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

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – DECEMBER 1961

Webster comes in with Lemon, wearing his white sports jacket and they decide to hear the two aspirants. Peter goes in first and I talk to Lucille Ackerman. Peter is accepted and will start on 6 January. Lucille sings Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. She has a fantastic voice. She is 19. All her family arrive and intend to sit and talk about the glories of Lucille. However, Anne remembers me and tells them that she’ll have to ask them to go as, “The poor child has been waiting an hour for her lesson.”

1 December – Work. At night have rather dull evening at guild but I have to go because of playing the hymns. I tell everyone about the SABC choir and act vivaciously!

2 December – Work in the morning. Have a quiet afternoon. Spargos, Strattons and Fred Shaw visit at night and we have fun. I sing solos, and duets with Mr Stratton.

3 December – Sunday school. Diamonds come in the afternoon and have tea in the manse at night.

4 December – Work. At night I go to the SABC and we have a lovely rehearsal. I look around for Ruth Ormond but don’t think she’s here.

5 December – Go for music lesson and meet Gill V. there. Poor Mrs S is very cut up about the death of her mother.

7 December Work. Have lunch with mum in Ansteys. Go to studio after work and Webster answers the door looking fit. Nellie is as bad as ever.

When I go in I ask Webster how he enjoyed Durban and PE. He says he had a wonderful time but was furious that the SABC didn’t broadcast The Dream or Messiah but they put on an Afrikaans Messiah on Sunday which was grim and very poorly done. Handel must have been turning in his grave, says he. “That damned Anton Hartman,” he adds.

I make tea for myself and pay Anne before starting on exercises and scales. In the middle of the vocalisation exercise the phone rings. It is Mum to tell me to meet Dad outside the studio to get a lift home. It is the first time I am in their little office and see all the playbills with their names 50” high and wide!

We go on with the songs and they cannot decide where the grace note in Polly Oliver should go so they take the book home to check up on it.

We do My Mother.. and Webster sings it with me to get the accompaniment right. His singing is more wonderful than ever. Imagine singing with the best tenor in the world (which is what I know he is!)

I depart with Webster in the lift. He moans at me about the SABC not broadcasting the PE oratorios. He says Anton Hartman put his own wife into the Afrikaans Messiah and the bass was putrid with a limited range. At least Gary Allighan stuck up for him.

He stands with me in Pritchard street for a little while and asks if I’ll be all right. I insist I shall so he says goodbye and walks purposefully off to fetch his car. While I’m waiting for Dad Anne comes down and we talk about how lackadaisical the choir is. She decides it’s going to rain so she dashes to the other side of the road. Dad arrives on the other side too so I wave at her and depart.

Go to SABC choir and we record the carol concert for Christmas day. There is a huge crowd there, including Annie Kossman, leader of the orchestra. I sit near Gill V and we sing for all our worth. A photographer takes a number of photographs and Johan conducts beautifully and all is glorious.

At our tea break I look around for Ruth O. See a likely-looking girl – small with deep blue eyes. However, when I go out, all I can do is stare at her and she stares at me. She is sitting all by herself in the foyer. I suffer Gill, Mrs Viljoen, and Rita Oosthuisen and then, when I go back into the studio, I decide to take the bull by the horns.

I go over to her and say, “Are you Ruth Ormond?” She says, yes, she is. I tell her that I’m a pupil of Webster and Anne and I believe she is too. She is quite delighted and tells me that Anne told her about me, saying I was tall and dark and she was very, very fond of me indeed. I tell Ruth what Anne said about her. Ruth says, “I’ll bet she said I was shy-looking.” I deny this, although Anne said she was very intense. She tells me that she plays the piano as well but doesn’t play very well and we both agree that singing is wonderful and we love it more than anything but the piano is a means to an end. She’s been learning with the Booths for a year and a half. We agree too that they are both pets and good teachers, and we talk about him singing in PE.

She is a perfectly lovely girl and terrific fun but she seems a little lonely. She has the same enthusiasm as Roselle but she is quieter. I’m so glad I’ve met her and I’m sure we will be friends.

Return to my place and we manage to finish recording. There’s a party on Monday. Says Johan, “Tea or coffee will be served in the canteen.” There is hollow laughter all round. I hope Ruth goes.

8 December – Work. Listen to tape-recording of Webster’s programme – Kathleen F, Isobel B, Laurence Tibbet, Webster and Anne singing Porgy and Bess, and something specially written for them by Harry Parr-Davies, and Webster singing Give and Forgive.

9 December – Work for the morning and leave about 11.30am. The first person I meet in Pritchard Street is Gill V. She says she’s exhausted after teaching all morning. “Let’s go and have a cold drink.” She takes me into a coffee bar in the arcade between Pritchard and Kerk and we have cokes.

She emotes about how terribly we sang on Thursday and how patient, sweet and kind Johan is. It’ll probably turn out beautifully but we’ll know it isn’t as good as all that. I promise to go to the SABC party on Monday night.

Practise at night. My Mother is coming along after Webster has given me a few ideas about it.

10 December – Go to sing in a combined choral festival of carols at City Hall. There are 300 singers but they don’t sound nearly as good as the SABC choir.

Dora Sowden comes in for a while but soon disappears. During the tea break I meet Elna Hansen who was with me in Lace on Her Petticoat in 1958. She is going to teach ballet next year.

11 December – Go to SABC at night. We all go up to SABC canteen and have tables of eats and tea and coffee. Johan comes in and we sing For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. He makes a little speech and says he is very happy with us as a choir and now we can all start eating.

Gill and I talk about music. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like Webster for some reason or other. I say he is a pet and she says nothing further. We go to the studio opposite Springbok Radio to hear our recording. It is not at all bad.

13 December –Feel a bit under the weather at work today. I ask mum to excuse me from piano. I manage to go to table tennis at night and Peter tells me he phoned Webster Booth and has made an arrangement to go to see them.

14 December –. Webster answers the door and tells me to take a cup of tea and I do this while Nellie sings. She wants to sing The Holy City and Webster sings this for her most beautifully. After Nellie’s lesson he goes to put 3d in the meter “so that I won’t be had up,” he tells me.

Anne tells me that the verse with the grace note in Polly Oliver is left out so we can forget about it. She says Ruth told her that she had met me and I say how sweet I thought her.

Webster comes in and sits on the chair opposite the piano while I sing. He says that I’m getting into a bad habit of standing sideways over the piano instead of behind it!

We do My Mother which I mustn’t drag.

After the lesson I ask if they had a call from Peter. I suggest that I could give up ten minutes of my lesson next week if he’d like to audition him then. Anne says that Nellie isn’t coming next week so I could come earlier and Peter can have the audition at 5.20. I say that Peter is very nervous and will be glad to get the audition over before Christmas. Webster says, “Good Lord! How can anyone be nervous of me?” I tell them that he’s studying to be a minister. Anne says, “Now tell him to make sure to come ’cause I’ve got his name written down.’

When I get home I phone Peter and he is thrilled about the arrangement.

Listen to Webster at night. He starts with The Ballad of Diss by Vaughan Williams. He says he was a great friend of Vaughan Williams (who looked more like a farmer than a musician) and that Anne’s uncle was the rector of Diss for many years.

Next he plays his own recording of The Little Road to Bethlehem which makes me cry. He then plays Tales of Hoffman featuring Lili Pons and Richard Tauber. He plays their own duet, Take the Sun. He says that since the copyright on Gilbert’s words has fallen away he has been asked to give a series on G and S on the radio from the beginning of next year.

17 December Sunday school. Peter worries about suitable music so I ask him to come and practise in the afternoon. He sings I’ll Walk Beside You. His voice is sweet enough but rather unusual. He is nervous about singing to Webster. Who wouldn’t be?

18 December – Work hard and have lunch at Ansteys with mum. Our photo is in the SABC bulletin. Choir looks like specks on the horizon. I can see myself on the right-hand side but poor Ruth (on the opposite side) is cut right out of the picture altogether.

20 December – Work hard and long. Go to music in the afternoon and work reasonably well at piano. See Gill and wish her a happy holiday. At night, because of the pressure of work, I get mum to phone the Booths to see if I can go up at a quarter past five with Peter and have lesson afterwards.

Go to party at Betty Johnson’s at night and have a lovely time. Dance mainly with Peter. Come home in the wee small hours of the morning.

21 December – Work hard. Meet Peter outside the studio building. He looks a wee bit nervous. Go up and Anne is wearing a gorgeous pink dress with white spots. I introduce him and she is charming and asks us to have a seat. She is teaching another nice quiet girl with a good soprano voice. When she goes Anne tells us that she’d like Peter to have his audition when Webster comes so I can start on my lesson and go on after the other girl and Peter have their auditions.

I go in and Anne offers me tea which I accept. I have tea with Anne and say how tired I am with the Christmas rush. We start on scales and she takes me over to the mirror and makes me drop my jaw down more. Webster comes in with Lemon, wearing his white sports jacket and they decide to hear the two aspirants. Peter goes in first and I talk to Lucille Ackerman. Peter is accepted and will start on 6 January. Lucille sings Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. She has a fantastic voice. She is 19. All her family arrive and intend to sit and talk about the glories of Lucille. However, Anne remembers me and tells them that she’ll have to ask them to go as, “The poor child has been waiting an hour for her lesson.”

I go in and say what a wonderful voice Lucille has. Webster says, “Yes, but if she isn’t careful, she’ll strain it and lose it altogether.”

Anne says, “Jean went to a party last night and didn’t get to bed at all and then she had to work hard today!”

Webster asks, “Are you busy?” and I enlarge on the subject. We go through My Mother a few times, also Bedford May Day Carol and Polly Oliver. He says I can borrow his recording of the latter by Jennifer Vyvyan so that I can get the hang of the acting part of it. I wish them a happy Christmas. Webster wishes me one back and Anne thanks me for my card and comes with me to the door. She wishes me a happy Christmas and kisses me, saying, “God bless you.” When I get out of the studio my eyes fill with tears – she is a darling.

Get Elna on the bus – if I hadn’t had someone to talk to I would have sat howling with emotion! She tells me she met someone at dancing who is staying with Webster and Anne at the moment. She says she adores dancing and couldn’t live without it. We talk in the same strain.

Am now listening and recording Webster’s lovely Christmas programme Next week is the last in the series. How shall I bear it to end?

22 December – Work fairly hard. We go to the Kensington Sanitorium to sing carols with the Guild. After that, we come down to my house and have tea, song, and music.

23 December – Am lucky enough to have the day off. I do some last minute shopping and meet Cressola in John Orrs, also Joy Bodes.

See On the Double with Danny Kaye in the afternoon.

25 December – Go to church with family and everyone kisses everyone else! We go to Diamonds in the afternoon and then come home to listen to SABC choir broadcast. It is really lovely – far better than I expected. Listen to Scrooge at night – very enjoyable Christmas day.

6.15pm Carols for Christmas Night, The SABC Studio Orchestra, Conductor: Johan van der Merwe, with the SABC Choir in a programme of Carols, arranged by Spruhan Kennedy.

Wassail song (trad), O Little Town of Bethlehem (Trad), Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing (Trad), The Cradle (Kennedy), Pat-a-Pan (Trad), I saw three ships come sailing by (Trad), The Son of God (Kennedy), Adeste Fideles (Trad), Pastoral Symphony (Handel)

27 December Work again like mad but get off in time to go to Mrs S for lesson. Gill is there and we discuss broadcast in blasé tones.

Go to table tennis and to Doreen Craig’s for tea afterwards. Peter brings me home.

28 December Work like mad today. Have lunch with mum. In the afternoon I am so busy that I doubt whether I’ll be able to get to my lesson. I phone and Webster answers – loud, loud, “Helloooo!” Anyway, when he hears it’s me he says, “Oh, hello, Jean,” pretty normally. I’m going up at 5.15 but manage to get away in time for my normal lesson. Lemon is there. Nellie starts singing Ye Banks and Braes and Lemon barks along, only to be scolded by Webster.

“Come in, honey,” says Anne. I go in and complain bitterly about work. She is charmingly sympathetic, shoves a biscuit down my throat and orders Webster to make tea.

She talks to me about Peter and says she doesn’t think she’s deaf but when anyone talks quickly with their mouth shut she can’t hear a word they say! She says that he need foster no illusions about his voice. It is very light and at best will only be moderately good. Anne says she loves my hair in a band, “Don’t you, Boo?” We talk about Christmas. She said it was parties all the way. Her maid is on holiday so they have to cook for themselves. Webster comes in with tea and says, “Don’t you two plan to do any work today?”

We start on My Mother and it goes quite well. He tells me to sing through the rests more and watch the “er” vowels and spread them – the only vowel I can spread. He says I must have more facial expression, for heaven’s sake! He stands and stares at me and I feel self-conscious and he knows it!

They sing the May Day carol together. He sings beautifully. Anne still has a tremor in her voice. She says, “The maid got a holiday because I wasn’t in a show this year.”

We work through everything and all goes quite well – considering. Bill Perry doesn’t come but apparently he goes on paying all the same.

