They fell in love, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth first met during the filming of TheFaust Fantasy in 1934/35
Anne Ziegler, the widow and singing partner of Webster Booth, died in Llandudno, North Wales, on 13 October 2003, at the age of 93. Her death brought an end to an era in British entertainment before and after the Second World War. Her death brings an end to an era for me also.
I was seventeen when I first met them at the end of 1960. They were already middle-aged, in the same age group as my parents, their top-flight stage career in Britain behind them. I was too young to have seen them at the height of their fame, but even then I thought them a shining couple, as I still do over fifty-nine years later.
Although I was too young to have seen them on stage in the days of their great success in the forties and early fifties, I believe their success was due to the wonderful blend of the voices, creating a special, instantly recognisable sound, and their contrasting good looks, she beautifully gowned, he in full evening dress. Above all, they were instantly likeable with charming personalities, and possessed an elusive ability to make people adore them.
In their day, in the thirties, forties and fifties, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were stars of stage, screen, radio, concert halls and variety theatres, and made over a thousand 78 rpms, either as duets or solos. Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.
Webster became a Mason, and was a proud member of the Savage Club, where he often sang at their legendary Saturday night entertainments. These entertainments were arranged by Joe Batten, the eminent sound recordist and producer at Columbia Records. When Webster had something important to do he always wore his distinctive striped Savage Club tie to bring him luck. While still in his early thirties, Webster was made a Life Governor of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.
Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.
By the time he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the colour film Faust in 1934, he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior. He had divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey in 1931 after she had deserted him and their small son, and married Paddy Prior, a talented dancer, comedienne and soubrette in October 1932. The couple’s marriage was happy in the beginning and they appeared together in several concert parties, the Piccadilly Revels, Scarboroough in 1933 and Sunshine at Shanklin in 1934.
Shortly after he met Anne Ziegler he took the lead in an ill-fated production of Kurt Weill’s A Kingdom for a Cow at the Savoy Theatre. His leading lady was the well-known French singer Jacqueline Francel. In Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography, Duet, he said that the play was probably ahead of its time in its handling of complex social issues, which made it too heavy for audiences of the day, who expected lighter fare in musicals. Apart from the unusual subject matter, rehearsals were stormy and the direction contradictory, so despite Weill’s pleasing music and a strong cast, the play closed after just three weeks. The London Dramatic Critic from The Scotsman gave the piece a good review, and mentioned that “Mr Webster Booth as the hero also deserves praise for his fine singing”.
Webster and Paddy Prior, his second wife.
Sadly, his marriage did not last after he met Anne. Paddy divorced him, naming Anne as co-respondent. He and Anne were married on Bonfire Night in 1938. Webster Booth soon formed a duet partnership with his wife in addition to his extensive recording, film, oratorio and concert work.
Webster was contracted to HMV for over twenty years and recorded more than a thousand solos, duets, trios and quartets. His lighter recordings include selections from Ivor Novello musicals with Helen Hill, Olive Gilbert and Stuart Robertson; Theatreland at Coronation Time with South African soprano Garda Hall, and Sam Costa; excerpts from Snow White with Nora Savage, conducted by George Scott-Wood, the composer of Shy Serenade. He made many anonymous recordings as a member of the HMV Light Opera Company. He was the “with vocal refrain” on a series of records made with Carlos Santana and his Accordion Band on the Brunswick label, and on a record of Chappell Balladswith Jack Hylton’s band. Carlos Santana was one of the many aliases used by Harry Bidgood. His better known alias was Primo Scala, the leader of another accordion band, but he did many other things like conducting film music and arranging music and while he was still at school he had written the music for his school song.
His recordings of the late nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties encompassed oratorio, opera and ballads, as well as duets with Anne. Webster’s more serious recordings were often under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, Lawrance Collingwood, Basil Cameron or rwick Braithwaite with the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. His recordings with piano accompaniment were nearly always with the eminent accompanist Gerald Moore.
