PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1953 – AUGUST 1956

Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.

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18 February 1953 Ash Wednesday.
Elected Joint presidents of Concert Artistes’ Association.

Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.

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Opening of Desert Island Discs script. Sadly the recording is not available on the BBC webpage.
11 April 1953 – hardly something to commend him!

Anne as Mistress Knight and Webster as King Charles II in And So to Bed.

24 April 1953 – a poor crit for And so to Bed
in Coventry.
Diamond Wedding anniversary of Anne’s parents April 1953.
Anne and Webster went on an extensive tour of And So to Bed in the midst of many other commitments, particularly Merrie England in the Coronation Year.
Booths sing in concert version of Merrie England in Calgary on May 9 1953.
Merrie England at Luton Hoo with Douglas Fairbanks Junior

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.
CAA dinner 1953 Anne and Webster as presidents.
Advert – 1954

8 April 1954
15 April 1954

30 April 1954
16 May 1954

May 1954
Hiawatha concert had been cancelled for lack of interest. It was replaced by an extract from Aida.

21 September 1954 – Attack of Shingles. Far from “staying indoors for four or five days,” the pain troubled him periodically for many years to come.

28 October 1954
24 November 1954 – Victoria Congregational Church, Derby from Webster’s score.
15 December 1954

Webster’s score 10 December 1954
31 December 1954
I do not know whether Webster and Anne had any singing pupils in the UK.

27 May 1955 Gilbert and Sullivan concert.
29 April 1955 – Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert.
24 June 1955 – St Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow.
27 July 1955. Anne and Webster were presented to Princess Alexandra.

13 August 1955 Promenade Concert.
13 October 1955 Lady Audley’s Secret.
25 October 1955
November 1955 0n the way to South Africa for tour of Cape Province.

12 December 1955 – Arriving back in the UK again.

15 December 1955 Messiah, Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Town Hall

Return to South Africa for a further tour.

2 February 1956 Crit by Dora L. Sowden in Rand Daily Mail.

On “platteland tour”. Having tea in Bethal with accompanist, Arthur Tatler.
27 June 1956

Passenger List, Pretoria Castle – 12 July 1956.

On board the Pretoria Castle, 12 July 1956.

Signing the menu on board ship.
15 August 1956

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1951 -1952

The Booth’s joint autobiography was published in 1951 and is now long out of print. I digitised the book several years ago and John Marwood was kind enough to proofread it for me. It is now available in paperback and as an epub at: https://www.lulu.com/duettists

30 March 1952 – Merely Players at Drury Lane
23 March 1951
April 1951
May 1951 from a talk on the BBC.
HIAWATHA – Croydon – 31 May 1951
11 July 1951
12 July 1951
3 August 1951, Webster and Anne with accompanist, Geoffrey Parsons. Unfortunately the photo is very poor but the only one I could find of them together. Geoffrey Parsons went on to be the natural successor to Gerald Moore.
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15 September 1951 – Blackburn
From Webster’s score – 20 October 1951

Duet – first published on `15 September 1951 by Stanley Paul.

The Booth’s joint autobiography was published in 1951 and is now long out of print. I digitised the book several years ago and John Marwood was kind enough to proofread it for me. It is now available in paperback and as an epub at: https://www.lulu.com/duettists

16 October 1951.

Webster’s voice was heard twice – dubbed in a scene from Yeomen of the Guard and at the end, singing an echoey version of A Wand’ring Minstrel. He was not very pleased with his billing in the film.

22 January 1952

Creation 29 April 1952 – Sir Malcolm’s birthday.
May 1952 – Anne and Webster featured in an article in the magazine.
Photo in the John Bull article. Anne and Webster with Smokey.
22 June 1952
Anne in Merrie England at Chichester.
21 August 1952
27 October 1952

26 December 1952 – Warwick Castle. Webster’s second cousin, Trevor Luckcuck and a friend cycled to the event from their home in Solihull.

