October 1958 –
Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring. Our charming stage
celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie
England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.
When the Booths
came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be
quick,” they said.
Cars loom large in
the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed
her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed
at which she was travelling.”
Mr Booth may have
endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!
21 January 1958 – At Home with Anne. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.
1 February 1958 –
Jennifer Vyvyan recital
A photograph of the Booths appeared in the Rand Daily Mail. They had attended the recital given by English soprano Jennifer Vyvyan in the Selborne Hall. Webster had appeared with Jennifer Vyvyan in performances of Hiawatha and Messiah in 1955 before he left the UK.
October 1958 –
Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring.
Our charming stage
celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend
the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early
next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie
for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the
Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.
When the Booths
came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car
parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be
quick,” they said.
Cars loom large in
the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed
her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed
at which she was travelling.”
Mr Booth may have
endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!
Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.
3 January – Work. I have a cold drink with Yvonne and Lezya after work. I go to music and talk to Gill V who is going on holiday soon. Music goes well. I am improving and have a lot of things to work on. I go to table tennis at night. Peter says nothing about singing lessons so I don’t say anything either.
4 January – Work and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I go up to the studio and Webster answers the door. Nellie, as usual, is singing. Webster comes into the kitchen and makes tea. He is sweating and complains bitterly about the heat. He makes tea very efficiently and gives me a cup and then returns to Nellie who continues singing oblivious of rather ghastly mistakes!
she goes, Anne in a pretty flowery dress and with hair definitely
grey, tells me to go in. She too complains about the heat and orders
Webster to bring her another cup of tea.
She asks about the SABC choir and I say that we are still on holiday until the 22nd of the month. She says she expects we’ll sing in the last symphony concert. She tells me that Anton Hartman has a wife called Jossie Boshoff who is a third rate coloratura and has been included in the season as the only vocal soloist. Webster says he can’t fathom the audacity of Hartman if she could sing, but when she can’t – well! He says that she’ll sing the bass arias herself if need be!
We do scales, starting from high note and coming down in order to settle the registers, I gather, although Anne feels that vocal registers are rude words. Anne says, “I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t think it true or if I didn’t mean it. You honestly have the makings of a magnificent voice if you work hard at it. It’s really beautiful!” I look cynical. She says, “Truly. If someone hasn’t a voice, I’ll teach them but I won’t tell them they have a voice if they haven’t. Your voice could really be exceptional when you’re a bit older.” I try to look modest but I feel gratified. We work very hard and long at the exercises.
Bill Perry arrives and we do My Mother Bids Me. Webster glowers at me the whole time so that I can’t smile. They moan about it and I say that I feel stupid when I smile. Anne gives her usual talk about it. “Singing is like selling stockings in John Orrs. You have to give it everything you’ve got. That’s what got Webster and me to where we are today. We would go on to the stage and even though we had squabbled off-stage we would make the audience believe we were madly in love. I would give him a lovey-dovey look and we would use our eyes and smile at one another. Isn’t that so, darling?”
agrees. “Yes. Very true!”
respond with a watery smile and agree to try.
7 January – Sunday school and Church.
to Webster’s first programme of G and S. He introduces it with his
recording of A Wand’ring Minstrel. He does Trial By Jury.
I think he should talk more during the programme.
11 January – Have lunch with Mum in Anstey’s.
to studio. I listen to Nellie singing. Webster comes in and says,
“God, let’s make a cup of tea! Is this weather hot enough for you,
Jean?” He goos over Lemon and tells him, “Say hello to Jean.”
hear Nellie say that she never goes to the theatre as her husband
doesn’t approve of it.
has her hair pinned up at the back – dead straight. It looks
lovely. She tells me they went to see Beryl Reid’s show at the
Playhouse and they thoroughly enjoyed it. They were very friendly
with her in England and Anne thinks she’s got fatter and
older-looking since they saw her last. When they were at a rehearsal
at the BBC she was there wearing a hat with a cluster of feathers in
it. She had complained in her broad B’ham accent, “I don’t know if
it’s all this excitement but I ‘ave an awful headache.” A few weeks
later she told them that it wasn’t the excitement giving her the
headache, “It was that ‘at!”
We start on scales and Webster tells me that they sound much better. We have tea and Anne tells me that I have a most beautiful English complexion, “Hasn’t she, Boo?” I blush.
