for my father. The first person I meet is Webster, leaving with a retinue of seemingly important men. He stops when he sees me and asks, “Has the recording finished?” I say, “No. I’m looking for my father.” He says, “D’ye think he’ll come?” I say, “Oh yes,” and he says “Well cheery-bye, Jean,” and I say, “Cheerio.”

Father appears and we come home. But honestly, what a night. Mimi gave us some prima donna tactics. (“They do,” says Webster) and she leaves the country tomorrow.

But in Ruth’s night and mine, one thing stands out!

“Webster kissed us when we met,

Jumping from the chair he sat in,

Time, you thief, who loves to get sweets into your list,

GET THAT IN!!”

I don’t care what anyone says about them – or him. Even if it’s all true, I know one thing. He is a great man, a great singer and a pleasure to know!

12 April  – Work and record the glorious Drawing Room programme with Oh, Dry Those Tears and the Kashmiri Song.

13 April – In the afternoon I go to the SABC to claim my lost purse. The receptionist tells me proudly that Johan handed it in so I tell her to thank him for me. Honest Hans.

I go to the studio. I see Webster in the CNA so I walk round the block and when I get back I go in almost immediately for the girl before me doesn’t come. Anne likes my hair. We fill in the form for the exam and she tells Webster not to interfere and he looks hurt. We have a glorious fifteen minutes running down Anton H, Jossie Boshoff etc. Anne says that Adalgisa should be a contralto, but of course, Jossie had to have a part.

We talk about Mabel Fenney and I say that she taught at our school for a term. Anne says she was batty but worked like mad.

We work at songs and vocal studies and they encourage me to smile (as always!) All great singers of previous generations sold their songs even if they didn’t have good voices such as John Coates, Anne tells me.

I wait for the lift and when it arrives I open it, thinking no one is there. Get a shock to see Webster. He laughs and says, “Did I startle you, Jean? I’m sorry!”

16 April – Go to choir at night and have supper with Gill and feel like a traitor. We do Stravinsky. Sit with Ruth at interval and we talk about drinking. Apparently her father is a connoisseur of wine. Her parents went to a première at Colosseum costing £5 a ticket!

I start telling her what Gill said about Webster but we have to go back before I can finish the tale. I get her to promise not to mention anything about this incident to Gill in the car. I think Gill overhears this. I feel very muddled about the whole matter. It’s all Gill’s fault for telling me this story and trying to disillusion me about him.

17 April – Go to studio and Webster answers the door. Girl with high but harsh voice is singing Waltz of My Heart and This is My Lovely Day. High notes are quite awful. Anne is wearing a brick red dress. We work hard at all the exam pieces.

I tell them that I’m going to Durban on holiday. He asks if I’m going to the Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, and I say we’re going to the city itself.

18 April – Oh, dear! A terrible thing happens in the broadcast of Drawing Room. It all goes nicely until the last announcement which goes like this, “Now, on behalf of Madame Jean Gluckman, Miss Kathleen – oh, I beg your pardon – Madame Kathleen Allister, Miss Jean er er – oh, yes – Miss Jean Gluckman – that’s right, Mr Gé Korsten and myself, Webster Booth, goodnight – Oh dear, I’d better do that all over again, hadn’t I? Now on…” (Cut short)

Obviously the controller reproduced the wrong announcement and not the repeat, so he’ll get into trouble. It damns him in the eyes of the public and perhaps the SABC. He sounded old, doddery and drunk. He couldn’t have heard the broadcast tonight. If he wasn’t making a programme he’d be at the prize-winners concert. He’s going to get a nasty shock when he hears about it. I saw him that night and he wasn’t drunk but what will people think?

19 April – Programme is done correctly today. Work hard and go to choir at night. Ruth comes and we talk about the mess and she is most distressed. We work at Stravinsky. Ruth wishes father and me a happy Easter.

