BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1970 – 1976)

I found Webster and Squillie waiting for me at Plett airport. We had to go into the airport office to confirm my return flight. The woman on duty there recognised Webster and regarded us with keen interest.
We drove “home” in his blue Vauxhall Viva station wagon through the Knysna Forest to the settler cottage in Graham Street which they were so keen to sell. The countryside around Knysna was beautiful and I was lucky enough to see a steam train crossing the bridge over the water as we entered Knysna. I also remember seeing the Cottage Hospital, which reminded me of my TV favourite, Dr Findlay’s Casebook.
As we entered the house, Webster said, “You can do what you like in this house, darling.”

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22 February 1970 Letter from Webster to Mabel Perkin in the UK.

6 May 1970 Anne and Webster appear on BBC2 in an interview with Sue MacGregor on Women’s Hour.

April 1970
27 April 1970
27 April 1970 (cintinued)
Poor photo accompanying the interview.

26 June 1970 I get married to Errol Collen at St James’ Presbyterian Church, Mars Street Malvern.

Jean and Errol with the Rev Nicol Binnie
24 August 1972 – Durban.
24 August 1972 – Durban.
24 August 1972 – Durban.
Birthday dinner for Fred Cropper (He and his daughter Freda lived on the top floor of the Booth’s house in Knysna, 1972)
Imperial Hotel, Knysna
Rent receipt book R75 per month for top flat at 18 Graham Street.
Dick Whittington for the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society in Port Elizabeth 7 December 1972
Port Elizabeth 5 November 1972 – Thirty-fourth wedding anniversary.
March 1973. Mikado in East London. Shirley Smith interviews Webster.
4 to 14 April 1973. The Mikado at Guild Theatre, East London.
Webster directing the Mikado; Jean Fowler conducting. March, April 1973.
Webster in the wings.
Webster – close-up
Webster stayed at the King’s Hotel. I wrote the letter (right) to the Daily Dispatch under the pseudonym of J. McIntyre.
Scene from the Mikado – Bernie Lee, Jimmy Nicholas, Colin Carney, Pamela Emslie
I visit Webster in Knysna in May 1973.
Postcard from Anne to Freda Boyce and Fred Cropper, 2 May 1973.
Anne visits Jean Buckley during her holiday in the UK.
Webster and I go to the Lookout Steak House in Plett while I am in Knysna.
Beacon Island, Plett.
18 Graham Street, Knysna.
From Webster to me.
Christmas card from the Booths. We returned from East London to Johannesburg. My baby, Michael was born on 12 March 1974.
Anne in the garden of the house in Somerset West (photo: Dudley Holmes)
October 1975 – Farewell Performance in Somerset West.
Anne and Webster sing “We’ll Gather Lilacs” at the British Ambassador’s residence to the accompaniment of Brian Kay after the King’s Singers’ Concert in Cape Town – 1976 or 1977 – shortly before they returned to the UK.

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA – (1960 – 1961)

Someone asked me recently whether I went to study with Anne and Webster because of their duet singing, but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was entirely due to Mabel Fenney that decided me to study singing with Anne and Webster and to make music my career.

3 February 1960 – Mabel Fenney

When I was in my final year at Jeppe High School for Girls in 1960, the permanent music mistress, Miss Diane Heller, went on long leave, and Mrs Mabel Fenney took her place for a term. Mabel was born Mabel Greenwood on Shakespeare’s birthday in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire in 1919. Her mother was a true contralto and had sung in several professional productions. The Greenwoods moved to East London in the Eastern Cape when Mabel was quite young.

She showed singing talent from an early age and did her initial singing diplomas in East London, trained by a gentleman she referred to as “Pop Lee”, and sang and acted in many local musicals, plays and recitals. Her favourite role was as Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard. She married fellow Lancastrian, Eric Fenney, and instead of pursuing a singing career, she helped him run his plumbing business in East London. 

 When the Dramatic Society of East London invited Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler to star in the 1958 production of Merrie England, she and Eric stood surety for their salaries.  It was in this production where she first met them, playing their roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh. She played the part of Jill-All-Alone in the production. The following year the society put on Waltz Time, again with Anne and Webster in the leading roles, but, for some reason, she did not take part in this production. Instead she went to Johannesburg to have lessons with Anne and Webster in preparation for several advanced diploma singing examinations. By the time she arrived at Jeppe High School for Girls she had already won the University of South Africa’s overseas teaching bursary and was due to leave for Berlin to study at the Hochschule there for two years.

We schoolgirls looked on Mabel as a very glamorous figure in comparison with some of our staid academic teachers. She was lively and enthusiastic and took us on various outings to the opera.

 Towards the end of her term at Jeppe, Mabel gave a memorable recital in the school hall one afternoon. The event had not been widely publicised, so there were not many people present, but I was there with singing school friends, Margaret Plevin (née Masterton) and Valerie Vogt (née Figgins). We were impressed by her performance. The Booths had decided that she was a mezzo soprano rather than soprano, so she had sung a mezzo repertoire for her diploma exams. I will always remember her singing of the Habanera and Seguidilla from Carmen.

At the end of one of the arias she threw a rose coquettishly to her schoolgirl audience. We were completely captivated. Someone asked me recently whether I went to study with Anne and Webster because of their duet singing, but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was entirely due to Mabel Fenney that decided me to study singing with Anne and Webster and to make music my career.

Mabel Fenney (later Perkin) Photo taken in 1960 before she went to Berlin to study at the Hochschule there.
February 1960.
2 March 1960. Webster’s reference for Mabel.

27, 28 May 1960 – Grand Variety Show, Methodist Church Hall, Roberts Avenue, Kensington. Anne and Webster and other artistes. Anne and Webster sang just before the interval. I (aged sixteen) asked them for their autographs before they left, the only one to do so.

27 May 1960.
Kensington Methodist Church as it is today (2019) In 1960 there was no wall surrounding it.
Variety Concert at Methodist Church, Roberts Avenue, Kensington 1960.
Kensington Methodist Church – as it is today.
Anne appears in various adverts!