I go down with Webster after wishing Anne a happy new year. He tells me he’s so tired he can hardly stand up and his legs are sore. When we’re in the lift I say, ”Tonight is your last programme, Webster.” He says, “Oh yes. I’m sorry it’s ending. I’ve enjoyed the series.” and I say, “So have I. I’ve heard every single programme.” He looks quite impressed, and then remarks, “I haven’t!” He tells me that he got a letter from Douglas Fuchs, the regional director, saying how much he and his wife had enjoyed the programme. He says he’s looking forward to the G and S programme although he doesn’t know if he’s approaching it in the right way, but if he isn’t he can always revise it. We part in Pritchard Street – he going one way, me the other. He’s such a pet.

At night his programme is glorious. He plays something by the Huddersfield Choral Society, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth by Elsie Morison. I’ve recorded everything so I’m not going into great detail. There are two records by Webster and Now is the Hour – it makes me howl.

31 December – Well, this is the end of another year. What have I achieved?

Passed matric although it must be classed as an extra from 1960.

Learnt shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. Started work and it’s probably good to know that I’m capable of doing a hard day’s work!

Learnt the rudiments of singing. I can keep my tongue flat now and I have a far better idea of how to sing than I did a year ago.

Learnt much about music – mainly from Webster’s radio programme I only knew about 2 pieces from the Messiah before. Now I know the entire work!

Webster and Anne have inspired me to do various things

I sang my first solo and was accepted into the SABC choir.

What would I like to achieve in the new year?

Pass my singing and piano exams and, at least, be able to be good enough to teach music for a living.

Sing like a bird!

I’d like to make real friends with Ruth Ormond and others in the choir.

I wish I had fewer inhibitions. Let me be able to smile when I sing.

I’d like to be a nicer person. I’ve made many mistakes, been bitter and hard at times, but the new year holds a wealth of opportunities!

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARY – SEPTEMBER 1961

Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne – the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!

5 September – Have lunch with mum. Opening night of The Amorous Prawn. Peter phones at night.

6 September – Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my  playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne –  the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!

Oliver Walker’s crit in the Star is a dream as far as Webster is concerned. He says that he has a wonderful sense of timing.

We go to the Strattons at night and are showered with Ann’s handiwork made in connection with the Teachers’ Training College.

Anne and Leslie Green at The Amorous Prawn First Night, September 1961

Article about Mabel Fenney – back in South Africa on a visit from Berlin.

Mabel Fenney back in South Africa on holiday. Returning to Berlin.

7 September – Go into town in the afternoon and book for The Amorous Prawn matinee next Saturday. Go up to Webster and Anne and Webster answers the door as large as life and in quite a gay mood.

My friend Dell is in having lesson once more singing Mimi’s aria from La Bohème and breathing badly. Anne gives her usual breathing lecture and makes her practise. Dell says, somewhat sarcastically, “I had better take up swimming to improve my breathing.” Anne says that the area around her own ribs is quite hard which is unusual for a woman and also very large. She used to be quite tiny when she was young – 89,000 years ago – but intercostal breathing developed her. She goes on about how healthy it is to breathe properly and yesterday morning after Webster’s first night when they both felt like hell, breathing did them good.

I go in and pay. Webster asks if I’d like some tea and I say I would love a cup. Anne shouts through – “Boo – will you bring the biscuits, darling?” She asks if I’m going to see him in his play and I say, “Yes. I booked today for next Saturday’s matinee.”

Anne says, “Oh, sweet! It’s really a wonderful play. The first night was one of the best I’ve been to – the audience laughed right through the whole three hours. Being British, I think you’ll really enjoy it.” I say that the crits were wonderful and she agrees emphatically. Webster says I mustn’t expect to see him till about 5 o’clock. He’s actually very modest about the whole thing.

We start on scales and she makes me smile into a little mirror. I get it right but my cheeks tremble for some reason. She, of course, has to notice this.”

She corrects the Delilah vowels – I tell her that she’ll have to excuse it because I was ill at the weekend when I did it. She is all sympathy and finds out that I had a stomach chill. Most of the vowels are right. She tests them as she goes through it and says, “This would sound funny on the tape.”

When we do the aria they are both very happy about it and say that there is an improvement. Webster goes to put 6d in the meter. She says the aria has come on very nicely and next week we must do something about the consonants.

When we have tea and Anne has a biscuit, she says, “I shouldn’t have this really. I’m getting so fat!” I almost choke with derisive laughter! Thankfully, I don’t say the inevitable, “Oh, nonsense, Anne. Look at me!”

I happen to be wearing a copper bracelet for it matches the clip in my hair. Anne says she hopes I’m not suffering from rheumatism. We have a good laugh about it.

I meet Webster at the bottom of the stairs and say goodbye to him.

I go to choir at night and we work through anthem which is lovely – I hope they do it properly on Sunday.

Listen to Webster at night. He presents a really charming programme. He starts with Elijah and says that it’s popular because it’s tuneful music and he thinks that, first and foremost, music should be tuneful. He plays a duet sung by Isobel Baillie and Gladys Ripley, conducted by Sir Malcolm. Next, he plays his own recording If, With All Your Hearts, with Warwick Braithwaite conducting, next Is Not His Word Like a Fire? By Harold Williams. He plays three arias from the Magic Flute, more from Gypsy Baron and ends with Nutcracker suite.

9 September In the Star there is a gorgeous picture of an almost aristocratic-looking Anne with Mr Leslie Green at first night of Amorous Prawn.

10 September Sunday Times crit by James Ambrose Brown is also excellent and says much the same about Webster – suave, man of the world. Very nice.

Mum and I go with the Diamonds to Hartebeespoort dam and we skirt Craighall Park. I like it very much – it isn’t anything like Houghton but just nice, and in-between and quite modern.

12 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum. We decide that as I am presumably going to start work soon I should go today and see Anne to arrange a time for my lessons.

She phones and Webster answers and tells him that it is Mrs Campbell, Jean’s mother. He says, “Oh yes, how d’ye do?” Mum asks to speak to Anne and he says, “Who?” and eventually obliges with Anne who says I can come at half past one.

I go up to the studio. Webster answers the door. He opens door, looks at me and says in outraged manner, “What the dickens are you doing here?” I tell him that I have an appointment at half past one and he looks relieved and tells me to have a seat for a few minutes. There is a big bass singing very loudly. Hear Webster cursing the kettle – “My God, this kettle’s got too damn hot!”

Anne comes in to see me, dressed in tight skirt and dark over-blouse. Her hair is almost straight but attractive as always. She goes through her appointment book while big bass continues to sing. We decide on Friday at 5.30 for next week. She asks, “Are you glad you’re starting work?” I say, “Not particularly. I’ve enjoyed doing nothing!”

13 September – Go for piano lesson in afternoon. I feel more at home with Mrs S now.

14 September – Go to Anne in afternoon. She answers the door looking glorious in a very low-cut summer dress. A girl is singing Hello, Young Lovers – not very well. Anne says, “That must be the Irish in you.” The girl says quite vehemently that there is no Irish blood in her. Anne says, “Oh, surely – with a name like Maureen!”

Maureen departs I get a surprise when I see that it is Maureen Schneider who was at college with me.

Anne and I have discussion about times and come to reasonably satisfactory arrangements. Webster presents me with the Samson and Delilah record with a really seductive picture on the cover. Anne says we should listen to it here first so while Webster sets up the record we start on scales. She makes me go to the mirror to see that I drop my jaw right down and then she comes over and puts her arm round me and we do it together. She says that my scales are really lovely.

Webster plays the aria and says I have in my own voice all the power and quality of Risé Stevens if I would project and bring it forward and work. He wants to hear me singing with as much richness as Risé Stevens next week. I have a wonderful voice and I must use it. I feel quite embarrassed but it must be true – he doesn’t say things without meaning them.

Webster makes tea and I sing the aria – well, I think. Webster goes to put 3d in the meter. Anne says she doesn’t think I’m too young to sing Delilah because she had a friend, Nancy Evans and she sang it at 16. She tells me that when she was 17 she joined a women’s choir of 24 voices and received more training in it than anywhere else.

I tell her that I know Maureen and Anne says she seems a sweet girl but hasn’t got a voice anywhere near mine.

We go on with the aria and it goes well. Webster’s suit arrives and Anne signs for it. Webster is in the kitchen with Roselle who is making a frantic attempt to wash the dishes. I depart with record and the signature of Webster Booth scrawled all over it.

I go to choir and then listen to Webster. Today is the 220th anniversary of Messiah so he plays some of it. It was first produced in Dublin where you can get gorgeous shrimps. Handel discovered that one of the singers – a little man from the North wasn’t singing in the right time. He said to him in broken English, “I zot you zed zat you could seeng at sight?” Replied the man, “Ay, so I did, but not at first sight!” His accents are gorgeous and I have a good laugh. He plays the chorus, The Glory of the Lord.

At the opening ladies were requested not to come to the performance wearing hoops. He, himself, has given a recital in the same music hall and he liked it. He plays his own recordings from Messiah and says that this is one of his favourite recordings and one of his best.

He goes on to Madame Butterfly which he says he doesn’t like it very much as it is built around two arias, The Love Duet and One Fine Day.

He goes on to Eldorado by Ralph Trewhela. He says it was originally written for “Anne and myself” for a radio programme but because Anne had so many commitments he was “ably partnered by Doris Brasch”.

15 September – Go to guild at night. I give the epilogue which goes very well and everyone congratulates me about it. We practise for Guild Sunday and they can’t manage one of the hymns so Mrs Russell makes the 4 from the choir sing it alone. Once again I practically sing a solo. I have to do the reading and talk about the work.

Peter walks Doreen, and me home and I get home at about 11.

16 September – We go to see Webster’s play and it is really gorgeous. When we arrive the first people I meet are Claire Judelman and Adele Fisher. Claire tells me about European trip and I tell her I’m here to see my singing teacher. First two acts are good and at the beginning of the third act I see a woman slipping in to the theatre and think it is Anne. Webster comes on – handsome, well-dressed, young-looking – perfect for his role. His diction is glorious, his acting well-timed. He makes the play and when he takes his bow I clap until my hands are red and almost blistered.

I see that Anne slips out the minute the lights go up and I am a little disappointed but when we get outside I see her a little way down the road talking to a fat garrulous man. She is wearing the same dress that she wore on Thursday, flat shoes and straight hair. I go up to her and her face lights up and I tell her, “Oh, Anne, I thought your husband was lovely.” She says, “Oh, I’m so glad you liked him. Did you enjoy the play?” I say, “Oh, yes, it was wonderful. Please tell Webster I thought he was lovely.” She asks if I came with my parents and when she sees them she smiles in charming fashion.

I come home – on air. I believe I enjoyed my little talk with Anne better than anything else that afternoon – except Webster of course. I noticed that she also clapped violently for Webster and laughed loudly at all his jokes. She probably didn’t want to be recognised because she did look a little bit of a sight. The blurb in the programme reads:

17 September – Go and have all my little children for Sunday school. Afterwards I go to Betty’s house with my record (Webster’s actually!) and we listen to Risé Stevens. She has a really thick – or should I say, velvety? – voice. I shall never sing like that. I wish Webster didn’t have such confidence in my voice. I have a nice tea with the Johnsons but feel a bit insulted when Mrs J says that she thinks Webster has a far better voice than Anne and she doesn’t like her. People – especially women of her own age seem to dislike Anne but it’s probably because she’s too attractive for them.

At night we have a guild service and I do the reading which goes off well. Afterwards we have a social and see a film about Liverpool delinquents.

18 September – Letter comes from Aunt Nellie in Scotland and she says her stepson and his wife know my teachers and remember them well.  Practise piano and singing.

20 September – Go to piano lesson and all goes well. Mrs S is very affable and we concentrate entirely on the work in hand.

21 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and then go to lunch hour concert. Phillip Levy is the piano soloist. I meet Jill Harry. She doesn’t like her job and is leaving at the end of the month.

Meet Gill Mc D in the street and she is very affable for a change. I go up to studio and Anne arrives late with her hair almost straight. She says that all she seems to do is rush around. She was playing for an exam this morning and what with the Springs eisteddfod she has had “a hell of a week”. She gives me a new exercise to do so that I can get up speed.

She says I must be getting a bit sick of Oh Love so I can start a new song soon. We do Oh Love and on the trill my tongue goes up so I must get it down. We look in the mirror and her tongue goes up too! She says she didn’t pay enough attention to her tongue when she was a girl and now – “at my age I’m having to battle with it. When I’m singing publicly I know that if my tongue goes up my voice will go out of pitch and I’d hate to think that when you get to my age you’ll blame me for not insisting that you keep your tongue down!”

Maureen is ill today so Anne comes down on the lift with me to do some shopping. We talk about the play and I say how lovely I thought it was. She says, “Weren’t you shocked?” I say, no. She says she thought he was very well-cast. “Of course some snobs say that it isn’t real theatre, though, is it? But I think it’s a masterpiece.” She quotes, “Easy to write first and second acts but the third act is the telling one.”  She treats me as though she is genuinely fond of me and she always brings out the best in me.