20 April – Good Friday. I talk to Peter Marsden who is back from the army for two days leave.

I listen to our SABC choir recording of the Passion and Cantata. It is lovely and I am proud of it.

21 April – Go skating in the morning after a long absence. Dawn Vivian is there. My skating is more or less the same but I’m a bit stiff. She tells me that Gwyn has joined the cast of Holiday on Ice and has gone touring all over the world and doesn’t intend returning to SA.

I buy theory questions in Kelly’s and wander around John Orrs. We see Swiss Family Robinson in the afternoon – John Mills, Cecil Parker etc.

22 April – Go to Sunday School and church. I still haven’t got my music from Peter who has given up his singing lessons after less than three months!

Mr and Mrs Watts come from Vanderbijl for lunch. They like the Booths. I sing for them and they are impressed – or are polite!

Listen to Webster and he finishes Princess Ida and promises to start Mikado next week when I’ll probably be on holiday.

27 April – Go to singing and Anne arrives looking very attractive. She says she’s exhausted because of the production of Vagabond King in Springs. They have to go there every night and are furious that some members of the cast haven’t even learnt their parts properly. She had to go by herself on Wednesday because Webster was doing the last recording of Drawing Room and there was an awful storm on the way there.

She says I should practise singing octaves and chromatics when I’m on holiday. He says, “I can’t sing a chromatic scale – I never could!” We decide that the only way to do that is to count the notes on our fingers!

I say that Johan has given me work for my holiday for forthcoming Stravinsky concert. Anne asks if tenors are weak in the choir and I say, “Rather!” He tells me, “They wrote me a letter asking if I’d sing in the chorus for the Stravinsky concert.” I say, “What!”

She says, “We don’t want to act big or anything but, I mean to say, the chorus!” I say I think it is a real insult and he agrees with me. I say, “Are you going to?” and he replies, “Not likely! I phoned them up and said I had no intention of rehearsing every Saturday night for Stravinsky!” Boy, what an insult! She says that people will only go to the Stravinsky concerts for snob value anyway.

We do Where E’er You Walk and work at it. She says I can sing scales on the seashore. I laugh, and he says, “Don’t laugh! I’ve sung whole scores on the seashore. Vagabond King, Waltz Time. People think you’re mad but it’s a wonderful place to sing.”

He makes tea and asks if I’d like a cup. I say, “It doesn’t matter,” and Anne says, “Stay and have a cup. It’ll be ready in five minutes.”

There is a knock at the door – An English lady with little boy (soprano) and a gorgeous hot apple tart so Anne decides that we’ll all have tea and apple tart. “Can we eat it now?” she asks. Mrs Andrews and her son, Dennis are sweet and homely with delightful accents. Webster says, “Where’s the Devonshire cream?” and she says, “Oh, I forgot it at home.” Anne says, “Some of us are from the North Country and Jean comes from Scotland.” Anne takes a piece of cake with cloves, spice and apple and says, “To hell with my figure!”

She notices that I eat left-handed as does she and she remarks on it, so I say, “All great people are left-handed.” We all laugh.

We talk about Drawing Room and Webster tells me that Doris Brasch (he spelt her name BRASH and she was livid) and Graham Burns were the soloists on Wednesday. Anne says, “What did you think of Wednesday night’s programme? My singing was really awful, wasn’t it!” We protest and she adds, “It wasn’t lovely. It was disgusting!”

When I say goodbye to Anne I promise to send them a postcard and she says, “You can tell me if you manage to sing any octaves on the seashore!”

I talk to Dennis’s mother and we say how sweet they are. Dennis calls them Auntie Anne and Uncle Webster. They are wonderful and I love them!

29 April – Mr Marsden kindly gives us a lift to the airport and we eventually board the plane and have a delightful flight to Durban. It’s the first time I have ever flown – it was more like a bus than a plane. The land below looks like a map of physical geography.

