read a post in The Golden Age of British Dance Bands by Javier Soria
Laso about a data bass on the internet:
I discovered a number of recordings by Webster Booth
which I had not seen before – some of them had never been released.
He featured in recordings by the HMV
Light Opera Company
and the Light
Opera Male Chorus,
sometimes in the chorus and sometimes as a soloist. I have included
these recordings in my original list of missing recordings.
wonder whether the unreleased recordings are still in circulation or
whether they were discarded by HMV. I have a recording of Beauty’s
(Tosti) which is marked as unreleased, also Anne Ziegler’s test
recording of the Waltz
Possibly they were obtained from the Booths’ private record
anyone has any of the recordings listed below, I would be very glad
to have an MP3 of any one of them so that I can add it to the list of
recordings in this group.
BOOTH: Test recordings Serenata, Macushla Webster Booth, Reginald
Paul, C Studio, Small Queens Hall, London, 20 November 1929.
Comes the Bride Selection (Schwartz)
with Alice Moxon, Stuart Robertson, Webster Booth, George Baker/Ray
Noble/Studio C, Small Queens Hall, London/Cc18897-4,
25 March 1930.
Three Musketeers: Vocal Gems (Friml, Grey & Woodhouse),
Queen of my
heart, Your eyes, March of the Musketeersparts
1 and 2, C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall, London, 7
April 1930. LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, ORCHESTRA: RAY NOBLE, ALICE
MOXON soprano, BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER contralto, ESSIE
ACKLAND contralto, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor,
GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone.
C1920 C B Cochrane’s 1930 Revue: Vocal Gems, parts 1 and 2 : Piccadilly, With a song in my heart, Heaven, All the things you do, Part 2: Bakerloo, Just as we used to do, The wind in the willows, What became of Mary? C Studio, Small Queen’s Hall London, 16 May 1930. LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, ORCHESTRA: RAY NOBLE, BESSIE JONES soprano, Alice MOXON soprano, NELLIE WALKER contralto, ESSIE ACKLAND contralto, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone.
Pinafore Vocal Gems/Gilbert
and Sullivan, Anne Welch, Victor Conway, Doris Owens, Webster Booth
alone because I love you (Joe Young)/ When it’s sunset on the Nile
(Ray Ellison & Ted Renard) Kensington
Cinema, London, 6 March 1931. WEBSTER
BOOTH tenor, W. BRUCE-JAMES organ Not released by HMV.
White Horse Inn: Vocal gems (Benatzky-Stolz), parts 1: White
Horse Inn, My song of love, Your eyes; Part 2 Ho-Dri-Ho, Goodbye,
Sigesmund, It would be wonderful, Small Queen’s Hall London,
8 May 1931/14 May 1931, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY, Orchestra: RAY
NOBLE, BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER soprano, ESSIE
ACKLAND contalto, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART ROBERTSON
bass-baritone,JOHN TURNER tenor,WEBSTER BOOTH tenor.
I have this recording. Webster must feature in the chorus for his solo voice cannot be heard.
No 2 Studio, Abbey Road London, 7 November
Orchestra: RAY NOBLE, JOHN TURNER tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor,
WALTER GLYNNE tenor, LEONARD GOWINGS tenor, GEORGE BAKER
baritone, STUART ROBERTSON bass-baritone, EDWARD HALLAND bass.
Robert Burns Medley, parts 1 and 2: My love is like a
red red rose,Green grow the rashes-O, Afton Water, No 2 Studio,
Abbey Road London, 5 December 1932, LIGHT OPERA
COMPANY (orchestra: LAWRENCE COLLINGWOOD) ALICE MOXON
soprano, BESSIE JONES soprano, NELLIE WALKER soprano, ESSIE
ACKLAND contralto, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, WALTER GLYNNE tenor,
GEORGE BAKER baritone, DENNIS ARUNDEL baritone.
including Peter Dawson, Webster Booth, Walter Glynne, George Baker,
Gladys Peel, Essie Ackland. Date
Columbia DB 1658 ORCHESTRE RAYMONDE, with Webster Booth, tenor and Angela Parselles, soprano, Cond. George Walter (real name Walter Goehr) Date unknown.
B8078 A dream of paradise (Claude Littleton & Hamilton Gray)/The old rustic bridge by the mill (Joseph P Skelly) Kingsway Hall, London, 23 October 1933, WALTER GLYNNE tenor, CHORUS, organ HERBERT DAWSON (orchestra Lawrance COLLINGWOOD) WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER tenor, EDWARD HALLAND baritone, PETER DAWSON bass-baritone, GEORGE BAKER baritone.
Sweet Genevieve (Tucker), solo STUART ROBERTSON; At
Trinity Church (Fred Gilbert), solo GEORGE BAKER; The honeysuckle and
the bee (Fitz & Penn), solo STUART ROBERTSON; b) If you want
to know the time (E W Rogers), solo GEORGE BAKER Studio No
1, Abbey Road London England, 7 November 1933 LIGHT
OPERA MALE CHORUS (orchestra: CLIFFORD GREENWOOD) WEBSTER
BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER tenor, EDWARD HALLAND bass, LEONARD HUBBARD
The saucy Arethusa (trad.), solo STUART ROBERTSON; The
Bay of Biscay (Davy) Studio No 1, Abbey Road, London, 7
November 1933, LIGHT OPERA MALE CHORUS (orchestra
CLIFFORD GREENWOOD) WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, JOHN TURNER
tenor, EDWARD HALLAND bass, LEONARD HUBBARD baritone
glory of the Motherland (McCall); England (Besly);
No 2 Studio, Abbey Road, London ,11 January 1934 PETER
bass-baritone (orchestra: CLIFFORD GREENWOOD), MALE
TURNER, tenor, WEBSTER BOOTH tenor, GEORGE BAKER baritone, STUART
sung in English: O sole mio; Torna; Funiculì Funiculà Studio
1, London, 20 December 1935, LIGHT
OPERA COMPANY, Orchestra:
WALTER GOEHR, INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus
Tosti Medley Part 1: Parted; Marechiare; Vorrei morire; Part
2: L’ultima canzone; Ideale; Mattinata; Goodbye, Studio 1.
London 11 February 1936, LIGHT OPERA COMPANY Orchestra: WALTER
GOEHR, INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus 8 men
Spanish Medley, part 1 – Perjura; Lolita; La paloma;
part 2 – La partida, El relicario; Ay ay ay, Studio
1, London, 10 February 1936 (as Sevillian
Serenaders) LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (orchestra:
WALTER GOEHR) INA SOUEZ (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Chorus 8 men.
song (German)/Indian love call (Friml) Studio 3, London ,10
March 1936, ANNE ZIEGLER (sop)(p) Test recordings.
all alone/May; I’ll
wait for you/
Webster Booth, Conductor: George
Scott-Wood, Studio 2, London, 21 July 1936, released December 1936,
deleted July 1939.
– Gramophone. Webster
Booth is a little off colour this month in two songs by May and
Feiner, I’m All Alone
and I’ll Wait for You,
both with orchestra on HMV B8476 (2S. 6d.), but this does not detract
from the fact that Mr Booth is probably the finest light tenor before
the public to-day.
RAPTURE Selection (Ivor Novello)
Why Is There Ever Goodbye?/Music In May,
The Manchuko/Finale – Music In May. 23
in December 1936 and deleted in April 1941.
of Lehár, part
are my heart’s delight, Love’s melody, Smokeland, Gipsy
Foreign Legion, Count of Luxembourg, Love’s melody Studio
2, London, 23 October 1936, LIGHT
soloists ERIKA STORM, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), BBC Male Voice
Quartet (orchestra: WALTER GOEHR)
(Novello) Webster Booth, Muriel Barron (number
and date unknown)
star/Little Son (Bassett Silver), Studio 1 London 10
February 1937 WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra: CLIFFORD
was sent these recordings by Bassett Silver’s son.
mine (Sievier, de Rance) Studio 1, London, 10 February
1937 WEBSTER BOOTH (ten)(orchestra WALTER GOEHR) Unissued.
O fair vision (Delibes, trans Claude Aveling) London,3
March 1939 WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), LONDON PHILHARMONIC
ORCHESTRA (WARWICK BRAITHWAITE) Unissued.
and pure fraught with love (Flotow, trans Claude Aveling) London, 3
March 1939, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten), LONDON PHILHARMONIC
ORCHESTRA:WARWICK BRAITHWAITE. Unissued.
Webster Booth (tenor) Ernest Lush (piano) 11 August 1939
DB 1877 MELODY OF THE WALTZ – Part 1: Waltzes by Gung’l; MELODY OF THE WALTZ; Part 2 : Waltzes by Gung’l, THE BOHEMIANS: light orchestra with Al Bollington at the Abbey Road studio Compton organ and Webster Booth, tenor. Released in October 1939 and deleted in February 1944.
Rosita (Kennedy/Carr)/When you wish upon a star (Harline &
Washington)(Pinocchio) Studio 1, London, 28
February 1940, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra CHARLES PRENTICE)
Released April 1940.
Deleted February 1944.
Rose of England: Crest of the Wave (Novello)/Beauty’s Eyes (F Paolo Tosti; F J Weatherley) Studio 3, London,27 March, 1941. WEBSTER BOOTH (ten)(piano GERALD MOORE) Unissued.
have Webster’s recording of Beauty’s
Merrie England: Come to Arcadie (German) Studio 3, London, 19 October 1941,
ZIEGLER (sop), WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) (orchestra: DEBROY SOMERS)
July 1945 – War records Webster Booth, Sydney Burchall and Clarence Wright, sang in Songs Our Boys Sang and Marching Times.
records were not for sale to the general public, but sets were
available at most of the 5300 National Savings Centres throughout the
Country. Further information was available from the National
Savings Committee, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, SW1.
in the stilly night (trad; Tom Moore)/There is no death
(O’Hara; Johnstone) St Mark’s Church, Hamilton
Terrace, London , 11 January,1946 , WEBSTER
BOOTH (ten) (organ HERBERT DAWSON) Unissued. Webster also made
a recording of There is no Death for HMV which was issued.
October 1946 Gramophone Webster Booth (tenor), Gerald Moore (piano): All Soul’s Day, opus No 8 (Bernhoff/Richard Strauss); Memory Island (Askew/Harrison) HMV B9502 (10”)
setting of All Soul’s Day
calls for singing of considerable emotional stress, and when Webster
Booth gets impassioned his voice loses the easy charm that is its
chief characteristic. His words are a model of distinctness and the
accompaniment of Gerald Moore is perfect, but the song is not a very
The singer is more at
home in Memory Island,
in which a sailor home from the sea for good, casts his memory back,
Masefield-wise, to the blue lagoons, coral islands and what not of
the rover. It is a nice song with, for its type, an unusually good
a song (V Youmans; W Rose and E Eluscu)/ My song goes round the world
(E Neubach; English version K J Kennedy, ?Hans May) London,8 January 1948, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: ERIC
my songs were only winged (Reynaldo Hahn) London, 11 July
1950, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: MARK LUBBOCK Unissued.