Go to choir and come home and listen to Webster. He starts with Dream of Gerontius sung by Heddle Nash and Dennis Noble. He says, “It may be of interest to you to know that I am going to sing in The Dream in PE in November.”  He goes on to Tosca. He plays his own recording from it and two other recordings by the Rome opera company.

He goes on to Merrie England and says, “Anne and I have played Bessie and Raleigh innumerable times.” He plays his recording of the English Rose – one of the loveliest recordings I have heard.

Then he says, “I’m going to let you into a secret. When I first took Anne to the recording studios for a test recording, the song which she sang was Bessie’s Waltz song. When she signed her first contract the company gave me the test record and I have it here with me now.” He says after the record is over, “Not bad for a young beginner, is it?”

Next week he is going to play more from The Dream, Der Rosenkavalier and the White Horse Inn.

23 September – Go into town in the morning and meet Ann and Leona preparing to study in Rhodes Park library. I go to Central library and then to John Orrs. When I come out the first people I meet are Webster and Anne and Lemon. Anne is wearing black and white striped dress. She is terribly sweet and Webster gives me big grin. Lemon dashes around madly. What a lovely surprise.  Meet Liz Moir as I’m going down Eloff Street.

27 September – Go for lesson with Mrs S. Her studio houses the Trinity College examinations room. Imagine my surprise when I hear a well-known voice talking to someone, “You’ll have to come and have dinner with us then.” I decide not to greet her in case she thinks I’m taking singing with Mrs S instead of with them.

I have my lesson and Mrs S loads me with work which I shall do. On the bus home I think that I should have greeted Anne for I shall have to mention it to her tomorrow so that she understands that I’m doing piano and not singing with Mrs S.

28 September – I have lunch with Mum and then go to a lovely lunch hour concert – Sonette Heyns sings and Edgar Cree conducts. I meet Jill and Lynn afterwards and we talk for a while.

I kill time in the library for a while and then go up to studio. Anne is wearing a pink striped dress. Middle-aged pupil called Nellie is having a lesson. Webster is playing a recording of his Abide With Me (Liddle) and he says, “I’ll play this for you one Thursday night – say a fortnight from today.

Nellie departs and Webster tells me to go in. Before we start on scales Anne tells me about all the prizes they had won at the Springs eisteddfod. I say, “Were you at the Trinity College examination rooms yesterday?” She says she was, and I tell her I was going for a piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan and I heard her speaking to someone. She said she was speaking to the old examiner from Britain who comes out every year and looks about 90 although he’s only 70!

We start on scales and on one note Webster says, “That was glorious – sing it again!” Over tea I tell Webster rather nervously that I loved his play. He says, “Oh, did you like it? It is fun, isn’t it. Did the others like it?”  I say, “Yes, it was lovely.”

Anne says that on that day after the show she went out to see a particular garden. The roof was off on the Hillman and she was wearing flat shoes so she arrived looking a dreadful sight but didn’t expect to see anyone she knew. When she walked in all her friends were there and she felt terribly embarrassed.

We do Roslein and it is agreed that it is an improvement beyond bounds from the last time I sang it.  We do Hark, Hark, the Lark and she decides that we should do it. We look at it in one of her books which she has had since school days. He says he hates it for he sang too much of it as a choir boy.

I listen to Webster at night and find complete peace listening to him. He plays a few excerpts from The Dream sung by Heddle Nash and Gladys Ripley. He says he found it very difficult at first but then decided it was the loveliest oratorio of the lot.

Then he goes on to The Rosenkavalier which he sang in 1938 at Covent Garden with Erich Kleiber conducting. He tells the story of Lotte Lehmann’s husband being arrested by the Nazis and she was so upset that she was unable to continue with the performance.

He plays some pieces from The White Horse Inn and says that he spent many happy weeks in the Austrian Alps where the musical is set.

Continue reading “EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARY – SEPTEMBER 1961”

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – JUNE 1961

1 June – College again. We have a long day which is rather depressing after the excitement of the week. This is broken by the lunch hour concert conducted by Jeremy Schulman with Annie Kossman as first violin. They play Poet and Peasant overture. Alan Solomon plays a violin solo with orchestra – Symphonie Espagnol. Last – Knightsbridge March by Coates. I meet Pat Eastwood again in the afternoon.

At night Mr Stratton calls for me for choir and this is enjoyable – any chance to sing is nice for me. A young tenor comes to practise songs for a wedding on Saturday – he’s singing This is My Lovely Day. He has a good voice but a face as miserable as death!

Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. First, he plays a quartet from the Verdi Requiem. Webster says, “Verdi seemed to have a grudge against sopranos. In this record the soprano has to hold a note for twenty seconds – a real test of breathing if ever there was one!”

Plays an aria from Judas Maccabeus sung by Isobel Baillie. “Isobel is my ideal singer of oratorio. The way she floats up to the high Bs and B flats is beautiful to hear. It’s a long time since she visited this country, but I know she is well loved by all who saw and heard her.”

He talks about Faust and says, “I met Anne Ziegler during the filming of Faust. Of course, I was Faust and she the heroine, Marguerite. We used to be so tired doing it that it took the make-up man all his time to cover up our tired looks.”

This leads him into Rosemarie and he plays recordings by George Tsotsi, Frederick Harvey and Julie Andrews. The last sings Pretty Things and, says Webster. “Very prettily she sings it too!” He says he knew Julie Andrews as a child prodigy of 12 years old singing coloratura opera arias and making a lot of money for her parents. She lost her beautiful voice but still has a very workable, pleasing voice and acting talent to go with it.

He clears his throat violently, plays the Soldiers’ March and starts reminiscing about Canada and the Rockies and how much he and Anne enjoyed being there when they did a concert performance of Merrie England in Calgary in 1953. He says that a brown bear pulled at Anne’s skirt and that this was a very happy period of their lives. He plays the finale from Faust with himself, Joan Cross and Norman Walker.

Webster says, “Now Anne will join me in singing Indian Love Call. I’ve heard this record before but I shall never cease to wonder at their voices. So long as that record continues to be played they will be remembered for ever. He ends with the overture to Oklahoma! and then it’s “Goodnight until next week!”

2 June – College and thank heaven for the weekend. In the afternoon I buy a Durban paper and there is the advert for their concert in the city hall for over 60s – 25 cents a ticket with limited seating for the general public at 50 cents a ticket!

Go to guild at night. We have a bible quiz which is quite good fun but wouldn’t I rather have been at the Durban concert!

3 June – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and Dad and buy a few songs. Come home and sing and sing. Hear Webster and Anne singing Only a Rose on Freddie Carlé’s programme – feel terribly happy about this – too gorgeous for words!

6 June – College and then to studio. Phone rings and Anne comes through and says to him, “Webster, Salisbury wants you.” Webster speaks to someone in Salisbury and I hear him say, “Well Anne could come up too if necessary.” Anne comes into the kitchen wearing a red hat to cover absolutely straight unset hair, and a black dress and coat with wings for sleeves. She looks a bit corny all round. I go in and pay her and this makes her happy.

Anne and Webster meeting All Blacks at residence of New Zealand ambassador, Lower Houghton.

Anne and Webster 1960

We start on singing and she informs me brightly that I’m going to get a new exercise today to get the tongue flat. “ca, ca, ca” – very exhausting. She says, “Nothing is impossible.” Says Webster, “Once you get this you’ll wonder why you couldn’t do it all along.” We do The Lass and my breathing is dreadful. He says I’m expounding too much energy in diction and does a cruel imitation of this. We start again with breathing and he sings with me and breathes with me as well, and it goes better.

Anne tells me I have some excellent notes but I shall have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to be a contralto, do I mind? “Most singers are so disappointed when they hear that they’re going to be contraltos because they think sopranos are far more romantic.” She says this in her most stagy, catty voice. Webster says that I shall definitely have to start on some contralto oratorio arias. O, Rest in the Lord would be best. I say that I shall copy it into a manuscript book for next week. He looks surprised that I should be able to do this.

I ask how they enjoyed Durban and Anne says theatrically, “It was lovely! Very rushed of course, but we managed to get a dip in the sea on Saturday morning, but it was freezing. Both concerts went marvellously – the second one was in the open air.”

Anne asks me if I can go at 4.30 next Tuesday. Will it be convenient? Oh, yes. Offers me an Eetsummore biscuit but I decline with thanks.  Anne escorts me to door still in red hat, angel-like coat and straight reddish-blonde hair. Today she was in one of her stagy and therefore less attractive moods.

8 June – Go to lunch hour concert – Edgar Cree conducting. The soloist is Cecilia Wessels – a large lady in her fifties looking every inch the typical prima donna of fifty years ago. On the loud notes her voice (dramatic soprano) is excellent but her soft notes tend to crack. Apparently, she is very well known and there is a saying about her, “Don’t say ships; say Wessels!”

At night Mr Stratton takes me to choir and we have reasonable time – all would be so much more pleasant if Mrs Weakley shut up a little.  Come home and listen to Webster while lying in bed. He plays an aria from Messiah sung by American bass-baritone, Donald Gramm – Why Do the Nations?

Webster talks about Bach and says that he and Bach have something in common – they were both educated at a cathedral school – free! But there the resemblance ends. Plays the Cantata for Ascension Day sung by four dear friends – Eva Turner, Kathleen Ferrier and two others whose names I don’t catch.

Next he plays something from Thais by Massenet, and then Don Pasquale. Rossini was in poor health when writing this and died in an asylum. Next come three songs from My Fair Lady sung by Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stan Holloway. He says, “Anne always says that Rex should have been her brother-in-law but her sister married an Edinburgh accountant instead.” Re Julie Andrews, “We’ve known her since she was ten years of age and at one time she trained with Anne’s former singing teacher – Lilian Stiles-Allen who might be known to older listeners as an oratorio soprano.” Stan Holloway: “I’ve known Stan since his concert party days. All three were dear friends of ours.” What a lot of name-dropping in one session! But I’ve always admired the three, especially Rex Harrison for what he did for Kay Kendall.

Lastly, he plays Merry Widow by Mantovani – Manty as he is affectionately known. Lovely programme but none of his records there, I notice.

9 June College. Gail Blue leaves today – she has found a job!

Go to guild at night. George Fleetwood, Claudie, Rose and I go with Kippie to Parkwood guild and after much searching we find the hall and enter late amidst the rendering of a song by an unfortunate young baritone.

A play is presented – The Late Mr Wesley which is very good and the girl turns out to be Wendy Smith from the rink.  Afterwards, we greet each other effusively and she tells me that she’s doing a BSc at varsity and she must come to the rink some time. She is terribly sweet and her acting was lovely. Also meet Lynnette Roberts from college and she is most effusive too. In her effusion she knocks a cup of tea on to George and his suit! Rushes for cloth to wipe it and apologises – effusively!

10 June – Go skating this morning. Neill is there and is gay (when not bragging) and so is Menina full of a long holiday in Durban. Dawn V comes and she too is full of herself. My skating is still the same as it was a year or two ago! Talk on and off and am pestered by Dawn to dance. I have actually lost all lust for skating – the only reason I go there now is for a social occasion.  I hope that my interest in singing will not peter out as my interest for skating has but I have been brought up on music so maybe it’ll win through!

In the afternoon I go with parents to see Tunes of Glory with Alec Guiness, John Mills and Duncan Macrae (Parents knew him in Britain). It is an excellent picture set in Edinburgh and I enjoy it immensely.

11 June Eleven kids in Sunday school today including Michael Ferguson and Mark – what a time I have!  In the afternoon I practise singing and sing in choir at church at night. Mr R’s sermon is excellent and after service Leaders’ representatives are elected – Daddy is elected on to the committee.

12 June – Mother’s birthday (60!) College. In the afternoon I happen to meet Dawn Snyman outside the CNA. She hasn’t changed a bit after a year and is still a darling. She says that Erica Batchelor has gone for a holiday overseas. Dawn is going to visit Chubby. Says she wrote five letters to her and got a postcard in return! We talk about Kay and the rink and she says she is at Modern Methods business college. We say we’ll probably see each other at the rink. She is a pet. I always liked her.

Practise singing at night for great day tomorrow.

13 June In afternoon go to reference library and read Stage Who’s Who and Television and Radio Who’s Who – both very eloquent about Webster and Anne – makes me feel terribly insignificant and then very determined to do well at singing!

Go to the studio and Webster answers the door and says, “Anne isn’t back yet, but just have a seat till she comes – she won’t be long.” I sit down and listen to Webster coughing. Anne doesn’t come in for ages so Webster says that I had better come into the studio and he’ll make a cup of tea while we wait for her. He says, “I have to go to Rhodesia the week after next, dammit, and God knows how much music I have to take with me.” I make the necessary grunts in reply. Then he says, “I don’t know what’s happened to Anne – she only went to John Orrs and that was half an hour ago.” Anne duly returns after I have had a nice feast on the photographs. She is wearing a fur coat. She apologises for being late. She went to John Orrs to buy a pattern and all the patterns she wanted were out of stock and won’t be in for six weeks.

