BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1962 – 1963)

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

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

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

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

July 1962 – Leslie Green broadcasts from the UK.

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

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

Fever Hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

1963

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIARIES continued – SEPTEMBER 1963.

28 September – I meet Anne at Edinburgh Court. She has a soothing effect on me. I
sing well for Guy McG and he drools over her. Questions are all fine, as is the sight- singing. He seems pleased. Anne and I go to Macy’s where she buys a carpet sweeper and she says she was delighted with my singing and thinks I should do very well. She says I am turning out to be another Mabel Fenney! She runs me back to the studio in her
blue Anglia and is a regular love.

Webster comes and says he hears I sang fabulously and do I want to pay his 1/- bet right now!

3 September – Meet Gill Viljoen in town and we go skating. The British champion skater, Daphne Walker is there with two little girls.

Daphne Walker (1946)

We lunch at the SABC with Doreen Taylor. I talk to Arthur (tuba player) and see Edgar Cree, Gerrit Bonn and Thea Mullins’ sister, Wendy (Kim Shippey’s secretary). I go to singing and Webster gives me tea and tells me Anne is feeling a bit miserable and has probably caught a chill. She remarks on my hair style and even he says it looks beautiful. They say the lipstick they gave me looks lovely. Sing Father of Heav’n and do it well. Anne is impressed with my skates! I meet Doreen Craig after her trip to Europe.

6 September – Go into studio. Anne comes in looking too beautiful for words. She tells me about her arthritis which keeps her in constant agony. We decide that everyone has something to worry them.

10 September – Ear tests with Edith Sanders. I learn that Guy McG is the examiner for my Associate diploma. I go to the studio and Anne answers the door as Webster is on the phone with Mum. He comes into the kitchen and gives me a message. When Heather leaves Anne asks me if I should like to help at the theatrical garden party on 5 October with Ruth. They are on the committee – should be fun. Anne says I look more beautiful every week. They emote about all the music history I have to learn for diploma exam.

12 September – Go into studio and work very hard as diploma is looming. Anne arrives looking too lovely for words in a pretty summer dress. We run down The King and I together and she says I’m the only person to whom she can say it because S. Africans would say she was acting big! Linda Walters arrives and I go out and meet Webster on the ground floor. He is very sweet to me. Ah, what a life this is!

13 September – Go into studio. Desmond Wright calls. Lucille and Anne arrive and Webster gives me some tea and complains about the heat. I say if I don’t pass, he knows what I’ll do, and he says if I do, he’ll take the keys away! I do vast amount of scales and Anne tells met to open my mouth wider, and he says, “And a very pretty mouth it is too!”

I phone Ruth at night and we decide to go to the theatrical garden party. There is a disgusting article by Jon Sylvester in the Star about Webster. I phone the Star and complain for I feel really bitter about it!

The Star 13 September 1963. Jon Sylvester – radio critic

14 September – We go to see The Blue Lamp with a lovely Jack Warner of 15 years ago – very similar to studio picture.

16 September – Ruth finishes preliminary exams. I do ear tests with Edith then go up to the studio. Webster is still in one piece after the horrible slating by Jon Silvester in the paper. They tell me all about Mabel Fenney marrying again, Anne’s anaemia, and how well Lucille sang in her exam. He makes tea for us and we make arrangements about lessons next week. We go to the Victoria hotel and dine with Uncle John and Aunt Nellie McKee up from Cape Town. I drink wine!

18 September – Go to studio. Webster phones in the afternoon, calling me Jeannie, and asks me to accompany Selwyn and Dennis at an audition in Ansteys building at the home of Gwen Clark on Saturday. I agree, naturally enough. He tells me about Elijah which he is singing in Pietermaritzburg. I wish him luck and tell him I know he’ll sing beautifully! He says, “Bless you, dear,” when we say goodbye.

19 September – Go to studio and have dozens of phone calls including one from Brian Morris. Linda arrives before Anne and then when she comes, I have to show her the broken window of which she knows nothing. She says she hopes I don’t mind playing for Dennis and Selwyn on Saturday. Anne will probably be early in tomorrow after visit to the doctor.