We arrive at the Berkeley Hotel where I met Maisie Weldon and Carl Carlisle five years ago. We have a walk along the seafront but I can hardly see myself singing scales there. My room has a radio so I’ll be able to listen to Drawing Room and G and S. I listen to G and S. Webster bursts into song periodically during Mikado.

30 April – We go into town and to the lunch hour concert. Swim in the afternoon in the same pool where we swam five years ago, and I play the piano in the lounge at night.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – MARCH 1962

At the end of the recording she powders her face and talks to us brightly. Ruth says that Webster was wonderful and Anne says fiercely, “Yes, of course he’s still got a voice.”

When
I leave with my parents I tell her that Webster was lovely and sang
terrifically. She says in joking tones, “Yes, we’re both
very proud of him, aren’t we, Jean?” I could have crawled under a
sofa if there was one around.

1 March – Work slackens off a fraction but Mr Allen still flaps. Have lunch with mum in Ansteys and meet Gwen Per from school.

Go to singing at night and Webster isn’t there. I go straight in because Nellie has ‘flu and isn’t there either. We start on vocalisation studies which I have cunningly put on the top of my pile and they go gloriously. Anne makes tea and I pay her and we return to the exercises.

Anne says that my voice is really beautiful now and my production is vastly improved. I give her the look of a hardened cynic and she says, “What have I or you to gain by telling you that? I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. Don’t you notice it?” I say, “Yes, I do, but nobody else does.” We do the exercises and she picks out the notes that tend on the hard side and we work on them. She says, “Have all your notes like a string of pearls as my old music mistress used to say.”

Over tea she tells me that she went to see the mime of Marcel Marceau last night and it was the most absorbing act she has ever seen. Speaking nary a word he entertained the audience for two hours on a bare stage.

I tell her at the end of the lesson how I intend to give up the bank at the end of March in order to study music full time and she is pleased. She is quite shocked about the high blood pressure diagnosis. I say it’s probably due to overwork and nerves. She says that I am the type of person who “bottles everything up” and I mustn’t.

3 March –  See the Scott Fitzgerald Tender is the Night in the afternoon. Rather depressing.

4 March – Listen to Webster at night. He sounds rather tired. He keeps on saying, “In my day,” which makes him sound rather decrepit. He’s right though – Patience is a bit corny.

5 March –  Go to SABC at night and see Gill who introduces me to her friend Doreen who works there. We go to Doreen’s office in Springbok Schedules and see exactly what is going to happen tomorrow on Springbok. Leslie Green actually has a written script for all the supposedly off-the-cuff things he says on his programme.

We go to a grill house for supper and then go back to choir and have Harry Stanton, the organist at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Parkview as our accompanist. We do the Bach, and Johan takes a lot out of himself conducting the choir.

At interval Ruth tells me that on Saturday morning she went to a wedding and got a little tipsy toasting the bride and when she got up to the studio she was rather happy. Leslie Green came and they all had tea together and he listened to her singing.

Her father says that the Booths are good social drinkers – they can take a lot at a party without much reaction but they’re not alcoholics. She says that Webster could have been the best operatic tenor in the world but because of his relationship with Anne he wasn’t. Anne had an offer to go to Hollywood but because of Webster, she refused.

After the rehearsal I meet her father – a small man but quite charming. Gill asks me to stay with her for two nights when we’re in the opera in Pretoria. She gives Harry Stanton a lift home – he lives a few streets away from her in Parkwood.

8 March – Go to studio and Anne tells me to help myself to tea. Nellie sings badly and leaves. When I go in Webster tells me, “I’ll be out of prison on Saturday night – that play has been a real prison for me – every moment of it.”

We start on studies and Webster says the quality is beautiful but I must keep it moving even when it’s soft. He says, “You must know these things so well that ten professors can be there and it won’t worry you.”

We do My Mother and he says, “Why didn’t you smile?” I say indignantly that I was smiling and he says, “You were not – you were frowning all the way!”