Anne removes her coat and says, “Well, my dear, let’s start.” Webster brings tea and I drink it. He says to her, “I’m so sorry, I put sugar in it, darling.”

She says archly, “Monster! We’ve had three cups of tea today and I’ve had sugar in every one of them!”

We start on the ca-ca exercise and I tell Anne how exhausting I find it as a prologue. She is delighted and they both stare at my tongue and are charmed with it. Anne says that I must have practised thoroughly which is very different from most of her other pupils who don’t pay any attention to what she tells them to do!

I mention that they asked me to copy O, Rest in the Lord and I produce my copy. They are both thrilled with the manuscript copy and Anne says that Webster will be coming to me to copy out music for him.

We do it and it goes very well. We concentrate on it line by line, and Webster gives a demonstration – no imitations of me this week – and they tell me that my voice seems to have improved and is settling down nicely. We end with The Lass and Anne says that a two and a half octave range is quite fantastic and I have the makings of an excellent singer.

When she sees me to the door, she asks, “Are you glad you’re doing singing, Jean?” and I say, “Oh, yes. I love it!” and boy, I really do. Ernest is waiting to go in for his lesson and gives me an earnest look. Say goodbye and come away gaily – a little more cheered than at other times.

15 June College. We go to lunch hour concert. Edgar Cree conducts the Ballet suite from Faust and a waltz from Eugene Onegin. Adelaide Newman is one of the best pianists I have heard.

At night I go to choir with Mr Stratton.  When I arrive home I listen to Webster and he is excellent as usual. He starts off with an excerpt from the Mozart Requiem and then plays part of the Ninth Symphony, but says that although he likes to listen to it, he loathes singing it, although he has sung it under three twin knights – Sargent, Beecham and Wood, and also Felix Weingartner.

Next he plays two pieces from Cavaliera Rusticana, an opera about ordinary people. He says the opera is very bloody, “A lovely cheerful night’s entertainment.” He plays The Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, which is unpleasant, in my opinion.

“It’s amazed at how many South Africans we meet here can remember us in Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi, specially written for us by Kenneth Leslie-Smith. I would like to play you three songs recorded from the show sung by Anne and me.”

The first is a duet, Life Begins Anew followed by Anne singing Sweet Yesterday and the last one is a rousing one by Webster called Morning Glory. What voices they had!  He finishes with some more Lehar.

16 June – College – Go to guild at night and we have Victoria guild over so there is quite a crowd. Playing goes very well and we see two films on refugees – one with Yul Brunner. Ann takes the epilogue.

17 June Go skating – Dawn and friend, Sally, MJ and Neill are there and we have glorious time. Neill does aeroplane spins with Dawn which come on nicely and a double spin with me which is gorgeous. I have regained old form and all is terribly gay.

In the afternoon I practise singing and at night we go to Mr and Mrs Scott – they have a lovely little flat in Reynolds View. We listen to the Gondoliers and they are full of praise for Webster and Anne. See programme of Dancing Years – they are in advert – Sweethearts of Song.

18 June Sunday school then beautiful sermon by Mr Cape. Peter tells me that he has to take speech lessons for preaching so he wants the Booth’s telephone numbers.  The Alexanders come in the afternoon with Mrs Radzewitz’s mother.

19 June – College – come home with Margaret Masterton on the bus and ask her how her parents are enjoying their holiday in the UK. She tells me that her father died in Scotland two weeks ago. I feel rotten about it. Poor Margaret and poor Mrs M. She says that she’s dreading her mother’s return and can’t believe that her father is dead.

We talk about singing and her exams and I tell her about Webster and Anne and singing – contralto etc. She says that Yvonne Hudson (Miss Kempton Park) is learning with Anne. We talk about Drummond Bell which takes Margaret’s mind of her sadness. Apparently, her father knew that he was dying and wanted to return to Scotland to die there.

20 June College and then singing lesson. They are discussing various songs when I go in – keep on talking about Sweet Yesterday. I sit in the kitchenette and think how gorgeous their record of it sounded on Thursday night.

Anne comes in – is quite charming and her hair looks lovely. She asks if I can change times from Tuesday to Thursday at 4 o’clock. I say that it will be fine. She says she hates messing me around but that will be settled. She says she’s going up to Rhodesia the week after next but will talk to me about that later.

I sure will have a musical Thursday – lunch hour concert, Webster and Anne, choir and then Webster at night.

We start on scales – ca-ing away – and Anne is very pleased with my tongue. We go on to Rest in the Lord and I don’t do it too badly. Webster sings a bit of it with me and tells me that I must sing louder. He stands further away and tells me to sing loudly, so I do. He says, “It’s beginning to sound like a voice now!” What did it sound like before, I wonder! Webster says, “It’s terrible, but I can’t find that contralto book I wanted for Jean – It had Father of Heav’n in it and everything.”

He starts rummaging through all the music albums and Anne says, “Let’s try He Shall Feed His Flock while we’re waiting for him.” My copy of it is “out of date” so she alters it – first wrongly –and she says, “Oh, darling, I’m sorry,” and alters it once more and we start again. She says that I have some beautiful notes in the aria and I must try to get the same quality into all the notes and it’ll sound gorgeous.

Webster says that I mustn’t be afraid of having a good sing. She says, “I hope you don’t feel as though you’ll make a fool of yourself in front of us.” “Good God, no!” Webster says vehemently.

It goes quite well today and they are sweet. Anne says very proudly, “Webster is going up to Rhodesia next week to adjudicate.” I say, “That is lovely.” She also tells me that she is going up the week after next and will have to alter my time again – she’s sorry.

When I leave, Ernest is there once again. Peter is not mentioned so undoubtedly he has not yet phoned. If he decides to go to Nora Taylor I couldn’t give a darn!  Listen to the radio at night and Ivor Dennis is excellent in his little programme.

21 June – Hear Kathleen Ferrier singing on the Afrikaans programme. She sings folk songs – The Keel Row, Blow the Wind Southerly, The White Lily, Ma Bonny Lad, Willow, Willow. If that’s what a contralto can do, please let me be one.

22 June – Anne’s 51st birthday. Go up to choir at night – Mr S isn’t there because Mrs S is ill, so we go through the hymns in a haphazard fashion. Ann and Leona come down to excuse him. Joan tells me that she went to see The Dancing Years last Saturday night and loved it, She makes me la away at Waltz of My Heart.

Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. He starts with the Verdi Requiem – Libera and Dies Irae. Soprano ends on pianissimo top B. Very nice but very heavy.  He plays his own recording of a recit and aria from Samson conducted by Stanford Robinson with the BBC orchestra – very beautiful indeed. He plays parts of Carmen conducted by Thomas Beecham and sung by Victoria de los Angeles.

He plays parts of Annie Get Your Gun. Emile Littler presented it in London and their friend, Wendy Toye produced it. He says they were at the first night of the show and the audience wouldn’t let the cast go so they had to sing all the numbers from the show over again. When they were in Australia it got the same reception.  He ends with the overture to Gipsy Princess which he sang many times for the BBC. The recording is played by their old friend Mantovani.

24 June – Have lunch in and have a look in Polliack’s. Net Maar ‘n Roos is displayed in the window. Mummy says I can have the record some time. We see No Love for Johnny with Peter Finch, Mary Peach, Stan Holloway and Billie Whitelaw – excellent.

net maar 'n roos (2)

Mr and Mrs Diamond come at night and I sing for them. They are impressed and I feel happy.

Webster arrives in Salisbury, (then Rhodesia).

1961 arriving in salisbury

29 June – Go to Anne in the afternoon and have a really gorgeous time. I arrive earlier than her and hear her coming out of the lift and thanking the man profusely for holding the door open for her. She wears a red hat and cape-like coat. She says, “Oh, hello, Jean. Did you think I wasn’t coming?” “Oh no, Anne. I was here early.” “The other two before you have ‘flu so that’s why I’m here so late.”

We go in and she fouters around in the office and I look at the pictures and I try to figure out who some of the people are – I only recognise Leslie Green and the Royal family. Anne asks if I can come on the Monday (a public holiday) because she’s going up to Rhodesia next week on Sunday. Yes, of course I can!

We start on ca exercise which she says is marvellous and dead on. She says that I must do 4 cas at a time on the same note in the same exercise and then my placing will be “bang on”.

We do He Shall Feed His Flock. She says it’s going to be gorgeous but I must watch that I don’t spread my “ees”. She says, “I can say what I like about Boo and I know that we have our little squabbles, but I must admit that he has really beautiful diction. It doesn’t matter what he sings – opera, oratorio or pop musical comedy – his vowels are just the same. He was trained in the right way since he was seven years old as a choir boy and he has never forgotten that basic training. You are just at the right age to be trained in the proper way, Jean, and no matter what you do in the future you’ll always be able to fall back on your first basic training. I think it’s wonderful the way you do everything I tell you to. You’re a good girl and you have a lovely voice.”

She asks, “Do you like singing, Jean, and I say profoundly, “Oh, yes. I like it very much.” Not very eloquent but very true.

We go on to Rest in the Lord and this goes well until we reach, “And wait…” and then my tongue goes into the wrong position. She takes me over to the mirror to see that I get my tongue down and she looks in the mirror and says, “Don’t mind me keeping my hat on, but my hair’s such a mess that I couldn’t possibly take it off. I’m going to have it done tomorrow though, so it’ll be OK again!”

She says that she thinks I’m losing my breath too quickly because of the “h” and that she gets her “hs” out without moving her ribs with her abdomen. She gives me a demonstration, and honestly, it is quite marvellous. She tells me to feel her ribs and puts my hands on them with hers – they’re gloriously warm compared with my cold ones. She’s a miracle with her breathing.

We do The Lass and when it comes to top A it sounds terrible to me – not so much terrible but because my parents have said it sounds terrible. She says, “Jean, you have a really beautiful note there. No! Don’t make a face. I wouldn’t tell you that if it was rotten. But look happy about it and don’t let people see you’re thinking, “Oh, God, I can never reach this!”

When we finish, Anne says, “You know, Jean, you really and truly have a beautiful voice.” I feel quite overcome at this and look a bit grim. She says, “Well, aren’t you happy about it? You look as if it was something terrible.” I manage to get out a strangled, “Thank you,” and she looks at me and says, “Jean, I really believe that you are shy. Please, whatever you do, don’t feel shy with me. I don’t know about HIM, but please never feel shy with me, dear.”

I tell Anne to have a nice time in Rhodesia and we say goodbye…  She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She’s so generous and natural – she’s an angel. 

Listen to Webster at night. He starts off with something from Elijah. He says that there seems to be everything in the record that he likes – his favourite baritone, Harold Williams, his favourite choral society, Huddersfield, and his favourite conductor, Sir Malcolm. It is a lovely record and Harold Williams is excellent. Webster says HW’s voice is nectar to his ears. Next he plays the quartet from Elijah, Rest Thy Hearts Upon the Lord.

Webster talks about Handel playing the organ for a choral society near Bushy Heath. “Where Anne and I spent much time filming Gounod’s Faust. Evidently the society had a collection of very high tenors and it was for them that Handel wrote Acis and Galatea. Webster plays his own recording this, Love Sounds the Alarm conducted by Warwick Braithwaite. ‘Well, you can see what I mean about the high notes, can’t you?” he says when the record is finished.

He goes on to Lucia di Lammermoor and says that Mimi C is coming out next August to do this and she’ll have a good two hours of coloratura singing to do. He plays two arias from the opera. He plays three songs from The Song of Norway which, he says, he saw in London. It was produced in America in the open air with an artificial iceberg for the skating ballet. He plays Freddie and His Fiddle and Strange music. He will play more of this next week and some items from The Vagabond King.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – MAY 1961

21 Juno Street, Kensington – our house at that time.

1 May – Picture of Anne in RDM at first night of the opera La Traviata. She looks quite gorgeous and not nearly 51! The two women with her are Mrs Bosman de Kok (husband is SABC musical director) and the pianist Adelaide Newman. They are probably far younger than Anne but she looks by far the best.

Anne at La Traviata with Mrs Bosman de Kock and Adelaide Newman

Song by Webster on radio If With All Your Hearts from Elijah. Beautiful song, lovely diction and wonderfully restrained.

2 May – College. Marion Levine gives an interesting talk about communism.

Go to studio once more. Webster answers door and takes me into the sacred presence who is very affable and I pay her. She asks if I can come next Monday because they’re arranging the programme for the ballet and have to be at the theatre at 7 o’clock every night, so can I come at 4 on Monday. She feels so embarrassed having to change me around all the time.