Maritza: Komm Zigeuner (Kalman; McConnell) London,20
December 1950, WEBSTER BOOTH (ten) Orchestra: MARK LUBBOCK
of the Heart (Ketelby); He
Bought My Heart At Calvary (Hamblen)
with choir of St Stephen’s Church Dulwich, Fela Sowande (organ)
1 August – Go to Mrs S and have coffee with Gill. We do ear tests with Elaine. Mrs S gives me my report for the theory exam and guess what? I get 100% honours for both exams. I’m quite delighted at this. It’s the first time I’ve had 100% for any exam. Lesson goes quite well. I have to perform again on Saturday.
rehearse at night. Betty is back from her holiday and Peter S brings
2 August – Go to town and have lunch with Mum. I meet Mrs Ormond. She looks no different than before – still in the same suede coat with hair hanging loosely. She is affable but in a hurry.
am now waiting for G and S substitute. Station announcer says, “All
Webster Booth’s admirers will be glad to know that he is now
recovering from his recent illness and will soon be back again.”
Paddy O’B goes on with The Gondoliers. I do hope Webster will be back next week.
3 August – I get a letter from Arnold Fulton giving details of our exam on the 11 September. I phone to tell Anne about this. She is not in but Webster is and answers the phone to me. I honestly cannot say how happy I am to hear his delightful, gruff voice again saying, “Helloo!”
He tells me that she’s at the studio and I can give her a ring there. He feels much better now and it is his first day up. He says, “I feel fine but evidently this bug is still running around in me!” He sounds rather weak but is terribly sweet. He says, “Anne’ll either be having lunch or putting her head – I mean, her feet – up at the studio so you can give her a ring there.” I say that I’m crossing my fingers for him and say Cheerio. He sounds rather tired and weak but he still sounds a real pet and I adore him.
phone Anne and tell her about this and she says they might be going
away for a break so she hopes she’ll still be there to play for the
exam. Webster really needs a holiday for a few weeks after all that
lot. She says, “I got him home yesterday.” I say, “Yes, I
phoned your house and I was speaking to him.” This tends to give a
mistaken conception of the whole matter so I hope she realises that I
was phoning to speak to her.
grand to have spoken to him again after one and a half months without
him. Mad? I know I am.
4 August – Peter S takes me and tape recorder to rehearsal and all goes quite well. I know most of my lines now. I have to leave early to go into Mrs S’s for recital.
I go up to Mrs S’s and play scales and ear tests with Pam and Elaine. Mrs S makes me play to Mrs du P, Pam and Elaine and Mrs du P and Mrs S are pleased with my playing. When Pam and Elaine go I practise Higher Local sight-reading which I can, strangely enough, do quite well.
Leila, Mary and the rest of choir come and we practise. We sing (three altos and 7 sopranos) together today and it goes well.
Have lunch in Galaxy with Mum and Dad. Dad tells me that Anne phoned about changing my time because Ruth wants to have extra lessons, on a Monday at 3. I am rather furious about this.
see Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart and it is
terrific. Jimmy S is a scream and cheers me up.
Come home and phone for fifth time this week to Anne, feeling furious. Poor, unsuspecting Webster answers the phone and I am afraid I vent my feelings on him by being extremely cold and haughty, asking for Anne in frigid tones. He is most affable and fetches her.
Anne is all oozy and sweet to me but I am neither oozy nor sweet to her. She tells me story about Ruth only being able to go for extra lessons before her exam on Tuesday at 4. I say coldly that I’m afraid Monday is quite unsuitable for me. I have a lot to do during the week and I have already been changed once and have had to rearrange all my plans accordingly. I’m not trying to be inconsiderate but it’s quite impossible. She says that she understands and she’ll arrange something. I say, “Perhaps you could change someone else?” She is terribly sweet and says, “We’ll see you on Tuesday at 4 then. I hope you don’t mind.” I say, “OK, goodbye,” in frigid tones and put down the receiver.
She sounded genuinely sorry and I have a feeling that Ruth suggested that she could change my time – probably at her mother’s instigation – but that isn’t fair. When I first knew that Ruth had won that money I was delighted but it appears she really is going to get big over it and, in the end, it will probably come between us.
5 August – Go to Sunday School and play piano well. Ian – my problem child is back. We do a word rehearsal after Church. Gary A praises Anne’s revision of her programme in the Sunday Times today.
6 August – Go to SABC in the evening fully prepared to have an argument with a proud, haughty Ruth throwing her £40,000 weight around. However, she is just the same – far sweeter than usual in fact – and tells me she went for a lesson today and Anne was in a nice mood.
She says that Anne spoke about me for ages and said she thought I was one of the sweetest, most sincere girls she had ever met and she is extremely fond of me and thinks a lot of me.
I say that perhaps she was probably being insincere but Ruth says, “No. She was terribly natural and sincere today and she likes you a lot. She thinks you are sweet and sincere, and so do I,” says Ruth.
She spoke to Webster on the phone on Saturday for a short while. He isn’t going into the studio till Friday but managed to make his G and S recording in the morning. I am glad he’s well and fit again.
Some nameless, but highly qualified, man takes us through Messiah.
7 August – Work hard in the morning and get a letter from Penny Berrington. She’s getting married on the thirteenth of this month!
Go to studio in the afternoon. Anne answers and is very affable. Piet Muller, the glorious tenor is singing and is having an audition with the SABC later this month.
Anne thanks me for getting the examination cards fixed up and tells me that the self-same thing happened to Mabel Fenney – maybe Arnold Fulton has a grudge against them.
She gives me a lukewarm cup of tea and tells me that Webster is fine now but the virus could flare up again at any moment. We do vocal studies which go well and exercises which don’t go so well, so we spend the rest of the lesson concentrating on them and they improve.
Her next pupil, John Fletcher, brings fudge and gives Anne some. She asks if she can have some for her girlfriend who is Scottish! We continue with exercises and I feel that I learn a lot.
tell her to tell Webster that he must keep well and she says, “My
God, I hope so!”
to rehearsal at night with Peter and all goes well.
8 August – Work very hard in the morning. I just have to do well in these blooming exams.
lovely lunch with Mum in Ansteys and see tall, dark viola player
(lady) there. Go up to SS studios and work with Elaine and Mrs S
works me hard during lesson. I get home quite exhausted after the
exertions of the day.
9 August – It is Webster himself tonight and he is, as usual, his own fabulous self. He sounds just a little weak and out of breath – doing a programme after he had only been up for a few days must have been rather strenuous for him. He thanks the listeners who sent him flowers, letters and phone messages when he was in hospital and says that he is truly thankful to be out of hospital and feeling better again. He also thanks Paddy O’B for reading his script in a very warm, gentlemanly way and then continues with The Gondoliers.
For the third time in this series he plays his own record of Sparkling Eyes and at the end of the programme they play his Wand’ring Minstrel almost all the way through. Next week he intends to finish the Gondoliers and start on a full-length recording of Iolanthe, complete with dialogue.
It is really wonderful to hear him back on the radio again and to know that he is better. I’m rather sorry now that I didn’t send him something when he was in hospital but, knowing Anne, I think she would have thought up the worst possible motive for my doing so. Nevertheless, I have worried about him and I was sympathetic when she needed sympathy most. I do thank God that he is well again.
10 August – Work and then go into town and buy a lovely coat. I meet Eileen in town and come home on bus with Rosemary Nixon. Go to guild at night – talk by Sister Constantine. I take the epilogue.
11 August – We have rehearsal at 8am and Peter S takes me there. All goes well.
Go up to SS studios and see Margaret Masterton who is back from Britain looking very well. I do ear tests with Elaine and Pam and then sing in choir.
At 4.30 go to church and meet Peter and Gail and go with Fred, Charles and Joan to guild rally in Krugersdorp. We have supper and hear a wonderful talk by Prof Charles Coulson from Oxford University.
12 August – Go to final rehearsal. We hear Mark, Mr Russell’s little boy, singing Ag, Pleez, Daddy on the tape recorder – cute! We have a pleasant time making up before the play while Peter C is conducting his last service before leaving for the UK. There is a huge turnout for the play and it goes fabulously. Afterwards everyone congratulates us heartily and all is lovely. They present some gifts to Peter. I hope he will do very well abroad.
13 August – Work very hard during the day. Go to SABC. Ruth comes with the joyful news of having seen Webster on Saturday and there is general exaltation.
Her version of meeting is as follows: She came up on the lift with him and kissed him, leaving lipstick on his face. When they go in there is a query from Anne as to whether he had scratched himself and a sheepish admission of guilt from Ruth. Anne is slightly flabbergasted. It certainly sounds as though Webster is well once more. She is going tomorrow at 4.30 after me.
14 August – In the afternoon go to studio feeling quite tense at seeing Webster again. However, it is Anne who answers the door. When Anne tells me about Webster, she says that he looks ninety and his face is haggard. I expect I looked very crestfallen, for she says, “I’m afraid you’ll have to suffer me for another week!” I feel quite awful about this. I must have shown terrible disappointment at not seeing him but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want her. What a thing to think!
I have tea with her as there is nobody there before me and she tells me that Webster came in on Saturday for three hours and it exhausted him utterly so he decided to stay at home for this week. She says there is too much sediment in his blood and he has got to be x-rayed for that tomorrow. She says he’s been terribly, terribly ill and has to be very careful indeed.
She tells me that they’re going on holiday in the last two weeks of September to a cottage in Hermanus because Webster really needs a holiday but they are waiting until after our exam because she has to play for us. I am going to have my lesson on the morning of the exam as a warm-up and Ruth can have her lesson after me and we can all go to the SS studio together.
We talk about Guy Magrath (the examiner who isn’t going to adjudicate our exam) and she tells me that last year she met him and he had played in an orchestra with Webster and herself as soloists. Harold Fielding, the impresario had been near bankruptcy and they had been right at the top of the entertainment tree. They did a tour for him which was highly successful and so saved him from failure. She says, “We were right at the top then.”
Studies are fabulous and she is delighted but exercises are grim as ever. She says Ruth has the same battle – I needn’t worry. Everything else goes well and she is happy. Ruth arrives at about 4.25 still in her school uniform. She says, “Tell Jean, I’m sorry to come so early.”
Afterwards we all talk and Ruth says that she thinks my voice very beautiful. She never imagined that I could sing like that. We discuss her uniform and decide that she looks like a 7-year-old in it! Actually she looks terribly sweet and young and is of course charming. I say goodbye to them both and feel happy.
to Anne at night and once more it is a fabulous programme. She plays
music from Bitter Sweet,And So to Bed, The
Threepenny Opera and The Dancing Years. She plays their
duet from Bitter Sweet – I’ll See You Again and it is
lovely. She talks of their friendship with Noel Coward, Ivor Novello
and Vivian Ellis. The last-named used to play rugger with her brother
who was ten years older than her. She also talks of Mark Lubbock, the
BBC conductor who accompanied them on a tour of And So to Bed.
15 August – Have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. Go up to SS studio and talk to Gill about the horrors of exams. We do sight-singing and ear tests and I have a successful lesson with Mrs S. She says she wants me to get honours in this exam.
Go to rehearsal at Rosettenville tonight with Peter S. Archie’s car breaks down on the way home so Peter tows him and it takes us ages to get home.