They make me go and look in in the mirror and sing to myself. I do this and try to smile all the way. He says, “You see! An entirely different song.”

9 March – Lezya goes on holiday. Picture of Webster in paper. He’s one of the adjudicators in a hymn writing composition. I go to Betty’s twenty-first birthday party at night. There is a huge crowd there, including Mavis Knox.

10 March –  Work in the morning. After work, walking along Pritchard Street, I meet Ruth looking red and flushed. She informs me in breathless tones that she has just been to her lesson and had a wonderful time. Webster was there and she is so happy.

Go to YWCA to meet Patricia Webb who is just the same but more sophisticated and just as cheeky. We see Back Street which is excellent although Patricia passes caustic comments throughout the film.

12 March – Go to SABC in the evening. Gill says Harry Stanton hinted for a lift in as well as from the SABC. He takes the girls for rehearsal and Johan takes the chaps. Harry takes us through Norma at record speed and sings very badly to demonstrate how it should be done.

Ruth says her father has a nice voice and coming in in the car he was imitating Webster and she was pretending she was Anne. She says they certainly don’t think I am bad-looking. When they were talking about people not smiling when they sing, Webster said, “Jean, there’s a sad one for you!” and Anne said, “She’s a very beautiful girl and if she smiled she could go so far with her singing.” Ruth says, “For goodness sake, don’t tell them I told you. They told me this in confidence.”

She thinks they should have had at least one child and she’d like to meet his son, and isn’t Harry Stanton a card?

She says Edgar Cree looks as though he wears a corset. She went to hear Tamas Vasary yesterday and cried at the Chopin. We go on with Norma and I introduce Ruth to Dad afterwards – he likes her.

14 March –  Work. Have my piano lesson in the afternoon and meet Pat Eastwood who is now at college and Elna Hansen who is doing a modelling course and teaching ballet. Gill and Svea Ward (SS’s niece) are at SS studio. Mrs S is in good mood and I do loads of scales.

15 March – Work. Lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to Webster and Anne and Webster answers the door. Nellie is singing badly and he brings me a cup of tea – lukewarm and devoid of sugar and I have the good grace to tell him it’s “perfect”!

I ask Anne about a new earlier time for when I leave the bank. While she arranges this I sing to Webster’s awful accompaniment and go sharp on the last three notes.

We do the vocalisation study and he doesn’t get the beat right so it doesn’t go very well. Anne returns with time – 4 on Friday as from April – and she takes over on the piano. When Webster sits down he groans and clutches his back!

I make a second attempt at the studies and, with Anne playing, they go very well. I go on to Polly Oliver and get into a nice fandangle. Anne says, “Sweety, you really must smile when you sing.” “I can’t.” “But, darling, you must. It’s no good singing if you won’t. You’re not shy of us, are you?” I say nothing and gaze at the grain of the wood in the grand piano. Webster says, “Good God – no!” “I expect I must be!” “Oh, darling no – not after all this time. Does he worry you more than I do?”

Webster stares at me and I want to crawl under the piano. Unconvincingly I say, “No!”

I do it again with a will and it all turns out all right. I promise him I’ll spend all my waking hours gaping in mirror and smile at myself. He tells me I look very attractive when I smile and don’t look a clot.

16 March – Guild. Peter tells me he is giving up singing lessons with the Booths!

17 March – Go into town with mum to buy material for the choir. I also buy an SABC Bulletin which brings me glad tidings. Webster has another programme, starting a week on Wednesday at 8.30 pm It is called Drawing Room and will be a show with a small studio audience depicting the early 1900 entertainment. There is an article by him in the magazine.

18 March – Sunday starts with gorgeous article and picture in the Sunday Times by Gary A. He hopes the new programme will bring them back as duettists.

19 March – Go to SABC. At interval Ruth tells me that Webster asked if she’d like to go to recording on Wednesday and she said she’d phone on Tuesday night. She says she’ll ask him I can have three tickets as well. We continue with Norma.