Webster enjoyed telling the story of a particular recording session with Gerald Moore. They had one more song to record before the session ended. The song was Phil, the Fluter’s Ball, and Gerald Moore suggested that they should see how fast he could play it and how fast Webster could sing it with clear diction. This was no problem for the finest accompanist in the world and for a singer who had spent four years performing Gilbert and Sullivan with the D’Oyly Carte Company. His oratorio recordings are particularly fine. The solos in Samson from the moving recitative O loss of sight and the following aria,Total Eclipse, to the fiery Why does the God of Israel sleep?, with its unrelenting Handelian runs, demonstrate how easily he moved from one mood to another, always singing with flawless technique and clear diction.
He made recordings with other distinguished singers of the day in operatic ensembles, such as the quartet from Rigoletto, with Noel Edie, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates, to the trio from Faustwith Joan Cross and Norman Walker. He sang duets with soprano Joan Cross and baritone Dennis Noble from La Bohème and the Miserere from Il Trovatore with Joan Cross. He recorded duets with the baritone Dennis Noble from the Victorian and Edwardian Excelsior and Watchman, what of the night? to the brilliant extended scene in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. He recorded the duet in Madame Butterfly with Australian soprano Joan Hammond.
When Joan Hammond first arrived in England from Australia, she had a sweet lyrical soprano voice. She sang her first Messiahin England with Webster as tenor soloist under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. But by the time they recorded the Madame Butterfly duet, several years later, Joan Hammond had become a dramatic soprano and her voice was very much bigger than it had been when she first arrived in England. Joan had to stand much further away from the microphone than Webster in order for the sound engineer to get the balance for the duet right. Webster also sang excerpts from Carmen with the Sadler’s Wells chorus and orchestra, with Dennis Noble, and with Nancy Evans, Anne’s old friend from Liverpool, as Carmen.
At the beginning of the Second World War, he recorded The Lost Chordat the Kingsway Hall in London, accompanied by the organist Herbert Dawson. As they were reaching the end of the song, the All Clear siren sounded, which meant they had to redo the recording to cut out the sound of the siren. There had been no air raids at that early stage of the war so presumably the sirens were being given a trial run. The blitz was yet to come and would destroy Webster’s beloved Queen’s Hall.
ANNE ZIEGLER (1910 – 2003)
Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool on 22 June 1910. From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part of Marguerite for the film, the Faust Fantasy: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.
During the making of the film they fell in love , although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior, and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage to Winifred Keey. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.
During those intervening four years, Anne was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in a concert party in 1935 called Summer Smiles during the summer season at Ryde, an engagement she did not really enjoy much. There she acquired her first devoted fan, a girl aged 15, who kept in close touch with her for the rest of her life.
She played principal boy in her first pantomime, Mother Goose, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, which starred George Formby. In this pantomime she met Babs Wilson-Hill, the principal dancer in the show, who was to remain her closest friend for most of her life. During the 1936 pantomime season she and Babs appeared in another highly successful pantomime, Cinderella, in Edinburgh, this time with the Scottish comedian Will Fyffe as the star attraction.
Anne and Webster were both extremely popular and prolific broadcasters on the BBC, as well as the various European commercial broadcasting stations geared to the British market, such as Radio Lyons, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Normandy and Radio Eireann. Glancing through copies of The Radio Pictorial, commercial radio’s equivalent of The Radio Times, one sees frequent articles about them. Radio stars in the thirties obviously held the equivalent status of pop stars today.
Despite Anne’s success on stage and radio, recording companies had not shown any interest in putting her voice on record. She made a test recording of the Waltz Songfrom Merrie England in 1935, a recording which Webster managed to obtain from HMV. Eventually she did make a few solo recordings and sang in a Noel Coward medley with Joyce Grenfell and Graham Payn, but the bulk of her recordings were duets with Webster. My favourite solo recording of Anne’s is Raymond Loughborough’s ASong in the Night, which she sang on a Pathé film short in 1936.
Webster went to New York with her, hoping to find some stage work of his own, but, despite his great voice, he did not make any impact on the cut-throat American musical world. He attended various auditions in New York as an unknown, while in England he was already an established performer in oratorio, recording, films, and the West End stage. He returned to England, crestfallen at his lack of success, and resumed his numerous engagements. Anne, in the meantime, was hailed as a Broadway star and offered a film contract in Hollywood, with the idea that she would be the successor to Jeanette McDonald. The offer was tempting, but she turned it down to return to England and marry Webster Booth when his divorce from Paddy Prior was made final.