Programmes and Adverts (1949 – 1950)

1949 was not a very happy year for the Booths. Anne had to be admitted to hospital early in the year and Webster’s good friend, Tommy Handley died suddenly in January of that year. The great Wagnerian tenor, Walter Widdop died in September. In October, Edwin Booth, Webster’s father was taken ill at a Birmingham concert where Anne and Webster were singing and died there, only a few days after his eighty-third birthday. The family managed to keep the news from Webster and Anne until after the concert although they were worried because they had noticed that the family seats had been vacated.

1949 was not a very happy year for the Booths. Anne had to be admitted to hospital early in the year and Webster’s good friend, Tommy Handley died suddenly in January of that year. The great Wagnerian tenor, Walter Widdop died in September. In October, Edwin Booth, Webster’s father was taken ill at a Birmingham concert where Anne and Webster were singing and died there, only a few days after his eighty-third birthday. The family managed to keep the news from Webster and Anne until after the concert although they were worried because they had noticed that the family seats had been vacated.

13 January 1949 Funeral of Tommy Handley.
Webster and Leslie Bridgmont at Tommy Handley’s Funeral, Golders Green Crematorium.
Memorial Service at St Paul’s – 9 February 1949. Tommy Handley Memorial Choir record The Long Day Closes and God be in My Head
21 April 1949
8 July 1949 Jersey Concert
Singing at a broadcast (1949)
7 September 1949 Funeral of Walter Widdop

17 October 1949 Death of Edwin Booth, Webster’s father.
Edwin Booth’s will. Irene Constance Louise Booth was Edwin Booth’s second wife.

2 December 1949 Anne.
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5 January 1950
12 January 1950 Town Hall, Cheltenham.
22 March 1950 Central Hall, Derby.
Concert with Charles Forwood at the piano.

Concert with Charles Forwood at the piano.
9 April 1950

There was a great protest about this Sunday evening concert in Kirkcaldy. Even when the concert went ahead, the criticism of it was very bad! I wonder whether the bad crit was because the concert had taken place on a Sunday.

May 1950

9 July 1950
23 September 1950 Cheltenham.
24 October 1950
14 November 1950. Hull concert at Tivoli.
Anne and Webster

THE ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH STORY – PART ONE.

They fell in love, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth first met during the filming of The Faust Fantasy in 1934/35

Anne Ziegler, the widow and singing partner of Webster Booth, died in Llandudno, North Wales, on 13 October 2003, at the age of 93. Her death brought an end to an era in British entertainment before and after the Second World War. Her death brings an end to an era for me also.

I was seventeen when I first met them at the end of 1960. They were already middle-aged, in the same age group as my parents, their top-flight stage career in Britain behind them. I was too young to have seen them at the height of their fame, but even then I thought them a shining couple, as I still do over fifty-nine years later.

Although I was too young to have seen them on stage in the days of their great success in the forties and early fifties, I believe their success was due to the wonderful blend of the voices, creating a special, instantly recognisable sound, and their contrasting good looks, she beautifully gowned, he in full evening dress. Above all, they were instantly likeable with charming personalities, and possessed an elusive ability to make people adore them.

In their day, in the thirties, forties and fifties, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were stars of stage, screen, radio, concert halls and variety theatres, and made over a thousand 78 rpms, either as duets or solos. Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and  Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.

Webster became a Mason, and was a proud member of the Savage Club, where he often sang at their legendary Saturday night entertainments. These entertainments were arranged by Joe Batten, the eminent sound recordist and producer at Columbia Records. When Webster had something important to do he always wore his distinctive striped Savage Club tie to bring him luck. While still in his early thirties, Webster was made a Life Governor of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and  Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.

By the time he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the colour film Faust in 1934, he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior. He had divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey in 1931 after she had deserted him and their small son, and married Paddy Prior, a talented dancer, comedienne and soubrette in October 1932. The couple’s marriage was  happy in the beginning and they appeared together in several concert parties, the Piccadilly Revels, Scarboroough in 1933 and Sunshine at Shanklin in 1934.