20 September – Work in studio. When Anne arrives, she tells me she hasn’t got anaemia but still feels horrid. We have tea and she tells me that Webster refused to phone her from Michaelhouse to tell her how he is or to enquire about the blood test she had. She is very hurt. We do scales for the entire lesson. She gives me a lecture on my inferiority complex. I phone Dennis’s mother to arrange to meet them tomorrow. I wash the dishes before I leave. Lucille is doing The Merry Widow in Afrikaans in Kempton Park.

21 September – Accompany Dennis and Selwyn at Gwen Clark’s penthouse in Ansteys. Taubie Kushlik and Ockert Botha are there. The boys sing well. We have a lovely tea after the audition (for Amahl and the Night Visitors) is over. I go up to the studio afterwards and Anne is still there. She makes us coffee and tells me she loathes Gwen Clark and all the pseudo-theatrical types in Johannesburg. She says, “You must think I’m a bitch!” but I agree with her. She says that when they first arrived all the society types were inviting them to the races and other events and were not impressed that they were not rolling in money and had to work for a living. I stay in the studio until 2.00pm. Lucille’s father arrives to talk to Anne about Lucille.

22 September – Phone Ruth who tells me about her exams and how Anne raved about me yesterday during her lesson.

23 September – Ear tests. Edith plays me her pieces and I sing mine to her. Go to the studio and Anne is on the phone talking to Lucille’s father. She tells me she’s sick to death of him. She asks me to make tea and tells me about a visit to the Capri where she had the ghastly experience of seeing Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans. She says Webster did phone when he arrived at Michaelhouse after all. Webster phones the studio to say he’s home again. I wash the dishes.

24 September – Webster answers door and calls me, “Darling!” He says the trip was fun but tiring when I ask how he is keeping. Heather sings a ghastly wrong note and he says, “See what I mean!” We grimace at each other for ages – lovely! Anne tells me that Lucille just passed her exam. The examiner was not at all impressed with her voice.

27 September – Anne comes and we do the French song and when Webster arrives, he puts everything on tape. He says I shouldn’t take any pills – just a glass of water! Linda W arrives and tells me she thinks I sing most beautifully. Webster jokes with me and then says, “Darling, I wish you all the best of luck.” Ruth phones when I get home and I say I’ll see her at the garden party.

28 September – I meet Anne at Edinburgh Court. She has a soothing effect on me. I sing well for Guy McG and he drools over her. Questions are all fine, as is the sight- singing. He seems pleased. Anne and I go to Macy’s where she buys a carpet sweeper and she says she was delighted with my singing and thinks I should do very well. She says I am turning out to be another Mabel Fenney! She runs me back to the studio in her blue Anglia and is a regular love.

Webster comes and says he hears I sang fabulously and do I want to pay his 1/- bet right now!

29 September – Go to Mrs Sullivan. Margaret arrives in a state after her exam. Mrs S tells me that Webster embarrasses her when he makes her conduct the proceedings for their nursery school record. He told her that they are very proud of me. All the orphans at Nazareth House were allowed to stay up to listen to his programme last week and were very impressed. Listen to Webster’s Great Voices and he plays his Sound an Alarm which is marvellous!

Nursery School sing-along.

29 September – Go to studio to get the sheet music for Rendezvous. Webster answers – still with bad leg. Gertie is there with Anne and they all congratulate me on Grade VII piano exam 85%. Tell them about the record and then depart. I feel sad about Webster in many ways.

30 September – Go to see Kimberley Jim. Despite Jim Reeves being the star of the film it is very poor indeed. Webster has only a tiny part as the innkeeper but plays it well, complete with monocle.

Kimberley Jim with Jim Reeves, Clive Parnell, Arthur Swemmer , Webster and others.

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EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – MARCH 1963

They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”

1 March –  Leslie Green says on the radio that he is going on a little jaunt next month – presumably he’s referring to the little jaunt with Anne! Roselle D sings Wouldn’t It be Loverly on Stars of Tomorrow.