24 November 1960 – A Country Girl. Springs Civic Theatre. Anne produced this show for the Springs Operatic Society.

24 November 1960

1960 – Mikado, Bloemfontein. I am not sure whether Webster sang in it, directed it, or both.

Webster in Bloemfontein to do The Mikado.

1, 2, December 3 1960 – Christmas Capers, Civic Theatre, Bloemfontein. Anne and Webster and local artistes in a variety show presented by Rotary Club.

December, 1960 – The Christmas Oratorio, Kimberley. Webster sang the tenor solos, although he was not as fond of Bach as he was of Handel.

8 December 1960 I had an interview with Anne Ziegler at the studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Corner, Pritchard Street and started lessons with Anne and Webster two weeks later. Webster was singing at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio when I had my audition. Anne was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter when I went for my first lesson. Here is the photo taken at that interview.

Lock Up Your Daughters – December 1960. Anne plays Mrs Squeezum!
Anne and Valerie Miller in Lock Up Your Daughters. The play was not a success.

March 1961 – advertising Skol Beer.

April 1961 SABC Bulletin – Wednesday at 8.30 pm. Webster Booth, who presents a programme of Opera, Operetta and Oratorio at 8.30 on Wednesday nights, began singing at the age of seven. That makes his career 52 years “and I hope it goes on a little further, but not too long,” he told announcer Robert Kirby in an interview.

This is how the conversation continued:

If you started singing when you were seven, how did you manage to fit in your education? – Well, I began in Lincoln Cathedral as a choir boy and was educated at the cathedral school. This was run by the Dean and Chapter. That took me up to the Oxford and Cambridge junior examination which was roughly equivalent to our Junior Certificate. After that I had to stop musical training as my voice was breaking and completed my schooling at a commercial school studying accountancy.

Broaadcasting at the SABC.

I know your fields of endeavour have been in Opera, Oratorio and Operetta. Do you have any preferences among these three? – Oratorio, definitely!

Why? – I suppose it was my first love and I certainly get much more satisfaction from singing in Oratorio, musically that is; I am trying to say that to do it properly and to do it well you have to work at it so hard that the feeling of achievement is that much greater. With Opera and Operetta one has stage clothing, and scenery and movement to register to an audience, whereas in Oratorio one has nothing except one’s own interpretation as a medium of reaching the audience.

Do you prefer working “live” with an audience, recording or broadcasting? – I certainly prefer working without an audience. In front of one that is. Usually in a broadcast one has a much larger audience but because they are unseen one can concentrate much more, also because of their quantity it makes me want to give much more than I would on a stage. If it would be possible to sing before an audience of perhaps fifty thousand people it would be much more awe-inspiring than singing to them via a microphone. I can always have a broadcast recorded and that is invaluable to me as I am my own greatest critic. One can always learn from one’s mistakes.

Do you suffer from stage fright? – Yes. The older I get the worse I get. I think the reason being that one always wants to be that one per cent better than the last time. The suffering comes from the fear of being one per cent worse. Stage fright should only happen before a performance. To go on being frightened during the performance is fatal.

Do you find that one person alone in an audience can affect you? – Very much so. Someone who is restive will invariably catch your eye and distract you. None of us are perfect and if one knows the position in the audience of a somewhat severe critic one is apt to wonder what he or she may be thinking and this can be most disturbing.

How do you react to severe criticism? – If you mean destructive criticism I am like anyone else. I react very unfavourably. But if it is constructive criticism then I try to swallow my pride and read into the criticism something from which I should benefit.

What was the worst critique you ever had? – I deliberately forget the bad ones. The best? – The finest write up I ever received, from my point of view, was for a show that only ran for two and a half weeks. “Here is the answer to a producer’s prayer.’

Which would you call the most fulfilling moment of your career? – The first night of the 1938 Covent Garden Festival of Opera. I sang the tenor role in Rosenkavelier with Erich Kleiber conducting and Lotte Lehmann as the soprano lead. To see a pre-war full house at Covent Garden from the stage with evening dress and tiaras is a sight one could never forget.

Which role was your favourite? – Definitely Francois Villon in The Vagabond King. It has everything an artist could wish for. Comedy, romance, glorious costumes, pathos and good solid music to sing.

Are you satisfied with what you have achieved? – Yes. If I had my life over again I doubt whether I would change much of it. I have been very lucky. I was given a voice, a figure, and my marriage with Anne Ziegler – something which has been successful and happy, and I have adopted what I think to be about the finest country in the world.

Webster’s programme is extended and is now called On Wings of Song, with the duet by Anne and Webster as the introductory music.
1 May 1961 Opening night of La Traviata at Empire Theatre.
Old Folks’ concert Durban May 1961

June 1961. Webster adjudicated at the Salisbury eisteddfod.

5 July 1961 – Concert in Salisbury.

5 July 1961 – Concert.8.15 pm Allan Wilson School, Beit Hall, Salisbury, Rhodesia – Anne and Webster appeared in a concert after Webster had adjudicated at the Vocal Festival for the Rhodesia Institute of Allied Arts.

17 July 1961 – Advert for pupils.

Advert for pupils. 17 July 1961 – Star.

August/September 1961. Mabel Fenney back in SA for holiday.

5 September to October 30 1961 –The Amorous Prawn,Alexander Theatre (previously the Reps Theatre); National Theatre, Pretoria, 31 October to November 12; Alhambra Theatre, Durban, November.

Webster was the Prawn, with Simon Swindell, Gabriel Bayman, Diane Wilson, Joe Stewardson, Ronald Wallace and Joan Blake, directed by Victor Melleney.

Anne and Leslie Green Opening night of The Amorous Prawn 1961
A reference for my first job in the bank! 6 October 1961.

November 1961 – The Stage. Johannesburg Theatre by Evelyn Leveson. The evening attraction at the Alexander – acclaimed with delight by both critics and public – was The Amorous Prawn, directed by Victor Melleney and starring Joan Blake, one of our most versatile actresses, who, for the past two years, has been touring the country in Adam Leslie’s witty intimate revue Two’s Company.

Excellent notices were also received by Webster Booth who, with his wife Anne Ziegler, has been living here for the past five years. As the Prawn, Mr Booth is appearing on the South African stage in his first non-singing role.