Shortly after he met Anne Ziegler he took the lead in an ill-fated production of Kurt Weill’s A Kingdom for a Cow at the Savoy Theatre. His leading lady was the well-known French singer Jacqueline Francel. In Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography, Duet, he said that the play was probably ahead of its time in its handling of complex social issues, which made it too heavy for audiences of the day, who expected lighter fare in musicals. Apart from the unusual subject matter, rehearsals were stormy and the direction contradictory, so despite Weill’s pleasing music and a strong cast, the play closed after just three weeks. The London Dramatic Critic from The Scotsman gave the piece a good review, and mentioned that “Mr Webster Booth as the hero also deserves praise for his fine singing”.

Webster and Paddy Prior, his second wife.

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Sadly, his marriage did not last after he met Anne. Paddy divorced him, naming Anne as co-respondent. He and Anne were married on Bonfire Night in 1938. Webster Booth soon formed a duet partnership with his wife in addition to his extensive recording, film, oratorio and concert work.

 

Webster was contracted to HMV for over twenty years and recorded more than a thousand solos, duets, trios and quartets. His lighter recordings include selections from Ivor Novello musicals with Helen Hill, Olive Gilbert and Stuart Robertson; Theatreland at Coronation Time with South African soprano Garda Hall, and Sam Costa; excerpts from Snow White with Nora Savage, conducted by George Scott-Wood, the composer of Shy Serenade. He made many anonymous recordings as a member of the HMV Light Opera Company. He was the “with vocal refrain” on a series of records made with Carlos Santana and his Accordion Band on the Brunswick label, and on a record of Chappell Ballads with Jack Hylton’s band. Carlos Santana was one of the many aliases used by Harry Bidgood. His better known alias was Primo Scala, the leader of another accordion band, but he did many other things like conducting film music and arranging music and while he was still at school he had written the music for his school song.

His recordings of the late nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties encompassed oratorio, opera and ballads, as well as duets with Anne. Webster’s more serious recordings were often under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, Lawrance Collingwood, Basil Cameron or rwick Braithwaite with the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. His recordings with piano accompaniment were nearly always with the eminent accompanist Gerald Moore.

Webster enjoyed telling the story of a particular recording session with Gerald Moore. They had one more song to record before the session ended. The song was Phil, the Fluter’s Ball, and Gerald Moore suggested that they should see how fast he could play it and how fast Webster could sing it with clear diction. This was no problem for the finest accompanist in the world and for a singer who had spent four years performing Gilbert and Sullivan with the D’Oyly Carte Company. His oratorio recordings are particularly fine. The solos in Samson from the moving recitative O loss of sight and the following aria,Total Eclipse, to the fiery Why does the God of Israel sleep?, with its unrelenting Handelian runs, demonstrate how easily he moved from one mood to another, always singing with flawless technique and clear diction.

He made recordings with other distinguished singers of the day in operatic ensembles, such as the quartet from Rigoletto, with Noel Edie, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates, to the trio from Faust with Joan Cross and Norman Walker. He sang duets with soprano Joan Cross and baritone Dennis Noble from La Bohème and the Miserere from Il Trovatore with Joan Cross. He recorded duets with the baritone Dennis Noble from the Victorian and Edwardian Excelsior and Watchman, what of the night? to the brilliant extended scene in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. He recorded the duet in Madame Butterfly with Australian soprano Joan Hammond.

When Joan Hammond first arrived in England from Australia, she had a sweet lyrical soprano voice. She sang her first Messiah in England with Webster as tenor soloist under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. But by the time they recorded the Madame Butterfly duet, several years later, Joan Hammond had become a dramatic soprano and her voice was very much bigger than it had been when she first arrived in England. Joan had to stand much further away from the microphone than Webster in order for the sound engineer to get the balance for the duet right. Webster also sang excerpts from Carmen with the Sadler’s Wells chorus and orchestra, with Dennis Noble, and with Nancy Evans, Anne’s old friend from Liverpool, as Carmen.

At the beginning of the Second World War, he recorded The Lost Chord at the Kingsway Hall in London, accompanied by the organist Herbert Dawson. As they were reaching the end of the song, the All Clear siren sounded, which meant they had to redo the recording to cut out the sound of the siren. There had been no air raids at that early stage of the war so presumably the sirens were being given a trial run. The blitz was yet to come and would destroy Webster’s beloved Queen’s Hall.