2 March – I go to SS studio and work with Margaret and Elaine at dictation and ear tests and sing in the choir. Webster is great at night with his Great Voices and talks about his singing pupils saying that his young friends consider him a square – sweet!

3 March – Another very grim day today. I manage to listen to Leslie G in the afternoon and phone Ruth who enjoyed Breaking Point and is still depressed over her singing.

4 March – Work. Go to SABC at night and see numerous personalities. Nameless Afrikaans woman tells me that Anne walked out on the cast of the Merry Widow in Springs a week before it was due to open but came back for the opening night! Well, she did complain about their behaviour and told me she would never produce another thing in Springs again. Ruth and I sit together and she tells me she is going to see a throat specialist on 21st of this month and if it isn’t right she’ll have to give up singing.

5 March – Work. Go to singing and I’m there early so Webster asks me straight in. Anne is sitting sewing a rug. I admire all the decorations to the studio –it looks really lovely. We have tea and I sing well and they are pleased. She says that my breathing is a bit faulty so we work at it. He puts his hands around my waist so that I can push them away with my ribs – very romantic! She says that my voice has improved beyond all bounds. He says I must get rid of the “balloon” or else he won’t come to see me when I sing – honey!

6 March – Work hard and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I go to Mrs S’s but she’s attending a funeral and when she returns she is too upset to give me a lesson. I talk to Gill and Elaine but we don’t do much work.

8 March – Work. Go to studio where Lucille is having a lesson and singing the Maids of Cadiz. He goes with her to put 6d in the meter. I can imagine what is going on while he’s away! I sing scales and studies well and they are pleased. He makes tea and then we do Ein Schwan which goes really well and Open thy Blue Eyes. He says my breathing is very good indeed and he can’t see a balloon today!

9 March – I go to Mrs S today and work hard. When Elaine leaves I go out with her for a breather and meet Mary Harrison – she is terribly sweet and charming. I go back and sing in the ensemble and then we see Billy Budd which is very good. Listen to Webster at night.

10 March – Go to church and Mr R preaches well. See Doreen, Shorty etc. I listen to Leslie G and the Springbok’s G&S. Ruth doesn’t phone which is a bit hurtful.

11 March – Work very hard and go to the SABC at night. Ruth tells me that the Booths simply raved about my singing and say that my voice is settling down nicely. She says that she doesn’t hate Anne any more!

12 March – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle. Webster answers door and dashes off to buy tea in Thrupps. Anne is sweet and I sing my scales well. Webster makes tea and I sing Zion and Open Thy Blue Eyes. Webster and I decide I must do it in French. They have their certificate from their Royal Command performance appearance in 1945 on the wall. Anne says that someone was being rather derisive about them as teachers so she felt it was time to bring the certificate into the studio. It is fabulous and a real honour for them to have it.

13 March – Work and go to the library and meet Frances de Vries Robbe there. She tells me of her plans to study singing in the UK and make it her career. I have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and then go to the SS studio and have a long gruelling lesson! Evidently we are doing the piano exam on 20th of April which will work in with my accompanying for Webster very well indeed.

15 March – Work and go to singing. Webster says he’s sure Lucille won’t pass her exam. It just shows that one needs something extra apart from an excellent voice! Anne records the French pronunciation on tape and I sing scales and I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly. Webster sings this for me on my tape- I’m proud to have it. Anne discusses the unfairness of the SABC in auditioning Doris Bolton, a soprano originally from Staffordshire. Webster comes down on the lift with me and discusses his teeth which he hopes to get removed soon. I go to guild at night and we have an interesting talk on blood transfusions. See Ann and Brian Stratton.

16 March – I go to SS studio and work hard with Margaret and Elaine. In the afternoon we see Madame which is rather ghastly. I listen to Webster and he is great as usual. Plays recordings by John McCormack, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, and Anne, who is lovely.