We continue with vocalisation studies which go particularly well. She corrects a few things and we go over them again to correct the mistakes but can see – as can they – a marked improvement.
Webster presents me with his record of Songs of England so that I can listen to Sweet Polly Oliver – A collection of English songs sung by Jennifer Vyvyan with Edward Lush at the piano. We listen to the record – Jennifer Vyvyan has a good voice and is extremely musical . Accept it with thanks. His signature is scrawled on the cover – L. Webster Booth. Anne says my Scots accent must not come out in my singing. I say I can’t hear this accent – even on tape. She says, “Oh, yes! It’s there!” Poor me.
asks, “Have you seen your friend Peter since his lesson?”
I say, “Oh, yes. He enjoyed it. He’s decided he has a lot to learn.” She has a good laugh. I manage to smile today but before I start singing Webster says to me, “I don’t want to be nasty, Jean, but remember to smile!”
feel quite elated when I say goodbye.
14 January – Sunday school. Go to Betty’s afterwards and listen to Jennifer V. Her Bobby Shaftoe is fabulous. I love her “bookles”!
the afternoon the Stablers from the flats on the corner, Robert’s
Heights, visit. She is a doctor of psychology – a charming old
lady. I listen to Leslie Green. Gary Allighan in the Sunday Times
gives Webster a rave notice for his new programme.
at night. Listen to Webster’s G and S programme and his change in
presentation makes the programme quite fabulous. He plays his own
recording of The Lost Chord which is glorious – Herbert
Dawson at the organ. He tells us that only two people were allowed to
make G and S recordings without the personal supervision of D’Oyly
Carte – Malcolm Sargent and himself!
tells the story of HMS Pinafore and introduces the characters
by imitating them. It is a really fabulous presentation and I enjoy
every minute of it. I can congratulate him on Thursday now without
any qualms about being insincere. Good old Webster – he’s done it
15 January – Go to work and faint when I’m there – am slapped and have water thrown over me and am then sent home! Mummy restores me to life! Rest for remainder of day and manage to practise at night. Strangely enough, all goes well!
16 January – Work. Lezya – who doesn’t look even vaguely ill – departs in the afternoon and I am left on my own to pass a million entries. Steadily decline but manage to get through it all.
Practise at night and we are invited to the Scotts on Saturday night. The choir starts on Monday. Have received no intimation about it so may phone Ruth Ormond.
17 January – Go to Mrs S in the afternoon and see Stan, her brother-in-law. Receive intimation from Johan v d M concerning choir on Monday night.
18 January – Work. Have a gorgeous lunch with Mum upstairs in Ansteys.
Toddle up to Webster’s at night. He is most affable and tells me to help myself to a cup of tea. I do this and make much noise with cups. Nellie (whose diction and voice are not at their best this evening) holds forth. Anne is silent but Webster is more eloquent. Nellie asks for a drink of water and he comes to get one for her and tells me, “It’s too hot to think, far less sing.” Nellie goes and tells Anne that she hopes she’ll be better next week. I wonder what is wrong and go in at Webster’s bidding. When I go in I get the fright of my life – Anne is pale with a huge swelling at one ankle and is hobbling. I voice my horror and she tells me that she has an allergy to mosquito bites and the swelling is the result of one. When she was in the south of France she was always hobbling around or had her arm in a sling because of mosquito bites. She hobbles over to the piano and tells Webster that she’d like a cup of tea and a biscuit because she feels hungry.
start on scales which go reasonably well. She says I must retain my
mezzo quality up and keep the soprano quality for the very top.
thank Webster for his record and tell him I enjoyed his programme
tremendously on Sunday night. He says, “Did you really? I couldn’t
hear it very well because we were out in the country in the car. Do
you think it’s the right formula?”
say how I loved his characterisation of the parts – he seems
says that I might (if I want to) audition for a part in the chorus of
the two operas taking place soon with Mimi Coertse in them. Speak to
JvdM. She says the SABC choir will probably be asked to sing in them
do Sweet Polly Oliver and work like hell on it. Anne says that
my consonants are lazy so we go through the thing again. I am accused
of Scottish accent. She feels my breathing although she can hardly
do My Mother. Webster sings one part to me as it should be
sung. It is as though I have never heard or seen him sing in my life
– as I expect he sings on stage – quite a different man with a
smile and a light in his eyes as though he’s singing for the joy and
love of it. Losing his voice? Not Webster!
talking about the opera Webster says, “Tell them you won’t sing for
any less than £50 a week! Have a good laugh.