20 March – Today at work I take heart and phone Webster myself. He is sweet and when I ask him about tickets for Drawing Room he says, “But I thought I asked you to come.” I say, “No, you didn’t.” So he says, “Well, we’d be delighted to have you. Meet Anne in the foyer at 8 o’clock, and don’t be late! If it goes swimmingly we’ll finish by 9.30.” I say I’m looking forward to it tremendously.

I work very hard and phone Ruth to tell her what has happened. She says that she and her parents will be going tomorrow. I will see her at a quarter to eight in the foyer.

21 March –  I go for a music lesson and at night I work myself into a state of nerves about going to the SABC. We arrive and Lucille is there with a number of her relatives. I meet Joy Bodes who is going to a recording of Eye-gene Jackpot. Ruth arrives with her parents. She is also Scottish and comes from Kelvin Grove, only a mile away from where I was born.

Anne arrives, her hair in a bun. Ruth’s and my parents go into the studio and I am left to help Anne with the lists. She takes me into the studio from the stage side and everyone gapes at her. She tells me to save a seat for her. I sit with Ruth and keep a seat for her between us. She comes in eventually, and Webster – face very red, wearing evening suit with a red rose in his lapel. He sits down at a table in the front of the studio and tells us that he has picked a very select audience because of the nature of Drawing Room. He is charm itself and introduces the artists – Anna Bender (accompanist), Walter Mony (violinist), and Rita Roberts (soprano). His compering is terrific and he sings two songs which are beautiful – Parted and The Sweetest Flower that Blows. His hand shakes as he handles the music but his voice is as perfect as ever. Anne doesn’t look at him the whole time he is singing but looks very sad.

We have an interval after the first recording. Anne says that RR should open her mouth more. When we return Webster sings If You Had But Known so beautifully I want to howl. We are told to talk in between the items and Anne talks sweetly to me the whole time.

In the second programme he sings O, Dry Those Tears and the Kashmiri Song so utterly and completely beautifully in a voice that only God could have given him that tears come to my eyes. I am shocked to see Anne crying next to me. She looks utterly heartbroken.

At the end of the recording she powders her face and talks to us brightly. Ruth says that Webster was wonderful and Anne says fiercely, “Yes, of course he’s still got a voice.”

When I leave with my parents I tell her that Webster was lovely and sang terrifically. She says in joking tones, “Yes, we’re both very proud of him, aren’t we, Jean?” I could have crawled under a sofa if there was one around.

What an evening. Anne says that most of the people in the audience are hangers-on and pays very little attention to them. Ruth and I seem to be teachers’ pets however, and she puts her arm around me and is the sweetest, most adorable creature.

As for Webster – he’ll get to heaven before any of us with a voice that only God could have fashioned and the angels given to him.

22 March – Go in to the studio and learn that Nellie is leaving because she is moving to Bloemfontein. Anne kisses her goodbye and cries.

I go in and rave to Webster about the programme and he says, “Well, I hope it comes over as well on the radio.” Anne says rather bitterly, “Yes, he sang very well, didn’t he?”

I sing quite well too and she is pleased but she looks very strained. We do My Mother which goes much better than usual and she suggests that we leave it for a while and do something else.

Webster answers the phone and tells one of their friends that Anne is having a terrible time with her back. They say my voice is getting much higher and she thinks I’m going be a ‘low” soprano or a “high” mezzo. She tells me to find something a bit higher to sing for next time.

23 March – I phone Ruth to tell her I can’t go to choir. Will she apologise for me? We talk about Wednesday and agree that it is terrific.

24 March – Work very hard and Mr Allen goes mad.

The Halls, who have been living in LA for past two years, come to visit us. She tells me that there was quite a scandal about his divorce in the thirties. His wife divorced him because of Anne.

Scotts, who are going to India, come in the evening and we have a pleasant time. I sing for them and they appear to enjoy it.