Webster brings me a cup of tea which I really need, and then we start on the lesson. Webster is very authoritative, and after singing scales he says I get down so low I should be a contralto. Anne retaliates and says (once again) that I’m a very high mezzo. “You mustn’t forget that high B!” Webster is stubborn and I don’t have any say in the matter at all. I sing “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose…” and Webster sits facing me and criticises me. I must be more resonant on the low b and we practise this for ages. Webster gets up and gives a beautiful demonstration. Anne sings too – quite nasally – probably owing to the lowness of the note. As she says, it’s miles too low for her.

Webster then makes me sing from MessiahHe Shall Feed His Flock. Asks whether I can sight-read music. I say I can only do that on the piano and Anne says that it is exactly the same with her. She learnt to play the piano when she was six and could never sing at sight, but Webster is wonderful at that because he was trained to do it as a choir boy.  However, I sing this to accompaniment without hearing the tune and it is reasonable. Find the jump from high C to low C difficult and Webster is quite hurt because of his belief in my contralto abilities.

He says of one particular note, “If you could get all your notes like that one you would be a singer out of this world, Jean.”

One teeny-weeny compliment opposed to a thousand retributions. At one stage of the proceedings, he gets up from the chair and can hardly walk. He looks really agonised and I feel sorry him. It must be arthritis or some such ailment. Poor old Webster.

Take departure – all very affable. Must look over Ave Maria for next week. Anne says of noise, “God, just shut up for heaven’s sake.” Her nerves are sorely tried – shame. She wears a lovely tweed suit with brown jersey and little furry collar and looks lovely, but she would never do to be anybody’s mother because she doesn’t look half her age and she’d steal her daughter’s boyfriends. But she is a honey all the same.

3 May – College during the day and then we go to the opera at night. What can I say of opera? Mimi Coertse has a voice like a bell. With what seems like little effort she sends out notes that ripple and thrill. She plays her part well with great feeling and her high notes are really excellent.

Bob Borowsky as her baritone father is the only other cast member who sings really well but he lacks expression and tends to be lugubrious. The chorus, in my opinion, is bad. The tenor was sweet at times but his voice grew very throaty towards the end.

4 May – College. We go to lunch hour concert. The soloist is young pianist, Yonti Solomon who is really brilliant. He plays a Schumann concerto with Edgar Cree conducting.

At the moment I’m lying in bed waiting for Webster’s programme. Introduces it with the usual, “Hello everyone,” in honeyed accents. First he plays the Jennifer Vyvyan recording of Rejoice Greatly conducted by Sir Thomas B and says, “Here it is, so hold yer breath!”

Next he talks about the opera and how nice it was and plays an aria from Rigoletto sung by Mimi Coertse and George Fourie. He then plays record by instrumentalists including Maxie Goldberg. “What a name to say with a cold in the nose!” says Webster! Next the Fledermaus with the Melachrino strings and then he reverts back to oratorio.  He talks about Kathleen Ferrier who lived opposite them in their home in Frognal and who used to entertain them with Lancashire stories. During her long illness, they used to visit her often. He plays her recording of Father of Heav’n and I lie in bed and cry during the whole recording. Her voice is beautiful and rich. No wonder she was considered the greatest contralto in the world. From her letters in her biography she seemed a lovely, adorable creature, one I would have loved to have known but never shall. It is so sad that she died at such an early age.

He then plays his own recording of Sound an Alarm also from Judas Maccabeus and it is excellent.  He introduces the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore and says that Gilbert made a great parody of this and sings a snatch of it from Pirates of PenzanceCome Friends, Who Plough the Sea…  His last recording is the overture to the Pirates and then goodbye for another week.

6 May – We see Elmer Gantry in the afternoon. Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons. Best picture I’ve seen for ages, adapted from the book by Sinclair Lewis – shades of Miss Scott who told us all about Sinclair Lewis.

7 May Go to Diamonds in the afternoon. They play records – tenors, tenors, tenors – mainly Kenneth McKellar – obviously their favoroute!

8 May College again. Shorthand and typing are blooming dull.

I am transported in the afternoon when I go for singing lesson. Webster answers the door and shows me into the kitchen. Anne is on the phone talking to a girl, Mary about her lessons. Webster goes into the studio and informs her of my arrival. She greets me and then disappears once more, has an argument with Webster about the credit note he got from the bottle store for 8 dozen bottles at 3d each – I ask you! I think Anne realises that I am actually there and innocent to the horrors of the bottle store, so while Webster has a late lunch, Anne makes a second entrance and says, “Well, my little one, and how are you and what are you doing with yourself these days?”

I say I’m still at college which sounds infernally dull. She asks what I thought about the opera. I say that I adored Mimi but wasn’t too fond of the French tenor. Anne says, “He’s only a baby of 23 so the two roles were a bit much for him.” Webster says that the role was far too heavy for him anyway. She says, “Weren’t the scenery and costumes terrible?” I didn’t actually think so, but what do I know?

The letters arrive and Anne is quite excited that they have been asked to do a concert tour to Witbank and various other towns in that area. I hope they don’t go! Anne says she wants to ask me a question and can’t wait to see my face, and insists that he sees it too. Would I like to enter the Afrikaans eisteddfod? I grimace wildly and Webster says, “Her profile was enough!” I don’t commit myself however and Anne says that I could enter the ballad section and sing The Lass with the Delicate Air. She says, “Get it anyway and you can see what you think. It’ll be good for you and get you moving.”

I do scales and Anne says I must look happy about them and takes me over to that damned mirror and makes me sing a scale happily. I can’t! She says, “Do it just for me, Jean, dear. I mean this quite sincerely.” Will try.

Webster makes tea for us and I say, “Thank you, Webster,” and Anne says, “Thank you – waiter!” Webster doesn’t look very happy about this. I sing Roslein and it is pulled to pieces again, mainly by Webster who says I show my teeth too much and says he can’t show his when he’s singing. He tries and succeeds in showing a horrible set of teeth altogether. No matter, we proceed and all goes better. At the end of the lesson my little “friend” Roselle arrives and we smile at one another when I leave. Anne asks if I’m going to the ballet and I say, “No.” Rather blunt but true – I loathe ballet anyway.

11 May – Sunday school picnic – walking, standing and working!  Listen to Webster at night. He starts with He Shall Feed His Flock by Norma Procter, a contralto with whom he sang a few years ago and thinks could be a worthy successor to Kathleen Ferrier. He plays a record by Roy Henderson who trained both Kathleen Ferrier and Norma Procter and was chorus master of the Huddersfield Choral Society. He says he has a sweet small voice with perfect diction.

He talks about Mrs Fenney who stood in for Miss Heller at Jeppe for a term. “Anne and I had the pleasure of putting Mabel Fenney through to a scholarship to study lieder in Berlin and she and Anne worked very hard on the set piece by Bach.” He plays this piece sung by Margaret Balfour.

Mabel Fenney (1959)

He goes on to the opera Samson – the opera, and goes into all the gory details of the plot and says, “Nice people!” Plays an excerpt from the opera by Jan Peerce. Then comes music from Schubert’s Rosamunde and after that his own recording – excerpts from Carmen with himself, Dennis Noble, Nancy Evans and Noel Eadie – lovely.

14 May – Church. Dull and unimaginative with sermon by Mr R and ravings from Peter about Song Without End. Shorty gives Doreen and me a lift to her house where I have tea and we run down the camp concert committee and the Lombard family!  Play piano and sing. Dad has a cold and I’m heading in that direction too.

16 May Cold is still rotten so I am absent from college and any idea of going for singing lesson is curtailed.  About midday I phone in bleary-eyed fashion to Booth’s house. Woman answers the phone and I ask, “Is that Anne?”

She answers, “No, this is Anne’s maid.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Is Anne there?”

“No, they’re both at the studio. Do you know the number?”

“Yes, thanks. Goodbye.”

I must have spoken to Hilda, their St Helena maid. She sounds remarkably well-spoken.  Phone the studio and Anne answers.

“Is that Anne?”

“Yes!” in startled tones.

“This is Jean speaking.” (Vague affirmation)

“Anne, I’m terribly sorry but I have a horrible cold so I shan’t be able to come today.”

“Oh, Jean, I’m so sorry. Are you in bed?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know how I can make the lesson up to you” (Pause) “But there are five Tuesdays in this month.”

“Yes, that’s what I was thinking.”

“Then we’ll see you next week? I can hear you talking through a cold. I do hope you feel better soon.”

“Thank you – and I’m sorry, Anne.”

Pause “Yes, so am I! Goodbye, Jean”

Goodbye.”

Spend a miserable day.

17 May – Retire to bed permanently! Voice practically non-existent. Minister comes in the evening but I remain silent and still.

18 May – Still in bed.  Listen to Webster at night which is cheering. The first record (not obtainable here) was lent to him –  Requiem by Verdi, written after the death of Rossini. He says that he’ll play an extract each week. It contains arias sung by his favourite tenor (Jussi Bjorling?). He plays a choral piece – Sanctus.

The next record is from Elijah, Oh, Come Everyone That Thirsteth by a quartet – Isobel Baillie, Harold Williams, Gladys Ripley and James Johnston. What a wonderful recording. Next is an aria from the work by Webster with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Warwick Braithwaite – often cut from the oratorio. His voice is just perfect. There can hardly be another tenor in this century – and I do believe this – to touch his voice at its best!  Next is the overture to the Magic Flute, written by Mozart in “Viennar” – intrusive r terribly and wrongly distinct. He says that this was considered his best work.

He then plays an aria from the opera by Oscar Natzke… Then some more Mozart sung by “that versatile young singer”, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf.  He reverts to operetta – The Chocolate Soldier and says, “Anne and I have sung in The Chocolate Soldier many times. It is an adaptation of Shaw’s Arms and the Man, as My Fair Lady is an adaptation of Pygmalion but I do wonder whether we shall hear My Fair Lady fifty years hence as often as we hear the Chocolate Soldier now.  Plays the duet Sympathy with Risé Stevens and someone else. Then, says Webster, “Let’s play out with The Gypsy Baron. Very nice programme indeed. Webster has a slight wheeze tonight.

19 May – Still ill – until 22 May!

23 May –   Manage to go to college once more after a cold and go to the studio in the afternoon.  Anne ushers me into kitchen while they usher two old women – very old-maidish – out, while they chat brightly about the best radiograms to buy. Webster answers them in very indifferent tones. They depart, having thanked them too, too eloquently for sparing some of their valuable time. They call me in and Anne says, “God – we’ll need another cup of tea after that. Will you have one too, Jean?” “Yes, thank you, Anne.”

She says that the women took an awful lot out of her. She says I still sound very nasal after the cold. Convinces me that I am just about dying of illness! We start on scales and all goes reasonably well. Webster says I shall never need my very high or very low notes.

Anne tells me over tea that the tiny dilapidated cottage they bought two years ago and redecorated themselves needed fresh plaster above the curtain rails in the hall, so she spent the weekend on top of a ladder, scraping old plaster off, and as she was literally breathing plaster, she doesn’t know how she is managing to talk today. Webster says dryly, “It must be all the liquid refreshment you had while you were doing it.” Anne pauses and replies, “Oh, yes, I had plenty of tea, coffee, cocoa and – an occasional gin and tonic to go with it!” Another dramatic pause and then she asks, “Do you like gin, Jean?” I say that it’s not very nice. “Don’t you even like sherry?” “No.” “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Well don’t ever develop any of those bad habits.”

We go on with singing The Lass With the Delicate Air. Webster mimics all my mistakes mercilessly and makes me laugh. He says that my “delicate air” sounds like “delicatessen” – the height of insult!

We go on with the song and Anne says, “Watch the time,” and I think she had said, “What’s the time?” I say “Twenty past four!” She says, “That was well picked up!” I stare in confusion and she tells me what she had said and we have a good laugh. Finish with Roslein and Webster says I open my mouth too wide for low notes – a good fault – but it will take too much out of me to do it.

Anne asks if I can come next Monday instead of Tuesday as an uprising by natives before Republic Day is forecast. They have to go to Durban to give a concert on Wednesday and don’t know what they will do if there should be an uprising. That doesn’t strike me until I leave that Wednesday is Republic Day. I hope that they will be safe. Say goodbye (cheerio) effusively and see Roselle, whom I always feel is a far better singer than me.  Play piano, sing and listen to radio – Ivor Dennis and Douggie Laws at night.

25 May – College. Go with Jill and Audrey to the lunch hour concert. The soloist is Laura (someone) – a pianist of insignificant looks but with very significant playing!

At night I decide to go to choir practice at church. All make a pretence of being happy to see me. I sit next to Joan Spargo and make myself as insignificant as possible. Ann’s father, Mr Stratton is the choir leader. He certainly has a resounding voice and mimics everyone’s musical and vocal faults aptly.

Come home and listen to Webster on wireless. He starts off with Dies Irae (from that rare recording of last week with chorus and bass (George Tsotsi) with Vienna Philharmonic. “It’s a bit noisy, so I suggest you close the children’s bedroom door!”

Webster plays his own record – a Recitative from Jephtha which is quite gorgeous – every word as clear as day. He goes into some detail about the finale of Samson and Delilah which, says Webster, is “very awer inspiring!” The singers are Rise Stevens, Robert Merrill and Jan Peerce.