16 August – Work quite hard during the day but feel very sleepy and doddery.
to G and S and Webster is lovely. He finishes the Gondoliers
and plays A Highly Respectable Gondolier sung by Robert
Radford in 1921. The record was given to him when he was in hospital.
He mentions that George Baker sings on this record – he had a
letter from George the other day. He is 78 and intends to make a
recording of Ruddigore at the end of the year.
starts (for the second time this year) on a recording of Iolanthe
with Isadore Godfrey conducting. He plays the overture which he says
is his favourite of all the G and S overtures.
I haven’t seen him for such an age that I feel as though I hardly know him. On Tuesday when I thought I would see him again, I was as nervous as though I had never met him. If I don’t see him this following week, he shall be a complete stranger to me.
17 August – Work hard during the morning and have lunch with Mum. I go to the library and see my old boss from the bank, Mr Peddy, browsing through a file there.
At night I go with Peter S, Archie and Yvonne to Rosettenville for our performance. Gill Mc D comes along to do the make-up and we have a jolly evening. Play goes extremely well and adjudicator from the Bank Players says we acted excellently and show great promise, but as this is a religious festival we don’t win because our play lacked a biblical message! Mr R is angry and says (privately of course) that the man is 50 years out of touch with religion. However, all was delightful and fun. We go back to Tsessebe, the Jeppe Boys’ boarding house for tea and sit in Peter’s study. Denis Newton gives me a lift home at 12.30am.
18 August – At the unearthly hour of 8.30am I catch a bus into Mrs S’s studio. Work diligently with Elaine at scales and exercises, and after coffee, Margaret M, Pam, Elaine and I do ear tests. Margaret cheers me up by telling me that she went flat in her unaccompanied piece during her exam so perhaps this is not a problem unique to me.
The choir arrives and I talk to a girl called Maureen about Ruth. She tells me that Ruth was at the Engineers’ Dance last night with Trevor and was not very kind to him! We practise well.
is in bed with a cold so Mum and I have lunch and see The
Inspector with Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart.
19 August – Go to Sunday school. I play well but singing is rather ghastly. Dudley Penn brings a white rat to Sunday School!.
20 August – Go to SABC. Gill practises clarinet in studio. It sounds quite good. Johan comes in and has a shot at it – first time and jolly good too. He is most affable.
When Ruth comes she tells me that Webster is quite, quite well again and looks wonderful and is most cheerful. She hasn’t started swotting for her exams yet so she isn’t coming to the choir for two weeks while they’re on. She doesn’t intend having any more extra lessons after the exam.
21 August – Work quite hard in the morning and once more develop a state of dreadful nervous tension.
I go up to the studio in a great state in the afternoon and today I am not disappointed. Webster answers the door! I say, “Hello,” and he says, “Hello, Jean” in pleased tones. I ask after his health and he tells me that he is simply fine. He looks just the same as usual in his striped suit but he is just a trifle more haggard and old-looking.
Piet M is singing Can I Forget You? very beautifully indeed and then Webster sings the same song to show Piet how it’s done. The voice is weaker, but, oh, how angel-like. He sings as though his life depends on it in his dear, sweet restrained tenor and I sit in the kitchen and cry! When he comes to the last three notes, he says, “You finish it! I can’t reach them now.” I dry my tears before they come out. I have never been so moved for a long, long time. Here is a man of 60 who has been at death’s door recently, singing so well that a man in his prime would be proud!
sings beautifully but Webster is the greater artist who can move his
audience to unashamed tears. I hear Anne telling Piet M and his wife
that show business is a real struggle. People make promises and don’t
keep them. A production house here promised them work if they came
over to settle, but they never kept their word.
says, “Nobody will give me a job as a singer here! I haven’t had an
engagement for months. Perhaps I’m just getting too old.”
I go in and Anne tells me to come at 10.30 on the eleventh and they are leaving on holiday the next day. She asks about the examiner and I tell her it is Anderson Tyrer. She is delighted and says they’ve met him and he’s nice. He told Mabel Fenney that he thought a lot of them. I say that everyone says he is very bad-tempered. Webster says, “Well, I’m damned sure that I’d be bad tempered if I had his job. I’m bad-tempered enough in this studio.” He says that AT is quite an age – he doesn’t know how he stands it.
I do vocal studies and sing very well. Webster comes in and says, “You were singing beautifully but I’ll bet you weren’t showing your teeth!” I laugh nervously. We do Polly Oliver and I am so strung up that I don’t do it exceptionally well. However, sing Hush My Dear perfectly in tune and he is pleased. He says that to ensure I don’t go off pitch I must support my breath. Do My Mother and he says I must make a bigger crescendo at the end of the verse. Exercises are – as usual – ghastly. I say indignantly that I can do them perfectly at home and Anne says, “Yes, Jean. I am terrifying you dreadfully, aren’t I?” I laugh in slightly shame-faced fashion. I should make a tape to prove it.
Ruth comes and acts in simpering tones with Webster. Webster comes with me to the door and I say that I hope he’ll keep well. He says, “Oh, yes. I think I’ll keep well now, dear.”
was lovely seeing him once more and hearing his lovely angel-like
voice again. I don’t care what anyone says; he is (or was) the finest
tenor in the world.
22 August Work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys, which is most delightful.
up to SS studio and do ear tests with Gill and they go fairly well. I
play for her as well. Elaine comes and we do more ear exercises. Mrs
S is pleased with me and says I should do well in the exam.
As I’m terribly worried about the exercises I get mum to phone Anne to see about three extra lessons before the exam. Webster answers the phone and tells Mum that he feels much better now. He calls Anne and she says she can’t look up her book now – they’re making a film and dashing off to the set but she’ll phone after six.
She does, and after much deliberation, she finds three times to suit. I am going on Saturday at 9.00. She tells me they’ve been invited to the opening of the Civic Theatre on Monday night. They are obviously very busy.
23 August – Listen to G and S at night. He continues with Iolanthe for the second time and I do enjoy it. He says that in his day the peers were bald and their crowns would inevitably fall off into the foliage.
25 August – Go into town at the unearthly hour of 8.00 and meet Margaret M on the bus. Go up to studio and I am there first. Anne arrives with Lemon. Lemon disgraces himself in most vulgar fashion and Anne is terribly embarrassed. I disappear into the kitchen until the chaos subsides.
We start and she makes me do scales to ‘moo’ down and then up and they go very well. Webster comes in and Anne says, “I’m not speaking to you again! You will feed Lemon before we come out and he disgraced himself in front of Jean.” He finds this most amusing and says, “No wonder he’s licking his chops!” He is wearing a Wanderer’s blazer and his face is very red and flushed.
continue with exercises and she makes me do them in front of the
mirror and open my mouth wider on top notes. I sing them onto the
tape and he stands and holds the microphone for me (makes me feel
funny!) but I sing them very well and they are pleased. When he is
recording me Lemon starts barking at the next pupil and he shouts,
“Shut up!” loudly and when the tape is played back it sounds very
funny. When Lemon hears himself he starts barking all over again!
She says that I must be very careful with my breath and she feels it. Makes me feel hers. I shall never cease to be amazed at it. Her ribs are as hard as a barrel and she simply doesn’t let any breath escape. She says the tummy must go in and the ribs out. I must practise to see how long I can hold my breath. I should be able to hold it for 25 seconds. She can hold hers for 37!
am amazed at how well the exercises go today. She says my voice is
very pure and even and sweet and I must never think that I can’t do
the exercises because I can do them very well, “Isn’t that so,
Boo?” “Yes, that’s so!” I feel much happier about them today
and have far more confidence.
I leave, I say goodbye to Webster and then, “Goodbye, Lemon.”
Anne says she’s terribly sorry about Lemon’s disgraceful behaviour!
After that I toddle down to Mrs S’s just in time for coffee with Margaret and Elaine. Margaret and I are shoved off to do musicianship tests and when she goes, Mrs S makes me record my pieces which go quite well. This time next Saturday – ugh! Elaine and I work together for a while and then we are allowed home. Really glorious day.
I phone Gail Cain. We’re doing the play tomorrow night at Bedfordview.
26 August – Have quite Sunday. In the afternoon Ruth phones and we have a lovely conversation. She is busy swotting for exams and phones me for ‘relaxation’! She tells me that Anne and Webster told her yesterday that I sang really beautifully at my lesson and they were amazed and thrilled.
tell her about the film they are making and we talk of previous films
we have seen them in. I say, “Of course, I didn’t know them
then…” and she says, “But now, we’re real pals, aren’t we?”
says she is having new shoes and getting her hair done for the
commerce ball and she’s looking forward to it, but she is a bit
worried about the exams. She is also worried about going to singing
on Tuesday when she ought to be swotting. She loves going, but…
We chat for a good half hour and I promise to apologise for her to Johan. It does me good to talk to her. She is such fun and we understand each other’s nonsense. I tell her about the film advert with Webster leering over his boater on a Parisienne avenue and she squeals with delight.
go out to Bedfordview in the evening and do the play once more. There
are about 35 in the audience. We have to do it again on Tuesday night
in Orange Grove.
Afterwards we go to Mr and Mrs R’s for coffee. Mum and Dad will have to record Anne for me on Tuesday.
28 August – Today it snows and the world is white! After I recover from the shock I work.
go to singing in the afternoon and get a dull, shabby old man in the
lift with me. He speaks to Anne and reveals himself as Guy Magrath –
honestly, I nearly have a fit!
Anne tells me that they went to the opening of the Civic Theatre last night and it didn’t finish till 12.10. They had the opening itself which lasted three-quarters of an hour and then the opera. By the end of it she felt as though she had been in an alcoholic’s nightmare! Mimi was good in two of the roles but as the “dancing doll” she was rather large!
foyer is gaudy – dark red and blue with hanging lights. It reminded
her of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. There’s a bar in the foyer and
all the whisky was finished by the second interval.
felt too awful to come into the studio today – presumably from all
that whisky. They sat in the second row and Verwoerd sat in the
gallery. “Somebody would have shot him if he had sat in the
stalls,” said Webster.
Anne says she found the people quite mad. South Africans are a race apart the more she sees of them. “I wouldn’t say this to anyone but someone from home because a South African couldn’t take it.”
have this long conversation while washing the dishes and making tea
till 4. Leslie G is back and had a wonderful holiday and is going to
dinner with them tonight. He says it’ll take him a month to finish
talking about his holiday.
We work at exercises and when Ruth comes I listen to her singing the exercises. Her voice is sweet but rather wobbly and a bit off key. She races through the exercises like billy-oh. We spend a bit more time talking about Tales of Hoffman and running down Anton Hartman (who conducted last night) and Jossie Boshoff (who is 44). Ruth’s mother had her birthday party at the Carlton Hotel last night, if you don’t mind!
all have a lovely time as Anne’s two teacher’s pets! I think our
voices are on a par.
do the play at Orange Grove at night and it goes very well. We go
back to Gail’s for coffee and cake and Peter takes me home.
29 August – Listen to Anne’s recorded programme. It is well done but she alludes to too many old friends such as Richard Tauber, Hermione Gingold and others I have never heard about. The shows are Land of Smiles, Gigi, The Boy Friend and Song of Norway. She tells several amusing stories with regards to The Boy Friend. She spent her teenage years in the twenties and remembers the fashions of the times, being kissed by awkward youths, wearing short shapeless dresses and bathing costumes with cloche bathing caps. She says they both roared at the first night which they had first seen in Hampstead and also at the first night here when they sat in front of Sandy Wilson who was convinced they were trying to ruin the show with their laughter. Lovely programme.