For most of her life Anne maintained that marriage to Webster meant more to her than any Hollywood contract, although in later years she sometimes reflected on what her life would have been like had she accepted the contract and become a Hollywood star.
Even before Webster’s divorce was made final they formed a duet partnership on stage, in addition to their solo work. From April 1938 they were singing together for Clarkson Rose. This is an advert from September of 1938, the month before Webster’s divorce was finalised.
Their first duet recording was made in the year after their marriage in 1939 – If You were the Only Girl in the World, with A Paradise for Two on the flip side. Before this official recording she had sung with him as an anonymous soprano voice in a radio series in 1937 called The Voice of Romance. In this series he too was anonymous, but by this time, most people would have recognised his distinctive voice.
In 1940 they accepted an offer from agent Julius Darewski to join the variety circuit. The money was good and they were well received on the variety halls, always doing their act without the aid of a microphone. If Webster Booth’s voice filled the Albert Hall when he sang the tenor part in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha in Native American dress under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, the same voice, in harmony with his wife’s, filled the variety theatres from the London Palladium to all points of the United Kingdom.
They were the epitomé of glamour and romance. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was always in immaculate evening attire, she in a range of crinoline gowns, some designed by Norman Hartnell. Their act was interspersed with what seemed like off-the-cuff banter, but every word and move was meticulously planned, and the lighting plot carefully worked out for the most telling impact.
Apart from the usual operatic arias and musical comedy duets, Anne and Webster sang and recorded a number of ballads, arranged as duets, and an interesting and difficult arrangement of Chopin’s famous Nocturne in C sharp minor, arranged by Maurice Besley. As often as not Webster would arrange the duet part himself if none had been written.
Here is a copy of a letter sent from “Madeleine” who was on holiday on the Isle of Wight during the summer of 1934. She sent the letter and photograph
below to her friends Lily and Phil, who must have been
fans of Webster Booth.
Dear Lily and Phil,
Thought you would like a Photograph of Webster. We
went to see Sunshine the night before last – they were
great. The weather up to now has been very fine with a
strong wind blowing. I must say I like the Island very much, and I am enjoying myself very much indeed.
Best love to you both,
November 1923 Professional debut in Yeomen of the Guard with D’Oyly Carte.
1930 West End Debut at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
1 February 1933- Galashiels Concert with Garda Hall and George Baker.
1 February 1933
Webster in The Invader with Buster Keaton (1934)
Irené Eastwood in Holst’s The Wandering Scholar in Liverpool (1934)
A Kingdom for a Cow (Kurt Weill) 5 July 1936, Savoy Theatre with Jacqueline Francell
1936 The Robber Symphony
Webster’s first Good Friday Messiah – 10 April 1936.
Hallé Messiah 17 December 1936
Cinderella in Edinburgh, December 1936 with Will Fyffe.
11 February 1937
Webster Booth and oratorioAlthough Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.
Although Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.
Two of my most cherished possessions are Webster’s Messiah and Elijah scores. The Messiah score had belonged to his father, Edwin Booth, whose name is written in the score, followed by Webster’s own name.
In the two front pages, he listed some of his Messiah dates from 1928 when he sang at the Birmingham Town Hall on 3 November 1928 with the Choral and Orchestral Union, to performances of various oratorios in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa with Robert Selley at the Oratorio Festivals there in 1961. The list includes a performance at the Royal Lodge Chapel on 15 February 1948 with Anne Ziegler in the presence of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, performances with the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society and the Hallé Concert Society. Several Good Friday Messiahs at the Albert Hall are listed, where the entire work is performed without any cuts.
His first Good Friday Messiah was on the 10 April 1936 when he was 34 years of age. The Royal Choral Society concerts were usually with his champion, Malcolm Sargent as conductor, but he also sang with Sir Thomas Beecham at the Queens Hall on 17 December 1938.