He plays a record by Dawie Couzyn from Magic Flute and says that he thought this production was better than Don Pasquale. DC sings it in Afrikaans with horrible diction and a clicky quality to his voice. Not terribly enjoyable.  Webster plays complete selection from The Desert Song which Springs Operatic is doing soon, sung by Gordon McRae and Lucille Norman. He says, “Shades of my old friends, Harry Welchman and Edith Day.”

He ends with the overture to Ruddigore – about a witch who forced a family to commit a crime a day – Nice folk! And then, goodbye and so to bed.

26 May College – we have a party for Terry French who is going overseas soon.

27 May – Go into town in the morning and am stopped by terribly handsome young German student who was selling postcards. I buy one, of course!  Go to Kelly’s and buy Where E’er You Walk by Handel, a most gorgeous song!

Have lunch in Capinero with Mum and Dad and then we go to the Empire. In the powder room I meet Pat Eastwood looking terribly smart with bouffant hairdo and also a bit fatter. She is most affable and says, “I haven’t seen you for ages. When are you coming to the rink?”

I say, “Oh, yes, I must come soon…” How lovely to talk so casually to the South African figure skating champion and Springbok.

We see The Great Imposter with Tony Curtis – very good.

28 May In Gary Allighan’s radio crit this morning, he says, “Praise be to Webster Booth, whose On Wings of Song combines familiar music with personal reminiscences, although he should not be so modestly sparse with his own songs.”  Shot for good old GA! He’s a man after my own heart – politically and artistically.

Gary Allighan

Anne phones just afterwards and greets father with, “Mr Campbell, this is Anne Ziegler here. Can I speak to Jean please. I am called to the phone and informed by Anne, after she asks how I am, that she’d like me to come at 4.30 instead of at 4. Would this be convenient? “Certainly.” “Are you sure?”….Sing in choir at church at night. All convivial.

29 May – First day of strike evidently a flop as there are no strikers to be seen.  I go to the studio in the afternoon and Webster asks me to have a seat for a while and pour myself some tea. I do this and drink tea feeling terrible blasé, and wash the cup afterwards. He plays over tape recording which is rather funny. I giggle to myself.

Anne comes from nowhere and is charming. She tells me to go in and she’ll be with me in a few moments. I look closely at pictures of the royal family at their performance – King George, Queen Mother and the princesses.  Webster talks to me about the strike and says that RCA have no workers but Decca have all their workers. He says the town is nice and quiet with not so many people around. We talk about the success of receiving papers and milk and Webster says direfully, “Tonight will be the crucial deciding time. Just as long as they don’t come out and kill us is all I hope for.” Cheery attitude to life this!

Anne returns and we start with scales and they are thrilled at the new quality of my voice and ask what I’ve been doing to bring about the improvement. I sing Roslein to them and they continue to be quite happy about it all – 2 hours practice a day must help. Feel quite embarrassed.

Webster makes me sing He Shall Feed His Flock for all the low notes and sings this along with me – gorgeous! During Lass With the Delicate Air there are many faults. I crack on middle C on “fill” and Webster makes me do it over and over again and takes me over to the mirror to show me how to produce it correctly. When I sing it again he suddenly doubles up on the piano with a look of agony on his face. Anne looks horrified and says, “What’s the matter?” He doesn’t speak for a moment and then says, “Nothing. I just wanted to listen to Jean sing.” Do not for a moment believe this – poor Webster. He recovers and says I must emphasise “gin” in virgin and sings “virgin” and then “pink gin”! Anne and I nearly die laughing. Anne writes down next to it “pink gin!” She says that my diction is generally good. He sings O, Thou That Tellest from Messiah. She asks whether I’d like to do some oratorio. Tells me about a singer in Don Pasquale and says that she couldn’t hear for about five or ten minutes what language she was singing in, her diction was so bad!

Webster goes down to bring the car nearer to the studio and Anne goes on with the lesson – she gives me a whole hour. She feels my breathing and says that my bust mustn’t move and I must watch it. Gives me a demonstration of her own breathing. If I could even breathe like her, I’d be very happy.

I leave at 5.30 and she tells me that she’s going to Durban for a concert at the weekend and tomorrow they have a show at Wanderers. During lesson Webster asks, “Where’s that contralto album Mabel left us?” I meet him coming from the car and we say goodbye and “Hope there’ll be no riots!”

Durban concert

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – APRIL 1961

1 April – Go to Rhodes Park library today. Jennifer Humphreys serves me. Get out autobiographies of Humphrey Lyttleton and Donald Peers – both mention Webster and Anne.  Go to town and have lunch with Mum and Dad, then we see Once More with Feeling, starring Yul Brunner and wonderful, whimsical Kay Kendall who died two years ago.  See a snippet in the newsreel of Lennie and Glenda doing a routine at the rink – they get a huge ovation from the movie audience and I clap jolly hard too and feel proud of them.

2 April – Sunday school. Not many kids there owing to holiday. I have Neill, Mark, Desmond and a little boy called David in my class. I tell them a story and let them colour in. Eugenie Braun makes me lead singing and I practically sing a solo – can hardly hear the kids!  Peter gives me hymns for the guild afterwards – practically all unknown! Go into church with the usual crowd – Leona Rowe is away at camp, and Mr Russell gives a rather dreary sermon.

In the afternoon the Diamonds come and we have pleasant time. I perk up when conversation leads to a discussion about the Booths – they still maintain that Anne’s singing voice is painful but she has a lovely personality and speaking voice. Am persuaded by everyone to sing which I do reasonably.

3 April – Easter Monday In afternoon Dad and I go to eisteddfod and I buy a season ticket. We go to Duncan Hall to hear singing and instrumental items. A little Welshman presides and the adjudicator is from England – very good.  After the interval the Welshman tells us to take our seats. I turn round to see what’s what and, out of the corner of my eye, catch sight of Webster. I get a real shock. Whisper to my father who is not at all perturbed, so we sit through the whole competition without further ado.

We get up to go and the first person I come across is Anne looking too gorgeous for words in a flowery dress. Her face lights up as only her face can, and she says, “Why, hello, Jean, how are you?” Webster, who is sitting in front of her, turns round to say hello. I introduce them to Dad and they are really charmed when he says, “I’m privileged to meet you.”

Webster asks in his usual vague fashion, “Have you done your piece yet, Jean?” She says, “Of course not!’ and I say, “It’s not till Thursday, Webster

Webster and Anne

.” He looks very knowing as though he knew that all the time.

She says, “It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next item, Jean,” and I say that Mum is expecting us home so I’m afraid we can’t stay. She tells me how sorry she is and we say goodbye to them.  We stand at the back of the hall and listen to the last adjudication then depart to the sight of Anne going up to the front, preparing herself to accompany their singer in an art song.

Dad tells me on the way home that he doesn’t think Webster looks very well and that everybody around us was staring at us in admiration for knowing them – I didn’t even notice this as I was too wrapped up in speaking to them! All I know is that I adore them, and other peoples’ opinion don’t count two hoots! 

5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme at night, and he was right as usual – it is good tonight! He starts off talking about the difference between opera and oratorio and gives an example from Handel’s Samson – his own recording. He goes on with his story, how he had an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan, how he came to join the D’Oyly Carte Company by barn-storming an audition when the company was in Birmingham and not turning up for an audit when he was asked to go to London to sing for Rupert D’Oyly Carte so that he was sacked. His teacher Dr Wassall was angry that he joined the company and never acknowledged him in future. He toured the UK with the company which included Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis, Darrell Fancourt, Sydney Granville and Derek Oldham as principals, and Malcolm Sargent as the conductor in 1926. Webster asked Sir Malcolm whether he should sing in Grand Opera, and sang to him from La Bohème. “If you’ve no money, don’t sing in grand opera,” was his advice. He toured Canada with the company where his companion was Martyn Green and he had a wonderful time over there.

He plays a record by Harold Williams whom he obviously feels is the bees’ knees and ends with the overture to Mikado, an anecdote about Gilbert and Sullivan and the promise to play one of the G and S operettas after copyright is surrendered by Bridget D’Oyly Carte at the end of the year. Lovely programme by a wonderful man.

6 April – Eisteddfod at night. Sonnets are all done fairly well mainly by varsity students reciting poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I don’t disgrace myself but I don’t win a gold medal either. The girl who wins is about 25. The adjudicator, Miss Levitas, says on my report that I’m sincere!

7 April – Go to the Booths today feeling rather apprehensive. Webster answers door holding a large bell which, he tells me, is supposed to ring every half an hour to let him know when to put another sixpence into the parking meter. He says he’s forgotten how to wind it up. “I can’t depend on my watch because I forget what time I put the money in, in the first place.” Lemon is there so I play with him until Anne comes in, looking beautiful in a charcoal-grey pleated skirt and sweater and black court shoes, all in the best of style.

She asks me about the Eisteddfod and I tell her that I didn’t get any medal but I didn’t dry up either. She reads the report and says, “Who the hell is C. Levitas? I thought the adjudicator was Mary Webster!”

Webster goes out to put money in the meter and to go to a jeweller to find a real copper bracelet for Anne’s rheumatism. Says, “Goodbye, see you in a little while.” Before Anne starts on the play, she tells me that their bass came second, their girl got a gold medal in Lieder and there were several more seconds. I make fitting remarks about their success. She tells me that the girl who got the gold medal didn’t really deserve it, “God forgive me. She got it on musical knowledge.” This girl had great trouble with her voice – her husband didn’t like it but she persevered so that was a kick in the teeth for him when she did well!

We start on And So to Bed and really give it stick. She asks me whether my parents had any theatrical experience because I have such good control of words and cues. Webster comes back and says that the jeweller had no real copper but a someone in a shop in Eloff street would make one for her.

We go on with the play and Anne praises Leslie Henson (who played Pepys) to the heights – did I ever see him? I say no, but my father said he was wonderful. She goes into ecstasies about him and says, “If only they would put this play on here.”

Excerpt from Anne’s score of And So To Bed.

Webster says I am good but must be careful not to tear my throat otherwise, if I was doing a show, I would soon not have any voice left. “Get French through the nose!” I must say that Anne becomes rather flustered herself when she does my part to show me what to do. She says I must learn the scene.

Tells me that Mr Salmon, the music adjudicator took far too long over adjudications. “He’s from Lancashire, but still he took too long!”  We have tea and Anne naturally says once again that it is like TCP and some discussion ensues. Asks me to come at the same time next Friday and all is lovely. They’re nice.

8 April – Go skating today. Sue, Neill and Menina are there and I spend most of morning talking to Sue. She tells me about building the float for varsity rag. Says that Jennifer Nicks now lives in Canada. Jennifer Nicks wrote to Gwyn and told him she has called her baby Methuselah-Star – I ask you!  Sue skates like a honey as usual and I skate as normal and enjoy myself. She says she thinks Christians don’t have much enjoyment in life.

Scotts come at night. Linda cute, Mr S armed with violin – I accompany him at piano to hitherto unseen pieces which, strangely enough, I succeed in playing. We also gallop (he misses beats) through Only a Rose. All convivial.

10 April Have lunch with Mum and she promises to phone Anne about doing singing instead of speech from a week on Friday. This point has been mooted in the family circle so I’m going to do that instead of speech – if they’ll have me.  Buy an SABC bulletin and there is an interview with Webster in it in which he talks about his career, stage fright and rewarding moments. He says that he wouldn’t change his life if he could live it over again. “I was given a voice, a figure and my marriage with Anne Ziegler – something that has been successful and happy, and I have adopted what I think to be about the finest country in the world.” He was lucky, but his luck certainly hasn’t spoilt him in any way. 

SABC Bulletin April 1961 WB interview

Mum phones Anne in the afternoon and tells her that I’d like to do singing. She is quite happy about this and says that it’ll be a pleasure to teach me. She tells mum that I’m a sweet thing and they’re very fond of me. Mother says, “Jean enjoys going to you and she’d like to do singing as it goes with the piano.” Anne says that it is half the battle learning to sing if one knows music.

Mummy says, “Jean was a bit nervous to ask about singing,” and Anne says, “Oh, why?” Mummy says, “Well, she’s not too sure of her own voice.”  Anne is evidently as big a honey as always, and when Mummy says that I love to listen to Webster’s programmes, she says, “Oh, no! Not really!”  Well that is that and I hope that I can do well at singing because I love to sing so I must do well. This is really their true sphere.

11 April – Start college again today – new typing teacher – all affable.

12 April – College. Typing teacher says my accuracy is best in the class – whew! Must keep up this good standard.

At night I listen to Webster’s programme. After he left D’Oyly Carte he joined Tom Howell’s concert party, the Opieros, singing operatic excerpts in parks and at the seaside. He eventually sang oratorio tenor solos with the Huddersfield Choral Society and Royal Choral society under the direction of Sir Malcolm and started recording for BBC studio opera programmes.

