BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA

Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following lis of radio programmes from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.


Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following lis of radio programmes from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.


MOBILGAS MELODY WORLD 16 February 1956/57? Springbok Radio,

16 February 1956

Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in a programme compèred by Michael Drinn.


LIGHT UP AND LAUGH – ITMA, December 1956

December 1956

Thirteen-week series on Springbok Radio, recorded at the Brooke Theatre. Webster (rather incongruously!) took Tommy Handley’s part in South African presentation of ITMA scripts.


ELDORADO, (Ralph Trewhela) 1957

Anne and Webster took the leading roles in this musical, directed by Frank Douglass, SABC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Jeremy Schulman. Work commissioned by SABC for 21st anniversary programme.


AT HOME WITH ANNE, commenced on 21 January 1958. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.


DO YOU REMEMBER? 1959 to 24 April 1960, Anne and Webster presented weekly music programme on Springbok Radio on Sunday afternoon. They spoke about their illustrious careers and the people with whom they had worked.

Anne in a recording of a broadcast at SABC, 1963

CONCERT HOUR 1960 – English service of the SABC. SABC Concert Orchestra, Rita Roberts, Webster Booth, Asaf and Philharmonic Choirs, conducted by Anton Hartman.


DOUGLAS LAWS Record show, 4 October 1960. Anne and Webster appeared as guest artistes.


MESSIAH 8 December 1960 Webster sang tenor solos in the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley.


TEST YOURSELF 1960. Anne and Webster presented this quiz show together on Springbok Radio.


OPERA, ORATORIO AND OPERETTA (ON WINGS OF SONG) Wednesdays at

On Wings of Song. 1961

8.30 pm, later Thursday, 9.20 pm, 1961

Webster presented a weekly programme of recordings (including some of their own) on the English Service.


DREAM OF GERONTIUS, MESSIAH, 27 November 1961. Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival broadcast Monday and Wednesday at 8pm. Webster, with Emelie Hooke, Joyce Scotcher, Harold Hart, Port Elizabeth Orchestra, directed by Robert Selley.

27 November 1961 from Port Elizabeth.


GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 1962, 1963. When the copyright on Gilbert’s words ended, Webster presented a weekly programme on the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas on the English Service. During his illness in 1962, Paddy O’Byrne read the scripts of this programme.

Webster presents the Gilbert and Sullivan Radio programme January 1962.


DRAWING ROOM, April 1962

Webster presented a short series of drawing room concerts before a studio audience on the English Service. He and Anne sang in this series, and a number of guest artistes took part. He also sang duets with the bass, Graham Burns. The guest artistes were Doris Brasch, Rita Roberts, Gert Potgieter, Gé Korsten, Graham Burns, Jean Gluckman, Kathleen Allister and Walter Mony The accompanist was Anna Bender.


MUSIC FOR ROMANCE, August 1962. Anne presented a series of programmes in which she presented recordings and reminisced about her life and career in England.


PORT ELIZABETH ORATORIO FESTIVAL, November 1962

Elijah and Messiah from Port Elizabeth.

Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape. Excerpts were broadcast nationally later, but strangely none of Webster’s recordings were used in the national broadcast.


SUNDAY AT HOME, January 1963. English Service. Paddy O’Byrne conducted a fifteen minute interview with Anne and Webster at their home in Craighall Park.


GREAT VOICES, January 1963-1964. Webster presented this series on the English Service. He was criticised by the critic Jon Sylvester of The Star for including some of his own recordings, yet most people expected to hear Webster Booth the singer as well as Webster Booth, lately-turned broadcaster.

RECITAL WITH ORCHESTRA 8 April 1963. Anne and Webster sang a programme of duets, with orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree, on the English service.

I was Pooh Bah!


BALLADS OLD AND NEW, July 1963. Webster presented this short series on the English Service towards the end of 1963.


CHILDREN’S PROGRAMME 1963/64 Anne and Webster presented a series of children’s programmes, directed by Kathleen Davydd.

Nursery School Sing-Along.


SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE, November 1963. A short series, which attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Music Hall on the English Service. Anne and Webster were guest artistes on this programme. 

Webster, Anne, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson sing a quartet in the programme


OPERA AND OPERETTA, July 1964, Monday, 7.35 pm Webster returned to the English Service with this series.


IF THE SHOE FITS, Christmas 1964. Webster and Anne starred in this Christmas pantomime on the English Service.


TEN OCLOCK AND ALL’S WELL, September 1966. Webster was guest presenter for a week in this short series on the English Service.


2 October 1966, CITY HALL, JOHANNESBURG. ORCHESTRAL CONCERT (FOR JOHANNESBURG EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY)

Anne and Webster were soloists, with the SABC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree. Webster told Edgar Cree that he was not pleased with his voice and thought it was time for him to stop singing.

O lovely night (Anne and Webster)

Drink to me only with thine eyes (Anne)

Lehar medley (Anne and Webster)

The Holy City (Webster)

Love’s old sweet song (Anne and Webster)

We’ll gather lilacs (Anne and Webster)

Selection from Bitter Sweet (Anne and Webster)


MELODY MARKET, May 1967. Webster presented this programme in the early morning on the English Service.  “A sort of housewife’s choice,” was how he described it in a letter to me. It was the last programme for the SABC before leaving Johannesburg for Knysna a month or so later.


SOUTH AFRICA A TOUCH OF THE BRITISH, 29 May 1973. BBC TV. Documentary. Anne and Webster appeared in this BBC TV documentary. Anne said that she had had enough of South Africa and wanted to go home to die. The programme ended with Anne and Webster singing We’ll gather lilacs.


PETER BROOMFIELD’S OPEN HOUSE, 20 March 1975. English Service. Anne and Webster were guests of Peter Broomfield on his morning programme, broadcast from Cape Town, on the English Service. Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) who was on a visit from the UK, and Anne and Webster’s singing dog, Silva were also present in the studio. Silva sang along to a Harry Lauder record!


A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 19 and 26 October 1975. English Service. Webster reminisced about his career in the theatre.


A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 2 and 9 November 1975. English Service. Anne reminisced about her career in the theatre.