1 November 1961 (from my teenage diary)
1 November 1961 (from diary)
1 November 1961 (diary)
November 1961 Durban.
Anne as Mrs Siddons 31 October 1961.
1 November 1961 from diary – the story continues in the diary itself (1961)
27 November 1961 Dream of Gerontius.

PUPILS OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER IN JOHANNESBURG.

Students of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

The following people studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth at their studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Building, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, or at their home in Parktown North. The list is incomplete as it has been compiled from memory and from the diaries I kept at the time I was accompanying for Webster in the studio. In some cases, I have forgotten people’s full names.

LUCILLE ACKERMAN (Soprano) I was in the middle of my lesson when Lucille and her family arrived for her audition. She had spent a year recuperating after an illness on the family farm near Piet Retief. During that year she had worked at improving her singing technique. Hendrik Sussann, the well known Afrikaans bandleader and violinist, lived on a neighbouring farm. He featured her as a singer in his band’s broadcasts on the SABC. She was nineteen years old – a year older than me – and she had a remarkably mature and pleasing soprano. She was already a consummate performer, but needed lessons to improve her musicianship. She and I did several singing examinations at the same time.

During her studies with Anne and Webster, she took the lead in an Afrikaans production of The Merry Widow in Kempton Park. She went on to make a number of Afrikaans recordings and formed a successful duet partnership with the broadcaster, the late Francois van Heyningen, who became her second husband.

DENNIS ANDREWS (boy soprano) I played for Dennis and Selwyn Lotzoff at an audition for Taubie Kushlick’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. The audition took place one Saturday morning in Gwen Clark’s luxurious penthouse on top of Anstey’s Building in central Johannesburg. I accompanied the boys on an excellent grand piano, and afterwards we were treated to a slap-up tea with Mrs Kushlick, Mrs Clark and Ockert Botha. Neither boy won the part of Amahl as a boy soprano was imported from England.

DORIS BOULTON (soprano) Doris Boulton was originally from the Potteries district of England. Her husband worked at a pottery near Irené, on the outskirts of Pretoria. She had an exceptional soprano voice and was also extremely musical – the two gifts do not always go together! She had broadcast extensively with the SABC, but with a change of management, her file was mysteriously lost and she was required to re-audition. This second audition was not favourable, despite her being a better singer than many who continued to give regular broadcasts.

She was singing Richard Strauss’s Serenade in an impossible key, and my attempt at sight-reading this makes me blush even forty-odd years on. Doris and her husband gave Anne and Webster a beautiful white tiled table, inscribed with roses and a few bars of their signature tune, Only a Rose, made by Mr Boulton on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary in 1963.

In 1966 Doris Boulton produced The Merry Widow in Irené and took the leading role of the widow in question, Hannah Glavari.

Webster and Anne attending “The Merry Widow” first night as guests of honour.
Doris Boulton as the Merry Widow (1966)

Doris remained friends with Anne and Webster and visited them a number of times in Penrhyn Bay. She returned to the UK some years ago and settled in Stone. I was sorry to hear from her daughter, Jan Bruns that Doris had passed away in 2008.

 

HEATHER COXON (soprano) Heather was a charming young schoolgirl. She had a light, sweet soprano.

ROSELLE DEAVALL (mezzo soprano) I first heard Roselle sing when she was fourteen years old. I was impressed at the maturity of her voice at such a young age. We discovered that we lived in the same suburb, and visited each other several times. I still have a reel-to-reel recording of her singing The Mountains of Morne, complete with Irish accent.

She stopped having lessons but took them up again after she left school.  In 1966 Webster told me that Roselle had stopped having lessons with them as “They were unable to teach me anything more.” The last I heard was that she was singing with the Performing Arts Company of the Free State. (PACOFS).

NORMA DENNIS (soprano) Norma was the understudy to Diane Todd in the role of Eliza in the production of My Fair Lady in the Empire Theatre, Johannesburg.

Mabel Fenney (extreme left) as Jill-all-Alone in East London production of Merrie England. (Photo courtesy of Julian Nicholas)

MABEL FENNEY PERKIN (soprano) Mabel met Anne and Webster first when she appeared with them in a production of Merrie England in East London, in the Eastern Cape. At the time she was preparing for further music diplomas, so she decided to come up to Johannesburg to have lessons with the Booths.

In 1960 she came to Jeppe Girls’ High as a relief music teacher and gave a recital for the girls in the School Hall. She was instrumental in my decision to study with Anne and Webster. She won the University of South Africa Singing Bursary and studied at the Hochschule in Berlin for two years.

She met her second husband, Maurice Perkin while she was abroad and after her divorce and remarriage to Maurice, she lived and worked in England for a number of years before they came out to South Africa. During her time in England, she sang the role of Susannah in a semi-professional production of The Marriage of Figaro. I met her again in 1976 when she was living in Florida (South Africa) and we became very good friends. We sang duets together until she and her husband retired to the South Coast of Natal.

In April 2009 Mabel celebrated her ninetieth birthday. She died in Uvongo on 6 March 2011, just a month short of her ninety-second birthday. She is sadly missed but ever remembered by me.

VALERIE FIGGINS (soprano) Valerie Figgins also attended Jeppe Girls’ High School, and she too was present at the Mabel Fenney recital. Valerie had a strong voice at an early age and studied with another teacher in Johannesburg before going to Anne and Webster for lessons. I do not know how long she remained with them. We were in the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal’s (PACT) production of Nabucco together in 1965.

ROBINETTE GORDON (soprano) Robin had a sweet soprano voice. When I first met her when I was accompanying for Webster she was singing in the Johannesburg Operatic Society’s production of Show Boat, in which the great Maori bass, Inia Te Wiata was engaged to sing Ole Man River. She went on to sing in further JODS productions of The Yeomen of the Guard, The Merry Widow and Guys and Dolls. I remember coaching her in a jazzy chorus in the latter work – Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat! She later joined PACT, where she sang in a number of operas. I was sorry to read of her death several years ago.