Go to town and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. Put in hard afternoon’s work in SS studio with Gill, Elaine and Mrs du P. When examiner leaves we try out the piano in that studio and it goes reasonably well. Anderson Tyrer leaves at least 20 cigarette ends behind him as well as a stale, smoky smell. Come home on the bus with Betty and have an early night.
30 August – I work very hard today trying to polish up all my examination pieces.
Listen to G and S at night. He goes on with Iolanthe and plays the Lord Chancellor’s song by Martyn Green, a record he made in America. His voice is past its best. Very nice programme but I’m not sure whether people (apart from myself) want to listen to a repeat after only three or four months even if it is done by a different company.
31 August – My nineteenth birthday.
to studio. Anne arrives after me and says she’s quite exhausted after
teaching in Brakpan yesterday – they didn’t get home till after 9.
start on scales and they go very well and then go onto studies.
Webster comes in in the middle of the second one. His face is still
terribly red. She makes me sing down 2 octaves for him and he says
that it is lovely and very even. I do exercises on the tape and they
go pretty well. Webster says I must take my time with them and hum
and sing an arpeggio or two if I feel like it! To hell with the
examiner. “It’s none of his business!”
Anne says that Leslie G came to dinner and brought slides to show them. He had a fabulous one of the Scots Memorial in Princes Street taken from a turret of Edinburgh Castle. He also made a recording with her girlfriend, Babs Wilson-Hill, in her garden which is to be broadcast soon.
sing studies on tape and they are pleased with them but Webster says
I must look at the hairpins again. When we do the second study he
sings with me and emphasises the hairpins. He stands far away from me
but it is mostly him we hear on the tape. I go red and feel a wee bit
embarrassed but it all goes well.
says I mustn’t worry at all. I shall be all right. I must go to the
exam thinking, “Well, I know everything there is to know about this
tell them that I am playing tomorrow and if I don’t play well the
examiner will probably be horrified to see me again! Webster has a
right hearty laugh at this and we part in an atmosphere of great
is waiting for a lesson after me, looking most superior. I expect she
heard the tape with my endeavours to sing and Webster bawling!
For the first time in many months, I come down Eloff Street elated, gay and happy.
I get rather a shock because Webster does not do the programme this evening. They say that unfortunately he is indisposed, so Paddy O’Byrne reads from his script. I feel like howling, honestly I do! It sounds absolutely ridiculous but it would be futile if I could never hear or see him again. I’m shocked with myself for saying this but I’m afraid it’s true. I cannot help myself.
1 July – Go to Sunday School in the morning. Play for them but little boys are too much for me to handle! I get the play script from Gail and stay to church. Mr R very good.
2 July – Go to choir in the evening. I go up to 2c with Anna Marie and we see Hugh Rouse reading newscast. He won’t be doing that for much longer, I’m afraid.
We rehearse quite hard. Ruth is away and Gill is not there so I talk to Scots couple and a girl who is doing the same TC exam as me in August. We have a pleasant time – it is nice to get to know others in the choir for Ruth and I have a tendency to live in a little world or our own. Iris gives me a lift home.
3 July – I work extremely hard today and enjoy it. I hear JB Priestley talking about Ryder Haggard. He has a lovely, soothing voice.
At night we all listen to Anne’s new programme – Music for Romance. I’m afraid the summing up of this would be tried and found wanting. She spoke nicely of course in a sophisticated and deep drawl but she didn’t play one of their records. When I first met her I thought her such a pet – unaffected, charming. She has changed.
4 July – I lunch with Mum in the Capinero and then I meet Gill who is going to collect her clarinet from Gerrit Bonn at the SABC. I go with her and say hello to Johan and Gerrit B. I wait in the foyer while she collects the clarinet and am fed peppermints by two girls who are waiting to go to the Radio Record Club.
go to Mrs S’s studio with Gill (complete with clarinet) and she
demonstrates it to me but not much sound comes out yet!
We do ear tests which go well and then I sight-sing – I do this far better than Gill. She is fairly impressed.
Rita, Mrs S and I have coffee and then I have a nice lesson with Mrs S in which she asks me to join her choir, the Sylvia Sullivan Choristers, which rehearses on Saturdays at noon. Should be fun. She is pleased with my work and I feel quite elated. She plays a record of the Chopin Mazurka I am working on.
is a picture of Webster in the Rhodesian paper just after his illness
and he looks really awful.
He is going to be in a film about a Boer who inherits an English title called Lord Oom Piet.
go to first play rehearsal at night and feel that I don’t do badly at
all. My North country accent is a fair treat. Fun!
5 July – Have lunch with mum again and then go to lunch hour concert which is crowded out. I see Roselle reclining in a box, Jill Harry, and the lady who sits next to Ruth at choir. Quite a few children are there and they make a lot of noise. Gideon Fagan conducts and Walter Mony is the soloist. He is very good but naturally is angry at the noise – I don’t blame him!
Listen to Webster at night. He continues The Yeomen and gives us Martyn Green. Unfortunately Webster’s voice is very croaky.
6 July – Go to studio and Anne answers the door looking really awful and I feel sorry for her. She tells me that Webster is very seriously ill indeed and is now in hospital.
On the fourth day of his trip to Bulawayo, he collapsed and the doctors thought he had pneumonia because he couldn’t breathe. He managed to return home and was examined by their doctor here who was so worried about him that he sent for a specialist. He took blood tests and decided that he had developed a fever. It was too expensive for him to be treated at home so they put him into the fever hospital with a temperature of 103 degrees. She isn’t allowed to see him and today someone from the municipality rang up and asked if she was the wife of the “suspected typhoid case.” She says he can’t have typhoid fever but they’ll have to wait a week before they have the results of the tests.
When I got home I look up typhoid fever in a medical book. Within seven days red spots develop so maybe he does have it. Also, the heart valves have been affected. Poor, poor Webster. I am so very sorry for him and I pray that he will be well.
makes us tea and I help and say (to cheer her up) that I liked her
programme. She says she thought she sounded rather dull and slow but
she’s rectified this in the second one. Let’s hope so!
exercises (due to shock maybe?) go out of tune and she says it may be
the result of my out-of-tune piano because I have a good ear. We go
through them again and they get a little better – but not much! She
says I must go through them bar by bar at home to get the tune firmly
imprinted in my mind.
Sweet Polly Oliver is quite good – a little dull perhaps – but good. Mayday Carol is also better and My Mother is technically perfect but needs a little more light and shade. The studies go very well and she says, “I see you’ve been doing what your Uncle Boo told you!” She asks to borrow the music to practise them if she’s going to be my accompanist at the exam. I’ve to collect them on Tuesday evening before choir. Also, I have to go a bit later at 4.30 for the next two weeks because the little boy is going on holiday.
I say I hope Webster will feel a bit better and that she’ll get good news of him. She puts on a face of studied tragedy. I’m so sorry for him and I do want him to get well. To think that only two months ago – almost to the day – he was so happy doing Drawing Room and kissing Ruth and me.
to guild at night and we have the best evening for a long time. At
fellowship I pray in round of prayer – my first ever public prayer.
I pray for the sick but my heart was praying for Webster. We also
pray for the poor Sharpe girls whose father died of a heart attack on
have a games evening and I play the piano. All very jolly and good
7 July – Go to rehearsal early – 8.30am and we work quite hard. Peter Spargo brings me home for tape recorder and we record hymn for communion which goes quite well.
I go into Mrs S’s studio to sing in ensemble. Most of the girls are from Parktown Girls’ High. Mrs S makes me take the altos and then she comes in to helps us. She says she hopes to get a broadcast for us.
have lunch with parents in Galaxy and we see Susan Slade with
Connie Francis who is very good. All most enjoyable.
8 July – Go to Sunday School and play for them. Church is conducted by Mr Huth.
listen to Leslie Green, Die Goeie Ou Tyd, Time to Remember
and Life with the Lyons. Gary A is “bitterly disappointed
with Music for Romance”. Says that the public want to hear
her own recorded stage appearances. Good for Gary. I agree.
9 July – Develop another cold so as today is Family Day (alias The Queen’s Birthday) I nurse it – grue, ghastly etc!
10 July – Work and nurse cold in the morning. I phone Johan’s secretary to apologise for not attending choir tonight.
go into town to buy tissues and go up to the studio to collect music.
Anne answers and, lo and behold, she has left it on top of the piano
at home – she’s so sorry! What can she say? Will it be all right on
Friday. I expect so.
Webster has a normal temperature now and if he’s all right by Saturday they may let him out of hospital. As yet, they don’t know what’s the matter with him but I expect if his temperature is normal he must be quite well. I say, “I’m so glad,” – perhaps a little too fervently, but it is the truth.
is all apologies for not bringing the music but it doesn’t really
matter because I really wanted to know about Webster. Thank God he is
11 July – Work in the morning and then go into town. I meet Eleanor – Ruth’s enemy – on the bus. She is affable and most la-de-da and talks about everything but Ruth. I rather think she used to be quite nauseated with Ruth and me drooling over Anne and Webster all the time!
have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and it is quite like old times. The
second trumpeter is still there drooling over his roast chicken and
I go up to Mrs S’s and do ear tests with Elaine, Rita and Gill. Latter tells me that next week we are recording the commercial record unaccompanied. All goes well. We have coffee and then I have my lesson in which I do scales and a Czerny technical exercise which (I think) I sight-read well. Have to go and “perform” on Saturday immediately after play rehearsal – how ghastly!
Go to rehearsal at night – I don’t know my words very well – must really learn them. We practise with our recording. Peter S brings me home and also fetched me. He is a very easy chap to talk to but oh, so learned!
The record Net Maar ‘n Roos is on sale in Ansteys so evidently it couldn’t have been terribly popular.
12 July – Work very hard and listen to Leslie Green – recording in Trafalgar Square – talks of pigeons, rain, London bobbies and buses and makes me feel quite nostalgic about it all.
now in bed waiting for G and S. It is a simply glorious programme. He
finishes The Yeomen and plays a record by “my dear old
friend, Winifred Lawson. Winnie made this in 1921.”
He then plays one of Sullivan’s part songs, The Long Day Closes – a record made after the funeral of Tommy Handley by eight of his singing friends – the most famous singers in Britain at that time – Norman Allin, Parry Jones, Trefor Jones and of course, “myself”. The proceeds went to the Tommy Handley Memorial fund. Good for them.
finishes with his own recording of Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes
seeing he’s starting to play the Gondoliers next week. It is
very beautiful indeed and I enjoy it. Tonight was one of the
loveliest programmes he’s done for ages. I’m so happy he’s better.
13 July – I go up to studio and Anne is there listening to Leslie Green broadcasting from London. I say I listened yesterday and felt quite nostalgic hearing his broadcast from Trafalgar Square and him talking about the pigeons. She says they had a letter from him yesterday and he has absolutely fallen in love with London. He’s very pro-British – both his parents were from Yorkshire and had broad accents.
says that since Webster was taken ill she has felt more home-sick
than ever. She hates South Africa and simply can’t settle here.