WOMENS’ WORLD, English Service, 1975 – Pamela Deal, who had conducted the first interview with Anne and Webster when they stopped off briefly on their way to Australia in 1948, interviewed them again when they decided to stop singing in public. They had given a farewell concert in Somerset West towards the end of 1975. This decision was rescinded when they moved back to the UK in early 1978 and found that people remembered them and wanted to see and hear them once again.


RADIO TODAY 1485 When Anne and Webster left South Africa their voices were rarely heard on South African radio. Ronald Charles, the broadcaster and musician who had been the musical director at Michaelhouse in the sixties, played several of Webster’s oratorio recordings from his personal collection on his classical request programme. As far as I know most of the 78s in the SABC record library were discarded, but as time passed, a number of their recordings were released on CD. Occasionally a recording was played on Uit Vergange se Dae on Radio Pretoria.


Paddy O’Byrne was always happy to play a recording when he was with the SABC and later at Radio Today, although his access to their recordings was extremely limited. Clare Marshall, on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star on Radio Today 1485, is about the only broadcaster in South Africa to feature their recordings regularly. Sadly, Radio Today does not feature her excellent programme Morning Star any more.


Compiled by Jean Collen. Updated in 2019. 

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1962 – 1963)

I have told about this wonderful period of my life in my book, Sweethearts of Song. Indeed, the whole pattern of my life changed from that time on. Webster has been dead for many years now but he will always remain one of the strongest influences of my life and I will always remember him with love.

Anne and Webster 29 January 1962 in Lower Houghton.
Gilbert and Sullivan programme 7 January 1962 SABC Bulletin
The Andersonville Trial February 1962.
February 1962. The Andersonville Trial. Webster played a very small part indeed!
9 March 1962
Hymn competition winners. March 1962
17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC.

17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC. Article by Webster in the SABC Bulletin.

17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC.
Gary Allighan, March 1962
Showing some antiques to the press. 1962.
Anne choosing wallpaper – 1962.
April 1962 Olivet to Calvary, St George’s Presbyterian Church, Noord Street.
4 May 1962 The Vagabond King
June 1962. Music for Romance.
Arriving in Bulawayo, July 1962. He was ill.
July 1962 Bulawayo Eisteddfod
21 July 1962 Bulawayo
July 1962 Bulawayo

July 1962 – Leslie Green broadcasts from the UK.

Leslie Green was in the UK on holiday and Anne and I listened to Tea with Mr Green (broadcast from the UK) when she was in the studio on her own and Webster was very ill. By this time Paddy O’Byrne was reading Webster’s scripts on the Gilbert and Sullivan programme as he was too ill and weak to record the programmes. He visited Anne’s great friend, Babs Wilson Hill and did a broadcast from her home. He said she had the most beautiful garden in England.

Webster was very ill indeed when he returned from Rhodesia and had to spend some time in the Fever Hospital in Johannesburg.

Fever Hospital.

August 1962 – Music for Romance. Anne presented a series of programmes of recordings and reminisces about her life and career in England. It received adverse criticism from various radio critics and only ran until December.

August 1962 – Anne Ziegler
28 August 1962 Round the Christian Year, St Mark’s, Yeoville.
28 August 1962 St Mark’s Yeoville, Round the Christian Year.
At the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in the garden of Petrina Fry (pictured) and her husband, Brian Brooke. October 1962

October 1962 –The Pirates of Penzance. Bloemfontein. Webster directed this production. As a gimmick, he had a chimpanzee to accompany the pirates on stage, but the chimpanzee was not without problems. She disgraced herself during Webster’s opening night speech. He quipped, “You naughty girl. I won’t take you out in a hurry again.”

August 1962 – Webster Booth
Lord Oom Piet. Guest artists, eventually furious to have their singing disrupted by the antics of Jamie Uys. I always thought that was a terrible film and couldn’t understand why Anne and Webster had any part of it.
November 1962 Lord Oom Piet.
November 1962. Elijah.

November 1962 – Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival. Elijah and Messiah, Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape as usual. Later, excerpts were broadcast nationally but, for some unexplained reason, none of Webster’s solos were used in the national broadcast. Two older members of the SABC choir (Gill and Iris) took delight in cattily telling Ruth and me that it was because Webster’s singing was not up to standard and that was why he was not included in the broadcast. That was the last year that Webster sang at the PE Oratorio Festival.

1963

Great Voices – January 1963.
15 January 1963 At Alexander Theatre, Braamfontein
Mr and Mrs Fordyce and their stage family 15 January 1963.
Mrs Puffin (Jane Fenn) and Mr Fordyce (Webster) January 1963
Anne holds a tea party in Goodnight Mrs Puffin.
Photo in the programme of Goodnight Mrs Puffin.
Lewis Sowden crit.
Oliver Walker crit.
Dora Sowden’s crit?
7 January 1963 Great Voices

Accompanying for Webster. Shortly after Goodnight Mrs Puffin ended its run at the Alexander Theatre my father heard a recording I had made of myself singing Father of Heav’n from Judas Maccabeus on my recently-acquired reel-to-reel tape recorder. He passed several disparaging remarks about the quality of my singing and I was feeling extremely despondent when I went for my lesson. Anne and Webster were kind and sympathetic when I told them what he had said.

“My family never praised me for my singing either,” Webster growled. “If it had been up to them I would never have become a singer. Bring the recording along next time and let’s see what it’s like.”

They listened in silence the following week – perhaps my father had been right and it was awful – but afterwards, Anne asked rather sharply as to who my accompanist had been. They were surprised when I admitted to accompanying myself.

Nothing more was said. In the fullness of time, I recovered from the hurt my father’s criticism had caused me and I plodded on regardless. A few weeks later Anne phoned my mother to ask whether I’d like to play for Webster in the studio for a few weeks in April as she was going on a tour round the country with Leslie Green, the broadcaster of Tea With Mr Green fame on Springbok Radio, a great friend of theirs.

I have told about this wonderful period of my life in my book, Sweethearts of Song. Indeed, the whole pattern of my life changed from that time on. Webster has been dead for many years now but he will always remain one of the strongest influences of my life and I will always remember him with love.