ANNE ZIEGLER (1910 – 2003)


Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool on 22 June 1910. 
From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part of Marguerite for the film, the Faust Fantasy: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.

During the making of the film they fell in love , although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior, and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage to Winifred Keey. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

During those intervening four years, Anne was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in a concert party in 1935 called  Summer Smiles during the summer season at Ryde, an engagement she did not really enjoy much. There she acquired her first devoted fan, a girl aged 15, who kept in close touch with her for the rest of her life. 

 She played principal boy in her first pantomime, Mother Goose, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, which starred George Formby. In this pantomime she met Babs Wilson-Hill, the principal dancer in the show, who was to remain her closest friend for most of her life. During the 1936 pantomime season she and Babs appeared in another highly successful pantomime, Cinderella, in Edinburgh, this time with the Scottish comedian Will Fyffe as the star attraction.

Anne and Webster were both extremely popular and prolific broadcasters on the BBC, as well as the various European commercial broadcasting stations geared to the British market, such as Radio Lyons, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Normandy and Radio Eireann. Glancing through copies of The Radio Pictorial, commercial radio’s equivalent of The Radio Times, one sees frequent articles about them. Radio stars in the thirties obviously held the equivalent status of pop stars today.

Despite Anne’s success on stage and radio, recording companies had not shown any interest in putting her voice on record. She made a test recording of the Waltz Song from Merrie England in 1935, a recording which Webster managed to obtain from HMV. Eventually she did make a few solo recordings and sang in a Noel Coward medley with Joyce Grenfell and Graham Payn, but the bulk of her recordings were duets with Webster. My favourite solo recording of Anne’s is Raymond Loughborough’s A Song in the Night, which she sang on a Pathé film short in 1936.

Webster went to New York with her, hoping to find some stage work of his own, but, despite his great voice, he did not make any impact on the cut-throat American musical world. He attended various auditions in New York as an unknown, while in England he was already an established performer in oratorio, recording, films, and the West End stage. He returned to England, crestfallen at his lack of success, and resumed his numerous engagements. Anne, in the meantime, was hailed as a Broadway star and offered a film contract in Hollywood, with the idea that she would be the successor to Jeanette McDonald. The offer was tempting, but she turned it down to return to England and marry Webster Booth when his divorce from Paddy Prior was made final.

For most of her life Anne maintained that marriage to Webster meant more to her than any Hollywood contract, although in later years she sometimes reflected on what her life would have been like had she accepted the contract and become a Hollywood star.

Even before Webster’s divorce was made final they formed a duet partnership on stage, in addition to their solo work. From April 1938 they were singing together for Clarkson Rose. This is an advert from September of 1938, the month before Webster’s divorce was finalised.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7-september-1938-with-twinkle.jpgThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7-september-1938-azwb-pier-music-pavilion..png

Their first duet recording was made in the year after their marriage in 1939 –  If You were the Only Girl in the World, with A Paradise for Two on the flip side. Before this official recording she had sung with him as an anonymous soprano voice in a radio series in 1937 called The Voice of Romance. In this series he too was anonymous, but by this time, most people would have recognised his distinctive voice.

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In 1940 they accepted an offer from agent Julius Darewski to join the variety circuit. The money was good and they were well received on the variety halls, always doing their act without the aid of a microphone. If Webster Booth’s voice filled the Albert Hall when he sang the tenor part in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha in Native American dress under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, the same voice, in harmony with his wife’s, filled the variety theatres from the London Palladium to all points of the United Kingdom.

They were the epitomé of glamour and romance. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was always in immaculate evening attire, she in a range of crinoline gowns, some designed by Norman Hartnell. Their act was interspersed with what seemed like off-the-cuff banter, but every word and move was meticulously planned, and the lighting plot carefully worked out for the most telling impact.