“Maybe if I went back to Britain for a holiday that would settle me
but I just can’t settle here now!”
I say that my mother is just the same and she says that the people here are very ill-mannered. She has to put the car into the garage in Plein Street and people are ready to run her down and bump into her. She has reached the point where she stops her car and gives them a mouthful! She says, “Webster was always there to help me but now there’s no one.”
is getting out of hospital on Monday but the membranes of his heart
are severely damaged and next week he has to stay in bed and have a
cardiograph every day and then he’ll have to rest up for two or three
weeks. She went to see him through a glass and could only wave at him
but he was able to write her a letter on Tuesday.
singing goes quite well today – best for a long time. We do studies
and they are better for leaving them alone for a bit. Bedfordshire
Carol is still a bit out of tune but she says that if I “think
flat” on the D it should come right. I do this and it improves. My
Mother and Polly Oliver are better because of vast
practice. She says I must practise octaves and come down on all
vowels to achieve evenness. She praises (sincerely) the tone of my
voice and I feel elated.
says Ruth sent her a postcard and she feels so sorry for her still
being at school – I don’t! I envy her. We decide that after this
exam we’ll burn the music.
I have a nice long lesson today as Bill Perry doesn’t turn up. It is just like old times. I feel elated and light as air but a little sad for Anne being so homesick and poor Webster still being ill.
Anne has been under a terrible strain running the studio, worrying about Webster and feeling homesick. If I had such a darling husband as him I’d feel pretty awful too.
14 July – I go to Mrs S’s studio. I play my pieces to Elaine and she plays hers to me. We work a little and then have coffee and cake with Mrs S, and her sister, Mrs Du Plessis. We work a bit more. Elaine says my pieces are excellent and then we play to Mrs S’s friend, Miss Cameron. The choir arrives and I play the piano for the altos. They all know Ruth and are impressed that I sing in the SABC choir. Their names are Shelley, Linda and Leila.
in the afternoon to see West Side Story which is, in my
opinion, rather ghastly and too modern and ugly for words. That’s not
music – that’s dis-chord!
15 July – Go to Sunday school and play the piano for them. I go with Joan to hear Peter C’s sermon – a great improvement from the last one. He speaks slower which aids matter considerably.
to the radio – Leslie Green, Time to Remember and Life
with the Lyons.
16 July – Have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get the unaccompanied song in tune but have found another that I can sing perfectly in tune so I’m going to try and learn it beautifully for Friday and hope that Anne will allow me to sing it in the exam. It’s a bit late but I think it would be worth it.
In the evening I go to the SABC and the first person I come across is Gill V complete with her clarinet. I go and have supper with her.
go into 1a to make the recording as Guest Stars of the Kreel
Orphanage on the commercial record they have made and which is soon
to be released. We sing our two Volksliedjies, unaccompanied. We
manage to complete one song by the interval. Graham Green is the
controller – he also did the controlling for Drawing Room. A
photographer comes to take our picture.
At the interval, I try to play Gill’s clarinet and we all have a hilarious time. The noise I produce gets more squeaky as I proceed! After interval we record the first song Die Lied van Jong Suid Afrika. The sentiment of both songs is decidedly pro-Nat.
also get our wages tonight which is perhaps the best part of the
whole evening. I am quite surprised by the amount – far more than I
expected. My first fee for singing!
17 July – Work and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I treat her with my fee!
hard in the afternoon and listen to Leslie G in Kew Gardens.
Anne’s programme at night is still pretty awful as far as the music is concerned but her speaking is sweet and next fortnight she’s to play the Vagabond King so let’s hope it’s their beautiful recordings of it.
18 July – Work hard and then have lunch with mum and go up to the SS studio. Elaine and I sight-read duets together. We have coffee and then I have my lesson which goes quite well. I play on 1 September. I’m not looking forward to it.
go for a drive at night to Hillbrow.
19 July – Go to shops, library, and park today with Shandy and we have fun.
I listen to Leslie G. He goes to the Tower of London where there is an actual rehearsal of the D’Oyly Carte company for Yeomen of the Guard. Then he goes to Petticoat Lane and tells of having high tea for 3/-. Am now in bed waiting for You Know Who!
I get rather a shock because Webster does not do the programme this evening. They say that unfortunately he is indisposed, so Paddy O’Byrne reads from his script. I feel like howling, honestly I do! It sounds absolutely ridiculous but it would be futile if I could never hear or see him again. I’m shocked with myself for saying this but I’m afraid it’s true. I cannot help myself.
Paddy O’B is excellent and from Webster’s script he tells us, “A pupil of mine lent me a record because he thought I was one of the singers. I made it such a long while ago that I’d forgotten about it. It has George Baker, Alice Moxon and Dennis Noble on it, and of course, myself. “ It is lovely – a selection from Gondoliers and his voice is glorious.
small company was called the Light Opera Company but we didn’t mind
not being in the full company because the pay was the same.”
starts with the overture to the Gondoliers and says, “I saw
The Gondoliers in Birmingham the night before my audition and
thought how bright and fresh everything looked. Imagine my dismay
when the next morning I walked on to the stage and saw such tatty and
dingy props! But who am I to disillusion the theatre-going public who
have been my bread and butter for so many years?”
O’B goes on with the story. I feel so sorry that Webster wasn’t able
to do it himself. I hope to heaven he is a bit stronger now. It’s so
difficult to imagine such a strong, dependable, kindly man like that
very ill and weak but no doubt he is and he must get better.
20 July – Go to the library and then to the studio in the afternoon. Anne answers the door and once more is in the middle of listening to Leslie G. I go in and listen too. He is on the train on his way to Edinburgh and describes the carriage, the friendly ticket collectors, the punctual time-keeping and the fast train. He went to visit a friend of Anne’s (Babs) and thought her garden was the loveliest in England.
Anne says that hearing him talk about all that she remembers so well makes shivers go down her spine and she feels so homesick. Strangely enough, I do too. When I listen to these programmes I always want to cry.
is home now but he is still very weak and has to stay in bed. Last
night and today he had a most terrible pain in his chest at the back
of his breast bone so she called the doctor, and the specialist is
coming for a cardiograph tomorrow. The virus cannot be killed and
will only go in its own good time.
She tells me to come at a quarter to four next week and then, after my lesson, we can listen to Leslie Green and have tea together. That should be great fun.
moot Hush My Dear and Anne is delighted with it. She says I
must cover it more and all will be well. She spoke to Webster about
the other one and he said he thought it was a state of mind with me.
If he can say things like that he must be getting better.
my songs go really well today and she is delighted. She says I am now
singing quite beautifully and interpreting the songs well. Exercises
are good and she says that my attack must be bang in the middle of
the note. We finish with scale exercises. I think, with a bit of
luck, I should pass the flipping exam!
says that it is very tiring to sing properly because of the
concentration it requires. Someone told her that it was simply
pleasure, but brother, that is a fib!
tell her to give Webster my love and tell him that I hope he will
soon be well. She says, “God bless you, Jean,” and I depart.
I don’t know whether her awful gnawing homesickness makes her sweeter and more sincere but I do know that these last two lessons have been glorious and such fun, even though she’s worried about him. I think I cheer her up in some funny way – it must be that I’m British and love Britain as much as she does and she can confide how homesick she is to me when she can’t to a South African. She used to make a pretence of adoring this country but now she doesn’t have to because she knows that I understand how she feels.
to guild at night and we have a talk on guide dogs by young, handsome
Mr Dawson and a demonstration by a lovely Alsatian. Very interesting.
21 July – Go to rehearsal for play and we mess around at the piano. Joan Rudman plays and I sing and they are greatly impressed and it gives me good practice at the same time.
Go to the studio and do ear tests with Pam and Olive. We have choir practice – only 3 altos and 4 sopranos are there. We combine with the sopranos today and it sounds very good.
lunch with parents at Galaxy and we see Follow that Dream with
Elvis Presley who is quite decent for a change and very funny.
22 July. – Go to Sunday school. Playing and lesson go well.
the afternoon the Alexanders come with Inge. They have a nice new
listen to Leslie G and he plays a lovely record by Anne and Webster
which I record. I turn over to Die Goei Ou Tyd and Francois
van Heyningen plays a section from Glamorous Night with
Webster singing Shine Through My Dreams and Fold Your Wings
with Muriel Barron. Sunday has some really good radio programmes.
23 July – Leslie G is in Scotland – Loch Lomond, Stirling and Edinburgh.
Go to SABC at night. We start on Messiah and I really enjoy it and sight- read it well. Ruth is due tonight but she doesn’t arrive. I suppose she’s too exhausted after flying back.
Iris and I have coffee at interval and Gill says hello to Uncle Edgar
and he grins at me as well. We do the Ninth Symphony after
interval. Poor Iris might be having an operation soon.
24 July – Leslie G’s programme from the UK doesn’t arrive in time so we hear one he made in Jo’burg before he left. Quite disappointing not to hear from ‘home’ as Anne calls it.
25 July – Go to music in the afternoon and do ear tests wit Gill and Rita. Mrs S asks Gill to adjudicate at an Indian Eisteddfod at beginning of September so she asks me to go with her and be a second opinion. I agree to do this – will be a very good experience.
have lesson which goes well. Mrs S says I must come as soon as
rehearsal is over on Saturday and work with Elaine.
to rehearsal at night and it goes reasonably well. Archie is quite
good but Shorty is hopeless. I cannot imagine play going on on 17
Mummy listens to the radio in order to record Leslie G but instead of him, John Silver is on. He says that the programme hasn’t arrived yet but one wonders if his programmes were a little too pro-British for the SABC. They just have to put it on for Friday for we’ve such a lovely day planned and it must come off!
26 July – Have a rather grim day of feeling ill again. However, I manage to listen to Leslie G – he’s back, thank goodness. He’s still in Scotland and talks of Edinburgh, Stirling and Falkirk.
I am now in bed waiting for G and S and wondering who will broadcast it tonight. Paddy O’B does it again. The station announcer says once again that he is sorry that Webster is still indisposed. Paddy O’B goes on with the Gondoliers which is nice and also plays a quartet with Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis and Leo Sheffield, lent to Webster by a friend – Norman Roberts. Henry Lytton is quite fabulous. Webster says in his script that he thinks they were far livelier than they are today. Paddy O’B sounds horrified at this!
27 July – Go up to studio. Peter (someone) a tenor with a glorious voice is singing the Serenade from Frasquita and Hear my song, Violetta. Anne says, “We’ll lend you our record of it. It’s a very good recording – we made it when we were young and sprightly and still had voices!” Hear her say that Webster is once again in the fever hospital!
Go in and in my excitement say, “What’s happened to Webster?” Anne says that he is terribly ill once again. Over the weekend he had terrible pains and the specialist decided that his heart was all right. It must be indigestion so he put him on a diet – no alcohol ( which he couldn’t tolerate for he must have at least one whisky and soda before dinner) and only ten cigarettes a day. The pains persisted and on Tuesday they were so bad that he had to have the doctor in again and his temperature was up. Doctor decided that he had better go to hospital again and have x-rays as the virus must have flared up again.