Accompanying for Webster (April 1963)
Anne sent me a postcard when I was playing for Webster and she was away on holiday with Leslie Green.
Anne advertising a facial cream for “mature” women! I’m sure most mature women would have been delighted to look as perfect as Anne did at the age of 53!
Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard. 6 June 1963.
The Yeomen of the Guard.
6 June 1963 various cuttings including crits for The Yeomen of the Guard at the Alexander.
Kimberley Jim. Webster plays a bit part – the Inn Keeper – in that silly film. 1963,
9 August 1963 for the opening night of The Sound of Music.
September 1963 Jon Sylvester, radio critic The Star
A nasty comment – probably from “Jon Sylvester” (the pseudonym for the Star’s radio critic, about Webster’s programme.
I was Pooh Bah in this instance. I met Webster in the street one day and he asked me if I had written this note to beastly “Jon Sylvester”. I asked him how he knew that, and he said I was the only person in Johannesburg who could have done so!
They presented a children’s programme on the SABC, produced by Kathleen Davydd. At the same time they made an LP called The Nursery School Sing-along with the children from Nazareth House, conducted by my piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, and Heinz Alexander accompanying them.
21 September 1963 at Pietermaritzburg City Hall.
Michaelhouse, Balgowan.
Pietermaritzburg City Hall.
October 1963 – Ballads Old and New.
November 1963. Fauré Requiem.
Saturday Night at the Palace on the radio in November 1963, Anne, Webster, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson.

WEBSTER BOOTH AND GILBERT AND SULLIVAN.

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.

Webster Booth and Gilbert and Sullivan.

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.

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Interior of St Martin’s Church, the Bullring, Birmingham

St Martin's

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 

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SS Megantic (White Star) return to Liverpool from Canada, May 1927.

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”!

LWB -01

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.

1962 WB radio

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.

2014-03-13_140054

14 June 1963 (from my 5-year diary)

14 jUNE 1963

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.

Jean Collen 23 August 2018.

 

Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London 1973

BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1975)

 

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BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following list from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.

MOBILGAS MELODY WORLD 16 February 1956/57? Springbok Radio, 
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in a programme compèred by Michael Drinn.

LIGHT UP AND LAUGH – ITMA, December1956. Thirteen-week series on Springbok Radio, recorded at the Brooke Theatre. Webster (rather incongruously!) took Tommy Handley’s part in South African presentation of ITMA scripts.

ELDORADO, (Ralph Trewhela) 1957. Anne and Webster took the leading roles in this musical, directed by Frank Douglass, SABC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Jeremy Schulman. Work commissioned by SABC for 21st anniversary programme.

AT HOME WITH ANNE, commenced on 21 January 1958. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.

DO YOU REMEMBER? 1959 to 24 April 1960, Anne and Webster presented weekly music programme on Springbok Radio on Sunday afternoon. They spoke about their illustrious careers and the people with whom they had worked. I have asked numerous times whether there are any copies of this programme still in the archives of Springbok Radio. Sadly, I have had no response to my query.+

Anne in a recording of a broadcast at SABC, 1963

CONCERT HOUR 1960 – English service of the SABC. SABC Concert Orchestra, Rita Roberts, Webster Booth, Asaf and Philharmonic Choirs, conducted by Anton Hartman. 

DOUGLAS LAWS Record show, 4 October 1960. Anne and Webster appeared as guest artistes.

MESSIAH 8 December 1960. Webster sang tenor solos in the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley.

TEST YOURSELF 1960. Anne and Webster presented this quiz show together on Springbok Radio.

OPERA, ORATORIO AND OPERETTA (ON WINGS OF SONG) Wednesdays at 8.30 pm, later Thursday, 9.20 pm, 1961. Webster presented a weekly programme of recordings (including some of their own) on the English Service.

DREAM OF GERONTIUS, MESSIAH, 27 November 1961. Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival broadcast Monday and Wednesday at 8.00 pm. Webster had appeared in the first performance of the Dream of Gerontius in South Africa in Cape Town in 1957. Webster, with Emelie Hooke, Joyce Scotcher, Harold Hart, Port Elizabeth Orchestra, directed by Robert Selley.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 1962, 1963. When the copyright on Gilbert’s words ended, Webster presented a weekly programme on the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas on the English Service. During his illness in 1962, Paddy O’Byrne read the scripts of this programme.

DRAWING ROOM, April 1962. Webster presented a short series of drawing room concerts before a studio audience on the English Service. He and Anne sang in this series, and a number of guest artistes took part. He also sang duets with the bass, Graham Burns. The guest artistes were Doris Brasch, Rita Roberts, Gert Potgieter, Gé Korsten, Graham Burns, Jean Gluckman, Kathleen Allister and Walter Mony The accompanist was Anna Bender.

1962 Drawing room-02

Here is a recording from The Drawing Room. Webster is accompanied by Anna Bender.

FRIEND O’ MINE (1962)

MUSIC FOR ROMANCE, August 1962. Anne presented a series of programmes in which she presented recordings and reminisced about her life and career in England.

PORT ELIZABETH ORATORIO FESTIVAL, November 1962. Elijah and Messiah. 
Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. 
The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape. Excerpts were broadcast nationally later, but strangely, none of Webster’s recordings were used in the national broadcast.

RECITAL WITH ORCHESTRA 8 April1963. Anne and Webster sang a programme of duets, with orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree, on the English service.

BALLADS OLD AND NEW, October 1963. Webster presented this short series on the English Service towards the end of 1963.

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE, November 1963. A short series, which attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Music Hall on the English Service. Anne and Webster were guest artistes on this programme. 

Webster, Anne, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson sing a quartet in the programme
GREAT VOICES, 1963-1964. Webster presented this series on the English Service. He was unkindly criticised by the critic Jon Sylvester of The Star for including some of his own recordings on the programme, yet most people expected to hear Webster Booth the singer, as well as Webster Booth, lately-turned broadcaster. If one listens to recordings of Webster Booth, one will realise that he had a very great voice indeed and should be remembered today as a great singer, rather than as a romantic duettist. I sent a letter of protest to Jon Silvester under the pseudonym of Pooh Bah.