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Apart from the usual operatic arias and musical comedy duets, Anne and Webster sang and recorded a number of ballads, arranged as duets, and an interesting and difficult arrangement of Chopin’s famous Nocturne in C sharp minor, arranged by Maurice Besley. As often as not Webster would arrange the duet part himself if none had been written.

 

Jean Collen  COPYRIGHT 2005

Updated April 2019.
 

 
Join: The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook.
 

Paddy Prior and Webster
Anne and Webster (1957)

WHY THE BOOTHS MOVED TO SOUTH AFRICA IN 1956.

From the moment Webster and Anne started singing together regularly, they were very popular with the public. Few remembered Webster’s acrimonious divorce from Paddy Prior in 1938 when Anne had been named as the co-respondent. The public was happy to accept the glamorous couple who sang beautiful songs and duets together so melodiously and with such feeling as glamorous sweethearts in song. Unlike ordinary couples whose marriages settled down after a year or two, Anne and Webster’s marriage was seen as one filled with the constant romance and passion of a permanent honeymoon.

Anne and Webster 1938

Anne and Webster before their marriage. (1938)

When they took their act to the Variety circuit in 1940 Webster still managed to carry on singing at more serious concerts and in oratorio, but it was probably at this time that people began to regard him as a “romantic duettist” instead of one of the “elect” and one of the finest British tenors of the century as he had been regarded in the thirties. During this time they made their name on the stage in productions of The Vagabond King, Sweet Yesterday and And So to Bed, and in several films.

Webster as Francois Villon in The Vagabond King (1943)

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The Laughing Lady film in 1946 with music by Hans May was a starring vehicle for them both as singers and actors although it was not generally liked by critics. They did many concerts for the impresario, Harold Fielding and must have known every place in Britain like the back of their hands as they went from place to place to fulfill engagements.

Their concert tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948 was very successful indeed, although some of the Australian critics did not always give them good reviews. I sometimes wonder whether their glamorous stage act, complete with crinolines, sparkling jewellery, and gardenias in the buttonhole of Webster’s immaculate evening dress did not become slightly tedious to them after a while. They had a limited repertoire – possibly a repertoire demanded by their many fans who did not want to hear any new or innovative material. 

In 1952 their recording contract with HMV was cancelled and although they made several recordings for Decca this did not result in a steady stream of recording dates. By the fifties Harold Fielding was enlarging the number of performers he employed for his concerts; post-war audience preferred American performers on the stage of the London Palladium, and as the fifties progressed rock ‘n roll was appealing to younger audiences.

Through no fault of their own, they received a very large tax demand for unpaid American recording royalties which Webster could not afford to pay at that time. He told me that he had been foolish and should have offered to pay the tax off gradually, but because he had flatly refused to pay, there was talk of the Inland Revenue seizing their property. The satirical revue Airs on a Shoestring made a mockery of their act, and of Hiawatha, the work with which Webster was closely associated. Perhaps that was the last straw for them.

30 April 1953 Airs on a shoestring

They had made a successful short tour of the Cape Province of South Africa in November of 1955 and although they were not short of work in the UK they decided to move to that country in July of 1956.

JEAN COLLEN –  13 OCTOBER 2018.

 

WILLIAM PARSONS – BARITONE

Several years ago I heard from Maria Ray, the niece of the eminent baritone, William Parsons. I was interested to find out that he had appeared with Webster in various oratorios.

Photo of William Parsons, courtesy of Maria Ray.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

References to William Parsons in my book, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, compiled by Jean Collen

17 January 1935 – Queen’s Hall, London. Royal Philharmonic Concert: Choral Symphony (Beethoven) Janet Hamilton-Smith, Margaret  McArthur, Webster Booth, William Parsons and the BBC Chorus, conducted by Felix Weingartner. Felix Weingartner by Hilda Wienerb

The Ninth Symphony (Beethoven) – The second part of the season will declare itself open on Thursday when symphony concerts are resumed at the Queen’s Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Society will give a performance of the Ninth Symphony, conducted by Dr Weingartner. The soloists at the Philharmonic concert are Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons; Dr Weingartner will conduct the BBC chorus and will preface the Ninth Symphony with Beethoven’s first.