He sang in many performances of Elijah, The Creation, Joshua, Judas Maccabeus, The Creation and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. It was after an afternoon performance of this last work at the Queen’s Hall on 10 May 1941 that this beautiful hall, Webster’s favourite concert hall, was destroyed by an incendiary bomb that night. Webster preferred Handel to Bach, but I see that he did sing in a performance of the latter’s Christmas Oratorio in South Africa in 1960.
Another Good Friday Messiah in April 1943
I think it is sad that he did not make a recording of the Dream of Gerontius as he was renowned for his performance in this work. Neither did he take part in complete recordings of Messiah or Elijah. When I was studying with him and Anne Ziegler I learnt the part of the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius and he sang the tenor part with me – how I wish I had a recording of it now! He sang in the first performance in South Africa of the work with the young Keith Jewell, Cape Town’s city organist (then aged 27) in 1957, the year after the Booths arrived in South Africa.
People in South Africa were inclined to think that the Booths had been out of favour in the UK and that was the reason why they moved to South Africa in 1956. This was far from the case. Admittedly their recording contract with HMV had been cancelled in 1951 and I have never been able to work out why the contract was cancelled as they were both in excellent voice at the time. But they had plenty of theatre, television, radio and concert engagements in the 1950s. Webster sang his last Messiahs with the Huddersfield Choral Society in December 1955 and January 1956. They moved to South Africa because of increasing problems with the Inland Revenue rather than because they were not as popular as before.
Anne Ziegler sang in exactly one first class performance of Messiah in Blackpool in January of 1944. Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was at that time) conducted the performance with the Huddersfield Choral Society.
As a thirteen-year-old girl, I heard Webster and Anne sing in a performance of Messiah at St James’ Presbyterian Church which was then situated in Mars Street Malvern. The advertisement below (from 1956) shows the same soloists and choir at St George’s Presbyterian Church (the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg) which appeared a year later at St James. Even at that young age, I was aware that it must have been a come-down for Webster to be singing this work in a suburban church in South Africa after he had been singing at the Albert Hall not very long before. While Anne sang in the performance at St James under the musical director of the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, Drummond Bell, she was not asked to sing in more important oratorio performances, such as the one at the Johannesburg City Hall a month later, or with Robert Selley at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival.
In 1957 the first South African performance of The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar) was presented at the City Hall in Cape Town with Webster in the main role, conducted by Keith Jewell (aged 27).
The Dream of Gerontius was also presented in Port Elizabeth at the Oratorio Festival conducted by Robert Selley, where Webster was a soloist from 1957 to 1962.
27 November 1961 – SABC bulletin.
In 1963 Webster was invited to sing in a performance of Elijah with the combined choirs of Michaelhouse and St Anne’s in Natal, conducted by the young Barry Smith who was musical director at Michaelhouse at the time.
The following year he sang in a performance of Creation with the same singers. This time Ronald Charles was the musical director at Michaelhouse.
By that time Webster was 64 years of age. When he moved to Knysna he presented excerpts of various oratorios with the Knysna Choral Society and (in his late sixties) sang several bass solos in Elijah in 1968, something he had always wanted to do as he had a very wide range and a resonant lower register.
Webster’s oratorio recordings include the arias from Handel’s Messiah, Judas Maccabeus, Samson, and Acis and Galatea, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St Paul, and Haydn’s Creation.
They are supposed to be singing at a garden party (Ah, Leave Me Not to Pine) thrown by the newly created Lord (Jamie Uys). Anne wears huge dangly earrings and Webster is wearing an evening suit with a cravat in the afternoon. They did this not long after he came out of the hospital and his chin is sunken and he doesn’t look well. Others in the cinema audience have a laugh but I see nothing amusing in it.
1 December – Go to town and singing. Anne tells me that their house was struck by lightning during last night’s storm so she didn’t get to sleep till 2.00. I pay her for the music she kindly bought for me and tell her of similar lightning experience at home a few weeks ago.
We start on Zion. She says I have a tendency to drag it. She tells me they listened to the Ninth and rather enjoyed it but thought the orchestra had no verve. She says, “I’m not trying to be big and know more but the UK orchestras have more life in them.” I tell her about Leo Quayle and she says that he was doing very well in Britain and he was mad to come back here when he had so much work over there.