I met Webster in the street shortly after this cutting appeared in The Star and he asked me if I had written it. I asked him how he knew, and he replied that I was the only one who could have written it!

Pooh Bah
Me (as Pooh Bah) sent a letter of protest to Jon Silvester!

SUNDAY AT HOME 1963. English Service. Paddy O’Byrne conducted a fifteen minute interview with Anne and Webster at their home in Craighall Park. Click on the link to listen to the broadcast:  PADDY O’BYRNE PRESENTED SUNDAY AT HOME WITH ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH (1963)

OPERA AND OPERETTA, July 1964, Monday, 7.35 pm. Webster returned to the English Service with this series.

IF THE SHOE FITS, Christmas 1964. Webster and Anne starred in this Christmas pantomime on the English Service.

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMME 1965. Anne and Webster presented a series of children’s programmes, directed by Kathleen Davydd.

TEN O’CLOCK AND ALL’S WELL, September 1966. Webster was guest presenter for a week in this short series on the English Service. Earlier in the year he had presented a “sort of housewives’ choice” programme early in the morning.

By that time I was living in the UK but Webster told me about TEN O’CLOCK AND ALL’S WELL in a letter dated 19 September 1966.September 7 66 LWB2


 

 

 

ORCHESTRAL CONCERT (FOR JOHANNESBURG EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY)  
2 October 1966, CITY HALL, JOHANNESBURG. Anne and Webster were soloists, with the SABC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree. 
O lovely night (Anne and Webster) 
Drink to me only with thine eyes (Anne)
Lehar medley (Anne and Webster) 
The Holy City (Webster) 
Love’s old sweet song (Anne and Webster) We’ll gather lilacs (Anne and Webster) 
Selection from Bitter Sweet (Anne and Webster)

MELODY MARKET, May 1967. Webster presented this programme in the early morning on the English Service.  “A sort of housewife’s choice,” was how he described it. It was the last programme for the SABC before he and Anne left Johannesburg for Knysna a month or so later. 

SOUTH AFRICA A TOUCH OF THE BRITISH, 29 May 1973. BBC TV. 
Documentary. Anne and Webster appeared in this documentary. Anne said that she had had enough of South Africa and wanted to go home to die. The programme ended with Anne and Webster singing We’ll gather lilacs

PETER BROOMFIELD’S OPEN HOUSE, 20 March 1975. English Service. 
Anne and Webster were guests of Peter Broomfield on his morning programme, broadcast from Cape Town, on the English Service. Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) who was on a visit from the UK, and Anne and Webster’s singing dog, Silva were also present in the studio. Silva sang along to a Harry Lauder record! 

A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 19 and 26 October 1975. English Service. Webster reminisced about his career in the theatre. Click on the link to hear this programme: A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS 1

A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 2 and 9 November 1975. English Service. Anne reminisced about her career in the theatre. Click on the link to hear the programme: A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS 2

WOMENS’ WORLD, English Service,1975 – Pamela Deal, who had conducted the first interview with Anne and Webster when they stopped off briefly on their way to Australia in 1948, interviewed them again when they decided to stop singing in public. They had given a farewell concert in Somerset West towards the end of 1975. This decision was rescinded when they moved back to the UK in early 1978 and found that people remembered them and wanted to see and hear them once again.

 When Anne and Webster left South Africa their voices were rarely heard on South African radio. Ronald Charles, the broadcaster and musician who had been the musical director at Michaelhouse in the sixties, played several of Webster’s oratorio recordings from his personal collection on his classical request programme. As far as I know, most of the 78s in the SABC record library were discarded, but as time passed, a number of their recordings were released on CD. Occasionally a recording was played on Uit Vergange se Dae on Radio Pretoria. 

The late Paddy O’Byrne was always happy to play a recording when he was with the SABC and later at Radio Today, although his access to their recordings was extremely limited. Clare Marshall, on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star on Radio Today 1485, was about the only broadcaster in South Africa to feature their recordings regularly. Sadly, her programme is no longer on the air as the station has changed direction recently. After I wrote my book Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth Clare invited me to be her guest on her Morning Star programme on 28 April 2013. Click on the link at: My interview with Clare Marshall on “Morning Star” (28 April 2013)



Compiled by Jean Collen. Updated in 2017.


BROADCASTS BY WEBSTER BOOTH (1946 – 1956)

 

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Webster did many broadcasts with Anne during this period and these will appear on a separate file. In 1948 the Booths did a concert tour to New Zealand and Australia, and did several broadcasts in South Africa while their ship travelled to various South African ports, so there are not many broadcasts listed for either of them in that year.

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – Light Programme, 23 May 1946 20.30

A musical entertainment, given by Webster Booth (tenor), Margaret Good (piano), Marie Wilson (violin), Jean Stewart (viola), William Pleeth (cello), Geoffrey Gilbert (flute), George Elliott (guitar). Music by J. C. Bach, Schumann, Rossini, Chopin, Richard Strauss, and Schubert.

FANTASIA – Light Programme, 7 October 1946 20.45 A musical feature with the BBC Theatre Orchestra and the BBC Theatre Chorus. This week – The Song of the Rivers with Ida Shepley (contralto) and Webster Booth (tenor). Narrator, Preston Lockwood. Conductor, Walter Goehr. Produced by Harold Neden.

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – BBC Home Service Basic, 12 November 1946 16.15 A musical entertainment given by Phyllis Sellick (piano). Webster Booth (tenor). Pauline Juler (clarinet), Max Salpeter and Colin Sauer (violins), Watson Forbes (viola), John Moore (cello), and J. Edward Merrett (double bass). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.

TUESDAY SERENADE – BBC Home Service Basic, 19 November 1946 21.15 BBC Theatre Orchestra (Leader, Alfred Barker ) Conductor, Walter Goehr, BBC Theatre Chorus, Irene Eisinger (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor).