The Times – Royal Philharmonic Society The Ninth Symphony. To hear the First and the Ninth Symphonies in one programme is an inspiration. If one man’s mind could increase its span in 25 years to the extent shown by a comparison of the two finales, then no one need despair. The resemblance in kind is as striking as the difference in degree, in spite of the fact that Beethoven employed a chorus in the late work and used but a modest Mozartian orchestra in the early. In No. I the violins grope, only much more briefly, for their theme just as the violoncellos do more searchingly in No. 9. And whereas a little scholarly ingenuity might demonstrate that the symphonic movement of No. 1 is directly descended from the ensemble of Italian Opera Buffa, we have it on Wagner’s authority that the choral variations of No. 9 lead back into music-drama. But it is more fitting now to abandon these speculations and to pay tribute to a very great, though not perhaps a flawless, performance of the two symphonies at Queen’s Hall last night under Dr. Weingartner. 

The flaws need not be specified beyond questioning the orchestral balance – the choir was conspicuously good in this respect: thus the drummer, using a hand stick, gave an admirably crisp rhythm, but too prominent a sound, while in the slow movement the horns seemed unduly retiring. Dr. Weingartner’s tempo for the trio of the scherzo did not seem too quick but was actually slightly out of proportion to the rest of the movement. But by a similar discrepancy in the choral movement he ingeniously made it possible for the choir to sing all their notes – and sing them they did – so giving the impression of speed without hurry. Another pleasing subtlety of tempo was to be observed in the Minuet of the first symphony, when at the reprise there was just the slightest increase in tension.

The soloists had the great merit of making a quartet, though Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith must be singled out for a special word of praise because she had the right kind of tone, at once clear and rich, and so used her soprano voice that every note told without effort: Mr. Webster Booth, the tenor, and Miss Margaret McArthur equally proved their ability to brush aside all the difficulties of Beethoven’s vocal writing. Mr. William Parsons only just failed to do so in the opening recitative, which if not technically is dramatically exacting – elsewhere he was admirable. The B.B.C. Chorus, fresh from a performance of the same work at the Promenades last week, were worthy of all praise. It was therefore a singularly homogenous and inspiring performance. And the mighty oak looked all the nobler for having the acorn side by side with it.

19 January 1935 – Western Morning News. Royal Philharmonic Concert – the Ninth Symphony. The orchestral playing left nothing to be desired and the choral singing was first class. The BBC Chorus having sung the work under Sir Henry Wood last week was well primed. The quartet consisted of Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons – a young team whose names are not very familiar to us, but whose engagement was well justified. The enthusiasm at the end was tremendous, and Dr Weingartner was presented with a laurel wreath.

February 1935 – Musical Times. Royal Philharmonic Society. The concert that reopened the season on January 17 was almost a great one, but not quite, because Doctor Weingartner and the orchestra were not on ideally intimate terms in Beethoven’s first and ninth symphonies. (Unless memory is at sea this was the first time that the London Philharmonic Orchestra as a whole had played either of these works). What Weingartner did to the symphonies was, however, great interpretation. He rose to consummate mastery in the choral movement, which he made one and inevitable.

The BBC Chorus, either inspiring or inspired by the conductor, or more probably both, sang with surpassing brilliance. In the solo quartet Mr William Parsons was joined by three less-known singers on the principle, no doubt, that the great ones are wasted on such music and so short a duty. Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, and Mr Webster Booth demonstrated that the less-known are also less likely to reduce Beethoven to farce by an ensemble of wobbles.

23 November 1936 – Leeds – Week of Choral Concerts. The week will be a full one from the point of view of choral concerts. Tomorrow Bach’s Mass in B minor will be sung by Leeds Philharmonic Society with Elsie Suddaby, Astra Desmond, Steuart Wilson and
William Parsons for principals, Sir Edward Bairstow conducting. On Wednesday, Bradford Old Choral Society, conducted by Mr Wilfred Knight, will sing Handel’s Acis
and Galatea, and Elgar’s Banner of St George in a miscellaneous programme shared by Olive Groves, Webster Booth and Bernard Ross…

15 December 1936 – Messiah, Albert Hall, Nottingham.
Nottingham Harmonic Society, Lilian Stiles-Allen (soprano), Mary Jarred (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), William Parsons (bass) conducted by Leslie Heward.