He plays records by Isobel Baillie, Dennis Noble and himself singing in La Bohème, and bass Oscar Natzke, with a most beautiful bass voice who died at the age of 39, and a duet from Carmen by South American Soprano and a man with an unpronounceable name. There are several recordings by Webster himself singing opera. He has a beautifully restrained voice and gives a more polished performance. He presents the programme beautifully – polished to a ‘t’. Songs of sopranos all gorgeous – dread to think what he’ll have to say about me – still, the programme is terribly nice.

13 April – College – long day today. Jill, Lyn, Audrey and I go to the library and I meet David Cross there who is very sweet and looks nice enough to divert attention!

In the afternoon I listen to Leslie Green, with Charles Berman as his guest. Latter has made a new recording. 

At night phone rings and I know, almost instinctively, that it is Anne – am right as usual!  Gives usual greeting, “Is that Jean? Jean, this is Anne Ziegler here!”

She asks (talking very loudly tonight), “Jean, could you possibly come at 4.30 instead of 4 tomorrow?”

“Yes, that would be all right.”

“You see, tomorrow night is the music prize-winners’ concert and I’ve had to change all the lessons around because of it.” (Can’t see any connection at all, but still!)

“So, will that be all right, Jean?”

“Yes, fine.”

“Well, goodbye, we’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Goodbye, Anne.”

14 April. College as usual. My deskmate Lorraine Feinblum, who is a year or two older than the rest of us, is engaged. We are all thrilled for her.

I go to the Booths in the afternoon. Lemon snuffles at the door and Anne answers it. She wears a straight skirt with a jersey and grey shoes with an overdose of eye make-up (probably for tonight’s concert). We have customary greeting and she finishes practising an intricate accompaniment for the concert tonight.

Webster comes in and brings various purchases into the kitchen and says, “Oh, hello, Jean. I didn’t know you were here.” We have customary greetings and Anne finishes practising piece for concert.

Anne calls me in and says, “I hear you want to do singing, Jean. I think that’s splendid.”

I say, “Well, I’d like to, but I’m not sure about my voice.”

Webster says, “Well, judging from what I remember from last hearing you, I don’t think you have to worry much about that.”

He asks me what sort of music I have at home and goes to look out some music while I go through the last scene of And So to Bed with Anne. I have learnt it and do it quite well. She says afterwards, “It’s too wonderful! You really do it beautifully – it’s a miracle how you learnt the part – some people doing singing won’t even learn a song I give them to do – but this – brilliant, and very well done.”

Webster says, “It’s very good. You could know the part in a fortnight!” He asks where I have acted before and I say, “‘School plays etc.”

We go through it again and she tells me I have the makings of a fine actress.

They insist that I should sing. I go through some scales with Anne playing and looking down my throat at the same time, and Webster listening very intently with the ear of a master. Anne says my tongue is in a perfect position – how hard I have practised to get it there! – but I must open my mouth wider on the high notes. Webster says I have a very good voice which will be fine for training and Mrs. B says, “It’s all there – you’ve probably got about four notes to add to it yet.”

She makes me look in the mirror to see how to hold my mouth when singing high – the rule is not to show teeth. I’m afraid I look rather like a horse laughing! Webster takes the music and we debate about what I should sing – a Schubert album with dozens of lieder (all in English including On Wings of Song).

I say that I know Wiegenlied best but it isn’t in that book so what about Hark, Hark the Lark? I say I know Hark, Hark, the Lark but when I’ve tried that at home I couldn’t reach high notes. Anne says it was probably in a higher key, so I agree to try it although this key is actually higher than mine, for the top note is high G but somehow I reach it perfectly. Anne sings with me. She really has a lovely voice. Webster stands at my side listening very intently. Thank heaven he expresses approval. He says I must go through my own Schubert album and bring it next week. I have nothing to worry about with regards to my voice –it’s good. I tell him, “Well, I wasn’t too sure about it because I’d never heard it!”

He says, “Well, we won’t let you hear it just yet. Everybody gets a terrible shock when they hear their own voice.”

Anne comes with me to the door and says, “Well, Jean, I’m glad that at last, you’ve decided to obey the request we made to you so nicely such a long while ago. You can go home and tell your parents you have a lovely voice and we’re both thrilled that you’re going to do singing.”

I say goodbye to Anne and Lemon and come down on the lift floating on air. I’m so thrilled about it because they have such a fine musical understanding and can tell a good voice when they hear one. Also Webster has taken on a more authoritative position because singing is his forte. But he’s quite different from the Webster on the radio – I prefer him as he is in the studio.

For ages – since I heard them sing at the church last year – I’ve wanted to do singing. After I heard them I started to enjoy music and singing far more – I know that what they sang that particular evening was light but their presentation of it was perfect. But it has taken me practically a whole year to start my singing lessons with them. I know I’ll never regret it. Not only are they top-notch singers, but they’re top-notch all round.

On Wednesday evening Webster said of Isobel Baillie, “I understand she’s teaching at the Manchester School of Music – lucky pupils.” Well, that’s the way I feel about them. They’re awe-inspiring and make me feel as though I might do well if I work hard.

15 April – Go into rink today. Menina, Neill Craus, Dawn Vivian are all there – Sue is in the rag – and we have reasonably gay time but have to work. Menina is learning with Mr Perren while Jill is getting married, and says he is a real old tartar!

Skating goes very well and is exhilarating. Come into town and buy On Wings of Song in Kelly’s and then have lunch with Mum and Dad in Capinero and then go to see Bottoms Up with Jimmy Edwards. Good but a bit kiddish in places!

16 April Sunday School today. Mark, Neill, Desmond and Gary W are there and all of them tell me strangest things – some of Mark’s stories are decidedly exaggerated. Stay to sermon by Mr R – quite good but a bit disjointed towards the end. All the usual crowd there but can’t say they thrill me with their spirit. Gail won the prize for best beatnik on Friday night.

18 April RDM provides pleasant shock for me in morning. Full page picture of Webster and Anne advertising Skal beer! Doesn’t say it’s them but of course it is! Webster complete with beard (he had it shaved off on Friday!) sitting holding glass of beer and Anne sitting on his lap with telegram in one hand and a look of sheer delight on her face. It’s a really gorgeous advert and large – larger than life – up it goes on my wall – if there’s another I’ll put it in my diary!

College goes well today – Lorraine F is excited about her engagement. Go with Jill Harry to library and meet Mary Theodosiou who says she’s working hard, isn’t living in Kensington, and hears that Atholie is pretty fed up working in the library. I’m not surprised with those awful hours!  In the afternoon I vegetate owing to a cold which I must get rid of before Friday at least.

19 April College. We have a party for Lorraine F which is fun. Come home on bus with unknown but very affable girl who is doing a speed-writing course.

I listen to On Wings of Song at night. Webster doesn’t continue with his own life story but plays records. First one is a Thomas Beecham recording which he got for Easter, then a song by Gigli and an aria from Messiah.

He says that in 1938 he had the honour of singing the tenor role in Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden. Richard Tauber was also in the production. He says, “When Richard Tauber was appearing in the same concert as us at the Coliseum Anne asked him what songs he intended to sing. Tauber replied, ‘German songs,’ and his little accompanist (Percy Kahn) added, ‘With English words by me!’”

He talks of another opera by Rossini (I think) and says, “Anne and I sang it at the festival opera season in 1953 and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

He mentions that he sang with Kathleen Ferrier and Gladys Ripley, the two tragic contraltos who both died within a year of one another, Kathleen, a switchboard operator, and Gladys, a hairdresser. Plays record by Gladys and another tenor – how I wished it had been a Kathleen Ferrier recording – very nice though.  Ends with overture to HMS Pinafore, conductor – Sir Malcolm, and says, “It’s very light-hearted but I love it!”

Very nice programme and well presented. I do approve of the “Anne and I” part!

21 April – College – thank heaven for the weekend! I kill time in the afternoon by having a long drawn-out snack in the Capinero. I go up to studio at a quarter to four and am greeted by Webster. He says, “Anne isn’t back yet, so do come in and sit down. I’m just trying through the examination pieces – please excuse the mess.” He sits down at the piano and labours away at the exam pieces. I feel a bit corny sitting there so stare at the photographs and see one of Lincoln Cathedral where he was a chorister.

There is a peremptory knock at the door which heralds the entrance of Anne. He answers the door and she walks in without greeting him. She wears a grey princess line coat (she had her picture taken in it autographing their new LP record last October) and says something about gardenias and donating something to some society or other – all a bit vague. She looks very tired today.

She says. “Well, let’s start!” Sits at the piano and he sits on a chair opposite and says that he forgot to note my range. We do all the scales once again and she tells me to drop my jaw more on the higher notes. I reach high A fairly comfortably but B natural is a bit much – I end up looking like a horse on the higher notes. Anne says that she bets that within 2 months I’ll sing high C – I doubt it! He says that I’m a mezzo, but she says, “If she’s a mezzo she’ll be a very high one.” I go fairly low too and reach a bottom E. Amazing – I can hardly reach low G at home. They tell me about vowel sounds, all to be sung with the mouth in the same position. Mrs. B says, “He’s an example of perfect vowel sounds. No matter where in his range he sings, or what the vowel sound is, his mouth is always in the same position.”

Anne makes me sing Hedge Roses in English and they say that my vowels are fairly good except “ee” – I must sing that one in the same way as the others. Anne gives me a demonstration. I sing Hedge Roses in German all by myself with no assistance at all. We go through this twice, and Anne says, “You learnt And So to Bed so nicely for me a little while ago – will you learn this for next week?”

German, I find, is a wee bit more difficult to learn than English but nevertheless, I will for her!

A fire engine passes sounding a siren and Anne says, “Fire engines and sirens remind me of the war and make me feel terrible!” She says I have a well-placed voice and thinks that the few months of speech-training did me good. She feels my breathing and both she and Webster are happy about it. She says to me, “You want to sing good songs, don’t you? Not musical comedy or pop songs?”

Before I have a chance to answer Webster hops in with, “There’s nothing wrong with musical comedy!” So be it.

I depart, saying goodbye, see you next week, with the worry of learning three verses in German. Anne says that next week I must bring some Scottish songs (for English words).

Come home on bus with Rosemary, Jennifer Bawden and Gill Colborne. Meet Miss Ward coming home and take great relish in telling her that I’m completely exhausted after my singing lesson.

Go up to guild tonight. Ann is happy to see me and her reaction about singing lessons all that could be desired.  We go to the Central Hall to hear panel of men: Dr Roux (a botanist), Mr McEwan (lawyer), Dr Webb – my favourite minister, and Gary Allighan the journalist and author of Verwoerd – the End. Meeting becomes practically political. All denounce government’s apartheid policy and in one particular question, Gary Allighan answers by starting, “First, let’s forget about the government!” Violent clapping. “There is only one race – the human race!” Shot for him – he was a labour MP in Britain and is a Cockney through and through.  Shorty gives us a lift back and we all go to the roadhouse and have something to eat – good fun.

22 April Play piano and sing in the morning and then go to town. Go into CNA and mooch around. Look in the SABC bulletin for programmes and am disappointed to see that Webster’s programme seems to be cut out – perhaps it’s been changed to another evening, but if it isn’t, to hang the SABC!

We have lunch at the Capinero and then Mum, Dad and I go to Brooke Theatre to see Roar Like a Dove with Margaret Inglis, Brian Brooke, Norma West, Robert Haver and also Alfred Stretton (the old man who spoke to us after Caesar and Cleopatra – he’s sweet). Play isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Margaret Inglis and Brian Brooke have whisky voices and Margaret I is hard as nails, although she’s probably meant to be in this part.

24 April College – goes reasonably – dozens absent. Go into Music library and buy the SABC bulletin in afternoon and study it carefully. I am glad to see that Webster has had ten minutes added to his programme – forty minutes now! On Thursday evening at 9.20pm.

26 April – My father’s fifty-ninth birthday.  Webster’s programme tonight is really about the best I’ve heard so far. He says that the first time he sang with Thomas Beecham, Joan Hammond was one of the other soloists. At that time she had a light, lyrical soprano which later developed into a heavy dramatic soprano. He plays the duet from Madame Butterfly which he made with her, which is quite fantastic. Webster is a tenor of great restraint which is pleasing. His voice contrasts sharply with her loud, almost harsh soprano.

Then Webster makes me laugh. He discusses the Strauss operetta, Night in Venice and says that during the Jo’burg production Anne wore a crinoline that covered practically the whole stage. “I look on this duet I am about to play with certain misgivings because during the Jo’burg production I tripped and broke my foot and was laid up in plaster for three weeks!” Poor Webster!  He talks of his old friend, conductor Mark Lubbock and how many happy hours “Anne and I” spent with him. “He was a specialist in the music of Franz Lehar and arranged some of Lehar’s songs for Anne and I to sing as duets with his own London orchestra.”

These songs are about the finest I have heard. They sing so beautifully they make me cry because they’re so glorious. Her voice is out of this world – like water floating gently over tiny pebbles. He sings the Serenade richly, gloriously, temperately. Webster and Anne were terribly lucky to be blessed with such voices and I’m terribly lucky to be training under them!  He ends off the programme by playing the overture to Don Pasquale, the comic opera soon to be seen in Johanesburg.