FANTASIA – Light Programme, 16 December 1946 20.45 A musical feature with the BBC Theatre Orchestra and Theatre Chorus, conducted by Harold Lowe. This week A Hundred Years Ago with Doris Gambell, Webster Booth, Winifred Davey. Jane Grahame, Doris Nichols. and Roy Plomley. Written by Aubrey Danvers-Walker. Produced by Harold Neden.

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TUESDAY SERENADE – BBC Home Service Basic, 11 February 1947 21.15 BBC Theatre Orchestra Conductor, Walter Goehr. BBC Theatre Chorus (Trained by John Clements ) Webster Booth (tenor), Joan and Valerie Trimble – (two pianos) Produced by Eric Fawcett.  

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – Light Programme, 7 August 1947 21.30 A musical entertainment given by Louis Kentner (piano), Webster Booth (tenor), Frederick Thurston and Stephen Waters (clarinets), Paul Draper (bassoon), David Martin (violin), Frederick Riddle (viola), and James Whitehead (cello). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.

STARLIGHT – BBC Home Service Basic, 27 October 1947 19.15 This week Christopher Stone invites Webster Booth to talk with him and to sing for you.

THE KENTUCKY MINSTRELS – BBC Home Service Basic, 2 December 1947 21.30 A black-faced minstrel show – Jimmy Rich, Fred Yule, John Duncan, and C. Denier Warren and Ike Hatch (Ivory and Ebony). Guest Star, Webster Booth.  Kentucky Banjo Team, Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra and Male Voice Chorus, conducted by Leslie Woodgate. At the organ. Charles Smart. Book written and remembered by C. Denier Warren, Choral arrangements by Doris Arnold. Show devised and produced by Harry S. Pepper


Sir Malcolm Sargent.

THE PLAIN MAN’S GUIDE TO MUSIC-10 – Light Programme, 9 December 1949 21.00 Sir Malcolm Sargent talks about the Oratorio and conducts illustrations from Messiah (Handel), The Creation (Haydn), Elijah (Mendelssohn), Dream of Gerontius (Elgar). Elsie Morison (soprano), Mary Jarred (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Norman Walker (bass), Royal Choral Society, BBC Opera Orchestra, Produced by Roger Fiske.

Malcolm Sargent conducting the orchestra at a Promenade concert (1954)

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HUGH THE DROVER – Third Programme, 13 March 1950 20.40 or Love in the Stocks, A romantic ballad opera in two acts. Words by Harold Child, Music by Vaughan Williams. BBC Opera Chorus, BBC Opera Orchestra Led by John Sharpe. Conductor. Stanford Robinson. Presented by Mark Lubbock.  Narrator, Patrick Troughton. Repetiteur, Leo Wurmser.

The constable: Owen Brannigan

Mary, the constable’s daughter: Joyce Gartside, Aunt Jane. the constable’s sister: Mary Jarred, John, the butcher: Frederick Sharp, The turnkey: Powell Lloyd, A showman: Fabian Smith, A sergeant: Denis Dowling, Hugh, the Drover: Webster Booth, A cheap-jack: George Steam Scott, A shell-fish seller: Fisher Morgan, A primrose seller: Ethel Gedge, A ballad seller: David Holman.

 RING UP THE CURTAIN! – BBC Home Service Basic, 1 July 1951 16.00 Joyce Gartside (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Denis Dowling (baritone) BBC Opera Chorus – Trained by Alan G. Melville, BBC Opera Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conductor, Stanford Robinson. British Opera – The programme includes items from: The Siege of Rochelle, The Bohemian Girl, Maritana, The Lily of Killarney, Esmeralda, Ivanhoe, Shamus O’Brien,Koanga, The Immortal Hour, Fete Galante, Hugh the Drover, Sir John in Love. Programme devised by Harold Neden.

O, Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda

MUSIC IN MINIATURELight Programme, 28 July 1950 21.30 A musical entertainment given by Webster Booth (tenor), Leon Goossens (oboe),*Julius Isserlis (piano), Alan Loveday (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola),Harvey Phillips (cello). Ernest Lush (accompanist). Arranged by Basil Douglas.

 *I wonder if Julius Isserlis was the father of the well-known cellist, Steven Isserlis?

THESE RADIO TIMES – Light Programme, 27 October 1951 21.15 A happy history of Everyman’s entertainment. With Henry Hall, Naunton Wayne, Edwin Styles, Howard Marshall, Webster Booth, Claude Dampier, Kenneth Leslie-Smith, Harry S. Pepper and the recorded voices of Davy Burnaby, Stewart MacPherson, John. Snagge, Richard Tauber, Gracie Fields. Nellie Wallace. Everyman, with the wireless set: Anthony Armstrong. Written by Gale Pednick. Producer: Thurstan. Holland

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24 May 1952 Light Programme. Malcolm Sargent conducts the BBC Opera Orchestra with Webster Booth in a concert of Empire music for Empire Day.

SONG OF TWO CITIES – Light Programme, 18 November 1952 21.00 Paris and Vienna – Part 8 This story of a musical rivalry that spanned a century ends with music from two masterpieces Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, the idol of Vienna, and The Tales of Hoffmann with which Offenbach triumphed in Paris even after his death.

Gwen Catley, Ruth Packer, Anna Pollak, Webster Booth, Trefor Jones, Roderick Jones. BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conductor, Gilbert Vinter with Keith Pyott as the Voice of Paris and Rudolph Offenbach as the Voice of Vienna. Devised by Kenneth Pakeman and written by Maurice Gorham. Produced by Malcolm Baker-Smith and Kenneth Pakeman. (Anna Pollak broadcasts by permission of the Governors of Sadler’s Wells)

Haydn – THE CREATION – Third Programme, 4 December 1952 20.05 Ena Mitchell (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Norman Walker (bass), BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Symphony Orchestra – Leader, Paul Beard. Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. Parts 1 and 2

MUSIC OF COLERIDGE-TAYLOR – BBC Home Service Basic, 7 December 1952 16.00  Webster Booth (tenor), BBC Concert Orchestra – (Leader, John Sharpe ) Conductor, Gilbert Vinter. Suite: Othello, Song: Eleanore, Three Dream Dances, Song: Onaway!, awake, beloved (Hiawatha)

The story of GILBERT AND SULLIVANLight Programme, 25 December 1952 16.30 An adaptation from the sound-track of the forthcoming Frank Launder-Sidney Gilliat production based on some episodes in the lives of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert .Written for the screen by Sidney Gilliat and Leslie Baily (by permission of Bridget D’Oyly Carte ) Webster Booth, Martyn Green, Elsie Morison, Margery Thomas, John Cameron, Gordon Clinton, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams, Tom Round, Muriel Brunskill, Jennifer Vyvyan, Joan Gillingham. London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Programme produced by Thurstan Holland.