MARY HARRISON (mezzo soprano) Mary was an Australian who came to South Africa with a production of My Fair Lady. She and the understudy to Scottish Diane Todd’s Eliza Doolittle, Norma Dennis, took lessons with Anne and Webster while they were appearing in My Fair Lady in Johannesburg. Mary was an attractive redhead, with a lively personality and ready wit. She stayed on in South Africa after the show and established herself as a professional actress in Durban. She died prematurely some years ago. I was also sorry to hear that Diane Todd died from leukemia in London earlier this month  (April 2010) at the age of 72.

DUDLEY HOLMES (bass) Dudley was completely taken aback to find me at the piano for one of his lessons. He told me later that he had never sung for anyone but Anne and Webster and was very nervous to sing in front of me. He need not have worried. He had a pleasing bass voice, and went on to do many concerts, recitals and shows, first in Johannesburg, and later in Kimberley, where he lived for many years. He returned to Johannesburg some years ago and kindly contributed a memory to my book with an article about his long association and friendship with Anne and Webster.

INNES KENNERSLEY I played for Innes, who was a miner, several times. At the time he was singing a series of Victorian and Edwardian ballads, such as Goodbye and Parted. He used to arrive at his lesson with a large reel-to-reel tape recorder and record the entire lesson. I wonder what happened to all those interesting recordings. They would certainly be of great interest to me if they are still around.

MYRNA LEACH I played at some of Myrna’s lessons and got to know her better when we were in The Merry Widow together in 1964. She had recently married and was particularly proud that Webster had sung My Prayer at her wedding. I believe she subsequently divorced and married for a second time later.

MARGARET LINKLATER (soprano) Margaret was Scottish and lived on the East Rand, where her family ran a bakery in Benoni. She had a very pleasing soprano voice. I remember her singing Gounod’s O Divine Redeemer.

ROBIN LISTER (boy soprano) Robin had an exceptional soprano voice, more like a mature female soprano than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He made several recordings which Anne and Webster supervised. Through the recordings he became well known and appeared at a number of concerts until his voice broke. After his voice broke, Anne and Webster taught him to play the piano. He became an engineer and immigrated to Australia.  Robin Lister sings “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. 

Robin Lister (1964)

SELWYN LOTZOFF (boy soprano) I played for Selwyn at several eisteddfods and at the Amahl and the Night Visitors audition. I particularly remember him singing the Afrikaans song, Die Roos. He immigrated to America and now lives in New York. He is pictured (above left) with his wife.

COLLEEN MCMENAMIN (mezzo soprano) Colleen had a rich mezzo voice and she was very keen to turn professional. She auditioned for Brian Brooke’s production of The Sound of Music at the Brooke Theatre. Brian Brooke was impressed with her singing but suggested that she should take speech lessons before considering a stage career. Despite this setback she appeared in several professional productions in Johannesburg.

BRIAN MORRIS (baritone) He had a voice reminiscent of Peter Dawson’s and a confident stage presence. I got to know him better when he sang in PACT’s production of Nabucco in 1965. Anne chose Brian to take the leading male role of Danillo in her Bloemfontein production of The Merry Widow in 1965. Through this blog I have heard that Brian died in 2006 and is survived by his wife Denise. Those who heard him sing through the years will remember his beautiful voice and charming personality.

PIET MULLER (tenor) Piet Muller had a beautiful tenor voice. He was studying with Anne and Webster in 1962 and for a time had the lesson before mine. I particularly remember him singing Can I Forget You? on the day Webster returned to the studio after his serious illness in 1962. Webster sang part of the song to illustrate a particular point to Piet. Amazingly, Webster’s voice sounded as good as ever despite his illness and his advancing age. Several years ago I heard from Piet’s family member that Piet had died some years ago.

RUTH ORMOND (soprano) Ruth was my special friend at the studio. She and I joined the SABC choir,when it was resurrected in 1961, and Anne suggested that we should meet one another. She was still at school, a year-and-a-half younger than me and, like me, she was originally from Glasgow. She was short, with piercing blue eyes and honey-coloured hair. We both thought the world of Anne and Webster and we loved singing, although neither of us was filled with confidence about our vocal abilities. We did exams together and although we lived a fair distance apart, we visited each other regularly. We made up for the distance between us by making frequent telephone calls. At the cost of a tickey (3d) a call, we could afford to talk as long as we liked – and we did! We made tape recordings of our singing and impromptu play-readings. I still have these recordings in my possession today. In 1962 her mother won a substantial amount of money in the (then) Rhodesian Sweep.

My dear friend, Ruth Ormond, 1963

Ruth went to Cape Town University to study singing in 1964 and sadly died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the end of her first term there. Her parents created an award in her name at Cape Town for the best first-year soprano. She was nineteen years old when she died. I still miss her. I have never had a dearer friend.

LINDA WALTERS Linda came all the way from Vereeniging for her singing lessons. She sang lighter material, like Fly me to the Moon.

ERNEST WESTBROOK (tenor) I did not know Ernest when he was taking lessons, but I met him many years later when Paddy O’Byrne,  the broadcaster gave him my phone number. He had many of Anne and Webster’s recordings and was also an admirer of the Australian bass-baritone, Peter Dawson.

MARY WRIGHT (soprano) Mary’s brother, Desmond Wright, had conducted The Yeomen of the Guard in 1963 when Webster took over the role of Colonel Fairfax at short notice. She had a pleasant light soprano and concentrated on oratorio.

OTHERS: Richard Darley, Elizabeth du Plessis (soprano), Jennifer Fieldgate, John Fletcher, Yvonne Marais (soprano), Joan Metson, Thea Mullins, Betsie Oosthuizen (soprano), Bill Perry (tenor), Piet van Zyl (bass).

I do not remember the full names of the following: Corrie, Dell, Erica, Ferdy, Frances and Henrietta (sisters who sang duets together), Gertie, Graham, Gretchen, Miss Greyvenstein, Hennie, Janet, Kathy, Leanore, Lorentzia, Louella, Louis, Marian, Myrtle, Nellie (a mezzo-soprano who moved to the Free State), Reeka, Shirley, Winnie (a Scot who lived in Modderfontein and sang in the local operatic society).

If anyone can tell me what became of any of Anne and Webster’s pupils, or if you studied with them, I would be very glad to hear from you.