December 1936 Messiah

Memories of Hiawatha at the Royal Albert Hall.

22 December 1941 – Yorkshire Post Eastbrook Hall was again filled to capacity on Saturday, when the Bradford Festival Choral Society, assisted by the Northern Philharmonic Orchestra, gave its  annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Two changes had been made in the artists since the names were first announced. Perhaps the most important was the change in conductor, Mr Roy Henderson taking the place of Dr Malcolm Sargent, who was conducting the Royal Choral Society in London.

Mr Henderson, who was making his first appearance in Bradford as conductor, created a distinctly favourable impression. Obviously full of energy and enthusiasm himself, he showed that he was able to convey his feelings to the members of the chorus, who responded nobly to his many exacting demands. All the choral numbers were excellently sung, some fine climaxes being achieved. The rehearsals evidently bore fruit, for the singers were replicas of the conductor, singing with intelligence, while the diction throughout was exceptionally good.

Occasionally, Mr Henderson appeared to allow enthusiasm to get the better of him and at such times the speeds tended to be quicker than those to which we are accustomed, but audience as well as singers enjoyed the thrill of it all.

The four solo artists reached a consistently high level. Miss Joan Cross used her flexible voice exceedingly well in Rejoice Greatly, while her legato singing in Come Unto Him was very effective. Miss Muriel Gale’s rich full-toned voice was heard to great advantage especially in O, Thou That Tellest and He Shall Feed His Flock. Mr Walter Widdop, (who took the place of Mr Webster Booth) proved to be a great favourite. His opening solos were somewhat marred because Mr Henderson did not make the accompaniments flexible enough; but the latter items were very enjoyable. Mr William Parsons, who had the assistance of Mr John Paley in The Trumpet Shall Soundshowed his dramatic power, especially in The People that Walked in Darkness.

Mr H.S. Hurst was at the organ, of which instrument much more frequent use might have been made for its tone to act as a contrast to that of the orchestra.

30 December 1939, Plymouth Guildhall 

30 December 1939

18 August 1941 Dartington Hall Acis and Galatea

18 August 1941 Acis and Galatea Parsons Dartington Hall

7 December 1943 – Yorkshire Post – Huddersfield Choral Society.

Huddersfield Choral Society are to perform Handel’s Messiah at Blackpool Opera House on January 2. Dr Malcolm Sargent will conduct the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the principals will include Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons.
Anne Ziegler was the soprano soloist on this occasion.

2 January 1944 – Messiah. 2.30pm New Opera House, Blackpool. Festival performance in aid of the Mayor’s Services Welfare Fund. Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth, William Parsons, with Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Ena Baga at the organ) conducted by Dr Malcolm Sargent

4 January 1944 – Yorkshire Post Huddersfield Choir at Blackpool Two hundred and forty members of the Huddersfield Choral Society visited Blackpool on Sunday to give what proved to be a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah. An audience of more than 3,000 which packed the New Opera House in the Winter Gardens showed great enthusiasm at the close and gave the choir, the Liverpool  Philharmonic Orchestra, the principals, Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons and the conductor, Dr Malcolm Sargent, an ovation. The choir were in best voice and under Dr Sargent’s inspiring leadership provided a most artistic performance.

After the performance, the Mayor of Blackpool (Councillor J. Parkinson) and Dr Sargent warmly supported a suggestion voiced by Mr Frank Netherwood, the president of the Society that the success of the society’s first appearance in Blackpool should lead to further visits.

29 October 1947 Albert Herring (Britten)

29 October 1947 Albert Herring WP

 

Here are William Parsons and Thea Phillips singing “Waltzes from Vienna”.