W S Gilbert: Robert Morley, Mrs Gilbert: Isabel Dean, Arthur Sullivan: Maurice Evans, Richard D’Oyly Carte: Peter Finch, Helen D’Oyly Carte: Eileen Herlie, Mr Marston: Wilfred: Hyde White, Grace Marston: Dinah Sheridan.

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THE GOLDEN THRESHOLD –  BBC Home Service Basic, 18 January 1953 16.00 by Liza Lehmann. Elsie Morison (soprano), Audrey Brice (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Frederick Harvey (baritone) BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate, BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Gilbert Vinter.  

*DESERT ISLAND DISCS – BBC Home Service Basic, 3 April 1953 18.25 Webster Booth – (in a recorded programme) discusses with Roy Plomley the gramophone records he would choose to have with him if he were condemned to spend the rest of his life on a desert island.

*Unfortunately no recording of this broadcast still exists, but we did manage to obtain a script of the programme from the BBC.

 29 April 1953 THE CREATION Royal Choral Society, Webster Booth (tenor) Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Malcolm Sargent’s birthday (from Webster’s score.)

Monday, 25 May 1953, 12.00 Robert Morley, Maurice Evans and Eileen Herlie in the story of GILBERT AND SULLIVAN (repeat)

An adaptation from the sound-track of the new Frank Launder -Sidney Gilliat production, based on some episodes in the lives of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert , Written for the screen by Sidney Gilliat and Leslie Baily, (by permission of Bridget D’Oyly Carte) with words and music selected from the operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan sung by Webster Booth,. Martyn Green, Elsie Morison , Marjorie Thomas, John Cameron, Gordon Clinton, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams, Tom Round,  Muriel Brunskill, Jennifer Vyvyan. Joan Gillingham, London Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Radio adaptation by Gordon Gow, Produced by Denys Jones.

NIGHTS OF GLADNESS – Light Programme, 22 December 1953 20.00 Tribute to composers whose melodies have enriched the world of operetta, musical comedy, and revue.Written by Gale Pedrick. Introduced by The Man with the Opera Cloak and illustrated by scenes and music Chapter 9 – The music of: Nat D. Ayer, Harry Parr Davies, Emmerich Kalman. Singers: Victoria Elliott, Webster Booth, Joan Young, Dudley Rolph, Billie Baker, Dick James. BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert orchestra Conducted by Guy Daines. Musical adviser, Harold Neden. Produced by Douglas Moodie.

18 December 1953. 21.15 The Christmas Music from Handel’s Messiah Handel Messiah: part 1 (up to & including Glory to God) plus Hallelujah and  Amen choruses from the Town Hall, HUDDERSFIELD.

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 3 January 1954 18.30 I KNOW WHAT I LIKE, Personalities of the radio and entertainment world 
introduce music of their own choice. 15—Fred Streeter with Doris Gambell (soprano)
Webster Booth (tenor),  Ian Wallace (bass), BBC Concert Orchestra, (Leader, John Sharpe), 
Conducted by Stanford Robinson. Produced by Harold Neden.

I KNOW WHAT I LIKE – BBC Home Service Basic, 31 January 1954 18.30, Personalities of the radio and entertainment world introduce music of their own choice. 19-James Dyrenforth with Lorely Dyer (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor). BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conducted by Rae Jenkins. Produced by Harold Neden.

GRAND HOTEL – Light Programme, 11 April 1954 19.30, Tom Jenkins and the Palm Court Orchestra. Webster Booth (tenor).

HENRY WOOD PROMENADE CONCERTS – BBC Home Service Basic, 1 September 1954 19.30 Webster Booth (tenor), Iris Loveridge (piano), Royal Choral Society, BBC Symphony Orchestra  – Leader, Paul Beard, Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. From the Royal Albert Hall, London.

BALLAD CONCERT – BBC Home Service Basic, 21 September 1954 18.45 The old songs we still love sung by Marion Lowe (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Raymond Newell (baritone), with David McCallum and the Spa Orchestra. At the organ, Felton Rapley. At the piano, Clifton Helliwell.

The programme includes: Thora, Where my caravan has rested, I hear you calling me, The Company Sergeant Major, A Summer Night. Produced by Harold Neden.

BALLAD CONCERT – BBC Home Service Basic, 21 December 1954 18.35 The old songs we still love, sung by Gwen Catley (soprano), Audrey Brice (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Owen Brannigan (bass-baritone), David McCallum and the Spa Orchestra. At the organ. Felton Rapley. At the piano, Josephine Lee.

Gwen Catley, the diminutive coloratura soprano.

The programme includes Twickenham Ferry,  An Old Garden,The Star of Bethlehem, Until, Japanese Love Song, A Sergeant of the Line, April Morn, Nazareth. Introduced by Lionel Marson. Produced by Harold Neden.

 IN LIGHTER MOOD – BBC Home Service Basic, 27 December 1954 15.15 BBC Concert Orchestra -Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Charles Mackerras. Webster Booth (tenor) Programme presented by John Tylee.

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April 1955 John Stainer THE CRUCIFIXION A meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer. Webster Booth, John Heddle Nash.

Sir Malcolm Sargent introduces and conducts a GILBERT AND SULLIVAN CONCERT – BBC Television, 30 May 1955 21.15 with Jacqueline Delman (soprano) Marjorie Thomas (contralto) Webster Booth (tenor), John Cameron (bass) and Chorus. The St. Cecilia Orchestra (Leader, Lionel Bentley ) Presented by Philip Bate.