Jean Collen 12 September 2018.

 

 

WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER – MERRIE ENGLAND

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were associated with Edward German’s comic opera, Merrie England for most of their lives, and they sang other Edward German songs into the bargain. Anne had taken the role of the May Queen in an amateur production of Merrie England when still in her teens, and she sang Bessie Throckmorton’s Waltz Song as a test recording when she auditioned for HMV in the nineteen-thirties. One of her few solo recordings was the Waltz Song from German’s Tom Jones. 

Webster, as part of the HMV Light Opera Company, had recorded The English RoseRobin Hood’s Wedding and With a Hey, Robin in the nineteen thirties’ recording of Merrie England Vocal Gems (C2106) He made his own solo recording of The English Rose in 1939. The latter recording was one of his most popular recordings. Later he made a recording of Where Haven Lies from German’s A Princess of Kensington and told me he considered this song to be “the greatest love song ever written”.

Bessie’s Waltz Song (test record for HMV)

Merrie England Vocal Gems (with Webster Booth)

24 April 1939 Another concert by the Glee Club – Merrie England. Eight years ago 16 music lovers met in a recreation room at North End and formed the nucleus of the Portsmouth Glee Club, now a well-known organisation. The first concert they produced in the Guildhall took the form of a Coronation presentation of Merrie England. That was on April 14, 1937. Since then they have given numerous performances and on Wednesday next will give a concert of the music by Sir Edward German. Olive Groves and Webster Booth, the opera singer will take part. The programme consists of excerpts from Merrie England, Nell Gwyn dances, which will be played by the orchestra, and a complete concert selection of A Princess of Kensington. This last-named will be performed by the full chorus and orchestra of the Glee Club under the direction of Mr Harold Hall.

20 November 1940 – Oldham Evening Chronicle

This performance, conducted by Ernest Craig in the darkest days of the war, was in aid of the Mayor’s Spitfire Fund. The Avro Works in Chadderton, just down the road was, of course, an important centre of aircraft production, although they made bombers, not fighters. Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, fairly recently married and among the most famous variety duettists of that time took part. Tickets rapidly sold out and a second performance had to be arranged in the evening.

They appeared together in Merrie England was in a concert version in a Circus Big Top in Blackpool in the summer of 1941.

In 1945 they starred in a concert performance of Merrie England with the Oldham Choral Society at the Odeon Cinema, Oldham. The performance took place on a Sunday afternoon, conducted by the resident conductor, Ernest Craig. The show was so popular that it had to be repeated again that evening by public demand.

Merrie England – Captivating Singing in Oldham.

So great was the demand for seats to hear the concert performance of Merrie England by the Oldham Musical Society and well-known soloists at the Odeon Theatre on Sunday that it was necessary to repeat it in the evening. Originally the intention had been to have only an afternoon performance. Both houses were full, and the audiences were enthusiastic.

This light opera, Edward German’s masterpiece, abounds in beautiful and easily remembered melodies and in gay and happy choruses. It was in these choruses that the members of the Musical Society, of whom 79 were to be counted on the platform (27 of them men) excelled. They have seldom been heard to better advantage and appeared to enjoy the performances as much as did the audiences. They were accompanied by an orchestra of 23 players led by Alfred Barker, under the baton of Mr Ernest Craig, ARCM.

Ernest Craig

The principal soloists were: Anne Ziegler, Bessie Collins, Webster Booth and Arthur Copley.

But it was in the early nineteen-fifties when Anne and Webster came into their own in Merrie England,  taking the starring roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh with various amateur operatic societies. The first such performance was from 15 – 18 August 1951 at Westbourne Gardens, Liskeard, Cornwall. The show was presented by Liskeard Musical Theatre, directed by Thomas J. Bell and conducted by Percival Hill.

24 June 1952 – Merrie England was performed at Priory Park, Chichester. The show was an open-air production presented by the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society and starred Anne and Webster in their usual roles, with Leslie Rands and Marjorie Eyres another husband and wife singing team, once distinguished members of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, playing the Earl of Essex and Jill-All-Alone in a week’s run in aid of charity in Priory Park, Chichester, Leslie’s birthplace. The remainder of the principals were drawn from the Chichester and Bognor Regis Amateur Operatic Society and Societies from the surrounding districts.

Merrie England – Anne and Marjorie Eyres sign autographs.

1953 was Coronation Year so Merrie England, set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, seemed like an ideal work to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Anne and Webster were booked to appear in a number of these productions.

31 January 1953 – Northern Miner Luton’s Coronation pageant to be held in the grounds of Luton Hoo, one of England’s stateliest homes, from June 9 till June 15, will be one of the largest events of its kind ever staged in Britain. There will be more than 1000 performers, all in Elizabethan costume for this special version of Merrie England. The setting of the pageant will represent Old Windsor, with an impressive reproduction of the castle in the background.

A special feature will be an illuminated water curtain, which will screen the stage from the auditorium before the performance. The famous Luton Girls’ Choir will take part in the pageant and other well-known singers will support the principals – Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. Mounted performers will be dressed in full uniform of the Yeomen of the Guard, and ballet, folk-dancing will be demonstrated by experts.

Calgary, Canada

There was even a concert performance of the work in Canada. An advance notice about this notified the public that it would take place in the Stampede Corral, Calgary in May conducted by Harold Ramsay, an old friend of the Booths. He had been born Harold Ramsbottom in England, but raised in Canada. He changed his name to Harold Ramsay and became a gifted cinema organist, first in Canada and the USA. He went to England in 1933 and became Granada’s Chief Organist. He returned to Canada after World War 2.

The Calgary Herald, 3 March 1953 read as follows:

17 April 1953 – Calgary Herald. Merrie England Presentation. British Stars Feature in Choral Society Début. When the Calgary Choral Society makes its first public appearance in the Stampede Corral on May 9, two of Britain’s brightest singing stars, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be there to sing the leading tenor and soprano roles of the society’s Merrie England presentation…

The roles of Sir Walter and Bessie will be played by the British singers, who are making a special air trip to Canada for the production.

The two artists are probably the most popular singing team in the British concert stage today. They are familiar with the principal roles in Merrie England and having sung them on many occasions.