I leave I tell Anne that I hope she will be better very soon indeed.
She is so sweet and puts such a good face on it. She even tells me,
“I’m glad I come from the North Country – all the people drop
their jaws and yap all day there!” (in appropriate accents!)
With her hair back, her face pale and her ankle sore, she looked her age today, but there is still something about her that makes her remarkable. She is an angel at heart and I adore her!
19 January – After work I sing for at least two and a half hours in the evening. Confirmation from father that My Mother Bids Me has vastly improved.
20 January – Work in morning and meet parents in the Century restaurant and have lunch, then see Bachelor Flat with Terry Thomas – a poor film. We get a lift home from Mr Russell.
night we visit the Scotts. Linda is going to high school shortly. Mr
S says, “Tell Webster to play Iolanthe and the Mikado
– the real Gilbert and Sullivan.”
21 January – (Webster’s sixtieth birthday). Webster at night is terrific.
22 January – Work. I go to SABC at night. We are doing a Cantata and Passion (Bach) for Good Friday (in Afrikaans). We will be singing in Norma with Mimi Coertse and also Tales of Hoffman, Hansel and Gretel and in the Symphony of Psalms when Stravinsky comes out.
Speak to Ruth O at break. She lives in Parkwood and goes to Parktown Girls’ High (in Form 4 this year) and Webster and Anne are on visiting terms with her parents. She calls them Anne and Webster. She tells me that Anne came to her house this afternoon with music for her exam – she’s doing the same one as me – and Anne showed her all my songs and exercises.
We say that neither of us can smile; we both hate looking in the mirror at the studio for next to Anne we look like hags; we are both nervous and it seems we both think alike generally. She tells me that Webster has a red face because of sunburn! She knows Mrs S for she teaches at her school. She says, “Girls are frighted of her, but I’m not!” We both blush when nervous and we’re nervous when we sing alone. It was a lovely conversation.
25 January – Have lunch with Mum in Ansteys.
to studio. Webster answers and he is not looking very well. I help
myself to tea and wash and dry cup too. Nellie is singing for all her
in and Anne tells me (on enquiry) that she had to stay in bed last
Friday and have a cortisone injection but she’s all right now.
She tells me that a girl, Colleen McMenamin has been accepted into the SABC choir and is supposed to be going tonight. She’s a mezzo and comes from Germiston. I say I’ll look out for her on Monday. We’ll have quite a gang soon!
Webster’s suggestion we start on vocalisation studies. Have to battle
like mad over them. He spares me nothing although I’m dead beat.
After many contortions by Webster and myself they improve.
do My Mother and she says that my consonants are positively
sluggish. No wonder – so am I! We try it to “ca” at Webster’s
provocation. This is a great success and for once, he is pleased.
When we do it again my diction has improved.
gets terrible pain around his chest “like a band of hot steel
pressing on me.” She looks startled and he says, “It’s probably
the cheese sandwich I had at lunchtime.” He takes pills and I
is rehearsing for a new play, The Andersonville Trial.
26 January – At lunchtime I meet Liz Moir with her mother. She is most affable. I meet Mum in John Orrs and we look at sales. Do large and very profitable singing practice at night.
27 January – Work hard and buy some clothes afterwards. I pass the studio and their car is parked in Pritchard Street. When I come out of John Orrs I see Webster looking very hot in shirt getting into it.
28 January – Sunday school and work. Webster’s programme is lovely.
29 January – Work. Go to SABC at night and have a wonderful time. Gill is back. I talk to Ruth and she asks if I saw picture of Webster and Anne in the Star. She saw the Amorous Prawn twice. I don’t come across Colleen M. I think she is married. I see the photo of Webster and Anne at the home of Aussie Commissioner in Lower Houghton when I get home.
30 January – Work hard. At night Peter C arrives unannounced and we sing. He had Anne all to himself on Saturday. Webster was probably rehearsing. His voice has definitely improved.
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.
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 Messiah – He 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 Penzance – Come 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.
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?”
“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”
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.
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!”