 HENRY WOOD PROMENADE CONCERTSLight Programme, 13 August 1955 19.30  Webster Booth (tenor), Peter Katin (piano) BBC Choral Society – Chorus Master. Leslie Woodgate Royal Choral Society, BBC Symphony Orchestra – Leader, Paul Beard, Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. From the Royal Albert Hall , London

Part 1. 

 

GRAND HOTEL – Light Programme, 16 October 1955 21.00 Jean Pougnet and the Palm Court Orchestra. Visiting artist: Webster Booth. 

21 December 1955 7.15 pm Handel’s MESSIAH Part 1  from the Town Hall, HUDDERSFIELD Part 1 at 7.15 : Part 2 at 9.15.

22 December 1955 21.00 The Christmas Music from Handel’s Messiah Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Jennifer Vyvyan (soprano), Norma Procter (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Hervey Alan (bass), Huddersfield Choral Society (Chorus-Master, Herbert Bardgett), BBC Northern Orchestra, (Leader. Reginald Stead), Ernest Cooper (organ), from the Town Hall, Huddersfield.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN – BBC Home Service Basic, 25 December 1955 21.15 Hugh Burden, Clive Morton and Richard Humdall. The story of a great partnership in six episodes by Leslie Baily  – 4— The First Quarrel. Other parts played by: Eric Phillips, Olwen Brookes, George Skillan, Ysanne Churchman; and Betty Fleetwood. Narrator, Hugh Burden. The songs from the operas sung by: Webster Booth, Gwen Catley, Victoria Elliott, Arnold Matters, George James, Janet Howe, Denis Bowen , Gilbert Wright. Pianist. Alan Richardson, BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Charles Mackerras. Production by Vernon Harris.

(The BBC acknowledges the assistance of Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte and of Sir Newman Flower , the biographer of Sir Arthur Sullivan.

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8 January 1956 21.15 Hugh Burden, Clive Morton and Richard Hurndall in GILBERT AND SULLIVAN The story of a great partnership in six episodes by Leslie Baily. 6: Yeomen, Gondoliers and Goodbye. Other parts played by: Betty Hardy, Dudley Rolph , Ella Milne, Eric Phillips , Humphrey Morton, Narrator, Hugh Burden.The songs from the operas sung by: Webster Booth. Doris Gambell, Anna Pollak, Roderick Jones, George James. Sheila Rex, Gilbert Wright. Pianist: Alan Richardson. BBC Chorus (Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate ), BBC Concert Orchestra (Leader, John Sharpe ). Conductor. Charles Mackerras. Production by Vernon Harris.

 That was the last solo broadcast Webster Booth did in the UK, but he did several more with Anne Ziegler before they sailed for South Africa on board the Pretoria Castle in mid-July, 1956.

 

Compiled by Jean Collen

May 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Compiled by Jean Collen

2017.

 

WEBSTER BOOTH (1902 – 1984) EARLY DAYS

Christening of Leslie Webster Booth at St James’ Church, Handsworth. The date is 15 April 1912, but I wonder if this is a misprint and that it actually took place in April 1902.
 

WEBSTER BOOTH (1902 – 1984)  – EARLY DAYS

The song on the clyp is:  Sylvia by Oley Speaks.

Extract from SWEETHEARTS OF SONG: A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH (JEAN COLLEN)

EARLY DAYS IN BIRMINGHAM AND LINCOLN

Leslie Webster Booth was born on 21 January 1902 in a three storey home above his father’s ladies hairdressing business at 157 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. He was the youngest son of Edwin Booth and his wife Sarah (née Webster) in a family of three sons and three daughters. Edwin was a hairdresser, who had served in the Royal Staffordshire Regiment as a Barber Surgeon. Sarah was from Chilvers Coton, Nuneaton, where her parents and later she and her sister, Hannah, had been handloom silk weavers. Her brother, William Thomas Webster was a partner in Foster and Webster, a successful gentlemen’s outfitters with branches throughout the Midlands. Sarah’s brother eventually left the firm, but it continues to this day under the name of Foster Brothers.

Leslie was the youngest of six children and his eldest sister, Doris, (known as Nellie), played as big a part in his upbringing as his mother. All three sisters doted on their young brother, who, from an early age, possessed a singing voice of outstanding quality. The family held musical evenings at home and delighted in their father’s robust rendition of The Veteran’s Song, while his mother and sisters were moved to tears when young Leslie sang the mournful ballad, Valé in his beautiful treble voice.

Webster sang in the choir at St James as a young boy.

At nine years of age Leslie’s voice elevated him from St James’ Church choir in Edwardian Handsworth to the choir stalls of Lincoln Cathedral as a chorister under the direction of Dr George Bennett. Dr Bennett was a fine musician, but a stern taskmaster, who insisted that choristers sang with flat tongues: he was not averse to flattening an errant tongue with his ever-ready broken baton. Just as today’s Cathedral choristers are disciplined hard-working musicians of the highest order, so they were in the first decades of the twentieth century also. Christmas holidays for the choristers commenced only after they had completed the Christmas Eve services to Dr Bennett’s satisfaction.

Lincoln Cathedral. Webster was a chorister there from the age of 9 until his voice broke.

Lincoln was a good training ground for young Leslie Booth. Although he did not make great progress on the piano and thus did not advance to learning the organ, an instrument he longed to play. The Willis organ at Lincoln Cathedral had been opened in 1898, eleven years before Leslie went to Lincoln, and is still considered as one of the finest organs in England. Leslie did, however, learn to sight-read vocal lines with ease. This ability stood him in good stead as a professional singer, especially at recording sessions.

When he went to HMV studios for a recording session he would be given six to eight songs to record at a time. These he would sight-read and record in one or two takes. After the session the songs would soon be forgotten: a different approach to recording from today’s pop singers who seem to spend months recording their new “album”! Years later, people often appeared before him clutching one of his old records, assuring him of their great attachment to the particular song, but he often had no recollection of making it in the first place.