25 March –  In the afternoon I go to SABC and feel quite nostalgic about Broadcast House after last Wednesday. We look in at Mervyn John and Esmé Euvrard broadcasting in their studio. He says over the air, “There’s a lot of very attractive people standing outside the studio. Welcome to Springbok Radio!” Esmé waves at us!

Gill arrives with Harry Stanton and we go in and talk to Cora Leibowitz. She thinks Anne is very emotional and that Webster has a better voice than Anne.

Listen to Webster at night. He says he will recap to let people who “might have gone to parties or gone to bed early” to hear what happened in Iolanthe.

26 March – Last day of work. I am wished well in my musical career by Messrs Buckley, Ford and Peddy.

Go to SABC at night. We go on with Passion with Johan and Harry Stanton. Ruth says the Booths gave her a lift home on Saturday as they were going to a wedding.

She tells me that next Wednesday Anne and Webster are singing duets on Drawing Room at SABC. I’d love to go but I’m not sure if I can.

We have Gert Potgieter to sing with us in the second half.

French lady from the bank tells me she is practically neighbours of the Booths and that their house was in a terrible mess when they bought it for only £2500 but they have made great improvements to it.

27 March – Go to dressmakers for a fitting for my concert dress.

28 March – Go to music in the afternoon and Mr McKenzie gives me a lift to town in his Jaguar. Mrs S says I must come to the morning recital on 7 April.

Go to SABC and we make a recording with Gert Potgieter. At interval, Ruth and I are confronted by two old women wanting to know where Webster Booth’s programme was being held. Ruth and I take them along and decide to stay ourselves. Luckily the programme is just starting so we crawl into the last two back seats and are given a surprised look by Webster. Soloists are Gé Korsten, Jean Gluckman, Kathleen Allister (harp). Pieces are In a Persian Market, The Sunshine of Your Smile, Always, An Old-fashioned Town. We slip out at the end with another thunderous look from Webster and return (a bit late) to our own recording which we complete very successfully.

29 March – Listen to Webster and record him. It is gorgeous and glorious. His singing is wonderful.

I go into town. Webster is teaching Lucille. When I go in he says he’s expecting her ladyship at any minute and would like to record me. He plays something at the wrong speed and says, “In case you don’t know it, that’s Ruth singing Messiah!” We do the Bedfordshire May Day Carol and when he plays it back to me he points out one beautiful tone and tells me to match all my tones with it and then I shall have a perfect voice.

At this point, Anne comes in looking thin, pale and ill. I say I was sorry to hear that she was ill. She looks resigned and says, “Yes, these things do happen.”

While we have tea we listen to playback of recording. She tells me, “Smile, don’t pull faces. You are pretty when you smile. Have self-confidence. We’ll have to do something to boost your morale.”

After recording do Where E’er You Walk. They say I can do this for a change. It’s a man’s song but it suits my voice which (says Anne) has a Jennifer Vyvyan quality.

I ask Webster if we can come to the concert next week and he says he’d be delighted to have me and I can bring as many as I like. How many shall I bring? I say three. I say to Anne, “You are singing next week, aren’t you?” and she says, “Yes, if I’ve got any voice by then.” I tell her that we’d love to hear her singing and she looks wistfully pleased.

I tell him that we were there last night because we escorted two old ladies there. He says, “Yes, I saw you. I tried to catch you at the end to see how you were getting home but you disappeared very quickly!”

He asks what I thought of today’s broadcast and I emote about it and she says the piano solo was too long. We all admit that he sang beautifully. I’m going next Friday at 4pm. They couldn’t care about the public holiday – Van Riebeek day is not important!

30 March – Cartoon of Webster in Show Folk in the Star.

WELCOME TO THE DRAWING ROOM (1962)

Webster came out of the studio after the recording and appeared delighted to see us and kissed us both in greeting. He asked what we were doing there, and then said, “Oh, of course, you’re working aren’t you? It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next recording to hear the wonderful trumpeter.”