Webster Booth has been singing since he was a small boy. He began his singing career as a boy soprano in Lincoln Cathedral. When his voice broke he returned to his native Birmingham and took a job as a clerk in an accountant’s office.

Their trip to Canada in May will inaugurate the Calgary Choral Society which was organised last September by the Calgary Kiwanis Club. Music for Merrie England will be provided by 50 musicians drawn from the Calgary Symphony Orchestra.

The Calgary Choral Society has 188 male and female voices and from this group several have been selected to sing title roles in the production…Conductor of the choir is Harold Ramsay, director of Mount Royal Conservatory of Music and organist and choirmaster at Wesley United Church…

28 April 1953 – Ottawa Citizen. British Stars Flying 8,800 Miles to Sing – by the Canadian Press. London – Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, Britain’s top man-and-wife operatic team, will ditch a well-earned holiday to fly 8,800 miles to a one-night stand in Calgary.

Calgarians can thank a long-standing friendship between the British couple and Harold Ramsay, former BBC organist who founded the Calgary Choral Society under the sponsorship of the Calgary Kiwanis Club.

Ramsay said wistfully in a letter describing a musical play he is producing: “I only wish you and Anne were free.”

The couple immediately gave up plans for a three-week holiday in France and will appear in the opening performance on May 9 of Merrie England, a Tudor production well suited to the coronation of the second Elizabeth. They will be the only professionals in an otherwise all-Canadian cast…Calgarians will be the more appreciative of Ramsay’s success because the Booths have leading roles in this country’s coronation summer entertainment plans.

The Calgary appearance will be one in a series of Merrie England performances. The first in the United Kingdom is scheduled to begin on June 1 at Newport, Wales. One of the biggest will be at the country home of Sir Harold Wernher at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire.

Bulldozers have processed three acres for a vast open-air stage that will hold a cast of 1,000, of which 300 will be on horseback. Forty-one microphones have been installed to accommodate audiences of about 21,000 expected every day in a week-long festival starting on June 8.

It will be Miss Ziegler’s first trip to Canada. Booth last visited the country in the ‘20s when the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company toured North America. They will have three days’ holidays here before leaving for Calgary and will make a few radio, and possibly television appearances before returning by sea.

17 May 1953 MERRIE ENGLAND, Calgary, Canada; Kiwani’s Club sponsored Anne and Webster in one performance of Merrie England in the incongruous setting of the Rodeo Stadium, Calgary. As part of their fee they were treated to a memorable luxurious train journey through the Canadian Rockies to Montreal.

Although the show in Canada was a great success, the trip was spoilt when Webster suffered a severe bout of sciatica in his hip. He could barely move his right leg.

Here is the criticism of the show: Calgary Herald 11 May 1953

 Merrie England show pleases 6000 persons by Shirley McNeill 

From the opening chorus of Merrie England at the Stampede Corral Saturday night, the audience of 6,000 people who went to hear the premier performances of the Calgary Choral Society showed by their applause that hey approved heartily of what they heard.

Much of the success of the concert must be credited to singing stars Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, who came all the way from England to appear with the society. This accomplished vocal team turned in performances that were polished and professional throughout.

The two other soloists of Merrie England, Calgarians Janet Warren and Ian Smith, are deserving of high praise for their roles in the delightful little opera. Mrs Warren’s vibrant contralto voice gave her roles of Jill-all-Alone and Elizabeth both contrast and warmth.

Mr Smith as the Earl of Essex was a convincing, confident performer. His deep well-rounded tones and the good control he displayed were a pleasure to hear.

But the man who deserves perhaps the greatest share of laurels for the success of Merrie England is Harold Ramsay, who in a few short months conducted the Calgary Choral Society to the high standard of musical accomplishment which they gave the audience on Saturday evening. It was Mr Ramsay’s job to conduct the choir as well as the 50 members of the Calgary Symphony Orchestra who gave instrumental support to the singers. This double duty was commendably performed.

One of the most rousing songs from Merrie England, the finale to the first part, It is a Tale of Robin Hood, was unfortunately distorted by loudspeakers, particularly for those members of the audience seated directly beneath them. The chorus and the four soloists combining voices in this finale were all too powerful a singing combination for the public address system set up to carry to all corners of the vast Corral. The microphones, however, were a necessary evil. Without them, it is doubtful if the concert would have been clearly audible to the entire audience.

The story of Elizabethan court days was incidental to the vocal beauty which Merrie England provoked in the ears of the audience. The rigid training program undergone by the Choral Society in recent months came to the fore in such selections as Sing a Down, a Down and the grand finale, Robin Hood’s Wedding.

The Singing courtship of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth as Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh was romance of a high calibre, particularly so in such songs as Bessie’s Who shall say sic (The Waltz Song) and Raleigh’s The English Rose, one of the loveliest songs in the entire light opera.

With the concert version of Merrie England over, Miss Ziegler and Mr Booth delighted the audience with an aria from Faust, a medley of Viennese waltz songs and a comic performance of the popular Wunderbar.

Before singing this song from Broadway, the team had been presented with big white cowboy hats by Art Baines, president of the Calgary Kiwanis club which sponsored the concert. Miss Ziegler, wearing a black and gold hoop-skirted gown, tossed aside a feather hair adornment, and, assuming a genuine western air, donned the ten-gallon hat to the delight of the audience.

Stampede Corral, Calgary – opened in 1950

Anne and Webster signed the Coronation menu on the sea trip back to the UK.

1953 Calgary Merrie England

Luton’s Merrie EnglandComplete arrangements have been made for the Harold Fielding and Luton Coronation Pageant Committee production of Merrie England at the historic Luton Hoo house, nightly from June 9-13. With Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be Redvers Llewellyn, Nancy Evans, Graham Clifford, Betty Sagon, Amanda Rolfe, the Luton Girls’ Choir and the Irish Guards Band, conducted by Captain CH Jaeger. The producer is H Powell Lloyd.

June 1953 – Merrie England, Crescent Cinema, Leatherhead. Leatherhead Dramatic & Operatic Society’s 1953 Coronation production starring Webster Booth as Raleigh and Anne Ziegler as Bessie Throckmorton.