After his voice broke at the age of thirteen, he returned to the family home in Birmingham to study accountancy at Aston Commercial School. He was set for the steady job of accountant like Uncle Jim, his father’s brother, but at fifteen, when his voice had settled, he began his vocal studies as a tenor with Dr Richard Wassall, the musical director at the Midland Institute in Birmingham. Leslie was an avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion football team and was goalie in the Aston Commercial School team. He was a promising enough goalie to be offered a place with the Aston Villa Colts, but this idea did not meet with his headmaster’s approval. Despite his accountancy studies, he secretly dreamed of the more glamorous callings of football and singing. Luckily for the world, singing eventually won.

The headmaster was Edgar Keey, father of his first wife, Winifred.

With his great natural vocal gifts, his striking good looks and winning personality, performing came easily to him. He sang duets with Uncle Jim’s daughter, his cousin Lily Booth, a promising mezzo-soprano, and soon he was also singing at concerts and oratorio performances all over the Midlands and Wales. By this time he was a tall, imposing young man, who realised that appearance and stage presence were nearly as important to a professional singer as an exceptional voice. Although he had perfect diction in song, he felt it necessary to take elocution lessons with the Shakespearian actor Sir Robert Atkins, the founder of the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park, to smooth the Brummy intonation from his speech.

His adult voice was a distinctive lyric tenor, with an exceptionally wide range and a baritonal quality on the lower notes. His diction was clear and lacked the idiosyncratic pronunciation and bleating quality of many of his contemporaries, which marked them as refined English singers, not quite able to compete with their more virile Italian and German counterparts. In my opinion, Heddle Nash and David Lloyd were the only two British tenors of Webster Booth’s generation who had comparable voices.

At twenty-one, Leslie auditioned for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and was immediately accepted after a London audition. 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 in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923. He stayed with the company for four years, but made no great advancement from the chorus and small parts. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way one could advance in the company was to wait 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 the 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 the gifted conductor Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD. He went with the D’Oyly Carte Company on a memorable and successful tour of Canada. Winifred Lawson, the principal soprano, heard him singing Your Tiny Hand is Frozen from La Bohème at the ship’s concert and was deeply impressed with the beauty of his voice. She was not surprised when he left the company soon after its return to England, to eventually become a deserved success in his own right.

In 1924 he had married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his 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 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 would have no more to do with her, annoyed at 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 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. Leslie was 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. After several years she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son. He had suspicions that all was not well at home when he came 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.

Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he was singing, but despite his 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 never saw his mother again after his sixth birthday.

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 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“!

During this precarious period of his life before he achieved fame and stability in the profession, Webster joined Tom Howell’s Opieros, a concert party with a difference, as some of its members sang operatic excerpts while others were comedians and light entertainers found in the usual concert party. Tom Howell was a baritone from Swansea and he and Webster often sang duets together in the shows. For several years Webster toured all over the country with the Opieros during the summer season, performing on piers and in municipal parks. H Baynton-Power was the Opieros’ excellent accompanist.

In winter Webster sang in cabaret at various large Lyons’ restaurants and cafés, at many Masonic concerts and staff dinners, often with the pianist Gladys Vernon as his accompanist. Gladys Vernon was to marry another well-known tenor, Walter Midgeley.

During the winter seasons of 1927 and 1928, he and Tom Howell appeared in Fred Melville pantomimes at Brixton. The first pantomime in 1927 was St George and the Dragon. St George was played by principal boy, Vera Wright, while Webster played King Arthur. 1928’s pantomime at the Brixton Theatre was a freely adapted version of Babes in the Wood. Once again Vera Wright played principal boy, this time in the role of Robin Hood.

Webster made his West End debut as the Duke of Buckingham in Rudolph Friml’s The Three Musketeers at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1930. The leading role of D’Artagnan was taken by Dennis King, an actor and singer Webster greatly admired for his great energy. Other distinguished cast members were Lilian Davies, Marie Ney, Adrienne Brune and Raymond Newell. Unfortunately, Webster could only appear in this show for three months as he had already signed a contract for a Blackpool summer show for Ernest Butcher. Despite Sir Alfred Butt’s best efforts to get him released from this contract, Ernest Butcher would not budge. Webster’s part was taken over by the well-known Yorkshire tenor, Robert Naylor. When Webster set off sadly and reluctantly to fulfill his engagement on the Central Pier, Blackpool, his one consolation was that he could continue singing Queen of My Heart, one of the hits from The Three Musketeers with which he had scored such a success on the West End.

With Lilian Davies in “The Three Musketeers”.

Webster met his second wife, Dorothy Annie Alice Prior (stage name Paddy Prior) in the early nineteen-thirties. He was singing One Alone at a Concert Artistes Association concert and happened to notice her sitting in the audience. Paddy Prior was born in Fulham in 1905, the daughter of Hubert Prior, an ironmonger, and his wife, Annie Jane (née Henderson). Paddy went on the professional stage while still in her teens. She was a light comedienne, dancer, and a soubrette with a charming mezzo-soprano voice and appeared on television in its early days in The Ridgeway Revue with Philip Ridgeway and Hermione Gingold. By the time she met Webster she was a veteran of many concert parties, musicals and pantomimes, and always received good reviews for her work. Despite her talent she had periods of unemployment and placed occasional advertisements in The Stage, such as this one in April 1926, which read as follows:

In 1931 Webster divorced Winifred, citing her affair with Trevor Davey and on 10 October 1932, he married Paddy at Fulham Registry Office, where he had married Winifred Keey in 1924. Around the same time, Winifred married James L. Haig at the Lambeth Registry Office. Webster and Paddy went to Newquay for their honeymoon.

Webster sang for several seasons in Papa Pinder’s Sunshine concert party at the Sunshine Theatre, Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.

In 1933 he and Paddy appeared together for the summer season in The Piccadilly Revels Concert Party at Scarborough. The following year, Webster managed to arrange for Paddy to obtain an engagement with him in the Sunshine show. Appearing on the same bill with them was Arthur Askey, and he and Webster became great friends. After hearing Webster sing To Anthea by J L Hatton at one of the shows, the Askeys decided to name their baby daughter Anthea…

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Jean Collen

21 June 2016.