 Webster Booth, seated left, Peggy Haddon and Anna Bender (at piano), Gé Korsten and Jean Gluckman (singers), Kathleen Alister (harp) and studio audience.

 

Nearly fifty-seven years ago, in April 1962, Webster Booth presented a short series of drawing room concerts on the English Service of the SABC before an invited studio audience. He and

Anne sang solos and duets in several programmes, and a number of guest
artistes took part. Webster also sang duets with bass, Graham Burns.
Among the guest artistes were Doris Brasch and Rita Roberts (sopranos),
Gert Potgieter and Gé Korsten (tenors), Graham Burns (bass) Jean
Gluckman (contralto), Kathleen Allister (harp), Maisie Flinck and Peggy
Haddon (pianos) and Walter Mony (violin). A trumpeter also appeared in
one of the programmes, but I do not remember his name after all this
time. The accompanist was Anna Bender, the official accompanist at the SABC.

 The idea was to create the atmosphere of a polite middle-class Victorian or Edwardian drawing room concert, where singers and instrumentalists performed their party pieces such as In a Monastery Garden, The Maiden’s Prayer, O Dry Those Tears and the like. Sounds of polite conversation and laughter between the items,with restrained applause for the musical offerings were required, so a studio audience was invited to provide these “noises off”.

Shortly before this programme started, Webster wrote an article for the SABC Bulletin on 17 March 1962.

A Nostalgic Half-hour of Memories by Webster Booth

“Do you remember those Drawing-room concerts our Grandparents used to hold in the afternoons and evenings way back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s? There were of course, the Society At Homes. These were rather serious affairs, when artistes of repute were engaged. Such artistes as Ben Davis, Madame Patti, Charles Santley and even Madame Melba were paid huge sums of money to entertain the guests.

However, in this new series, to be called Drawing-Room, we want to concentrate on the homely atmosphere, with those lovely old ballads, such as Parted, Little Grey Home in the West, The Rosary, Tosti’s Goodbye, Friend o’ Mine, A Perfect Day, etc., together with those grand pianoforte solos which were all in the Star Folios, and without which no one was considered a pianist. Items like The Maiden’s Prayer, Destiny Waltz, In a Monastery Garden etc. Then the fiddle solos and fiddle obbligatos, vocal duets such as Watchman, What of the Night? Moonlight and Roses and Battle Eve. I so well remember my father, who was Barber-Surgeon to the Royal Staffordshire Regiment, dressing up in his red and gold uniform and singing The Veteran’s Song, and I would be induced to sing in my treble voice, songs like Valé and The Song of Hope, while my mother and sisters had a wonderful evening crying their eyes out. Those were the days when composers wrote songs for the voice, and singers learned to sing ballads. Believe me, those songs needed singing.  They had a story to tell, usually in three verses, all different tempos, portraying passion, joy and tears, and finishing up on a hefty top note.

We intend to invite a small studio audience to help to catch the atmosphere of the drawing-room, and to have well known South African artistes, both vocal and instrumental, to sing and play to us. This  programme will, I am sure, bring to the older listeners a glorious nostalgic half-hour of memories, and will let the younger generations realise there was real music in the home before the advent of the Cinema, Radio and the gramophone. Do tune in to the English programme at 8.30 pm on Wednesday evenings and join us in our Drawing-room. I shall be in charge of the entertainment and Miss Anna Bender will be our Hostess at the pianoforte.”

For the first recording, Webster invited pupils and friends to form part of the Drawing Room in one of the smaller recording studios at Broadcasting House, Commissioner Street. I was very excited when he asked if I would like to attend the recording. My great friend and fellow pupil of Anne and Webster’s, Ruth Ormond, and I were there with our parents and we noticed Lucille Ackerman, another pupil,  accompanied by a large family contingent.