8 June 1953 – Merrie England, Luton Hoo Anne and Webster, the Luton Girls Choir. There were over 600 singers in the chorus, 200 dancers and 50 men on horseback. A massive 250 foot stage was created beside Luton Hoo lake for the performances.

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.

Merrie England 1953
Merrie England, Luton Hoo, June 1953.

Douglas Fairbanks Junior with Anne, Webster and other cast members of the Luton Hoo production of Merrie England.

Luton Hoo bigger

Luton’s Merrie EnglandComplete arrangements have been made for the Harold Fielding and Luton Coronation Pageant Committee production of Merrie England at the historic Luton Hoo house, nightly from June 9-13. With Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be Redvers Llewellyn, Nancy Evans, Graham Clifford, Betty Sagon, Amanda Rolfe, the Luton Girls’ Choir and the Irish Guards Band, conducted by Captain CH Jaeger. The producer is H Powell Lloyd.

8 June 1953 – Merrie England, Luton Hoo Anne and Webster, the Luton Girls Choir. There were over 600 singers in the chorus, 200 dancers and 50 men on horseback. A massive 250-foot stage was created beside Luton Hoo lake for the performances.

Pamela Davies remarked in her book, Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? :

“After And so to Bed finished in April 1953, I was so busy preparing to go to work in the United States that I learned too late that Anne and Webster had taken part in a spectacular show in June, when Merrie England was staged as a pageant at the historic Luton Hoo. They had only just returned from a lightning trip to Canada, to take part in the same operetta. On a tour of Canada the following year I had a brief glimpse of the huge rodeo stadium in Calgary at the entrance to the Rockies where it was staged – a more unlikely setting for Merrie England is hard to imagine.”

Merrie England in South Africa

Webster and Anne moved to South Africa in 1956 and did two more full productions of Merrie England in 1958, one in East London and the final one in Johannesburg.

16 – 21 June 1958 – Merrie England, City Hall, East London. Anne and Webster, with Jimmy Nicholas, Mabel Fenney, Pam Emslie and others.

Merrie England 19581958 Merrie England 1958a

3 November 1958 – Merrie England – Anne and Webster know the show backwards.

Any Monday, Wednesday or Friday Evening of the past few weeks, Fox Street (corner of Eloff) has been ringing with loud, lusty singing of God Save Queen Elizabeth (sic).

It is not a new anti-republican movement but Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society rehearsing Merrie England. And as one passing listener remarked the other night: “With things going as they are, it’s likely we shan’t ever again hear this kind of production here, isn’t it?”

This production of Merrie England, which opens at the Reps Theatre on November 12, has more to it than this “last ever” interest. For one thing, it has a cat. Jill-All-Alone (Marian Saunders) one of the characters of Edward German’s operetta has to sing a ditty to her cat. She is accused of witchcraft and Sputnik (owned by a member of the chorus) is as black as any witch could wish.

Used to noise. He comes from a musical household where (as his owner explained) he has been used to noise since kitten-hood.  At rehearsals, he lies in the laps of young ladies and purrs pleasantly.

Co-producers Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth are themselves a treat to watch. Anne, who plays Bessie Throckmorton has every little error taped: “You looked like a sack of potatoes there. Don’t stand as if you were at a South African tea-party – girls on one side, men on the other.”

How do they manage it almost without glancing at the text? “We know it backwards,” says Anne. DLS (Dora Sowden)

12 to 29 November 1958 – Merrie England, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg JODS. Anne and Webster starred and produced the show, with Marian Saunders, June Bass, Nohline Mitchell, Kenneth Anderson, Len Rosen, and Dudley Cock, conducted by Drummond Bell.

14 November 1958 – Merrie England

Merrie England, Johannesburg

 

Merrie England WB

All behaved well in Merrie England. Rand Daily Mail. Contrary to all misgivings, Sputnik the cat behave beautifully in Merrie England at his premiere. He seemed a little timid but he clung prettily to Jill All-Alone (Marian Saunders) and he looked once or twice at the audience as if told when to turn.

That was also the manner of the whole production. Everyone behaved beautifully, went through the paces well, and if there was some first-night timidity, it had worn off before the final curtain.

One day someone (an American perhaps) will revise the libretto, pep up the music and make a great musical out of it. There may be those then who will feel about it as the quartet of singers fell about Cupid dressed up – that they “wouldn’t complain if he was a naked child again.”

There was too much sauntering about by the principals, too much preparation for the onset of a song, too many obvious smiles and bows.

Yet there was much excellent material both in the piece and in the performance. Len Rosen, when he put weight into his voice made an amusing character of Walter Witkins, even though one couldn’t believe he was ever in Master Shakespeare’s company.

June Bass was a dainty minx as the May Queen, Nohline Mitchell the very figure of a stiff Queen Bess, and when she steadied up, as regal in voice.  Kenneth Anderson made much of The Yeomen of England but his appearance more resembled Malvolio than Lord Essex.

Not surprisingly, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (also produced) were thoroughly at ease in their roles.  Drummond Bell’s direction was as reliable as ever. DORA SOWDEN.

Tuneful English musical – an eyeful of pleasure – Oliver Walker – The Star. Odd’s fish, but what a punning rogue of a librettist we have here! Was he also yclept Edward German like the composer? Marry, it could well be, for, like the music, the words are at all times prettily true and truly pretty as if written in the shadow of a maypole…

Do not be put off by the “ie” in “Merrie”. This is old world stuff, but not olde worlde. The references to “Cupid’s garden” and the sweetness of the English roses are there. But not in any mimsy-pimsy way. And besides, Edward German’s music is made of sugar not saccharine.

Apart from a shortage of yeomen and bowmen to match the bevies of blooming dairy-maids, this is a spanking, handsome production behind whose liveliness of movement and apt “business” it is easy to detect the guiding hands of its two evergreen, debonair principals Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Jerkined giant. What the men lacked in numbers they made up for in heroic stature. Dudley Cock was a tuneful giant in green jerkin. Emil Beth matched him in voice and presence, while Len Rosen’s Walter Wilkins was a veritable Malvolio in cross-gartered fantastical humour.