27 April – College. Go to lunch hour concert conducted by Anton Hartman with soloists Rita Roberts and Bob Borowsky. This series of concerts is a prelude to the forthcoming opera and ballet season. Both sing operatic arias (separately and together). Duet from La Traviata. Anton Hartman conducts overture to Les Pateneurs and the Flower Dance from the Nut Cracker Suite. Hetty and Jill sit with me and Hetty is charmed – so am I.

28 April. I arrive at the studio before the Booths today. I sit on the little ledge outside and vegetate. One of Madge Wallace’s pupils comes out of her studio and grumbles about having to wait for the lift, but just as lift arrives she goes back into the studio to say goodbye once more so I hold the lift for her.

Mrs. B comes up on the other lift armed with the evening dress she wore to our church concert and a fur cape. She is also carrying a little vanity case. She asks, “Was the lift stuck at the eighth floor?” I have to admit my guilt in this matter but she is quite cheery about it and takes me into the studio.

She tells me they were at first night of La Traviata last night and didn’t get in till half past three. She says, “I just can’t take late nights any more! Tonight it’ll probably be just as late too because we’ve got Don Pasquale.”

Anne says that the production of La Traviata didn’t nearly match the standard of an overseas production, but Mimi Coertse was wonderful. She covered her top notes well and used her face at every possible moment. Her song at the end of the first act, however, was breathy and she broke the trills, but this might have been due to first night nerves or not being used to the altitude. She says it’ll be good for me to see it as Mimi’s singing is wonderfully controlled.

We start on My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose after doing oodles of scales to work on the English vowels. Apparently my phrasing is all wrong. Webster arrives at this point, dressed in tails and black bow tie, looking too gorgeous for words, ready for the first night of Don Pasquale and is very affable. Anne says, “Jean is doing My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose,” and he says, “Oh! I know that one!”

I do Heidenroslein by memory. Webster watches me closely the whole time I am singing and I feel a bit silly. He says to me afterwards, “Honestly, Jean, you’ve got a wonderful memory – and of German too! If I had a memory like yours I could really do wonders!” I smile at him. He says, “But Jean – I wish you’d smile like that when you sing. You’ve got such a lovely smile.”

I sing it again, trying to look a little happier this time. The phone rings and Webster answers it and comes out of the office, saying, “Do you remember people called Wilkinson?”  Anne looks quite blank and then says she believes she remembers them vaguely. “Well, they’ve asked us over on Saturday, the sixth of May. Are we free?”

“Oh, no, darling. We’ve got that Mimi Coertse presentation cocktail party. We can’t miss that.”

“Well, shall I say we’ll go over later?”

“Well, we can’t go for drinks. Say we might go later if we can make it.”

“These damned socialites,” says Anne to me in hollow tones.

We go on with Roslein and they say I look a bit cheerier about it. To finish she makes me sing Hark, hark… Webster asks, “Do you like Hark, Hark the Lark?” I say, “Yes, it’s very nice.” He says, “Well, I hate it – probably because I was made to sing it so often when I was young.”

They sing it together – beautifully – as though they know exactly what the other one is thinking and exactly what to do. No. Mimi Coertse might be excellent but she’ll never ever beat Anne, and although Gigli was a great tenor he never had that lovely restraint which Webster displays so eloquently and beautifully. OK, so I’m prejudiced but I don’t care – they’re wonderful singers and lovely people.

Anne asks whether I could change from Friday to Tuesday next week because Webster has a recital in Krugersdorp on Friday. She asks whether 4 o’clock would be OK. I agree and Webster says, “Will I get you a pencil and paper to write it down?”

“It’s quite OK. I’ll remember it, thank you.”

“Yes, I know you will. If only I had a memory like you.”

Anne says, “But darling, look how young Jean is compared with you…”

“Yes, but still…”

Anne makes me feel her breathing again and says that as we’re the same height we should have the same rib-expansion. She has such wonderful breath control – it’s unsurpassed, really it is!  I say goodbye and Webster sees me to the door, his tails following behind him.

29 April. Go into town and book seats for La Traviata. We’re going on 3 May – a Wednesday. I feel rather the worse for wear after the debate last night. I also go to music library and procure dozens of songs.  I go to Capinero and have lunch with Mum and Dad. He has a book from the library with oodles in it about Webster. Author says that he could have been the finest British tenor if… But tomorrow I’ll type out the relevant parts and put them in the diary.

We go to see Song Without End, the story of Franz Liszt – Dirk Bogarde as Franz – good up to a point. Dirk is gorgeous though!

At night I listen to Afrikaans programme and announcer says, “Nou gaan die sang-tweeling, Anne Ziegler en Webster Booth Indian Love Call sing.”

30 April Anne in paper advertising Stork margarine.

Stork Ad

HAROLD FIELDING CONCERTS

HAROLD FIELDING CONCERTS

Impresario, Harold Fielding.

In the summer of 1941, when many London theatres were closed, Jack Hylton, the popular dance band leader put on a week’s series of orchestral concerts at the London Coliseum, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Despite constant bombing raids, 20,000 people attended these concerts. Top ranking musicians of the day were soloists with the orchestra, including pianists Eileen Joyce, Moura Lympany, Clifford Curzon, violinist Albert Sammons, violist Lionel Tertis, and singers Isobel Baillie, Eva Turner and Webster Booth himself. Interestingly he sang The Prize Song from The Mastersingers and Lohengrin’s Narration in a Wagner programme. During the First World War German music had been shunned in Britain, but apparently, this was not the case in the Second World War. Jack Hylton’s concert manager was the young former child-prodigy violinist, Harold Fielding. Harold Fielding’s career as a concert violinist was cut short in his early twenties because he began suffering memory lapses and stage fright. It was at this Wagner concert where Webster met Harold Fielding for the first time.

Pianist Sir Clifford Curzon (My favourite pianist)

Isobel Baillie (soprano)

Albert Sammons (violin)

Maryon Rawicz and Walter Landauer (duo pianists)
Mark Hambourg (pianist)
 














After this series of concerts ended Harold (aged 25) formed the National Philharmonic Orchestra, with Julian Clifford as the conductor. The orchestra toured the country for several years. Although this venture did not make any money  Harold was persistent in his endeavours to present good music to the British public. Because of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’s great popularity at that time, he signed them up as guest artistes with the orchestra, along with pianist Mark Hambourg for a four-week tour of Britain in November and December of 1943. They performed in large concert halls and theatres, such as the Belle Vue, Manchester, The Usher Hall in Edinburgh, and the Alhambra, Glasgow. With Mark Hambourg,  Anne and Webster as guest artistes, the houses were always full. With this change in format Harold Fielding’s fortunes took a turn for the better. He decided to abandon orchestral concert tours in favour of vocal and instrumental ones. Anne and Webster, the duo pianists, Rawicz and Landauer who had been interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man earlier in the war, and violinist Albert Sandler, son of a poor Russian immigrant,  often took part in these concert tours. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Albert Sandler (violin)
 
The following year, on 20 May 1944 Harold Fielding presented a concert at the Royal Albert Hall:
 
 
Anne and Webster were booked for another tour by Harold Fielding at the beginning of 1946, but Webster was taken ill during a concert in the Town Hall, Sheffield. Despite losing his voice he journeyed on to Edinburgh where the next concert was to take place, but still had no voice and felt worse than ever. A doctor diagnosed bad ‘flu and ordered him to bed immediately. Rather than stay in bed in an Edinburgh hotel by himself he decided to return to London, while Anne continued with the tour on her own. In their joint autobiography, Duet, Anne mentioned that nobody in Dundee or Glasgow asked for their money back because of Webster’s absence, but a minority of people in Newcastle demanded a refund.
 Anne and Webster embarked on another concert tour for Harold Fielding from August to November of 1946, and this time Dublin was included in the concert itinerary. On Sunday, 13th October they sang in a celebrity concert at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in aid of the General Jewish Hospital, Shaarezedek, The Ever-Open Door, Jerusalem, under the patronage of the Lady Louis Mountbatten. This concert had a large number of acts, ranging from Cheerful Charlie Chester, Issy Bonn and Anne Shelton to pianist Harriet Cohen and Anne and Webster. Tickets ranged in price from £3.3s to 5s. 

From 10 – 22 June 1946, Harold Fielding presented a series of six festival concerts at the Pavilion, Bournemouth and the Davis Theatre, Croydon. These concerts included conductors Dr Malcolm Sargent, Andre Kostelanetz with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Soloists were Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, Moura Lympany, Richard Tauber and the Russian pianist Poulshnoff.
Richard Tauber (Tenor)
 
 
This tour culminated in another concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 1 December.


 After a short break over Christmas the tour continued in 1947. This was the contract which Webster signed for dates in February 1947. Julius Darewski was their agent at the time:

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






In this contract, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler agreed to appear for Harold Fielding’s management at :
 
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Wednesday,  February 4 at 7.30pm
Caird Hall, Dundee, Thursday, February 5 at 7.30pm
Kelvingrove Hall, Glasgow, Friday, February 6 evening
City Hall, Newcastle, Saturday, February 7 evening
City Hall, Sheffield, Wednesday February 18 evening
Town Hall, Huddersfield, Wednesday February 25 evening
 
The Management agrees to pay and the Artists agree to accept a fee for the above engagements of £90.0.0 per concert plus expenses of £120.0.0 for the three Scotch dates and £20.0.0 per concert for the other three dates.
 
The Artists agree to perform the group of not less than thirty minutes at each concert. Programme items to be mutually agreed with the Management.
 
It is understood and agreed that the Artists will not appear in these locations before the dates of the concerts herein contracted or in any adjoining town(s) within a radius of ten miles, or allow their names to be advertised for any subsequent appearance(s) in the towns concerned until they have performed the above concerts.
 
The Artists undertake to provide the services of their accompanist, Charles Forwood, without extra charge.
 
The Management undertakes to forward a copy of the running order in connection with these concerts for the approval of the Artists. If the Artists wish to request any alteration thereto, they undertake to do so within twenty-four hours after receipt of the said running order.
 
It is understood and agreed that the Management will provide three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Dundee and return covering the three Scotch dates and Newcastle, together with three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Sheffield and return, and three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Huddersfield and return.
 
The fees for these engagements will be paid on the Friday following each concert.
 
Webster Booth (signed)
 
Apart from radio and variety work, it seemed as though the majority of engagements undertaken by Anne and Webster were for Harold Fielding at that time. They were due to go on an extended tour to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, but they managed to fit in a final Fielding concert at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh with the South African pianist Lionel Bowman and Australian bass baritone, Peter Dawson, who had returned to Britain from Australia after the war. 
They returned from their successful tour on their tenth wedding anniversary, 5 November 1948, and in December they were once again singing for Harold Fielding in Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
 
In 1950 Anne and Webster appeared at various places in a series of Sunday concerts for Harold Fielding. Towards the end of the year Reginald Tate Bickerstaffe, who had been Harold Fielding’s manager and was fondly known as Bicky, died. The funeral was held at Golders Green. Many artistes who had sung in many of Harold Fielding’s concerts attended the funeral, including Rawicz and Landauer, Anne and Webster, Julius Darewski (Anne and Webster’s agent), BC Hilliam (Flotsam, the surviving partner of the duo, Flotsam and Jetsam), Percy Kahn, a composer who had been accompanist to Richard Tauber who had sadly died of lung cancer early in 1948, soprano Gwen Catley and pianist, Lionel Bowman.
 
 
 
1951 was Festival of Britain year during which time Harold Fielding presented a series of celebrity concerts, called Music for the Millions. These concerts were held all over the country and were broadcast from July to September. On the bill for the first concert from Eastbourne were the Kordites, Max Wall and Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. By the fifties Harold was extending the artistes he used from musical performers to comedians and variety turns and many of his concerts were broadcast and in 1952 he presented Harold Fielding’s Festival of 

British Radio, starring Anne and Webster and others. Harold Fielding speaks about association

While Anne and Webster still appeared occasionally for Harold Fielding in the fifties, they were no longer constantly working for him. Harold Fielding, in turn, employed many more artists in the fifties than he had done in the forties. Richard Tauber and Albert Sandler had died. Webster was singing in a number of more serious concerts, often with Sir Malcolm Sargent as the conductor, and he and Anne went on an extended tour of Vivian Ellis’s musical play And So to Bed with Leslie Henson. They became joint presidents of the Concert Artistes Association in 1953 and remained in this position for several years. Anne returned to playing principal boys in Cinderella at Streatham Hill in 1953 and as Dick Whittington at the King’s Hammersmith in 1954.


Bibliography
Booth, W, Ziegler, A, Duet, Stanley Paul, London, 1951
Collen, J, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the Lives of Webster Booth & Anne ZieglerDUETTIST’S STORE FRONT ON LULU, 2008



Jean Collen

June 2011
Updated May 2017
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