2011-08-13_205936AW
Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth (1963)

Anne and Webster looked particularly glamorous for the occasion. Anne was wearing a beautiful evening gown, a mink stole – not yet a politically incorrect item of dress  – her fair hair in a chignon, while Webster was in full evening dress, all set to act as compère for the evening and to sing some drawing room ballads into the bargain. The accompanist for the series was Anna Bender, the official accompanist for the SABC. Anne and Webster received their guests graciously. Anne told Ruth and me to save her a seat in the front row, where she sat between us and played her full part in chatting to us between the items on the programme to evoke the atmosphere of a drawing room at the beginning of the twentieth
century.

My dear friend, Ruth Ormond, 1963
Ruth Ormond and me (below).

Photo Album

 I’m afraid that this was not the atmosphere conveyed to those listening in to these broadcasts. The polite studio audience applauded vigorously, suggesting the city hall rather than a drawing room. Fifty-seven years later I still remember Miss Rita Roberts (soprano) singing Christina’s Lament to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, Mr Walter Mony (violin), Miss Anna Bender (accompanist) and finally Webster himself, aged sixty and still in fine voice, singing The Kashmiri Song, The Sweetest flower that Blows, Parted, O Dry Those Tears and finally If You Had But Known with violin obbligato by the excellent Mr Mony, a French Canadian, who became a professor and head of the music department at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Ruth and I were entranced to have spent such a happy evening and to see and hear Webster singing only a few feet away from where we were sitting. As we were leaving I told Anne breathlessly that Webster’s singing was wonderful and she replied, “Yes, we’re both very proud of him, aren’t we, darling?” which made me feel rather naïve and childish although I was all of eighteen at the time.

The Drawing Room series was recorded over a number of weeks and we attended another recording when Anne, in a sleeveless black evening dress, sang If No One Ever Marries Me, The Little Damozel and a Handel aria from the opera Xerses, He’ll Say That For My Love. Anne had sung the last song at her Wigmore Hall recital in 1933. Later in that programme she and Webster sang duets together: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes and The Second Minuet.

One evening Ruth and I were at a choir practice with the SABC choir and she decided that during our interval, we should go to the Drawing Room studio to say hello to Webster during the break in his recording session. The first programme was not quite finished so we slipped into the studio quietly and listened to Kathleen Alister playing two solos on her harp.

Webster came out of the studio after the recording and appeared delighted to see us and kissed us both in greeting. He asked what we were doing there, and then said, “Oh, of course, you’re working aren’t you? It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next recording to hear the wonderful trumpeter.”

We were both so excited at meeting Webster (not entirely unexpectedly) and being kissed into the bargain, that Ruth walked into the men’s cloakroom instead of the women’s, only to have him politely point her in the right direction. We were both blood red with embarrassment by the time we got back to our seats at our now rather tame choir practice.

I thought Drawing Room was a lovely programme, but the critics had their misgivings about it, saying that the atmosphere created was not quite right, so it was taken off the air after a relatively short time. I once made enquiries at the SABC as to whether any of the programmes existed in their archives, but apparently these had not been kept. I had recorded several programmes via a microphone on my newly-acquired reel-to-reel tape recorder. The sound quality of these recordings is not very good, but when I listen to them all these years later, I am transformed into an excited and optimistic teenager, back in that SABC studio with Ruth and Anne, completely entranced with the music of the Drawing Room.

Sadly, it has occurred to me that most of the people mentioned in this article are now dead and gone, but the memory of that happy time remains vividly in my mind.

Here are links to some of the songs Webster sang on that programme.

Click on the links to hear him.

Friend o’ Mine (Restored by Mike Taylor) https://clyp.it/2hupnyrm

Parted (Tosti) https://clyp.it/qriewsgs

O, Dry Those Tears (del Riego) https://clyp.it/llblyizd

The Sweetest Flower that Blows https://clyp.it/0iftdnlr

Jean Collen –  April 2016

Updated 7 November 2019.

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