Wednesday and Thursday they were too busy to do x-rays but they thought it was either gallstones or something pressing against the heart.
Today Anne went along and sat with him while he was x-rayed and the radiographer was terribly rude and said he’d have to come back tomorrow (when there’ll be about 50 people there!). He said he had no intention of coming back again, so she said, “Do as you please. If you want to die, I don’t care!”
However, whether he likes it or not, he has to go back tomorrow. They’re allowing him to have a gin and tonic because he can’t go without it. He absolutely hated having to go back to hospital and is in a grim room. I’m so very sorry for him.
Anne says she thinks perhaps his gums could have affected his system but they won’t listen to her. She says she’d rather have all this happening to her because he’s in such agony.
decide that we’ve wasted so much time we can’t listen to Leslie G
today but I have tea anyway.
I sing – not too badly – considering. I haven’t been very well myself but I feel wretched about him. We go through everything and as tickets haven’t arrived Anne has to phone Arnold Fulton tonight. She says I can phone her at home on Sunday night to hear the outcome of the call. After all that work the tickets must come!
I say goodbye and send Webster my love. Poor, poor pet – he’s had one hang of a bad time and he must get better. How I pray he will get well.
When I get home Ruth has phoned. She phones again at 5.30 and tells me simply astounding unbelievable news – they (her family) have won £40,000 on the Ndola sweep! Can you imagine! I am utterly delighted and she tells me her parents are driving up from Natal today in a state of great excitement. I ask what they will do with all that money and she says they will probably go overseas and buy a new car. I am thrilled for her sake. She is a darling and deserves all the happiness she can get.
says she phoned Anne but I’m the only one she has told about the
money and she’s terribly sorry about him. It shows what a sweet
lovely child she is to be concerned with him after winning £40,000!
She’s coming to choir on Monday – I can’t wait to see her. I’m
surprised at myself for I don’t feel envious. I’m just delighted for
28 July – Go early in the morning for rehearsal. Shorty, who is supposed to be my husband in the play, insists on giving me slobbery kisses and putting his arms around me at every opportunity. I survive, however.
to town where I see Johan in a bottle-green t-shirt and sports jacket
looking far removed from being Anton Hartman’s Sorcerer’s
arrive at SS studio in time for coffee and then practise Viva Voce
with Pam and Elaine. This proves rather grilling with Mrs S listening
to every word. Luckily I have to ask the questions rather than answer
them. The choral singing goes rather nicely. Shelly, Leila, Mary and
Belinda Bozzoli are the altos.
lunch with parents in Galaxy and come across Sally Bowling there. She
looks older and more sophisticated than I remember her. She doesn’t
go skating much now.
We see The Silver Key by Edgar Wallace – very exciting, and an excellent short on Russian culture – singing, ballet etc.
29 July – Go to Sunday school and play the piano. David Dury shows me all the postcards from Ireland. I promise Mr Russell to train the soloists which should be fun. He gives an excellent sermon today.
In the afternoon we have another rehearsal which goes well. Play is shaping up very well indeed. Later I have to phone Anne. She has not phoned Arnold Fulton yet. “I just haven’t had a minute with the two programmes. Would you do it?” She is so insincerely charming that I can’t really refuse. I say I’ll phone tomorrow afternoon. I’ll phone her about it on Tuesday.
Webster is a bit better and had an x-ray for gallstones today and is to have a stomach x-ray on Wednesday. She doesn’t sound terribly upset about him either – she is in one of her more callous moods tonight!
30 July – Work hard and intermittently spend time phoning Arnold Fulton but he’s not there.
to SABC tonight. Ruth arrives and is quite unchanged despite the
£40,000. They are going to buy a Rover and her parents are going to
Scotland and then around the world in September. They’re going to
have another two servants and each of the girls has £100 to spend on
clothes. She says she doesn’t intend to swank about it or get
big-headed but she’s quite thrilled at the minute.
She says that Anne is acting very strangely and she is disgusted that Anne is charging us a fee for accompaniment. We enlarge on this. Ruth is rather sweet and says, “Money is no object to me now but I still think it’s a bit much.”
says they sent Webster a whole lot of books to read in hospital. I’d
like to be able to do that too, but alas – impecunious me!
We sing Messiah and Gill is rather acid about Tufty’s successful audition with Bruce Anderson. “They have to take people whether they can sing or not!” Poor Tufty.
At interval, Ruth and I disappear and she tells me about her holiday, Alan and Anne and Webster. She doesn’t seem so gone on them any more.
goes and asks Johan for her wages and says, “The more I get, the
more I want! Life’s too short not to be happy!” Some philosophy
We do the Ninth and then Johan tells us that next week, as the orchestra is going on tour, we shall probably have Edgar Cree to take us. Come home with Iris and feel quite elated.
31 July – I get through to Arnold Fulton today and discover that he is as Scottish as the day he was born. He says he sent the forms to them so they must have gone astray. He tells me to fill in a form with all the particulars and send them to him.
I phone Anne and tell her this news. She tends on the brittle side but it quite affable. Webster has no gallstones and just has to have his stomach x-rayed and he might be home on Thursday all going well. I say that it’s lovely about Ruth isn’t it? And she says, “It’s not true!” Presumably, this is an expression of pleasure.
lunch in Ansteys with Mum and post letter to Arnold Fulton. Leslie G
is in the Midlands today.
Listen to Anne’s programme tonight and have to say that it is quite fabulous. The reason is that she plays their own records and talks about Webster a lot. She plays Wunderbar, Only a Rose and Love Me Tonight. She says, “You’ll have to excuse the surface of that record. It’s probably getting old, just as Webster and I are also!” There is a slight tremor in her voice at this – somehow, it touches my heart. Her programme is fabulous and if it goes on like that it will probably run for ages.
In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.
As a young man, Webster Booth was serving articles as an accountant in Birmingham and taking singing lessons in his spare time at the Midland Institute with Dr Richard Wassell, the organist, and choirmaster at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. He was a tenor soloist in the church and fulfilling engagements as tenor soloist in regional oratorio performances as far apart as Wales and Scotland.
Midland Institute where Webster had lessons with Dr Richard Wassell.
Interior of St Martin’s Church, the Bullring, Birmingham
In 1923 the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company came to Birmingham and he managed to obtain an audition with New Zealander, Harry Norris, the D’Oyly Carte conductor. Harry Norris was impressed with Webster’s voice and on his recommendation, he was summoned to see Rupert D’Oyly Carte in London. He was meant to audit a firm’s books in South Wales. Instead, he decided to throw caution to the wind and went to London for the audition instead. He sang five or six songs to an unreceptive D’Oyly Carte and his general manager, Richard Collett.
‘I became increasingly anxious. It was like singing to two mummies… ”I think he’ll do,” Mr D’Oyly Carte said in a rather pained voice, thinking, no doubt, that here was yet another name one the pay-list. “I should think so, sir,” was the reply. ‘Thus unenthusiastically was I welcomed into the Profession of the Stage.’ (Duet, p. 34)
Although he had been doing well in accountancy, he abandoned his job with little regret to become a professional singer, making his debut with the company as one of the Yeomen in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923.
In 1924 he married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his former headmaster at Aston Commercial School. Winifred borrowed £100 from a relative, with no intention of repaying it, and used the money to follow Leslie to London against her parents’ wishes, or possibly, even without their knowledge. They might have approved of the match had Leslie remained a respectable accountant like his elder brother, Norman, but they were against her taking up with a chorus boy in the D’Oyly Carte. Her family had no more to do with her, partly because of her defiance of their wishes and partly because she had borrowed such a large sum of money under false pretences from a member of the family. Because they disowned her they never knew that she and Leslie had married or that she gave birth to a son, and, thinking the worst of her, imagined that she and Leslie were living together in sin.
Winifred and Leslie’s son, Keith was born the year after their marriage on 12 June 1925, and his birth was registered in Birmingham North.
6 August 1925 – Borough, Stratford. Interest remains unabated in the D’Oyly Carte company, now in the second of their two weeks’ engagement at this theatre. On Tuesday The Yeomen of the Guard was staged, and met with the usual enthusiastic reception from an audience who obviously enjoyed every number. Encores were frequent. The entrance of Mr Henry A Lytton as Jack Point was naturally the signal for an outburst of applause, which was fully justified by his consistently fine work in this well-written role. His apt mingling of humour and pathos is amongst the best things he has ever done. As the other strolling singer Miss Winifred Lawson made a distinct success, singing and acting with real talent. Happily cast also were Mr Leo Sheffield as the grim gaoler and Miss Aileen Davies as Phoebe. Miss Bertha Lewis made a capital Dame Carruthers, whose chief song was rendered artistically; and Miss Irene Hill scored as Kate. Mr Sydney Pointer’s agreeable voice helped him to make Colonel Fairfax a prominent figure, and Mr Darrell Fancourt was a strong Sergeant Meryll. Others who shared in the success were Mr Joseph Griffin as Sir Richard, Mr Herbert Aitken as Leonard, and Mr Leslie W. Booth as the First Yeoman. The stage director is still Mr J.M. Gordon and Mr Harry Norris is the touring musical director. In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.
18 November 1926 – D’Oyly Carte Canadian Visit. It has been arranged for the D’Oyly Carte principal company to visit Canada at the end of the season at the Princes on December 19. The company will embark for Canada in the steamship Metagama on the 24th. The tour will open in Montreal on January 4. Mr Richard Collett, the general manager of the company, will be in charge of the tour.
After a stay of two weeks in Montreal, the company will proceed to Toronto and thence to Winnipeg, staying in each of these cities for a fortnight. There will also be visits to Lethbridge, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island. The tour will end at Montreal in the middle of May. The Mikado, The Gondoliers, The Yeomen of the Guard, and HMS Pinafore will form the repertory. The leading principals, with the exception of Miss Elsie Griffin, will take part in the tour. Miss Griffin’s place will be filled by Miss Irene Hill. Misses Bertha Lewis, Winifred Lawson, Aileen Davies, Messrs Henry A Lytton, Darrell Fancourt, Leo Sheffield, and Charles Goulding are included in the company. Webster Booth sang Your Tiny Hand is Frozen at the ship’s concert, so impressing principal soprano Winifred Lawson that she was not at all surprised when he soon rose to fame after he left the company. He was particularly impressed when the chorus sang Hail Poetry in the open air when the company visited Chief Big Crow and Chief Starlight in the Sarcee Reserve, Calgary.
Passenger list on return to Liverpool
He stayed with the company for four and a half years but made no great advancement from singing in the chorus, small parts and understudying the tenor principal roles. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way he would advance in the company was to wait patiently to fill “dead men’s shoes”. Despite this observation, he was one of the few singers allowed to record individual songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire without prior approval of the D’Oyly Carte family. His recordings of Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes and A Wand’ring Minstrel under the baton of gifted conductor, a fellow native of Birmingham, Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD.
Leslie was away on tour for fifty weeks of the year and Winifred, left alone with her small son, was estranged from her parents although living in the suburb of Moseley in the same city. Leslie had suspicions that all was not well at home when he arrived home from a tour with D’Oyly Carte to find Keith sitting by himself on the doorstep. Winifred had left her small son to his own devices while she went dancing. Several years later, she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son.
Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he happened to be singing, but despite desperate attempts to trace her, he never found her, and eventually divorced her in 1931, citing Trevor Davey as co-respondent. Leslie was granted custody of Keith, who decided on his sixth birthday that he never wanted to see his mother again.
After the stability of a regular – if small – salary from D’Oyly Carte, he was now a freelance performer with a small son to support and no regular money to his name. In the D’Oyly Carte Company he was known as Leslie W. Booth, but now he adopted his middle name and became known as Webster Booth on stage, although his family and close friends continued to call him Leslie for the rest of his life. One of his boyhood nicknames was Jammy, and he once signed a photograph “Yours sincerely, Kingy”!
26 May 1939 – Gilbert and Sullivan The scheme of the London Music Festival is designed to embrace all the chief musical activities of the metropolis and it was proper that the popular concerts given by Mr Ernest Makower at the London Museum should have their place in it. The concert given on Wednesday evening was an unusual one, though Mr Makower never keeps to any beaten path in his selection of music for performance. It was felt that no English festival would be really complete if Gilbert and Sullivan was not represented in it. So, with the permission of Mr D’Oyly Carte, Dr Sargent arranged a programme of selections from the famous comic operas. In a preliminary talk, Dr Sargent apologised for going against Sullivan’s expressed wish that his operatic music should not be performed in concert form.
But no excuse was necessary to justify the admirable singing of the extracts by Miss Irene Eisinger, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr George Baker. We do not often hear Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes so well sung in a theatre. Miss Eisinger’s songs reminded us that Sullivan’s heroines descended at no great distance from Mozart’s soubrettes, whom we are accustomed to hearing her sing so delightfully. It was good too to hear the music played by the Boyd Neel orchestra, whose contributions included the delightful patchwork overture, Un Ballo and the Iolanthe overture. There was, as usual, a large and enthusiastic audience.
1953 – The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (film). Robert Morley, Ian Wallace, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams and voices of Webster Booth, Elsie Morrison, John Cameron. Webster was annoyed at the billing he was given in this film. He did not appear in it but his voice was dubbed for Colonel Fairfax in the scene from The Yeomen of the Guard and in the final section singing an echoing version of A Wand’ring Minstrel. The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan
January 1962 When the copyright on Gilbert’s words was lifted at the end of 1961 Webster was asked to present a Gilbert and Sullivan series of programmes on the English Service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
1963 Only a few weeks before The Johannesburg Operatic Society was due to open with The Yeomen of the Guard the committee decided that they needed a stronger Colonel Fairfax than the person originally cast in the role. Webster (aged 61) was asked to take over what is essentially the juvenile lead. He was a great success in the role.
14 June 1963 (from my 5-year diary)
4 to 14 April 1973 – The Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pamela Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Webster Booth. The musical director was Jean Fowler.
I had moved to East London at the beginning of 1973 and joined the show at the last minute. I had a very happy reunion with Webster after seven years apart.
Today South African soprano, Garda Hall, is hardly remembered in South Africa where she was born, or in the United Kingdom where she lived for most of her life and had a distinguished career as a singer. The only reason why I know anything about Garda Hall at all is that Webster Booth mentioned that he had sung and recorded with her on several occasions. Her descendant, Quentin Hall, who lives in Western Australia, has shared some of his extensive family research with me so I thought I would write a short article about his distinguished ancestor.
Garda Hall was born in Durban, Natal in 1900 in the middle of the South African War. Garda was given the unusual middle name of Colenso, presumably in commemoration of the Battle of Colenso in 1899. Her parents were George Ernest Hall (1869 – 1933), originally from Torquay, Devon, and Maude Kate Amy Breeds (1878 – September 1959). Quentin presumes that George and Maude married in South Africa rather than the UK and the Breeds surname suggests to me that Garda’s mother was a South African of Dutch origin, rather than British.
Garda moved from Durban to Pietermaritzburg when she was seven years of age and attended the private Girls’ Collegiate School there. Her father owned a bicycle shop in Pietermaritzburg called Hall’s –The Cycle Specialists and sold it to the Jowett family when the family settled in England. The cycling business remained Hall’s – The Cyclist Specialists until 1952 when Walter and his brother eventually changed the name of the business to Jowett Brothers.
Garda was not noted for her musical prowess at school. Apparently the music teacher told her that she was singing out of tune and asked her to leave the music class! It should be pointed out that some children who sing out of tune begin to sing in tune as they mature. Despite being good enough to be accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in 1920 and doing well there, several critics remarked on occasional lapses of intonation when she became a professional singer.
In 1920, she boarded the Norman Castle in Durban with her mother, who was 41 at the time.
They arrived in Southampton on 9 August 1920 and Garda began her vocal studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the beginning of the new term in September, taking lessons with the renowned singing teacher, Frederick King who trained many notable singers including Norman Allin, Miriam Licette, Carmen Hill and Robert Radford. T. Arnold Fulton, the Scottish organist and choral director of the London Select Choir and the choir at St Columba’s Church in London where he was organist and choir master, acted as studio accompanist to Frederic King at the Royal Academy. Some years later Arnold Fulton moved to South Africa and taught singing based on the methods he had learnt from Frederic King.
Garda obtained the diplomas of ARAM and LRAM. Interestingly, she apparently trained as a mezzo soprano at the Academy, yet sang as a lyric soprano during her subsequent career as a singer. She was awarded the Gilbert Betjemann Gold Medal at the Academy for operatic singing in 1923.
Not long after she graduated, she sang at the first Grand Ballad Concert of the season at the Guildhall, Plymouth on 29 September 1923, and in 1925 she made a triumphant return to Pietermaritzburg and Durban and gave several successful recitals while she was there. The closing item which she sang at the Pietermaritzburg concert was Poor Wand’ring One from The Pirates of Penzance. I wonder what her disapproving music mistress at ;the Collegiate School thought about this! If she had left South Africa as a second-rate, sometimes out of tune mezzo, she had returned to the country of her birth as an engaging lyric soprano. At the time of her trip her parents were living in Winkelspruit on the South Coast of Natal, but by 1930 the whole family moved to 137 King Henry’s Road, South Hampstead, the address where Garda remained until her death in 1968.
Towards the end of that year Garda sang in Burnley in aid of the Police Convalescent fund. Two of her fellow artistes were distinguished singers of the day – Muriel Brunskill (contralto) and Tudor Davies (tenor). At a concert the following year, the critic remarked on her clean-cut articulation (in English and French) and her ability to sing a comfortable high E. However, he disapproved of “an almost continuous vibrato which adversely affected her intonation”. He suggested that she should work on her breathing to correct this fault – shades of that music mistress in Pietermaritzburg!
1926 was an auspicious year for Garda as she began recording for His Master’s Voice (HMV). One of her notable recordings was the Mozart Requiem with the Philharmonic Choir and orchestra, conducted by Charles Kennedy Scott on 6 July at the Queen’s Hall.Other singers on the recording were Nellie Walker, Sydney Coltham and Edward Halland. She was also bridesmaid at the wedding of baritone Roy Henderson and Bertha Smyth in March. The couple had met when studying at the Royal Academy, presumably at the same time as Garda herself.
During the twenties, Garda was making a name for herself as a popular concert singer, recording artiste and broadcaster, although critics were still concerned about her violent vibrato and doubtful intonation as opposed to her vocal good points of agility and wide range. She was singing with the finest singers of the day, as can be seen in this article of 1928:
A BRASS BAND CONCERT – 2LO London, 25 May 1929 15.30 S.B. from Newcastle. Artists from the London Studio: GARDA HALL (Soprano), WATCYN WATCYNS (Baritone). The MARSDEN COLLIERY BAND Conducted by JACK BODDICE.
Famous Northern Resorts – 2ZY Manchester, 18 September 1929 20.00Scarborough – The SPA ORCHESTRA Conducted by ALICK MACLEAN.(Leader, PACK BEARD) Accompanist, S. HANLON DEAN Relayed from the Spa S.B. from Hull.GARDA HALL (Soprano)
On 6 March 1930 Webster Booth was establishing himself on record, radio, as the Duke of Buckingham in the West End production of The Three Musketeers, and as a tenor soloist in oratorio, but he was still entertaining at dinners and benefit concerts, such as one at the Finsbury Town Hall for the Clerkenwell Benevolent Society, where South African soprano, Garda Hall was one of the other entertainers. Charles Forwood, who was to become the permanent accompanist of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth when they went on the variety stage in 1940, accompanied at this concert.
An Orchestral Concert – Regional Programme London, 24 November 1930 20.35 A Cowen Programme – THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS. GARDA HALL (Soprano) and Orchestra Aria, Bloom on, bloom on, my Roses(The Rose Maiden) The Swallows, Cradle Song, A Birthday.
A newspaper cutting on 20 March 1930 reads as follows: The Clerkenwell Benevolent Society benefited to a considerable extent as a result of a concert at the Finsbury Town Hall on March 6. There was a generous provision of talent, among those to please a large and enthusiastic audience being Garda Hall, Doris Smerdon, Gladys Limage, Doris Godfrey, Hilda Gladney Woolf, Maidie Hebditch, Webster Booth, Ashmoor Burch, Charles Hayes, Fred Wildon and Lloyd Shakespeare, with Charles Forwood as accompanist. It is interesting that some of these names are still remembered today, while others are completely unknown.
Later in that year, Garda returned to South Africa and her parents came to England on board the Gloucester Castle to make their home with her. For a short time they lived at 142 King Henry’s Drive, Hampstead, but later moved to 137 King Henry’s Drive, where she remained until her death in 1968.
A Concert 5WA Cardiff, 20 March 1931 19.45 Relayed from THE Public HALL, BRITON FERRY. GARDA HALL (Soprano), JOHN MOREL (Baritone) BRITON FERRY I.L.P. MALE VOICE PARTY,Conducted by D. L. MORGAN. NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES (Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru) (Leader, LOUIS LEVITUS) Conducted by WARWICK BRAITHWAITE
In March 1932 Garda took part in a broadcast of popular opera with another South African singer who had made a career in the UK, the contralto Betsy de la Porte. In the same year, she sang in a concert devoted to Viennese music at the Pump Room in Bath. The conductor was Edward Dunn, and baritone George Baker, Webster’s great friend and mentor, was the other soloist. Several years later, Garda suggested to Edward Dunn that he should apply for the position of musical director of Durban Opera. He was chosen from 200 candidates and remained in South Africa for the rest of his life. The last I heard of him was when he was conducting the Johannesburg Philharmonic Society and giving lectures on musical appreciation in the sixties.