17 March – Go to church and sit with Ann and Joan. Mr Taylor Cape (who christened me in Scotland) preaches well. The Diamonds come in the afternoon. Ruth phones and says she’s thinking of leaving the Booths after the exam. I think this is rather a pity. Evidently she cracked her head on the swimming pool last week and couldn’t go to the gala. Imagine – a year since the announcement of Drawing Room.

18 March – Work very hard. Go to SABC and Simon Swindell is very much in evidence. He says, “Night, night!” to everyone as he leaves. We have John Tyler as choirmaster tonight. He is excellent and amusing. I talk to Hester, Gill and Marie and remember to apologise for Ruth. We work hard at Creation.

19 March – Work. Go to singing in afternoon and meet Roselle on the bus. She tells me that she may be going back to the Booths next month. Webster answers the door and Anne goes out for a bit so I work with him. We go through exercises and studies. The first study drags a bit but the second is good. Anne comes back and we have tea together. She tells me how the SABC audition went for Doris. They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”

20 March – Go to the library and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go up to SS studio and practise and then have long lesson with Mrs S – she says I’ve improved very much. I do ear tests with Elaine.

21 March – Go into town early and have my hair set in Ansteys by Mr Paul. I meet Doreen and Betty, have lunch with Mum and then come home and work hard at singing. It certainly doesn’t seem like a year since that heavenly Drawing Room evening.

22 March – Work. Go to studio and Webster discusses the aural tests with me and worries about how well Lucille will do in the forthcoming exams! Anne and he say that they like my hair very much. Anne tells me that Mabel Fenney is getting divorced as she now has a boyfriend in London called Maurice Perkin. Webster is mocking about this and says that it wouldn’t be so bad if his name was Perkins, but Perkin is beyond the pale! We work hard at exam pieces and they say I have nothing to worry about. Webster comes down with me on the lift and tells me that he likes a little break from the studio periodically to put money in the meter!

23 March – Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. Webster says on Great Voices that he was the first person to hear the test record of Jussi Bjoerling before the war – his favourite tenor.

24 March – Phone Ruth and she tells me she has to have her tonsils out at the end of the year. Anne is most upset about this as she herself had to have her tonsils out when she was in her forties. Ruth says she thinks Webster played Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair for me last night on Great Voices! Sweet, but most unlikely. We shall see each other tomorrow night at the SABC. We visit the Bullocks in the afternoon and see their new twins who are very sweet. Mr Bullock is my father’s work colleague.

25 March – Work hard and then go to the SABC at night and work hard again with Chris Lamprecht. Ruth tells me about the birthday celebrations for Caroline, and that she herself has failed 3 tests during this last week!

26 March – Work. Go into town and meet Roselle. Webster is in the studio by himself so he gives me a cuppa! Anne arrives and tells me she might have to go into hospital to have part of a diseased tonsil removed. She is very upset. Go through all exam work. Zion is the best thing I sing today. They give me two different scores for sight-reading practice. One has her old name on it – Irené Frances Eastwood.

27 March – Go to the library and lunch with Mum. Go to the SS studio where Frances runs down Anne and Webster. I give Corrie Bakker a lesson as Gill is at a funeral today. I have a gruelling lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine.

28 March – Work hard. Leslie G mentions that he’s going to Cape Town on his jaunt with Anne soon, although he doesn’t mention her by name!

29 March – Work. Go to singing and I arrive first. We do scales to loosen my jaw. Webster arrives and they inform me that he is a “film star” at the moment in the Jim Reeves film Kimberley Jim as the innkeeper. He informs me that he has strained his shoulder on the set. We do Ein Schwan and studies and they go fairly well. Webster says I must be more abandoned! Selwyn (child following me) sings on Stars of Tomorrow.

As the innkeeper in Kimberley Jim.

30 March – Go to town with Mum and we see the Jim Reeves crowd there. We see a film with Stanley Baker as the star – Good. Webster’s Great Voices is very good. He and Anne are doing a recital a week on Monday with the SABC concert orchestra and Edgar Cree conducting.