We do Father of Heav’n. She says it’s a most difficult aria. We alter the words of a certain part and she says that if the examiner says anything about the alteration I can always say that Sargent did it that way.
is late and I tell Anne about Caroline’s engagement and the cocktail
party of last night. She says, “Isn’t she having a lovely time
now?” I agree.
eventually arrives and tells us that the party was simply fabulous.
The tiles of their swimming pool are being laid today and everything
in the garden is generally very rosy.
Ruth says that I mustn’t forget to come tomorrow afternoon to the City Hall. I go back to Mrs S’s. Miss Cameron comes. I practise sight-reading with Elaine.
We have lunch and then see The Jolson Story. Caroline O’s engagement photo is in paper. She is very attractive.
2 December – Go to City Hall for dress rehearsal. In the paper there is an article by Gary A about the two Messiahs – he thinks PE has an edge on Johanesburg because of Webster.
At interval I take Ruth and Hester to the – café and we have cold drinks. Ruth says it might be fun to see The Merry Widow in Springs and we might arrange something. I tell her about the Lord Oom Piet film and she says she’d love to see it.
We take Ruth home. While we are in that direction we pass the Booths’ little house in Craighall Park. The Anglia is in the drive so I expect he must have gone to PE with Graham B or by plane.
3 December – Go to singing. The girl before me doesn’t arrive. Anne tells me she has three mosquito bites and has to take pills for them which make her drowsy. She makes tea and then we start on Father of Heav’n once more.
She says Bill Perry was accepted by PACT. She thinks Gary A was sweet about Webster. She says the orchestra in PE is very bad so apart from the soloists our Messiah will probably be far better than the PE one. He had a terrible cold when he left on Friday and he had to sing on Saturday in Uitenhage with a male voice choir so she doesn’t know how he’ll get on.
We continue with the aria. She says that I have such a pure voice I should make a fine oratorio singer. I mention the film and she looks embarrassed and says that it’s not at all dignified and I mustn’t expect it to be. She says that people who have seen it say they look nice but that’s about all. She’s worried about the show in Springs which opens of Friday night and she vows that she will never do another one even though they pay her a fortune.
At night I go to City Hall for final dress rehearsal. We have the soloists tonight. Nohline Mitchell has a lovely (but cold) contralto. Rudi Neitz is good but (as Webster mentioned) has to go down instead of up on the high notes. Gert Potgieter has a pleasant enough tenor, but, oh goodness, the soprano, Nan Mayer is simply hopeless. She sings out of tune and everyone has to grit their teeth to bear it. When Gert P finishes his Comfort ye and Ev’ry Valley, Gill says cattily, “And how does he compare with Webster Booth?”
I say that Webster’s record is far superior to Gert P and she says, “And how many years ago did he make it? He can’t sing now. He should give up.”
say, “Admittedly he’s past his prime but when he was Gert P’s age
he had a voice 500 times as good.”
says, “I know that, but he can’t sing now.”
rudely interposes and says, “I’ve always hated his voice and I
shall record from PE to compare the two.”
her mother and I go over to the café and have a drink. Mrs O says
that it sounds really lovely and she’s looking forward to tomorrow
Ruth and I go back and I tell her of the unpleasant remarks of Gill and company. She says we must see each other over the Christmas holidays and she will phone.
keeps us a little late but he is an absolute darling. Anton H comes
and we present Johan with a present and sing For He’s a Jolly Good
Fellow – quite the most beautiful rendering of that ditty, I
think. We all get complimentary tickets for tomorrow.
the car we meet Ruth and her mother so I introduce Mrs O to Dad.
4 December – Go to see Lord Oom Piet in the afternoon. They are the guest stars. The picture itself is quite amusing but I do feel sorry for them.
They are supposed to be singing at a garden party (Ah, Leave Me Not to Pine) thrown by the newly created Lord (Jamie Uys). Anne wears huge dangly earrings and Webster is wearing an evening suit with a cravat in the afternoon. They did this not long after he came out of the hospital and his chin is sunken and he doesn’t look well. Others in the cinema audience have a laugh but I see nothing amusing in it.
go to the City Hall at night for Messiah. Ruth is there when I
arrive and she tells me that they sent her an account because she
didn’t pay her fees on Saturday. She is angry and is going to ask
“the meaning of it!” She says they’re very hard up – doing a
film like that and taking any engagement for money. She says they
should be retired by now. “And living in a cottage in Devon,” I
Our singing goes very well. Leo Quayle is fine. The hall is packed and I see the soprano Rita Roberts in the audience. Soprano stays more in tune in the first half. We get a grand reception.