Suitable Songs – Regional Programme London, 6 August 1932 21.15 (Part VII). Arranged and Produced by GORDON MCCONNEL. GARDA HALL, PARRY JONES, FOSTER RICHARDSON. EDGAR LANE (Compere) WALTER RANDALL (Pianist) THE REVUE CHORUS and The B.B.C. THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, S. Kneale Kelley. Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS
Garda Hall (Soprano), Betsy de la Porte (Contralto), Jan Van Der Gucht (Tenor), Stuart Robertson (Baritone), Franklyn Kelsey (Bass), Mary Hamlin (Soprano), Gladys Winmill (Contralto), Doris Owens (Contralto), Rosalind Rowsell (Soprano) , Stanley Riley (Bass), Bradbridge White (Tenor), Victor Utting (Bass). Narrator, Ivan Samson. The Wireless Chorus (Section B) – Chorus-Master, Cyril Dalmaine. B.B.C. Orchestra (Section D) – Led by Marie Wilson. Conducted by Stanford Robinson
On 22 May 1933, Frederic King, Garda’s singing teacher at the academy, died at the age of 80, and on 1 October of the same year, Webster was on the same bill as Garda Hall at the Palladium. Other performers on that bill were Debroy Somers and his band, Leonard Henry (compère), Raie da Costa (the brilliant South African pianist who died at an early age) and Stainless Stephen. Webster had also been booked to sing at the National Sunday League concerts at the Finsbury Park Empire, and the same artistes as those at the Palladium were due to perform at the Lewisham Town Hall later in October.
A Part of THE CREATION – Regional Programme Scotland, 7 February 1934 20.45 (Haydn) THE DUNDEE AMATEUR CHORAL UNION GARDA HALL (soprano), TREFOR JONES (tenor), JOSEPH FARRINGTON (bass) THE SCOTTISH ORCHESTRA Conducted by CHARLES M. COWE. At the Pianoforte, M. MARSHALL BIRD. Relayed from The Caird Hall, Dundee
On 15 March 1934 Garda Hall sang in Torquay with the Municipal Orchestra there and the short newspaper article announcing the date pointed out that her father had been a Torquay man. She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.
Songs of Sir Frederic Cowen – National Programme Daventry, 2 April 1934 19.30 sung by GARDA HALL (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS (baritone) Accompanied by THE COMPOSER. GARDA HALL Songs about roses :Deep in a Beauteous Garden, The Sweetest Rose of all, Day Dreams, The Roses of Sadi, Blue Skies and Roses. HAROLD WILLIAMS Poems by Sir Walter Scott :Anna Marie, The Bonny Owl Border Ballad
She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood. Promenade Concert – National Programme Daventry, 6 October 1934 20.00 Last concert of the season – Relayed from The Queen’s Hall, London (Sole Lessees, Messrs. Chappell and Co., Ltd.).GARDA HALL (soprano), ROBERT EASTON (bass), EILEEN JOYCE (pianoforte), THE B.B.C SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by Sir HENRY WOOD
A Variety of Music – Regional Programme Northern, 1 August 1935 21.00 with JACK LORIMER, RONALD HILL, Clive ERARD, DORIS HARE, ALBERT RICHARDSON, G. KITCHENER, RAY WALLACE, STANLEY BROWN, GARDA HALL, JOHN TURNER, BERT MEREDITH, FREDDIE GARDNER AND HIS RHYTHM FIVE. THE RHYTHM BROTHERS. THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK. Compere, BRYAN MICHIE.(From Regional)
Songs From The Shows (No. 38) – Regional Programme London, 15 October 1935 21.00 Contrasting Composers-2 – SIDNEY JONES and COLE PORTER. BETTY BOLTON, GARDA HALL, REGINALD PURDELL, JANET LIND, C. DENIER WARREN, ROBERT GEDDES, THE THREE GINX. THE BBC VARIETY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS. Conducted by STANFORD ROBINSON. At the pianos, HARRY S. PEPPER and DORIS ARNOLD. Compere, JOHN WATT.
Songs of the Seasons – Regional Programme London, 3 November 1935 17.30 By Frederic H. Cowen. GARDA HALL (soprano), JOYCE NEWTON (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS baritone). JOYCE NEWTON – Autumn : To a Flower. GARDA HALL – Winter : Snowflakes. JOYCE NEWTON – Winter : The Snowstorm. HAROLD WILLIAMS – Christmas Time: The Wassailer’s Song. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON Spring : Duets To Daffodils, Violets, GARDA HALL – Spring : The Swallows . HAROLD* WILLIAMS – Summer : Anna Marie. JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Summer’s here. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Duet Birds.
On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.
Pleasure Gardens – National Programme Daventry, 15 May 1936 20.00 A Picture in Words and Music of London’s Old Pleasure Gardens at Vauxhall. Devised by JOHN F. RUSSELL and HOLT MARVELL. Music selected and arranged by ALFRED REYNOLDS. GARDA HALL (soprano), JAN VAN DER GUCHT (tenor), MORGAN DAVIES (baritone) A Section of THE BBC MEN’S CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, Montague Brearley ,Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK
On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.
In 1936 Webster sang with Garda again on 16 September at a Shrewsbury Carnival Concert. Other performers were Ronald Gourley (entertainer) and theAlfredo Campoli Trio
I have been reading B.C. Hilliam’s autobiography Flotsam’s Follies (Flotsam of Flotsam and Jetsam) and discovered that Garda Hall sang in his song cycle, Autumn’s Orchestra. It was performed at the Queen’s Hall, with Garda Hall, Gladys Ripley, Heddle Nash, and Malcolm McEachern as vocalists and Albert Sandler as violinist.
MARIE BURKE in Comic Opera VII – Regional Programme London, 18 September 1936 21.20 Songs and Scenas from three famous Comic Operas, Arranged and Produced by GORDON McCONNEL. 1 The Emerald Isle – Lyrics by Basil Hood, Music by Arthur Sullivan and Edward German. Veronique – English Lyrics by Lilian Eldee, (with alterations and additions by Percy Greenbank ), Music by Andre Messager 3. The Grand Duchess – English Lyrics by Adrian Ross, Music by Offenbach. DICK FRANCIS, GARDA HALL,JAN VAN DER GUCHT, MICHAEL COLE, BERNARD ANSELL and MARIE BURKE. THE BBC REVUE CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA. Conducted by ALFRED REYNOLDS.
SONGS FROM THE SHOWS No. 45 – Regional Programme London, 1 May 1937 18.00 Film Songs, No. 11. Garda Hall, Brian Lawrance, Evie Hayes, Sam Costa, The Three Ginx. The BBC Variety Orchestra and BBC Chorus – Conducted by Charles Shadwell. At the Pianos: Harry S. Pepper and Doris Arnold. Music arranged by Doris Arnold and orchestrated by Wally Wallond . Compered and produced by John Watt.
PASTORAL – National Programme Daventry, 8 July 1937 22.20 A Programme in Praise of Quiet Things. Music by Alan Paul. Verse and Prose selected by Ann Baker. Presented by William MacLurg. Garda Hall (soprano), Jean Pougnet (violin), David Martin (violin), William Primrose (viola) Anthony Pini (violoncello), Alan Paul (pianoforte)GARDA HALL AND QUINTET: Quiet The Lambs, Blessed Care, All my Treasures.
Pastoral is a programme of verse, prose, and music upon the themes of quiet and the countryside. The music throughout has been written by Alan Paul who will himself be at the piano for the first programme ever given of his own serious music.
Paul was born in Glasgow and was a student at the Glasgow Athenaeum, now called the Scottish Academy of Music, from 1917 to 1921, when he came to London to join the Royal College of Music. In his first year there he had to make some money to
help with his fees and left the college for four months to go on tour with Polly (sequel to The Beggar’s Opera). About a year ago he joined the BBC.
In May 1937 Theatreland at Coronation Time was released featuring Stuart Robertson, Garda Hall, Webster Booth and Sam Costa. The critic in Gramophone remarked, “Mr Booth sings gloriously, Mr Robertson defiantly, Miss Hall charmingly, while Mr Costa contributes a fleeting reminiscence of a more sophisticated and yet oh so simple entertainment.” The 12”78rpm, HMV C2903 cost 4/-. Click on the above link to hear the recording which has been restored by Mike Taylor.
MURDER IN THE EMBASSY – Regional Programme London, 4 August 1937 21.00 A Melodrama by Francis Durbridge with Incidental Music by Augustus Franzel. Ann Codrington, Ruth Beresford. A Gypsy Orchestra, conducted by Augustus Franzel, and The BBC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Mark H. Lubbock. Production by Archie Campbell. Captain Michael Rostard, of the Westonian army, nephew of General Rostard: Jack Melford. Sir Charles Fanshaw, of the Foreign Office.: Norman Shelley
Benson, Sir Charles’s valet: Ernest Sefton
*Madame Vaskaya, a famous continental soprano: Garda Hall
Countess Elsa Sieler, daughter of Count Sieler: Jane Carr
General Rostard, Prime Minister and virtual dictator of Westonia: Henry Victor
Mr Hiram E Miller, of Detroit: Fred Duprez
Baron Von Klemm, the Westonian Ambassador.: Boris Ranevsky
Paul Vendorest, a servant at the Westonian Embassy.: .Paul Vernon
A Singer: Morgan Davies
Inspector Davis, of Scotland Yard: Edwin Ellis
Count Sieler, Dictator of Falkenstein: Ernest Sefton
Announcer: Barry Ferguson
There is an entry for Garda Hall in Who’s Who in Music (1937): Hall, Garda ARAM, LRAM. Born Durban, educated at Royal Academy of Music. Betjemann Gold Medalist. Singing, Chamber music, oratorio, operatic. Recreation: gardening. Address: 137 King Henry’s Road NW3. Telephone: Primrose 4436
GEORGIAN MELODIES – National Programme Daventry, 6 February 1938 21.05 A Musical Sequence selected and arranged by Gwen Williams and Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Roy Henderson (baritone), An Octet from the BBC Chorus, The BBC Theatre Orchestra. Leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson .
Braza (violinist), John Turner (tenor) Garda Hall (soprano), Will Kings (entertainer). Dundee police concert. Evening Telegraph and Post, Dundee (February 1938)
Reverie (No. 6) – National Programme Daventry, 25 June 1938 22.15 – The BBC Theatre Orchestra, leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Freda Townson (mezzo-soprano) O would that my love?/The Harvest Field (Mendelssohn) Dôme épais (Lakmé) (Delibes) Already, shades of night/ Alas my chosen swain(The Queen of Spades)
MUSIC BY ERIC COATES – Regional Programme London, 9 June 1939 18.00 BBC Orchestra (Section E) Led by Laurance Turner, Conducted by the composer. GARDA HALL AND ORCHESTRA The Mill o’ Dreams, Back o’ the Moon, Dream o’ Nights, The Man in the Moon, Bluebells.Homeward to you, Your Name, Music of the Night.
C.E.M.A. CONCERT- BBC Home Service Basic, 3 October 1940 13.15 Organised in collaboration with a Miners’ Welfare Institute Somewhere in the Midlands. Garda Hall (soprano), Dale Smith (baritone), Samuel Kutcher (violin), Accompanist, Harry Isaacs .
Garda continued singing during the war, often at CEMA concerts and in oratorio. She sang Messiah at the Albert Hall, Nottingham in December 1940.
27 March 1942
22 January 1943
The final cutting about Garda Hall appeared on 5 January 1945.
I could find nothing more about her, apart from her entry in the Musicians Who’s Who in 1949, which was much the same as the 1937 entry. In 1945 she was 45 years of age so I cannot believe that she retired from singing at such an early age. Perhaps she taught singing after she retired from the concert platform, although there is no proof of this. Her mother died in the late 1950s and she herself died on 7 June 1968. She did not marry. If anyone has further information about Garda Hall, I would be very glad to hear from you.