June Bass’s May Queen needed more lung-power and Marian Sanders’ Jill-all-alone was altogether too parlour-bred for a suspect witch. Nohline Mitchell’s Queen Bess was gowned and jewelled fit for a Holbein portrait but should spare the yellow make-up.  She was one of the several new voices of excellent promise in a production that gave an eyeful of pleasure and was always easy on the ear.

1958 – Merrie England – Star Oliver Walker wrote an article concerning the flop of Merrie England, a show which had proved a great success in places like East London and Port Elizabeth. “JODS will lose its boots on what is voted a very tuneful colourful musical.”

He wondered whether English musicals of this type were losing their appeal with Johannesburg audiences.

JODS – Merrie England At a committee meeting of JODS, the Booths said that they hoped that one day they would get a full cast at rehearsals. Not the most propitious conditions under which to work when trying to create a success for the society.

1968 Knysna Ten years later the Booths presented a concert version of Merrie England in Knysna shortly after they moved to the village.

1 to 13 July 1968: Merrie England (Concert Version)  at 8.15 pm Knysna and District Choral Society D R Church Hall, Fichat Street, Knysna Webster, Anne, Dorothy Davies, James Squier and Ena Van der Vyver, directed by Anne Ziegler, conducted by Webster Booth, Accompanist: Wanda Willis.

 

Jean Collen (updated 14 September 2018)

MY FIRST MEMORIES OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER (1957 – 1960)

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in the same firm as a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR (now Arcelor Mittal) in Vanderbijl Park and we were living in the Valmeidere boarding house in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

 

            My parents and me in Vanderbijlpark (1950) 

The school year in South Africa runs from January to December, so I, aged thirteen, went to yet another new school just in time to prepare to write the end of year exams in subjects with seemingly different syllabuses to the ones I had been studying at my previous school in Vanderbijlpark. I staggered into the middle of the busy road each morning, praying that I would not be knocked down by a speeding car, in order to catch a rattling tram on its way down the hill to Jeppe Girls’ High School, clad in my new green dress and black blazer with white stripes. The most important part of the uniform seemed to be the white panama hat adorned with ribbon of school colours and a badge in the front. There was a strict rule that thishat had to be worn at all times when outside of school. Heaven help anyone who removed it, or worse still, forgot to wear it.

The boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs McDonald-Rouse. Mrs McDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the Valmeidere. In due course, we were introduced to the McDonald-Rouses, Heather and her husband.

Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, shortly after their arrival in Johannesburg the year before and had become extremely friendly with them. Through the grapevine we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one he sang when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another lighter wedding favourite of his was the ballad, My Prayer.

Click on the link to hear Webster singing: BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

In mid-1958, my parents, doubtful of what the future in South Africa held, made a bid to return to the UK. We lived in Southampton – yet another new school another different syllabus, new subjects and girls with Hampshire accents. My mode of transport in Southampton was a crowded bus from the suburb of Bitterne to St Anne’s Convent Grammar School. It was winter, so the bus journey began in the dark and ended in the dark by the time I reached home in the afternoon.

One of my parents’ friends had a grand piano on which I was allowed to practise and receive music lessons. The gentleman had a collection of 78 records which had belonged to his late wife. While his son and his friends chatted about various forms of jazz in the sitting room, I looked through the record collection in the dining room and was delighted to find a number of Anne and Webster’s recordings. After listening to their fill of Chris Barber records, the young men departed and I was able to play the duet records on the ancient record player. I enjoyed listening to the records and thinking that I had heard Anne and Webster singing in Johannesburg the previous year and knew something about them.

 By the end of 1958 my parents decided that we would return to South Africa so we were on our way back on board the Pretoria Castle, the same ship on which Anne and Webster had travelled to South Africa in July 1956.

 
 
Despite my disrupted education I was back at Jeppe Girls’ High,admitted to Form IV for my final two years at school, which would culminate in writing the matriculation exams at the end of 1960. My father had returned to his old job with Mr Corrigan, and my parents bought a house in Juno Street, Kensington, having decided that life in South Africa, despite its uncertain political future was easier than life back in the UK where the weather was hard, the cost of living high, and Southampton was still full of bomb sites thirteen years after the war. 
21 Juno Street, Kensington – as it is now.
 
At the end of 1959 I went to the Reps Theatre (now the Alexander Theatre) with the late Gillian McDade, who had been head girl at Jeppe in 1959, to usher for the Children’s Theatre show, The Glass Slipper. The house was full so there were no spare seats for the teenage voluntary ushers, but I was delighted to watch the enchanting show seated on the carpeted stairs of the darkened auditorium. Anne Ziegler was playing the Fairy Godmother and made her entrance in a glass coach drawn by a donkey. She looked every inch an ethereal Fairy Godmother in her gossamer crinoline gown.
 
In 1960 Anne and Webster came to the Methodist Church in Roberts Avenue to sing in a Variety show that had been arranged to raise money for Church funds. I loved their charming act, once again done on the small stage of a suburban Church hall rather than in one of the great Variety Halls in the UK where they had been performing only a few years before. I waited for them to emerge at the interval to ask for their autographs and they signed my book in the vestry, Webster graciously holding the door open for me. Strangely enough I was the only autograph hunter that evening. They were both charming to me.

 
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East London cast of Merrie England (1958). Mabel Fenney (later Perkin) was Jill-All-Alone on the left of the photograph
 
Mrs Mabel Fenney from East London had taken over from Miss Diane Heller as temporary music mistress at Jeppe for a term while Miss Heller was on long leave. At the time she was studying singing with the Booths and had recently won the UNISA (University of South Africa) scholarship to study abroad. Mabel was charming and glamorous and took some of us girls to see Rigoletto at the Empire Theatre in the city centre. She often regaled the music students with tales of her studies with Anne and Webster and at the end of the term gave a memorable vocal recital in the school hall. I particularly remember her singing an aria from Carmen and ending the song by throwing a rose to her fascinated schoolgirl audience. At the end of the term Mabel Fenney went to the Hochschule in Berlin to further her singing studies. I wondered whether my singing voice was good enough for me to have singing lessons with Anne and Webster after I finished school.
 
Jean Collen (revised 17 May 2019)
 
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