GRAND OPERA AND SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR

Webster Booth had always hoped to sing in Grand Opera despite Malcolm Sargent’s advice that unless he had a private income it would be best to leave opera alone. In 1938 he was asked by Sir Thomas Beecham to go to Covent Garden and sing for him. By that time he was already an established singer on the radio, on record,  in oratorio and lighter forms of entertainment and was rather affronted that he should have to audition at all. Sir Thomas and Lady Emerald Cunard were seated in the middle of the empty auditorium and chatted to one another while he sang Your Tiny Hand is Frozen from La Bohème and The Flower Song from Carmen. To add insult to injury Sir Thomas offered him two very small parts – one in The Magic Flute, the other as the tenor singer in Rosenkavalier at the princely sum of £10 per performance and nothing for rehearsals.

Unlike Sir Thomas’s disdainful attitude towards Webster, Erich Kleiber, who was conducting Der Rosenkavalier was most impressed with his voice and congratulated him on his performance of the aria before the whole company. It was during the first performance of Rosenkavalier that the famous soprano, Lotte Lehmann, who was playing the role of the Marschallein, stopped singing in the middle of the performance and walked off the stage. She had been informed before the performance that her husband had been arrested by the Nazis.



Early in 1939, Webster appeared in Rosenkavalier at Sadler’s Wells and accepted no fee. Miss Lilian Baylis could only afford to pay him £4 per performance. Webster wrote in his autobiography, Duet: “I laughed and replied, “Don’t bother with the £4. I’ll sing four performances for you anyway!”

 

Although Webster was offered the part of Lohengrin and other roles at Covent Garden in 1951 during the Festival of Britain, he turned it down.  People often question why he “wasted so much time” singing duets in Variety, but one of the reasons he did this was because Variety paid a great deal more than Opera and required far less hard work. 
 
September 1 2012 is the
centenary of the death of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who died
at the early age of 37 on September 1 1912. Despite his early death he
left a legacy of fine music behind him. I have many of his piano solos
in my possession and get much pleasure in playing them.


Webster Booth was associated with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor because of his many appearances in Hiawatha,
Coleridge-Taylor’s best known and most popular work. He made his first appearance in this work at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1936 with Harold Williams and others
and made another appearance in Hiawatha in June 1937, shortly before he sailed for New York the following month.


Before the war, the work was presented in full native-American costume and
here is Webster in his costume below. Dr Malcolm Sargent (as he was
then) conducted the work and continued to present it with the Royal
Choral Society and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra many times.


Webster appeared in many other performances of Hiawatha, including one presented at Kenilworth Castle in  1952. I have included a few of the advertisements below:

Hiawatha at Kenilworth Castle 1952

Webster Booth appeared in the Jubilee concert of  Hiawatha to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the concert which was first presented in March 1900. 

 
May 1951. Croydon, Davis Theatre.
As part of the Festival of Britain celebrations a concert mainly devoted to the works of local composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was held in the Davis Theatre on 31 May 1951, part of a series of concerts sponsored by Croydon Corporation for the Festival. Parts One and Two of Hiawatha were presented by the Croydon Philharmonic Society, conducted by Alan J. Kirby. Gwen Catley, Webster Booth and Dennis Noble were the soloists. 
.
14 Ju

 

 
 
Although
the planned presentation of Hiawatha in 1954 was called off at the last
minute because of poor ticket sales, Sir Malcolm Sargent asked that
Webster should be the soloist in the work at his sixtieth birthday
concert on 29 April 1955 at the Royal Festival Hall, where his fellow
soloists were Jennifer Vyvian and Australian baritone John Cameron.
Perhaps because the performance was associated with Sir Malcolm’s
birthday, tickets were in great demand.
 
Here is a photograph from the defunct magazine, Music and Musicians where Webster and Anne are speaking to John Cameron after the performance.
 
His last performance in the work was at the Promenade Concert in August 1955, where he also sang the song cycle To Julia by Roger Quilter.
 

In July 1956 he and Anne Ziegler moved to Johannesburg South Africa. He never sang in another performance of this work.

Webster Booth recorded several songs by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor  below:

Onaway, Awake, Beloved!

Eleanore

Unmindful of the Roses/Life and Death

Jean Collen 2012 Updated May 2017

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