At interval we see the presentation to Johan. He is leaving tomorrow. I am very sorry he is going. Ruth says her chair was collapsing during the first half and she is exhausted from holding it up She is red and nervous. We say we’ll see each other on Saturday and phone each other.
second half (apart from soprano soloist’s flatness) is excellent.
There is wild applause. The Hallelujah chorus is terrific.
Johan is brought on stage. Leo kisses his hands at us to signify
delight. And so ends our choir for another year.
I have certainly enjoyed my choral work in the SABC and as I look back to each event I remember happy musical occasions – the Passion and Norma bring memories of the Drawing Room and Webster kissing us; Ruth making a fool of herself by mistaking the men’s cloakroom for an exit – that certainly was a night! Stravinsky, Robert Craft and the Symphony of Psalms, the Ninth and now Messiah. Of all the conductors, I think Leo Quayle was the sweetest and best. Father sat in the front row at Messiah and adored it.
5 December – Work and lunch in Ansteys. We get rave notices from RDM and Star – the Star especially says the choir was brilliant and the best of the lot!
Go to SS studio. Don’t do too much work but have illuminating chat with Gill who finally practically discloses the story about Webster she told me partially in April – about the whisky and the ladies’ cloakroom. According to her he was making up to some woman in the ladies’ dressing room at a concert and drinking whisky – or brandy!
say, “Well, he’s never behaved badly with me.”
says, “No. You’re his bread and butter.”
I go on, “All he’s ever done is to kiss me,” and she says, “I’m not saying he did anything more than that but it’s immoral.”
laugh. She adds, “I don’t want to be old fashioned but I like a man
to be a gentleman all the time He’s a typical showman and I feel
sorry for his wife!”
must be getting cynical but the story didn’t shock me in the least.
As a matter of fact, I’d like him to kiss me again some time – I
part on friendly terms but Gill obviously thinks the worst of him.
S says she thought our performance awful but the critics begged to
differ. Despite her opinion, I have a good lesson.
6 December – Go to hear the best lunch hour concert of the season – Leo Q conducts, and Adelaide Newman plays the piano most beautifully.
In the Eastern Province Newspaper, the critic says of Webster’s Elijah – that he sang with his regular superb artistry. I listen to his G and S at night. Continues with HMS Pinafore.
7 December – Go to guild and when I come home the Carmichaels from across the road are visiting. She was a singer and pianist and taught music and tells me that Webster was very involved with Kathleen Ferrier. She tells me that he has had several kidney operations, is a flirt and has led a wild life but is a wonderful singer. I like him none the less after all the damning revelations which might not even be true.
8 December – Go to singing. Hilda from St Helena answers the door. She is very well spoken and charming. Lemon is there too. Anne says The Merry Widow in Springs went very well last night but she was up till 2 every morning and on Tuesday she stayed overnight on a mine and her host had to give her a tranquilliser.
We start on Father of Heav’n and after the story about KF I feel rather embarrassed about it. To crown it all, he comes in and is charming. I ask about the oratorios and he says he had a terrible cold for Elijah but Messiah was much better. They say they knew our soprano, Nan Mayer in Britain – her father was the editor of a London Newspaper. She never got much work in Britain and must be at least 48.
say that I had another late night last night so that’s why I can’t
sing. She says that his coming back has upset everyone.
Do Zion and this isn’t much better. He says that it’s one of my ‘gargling’ days! She tells me that Mabel Fenney isn’t coming back to her husband and intends to stay in London and study. She says she’s probably got a boyfriend over there and after living in Europe nobody can really be expected to come back here.
is there to hear my bad effort and promises to phone me. I don’t know
what they think I do on Friday nights.
to see Friends and Neighbours at night at the Intimate Theatre
and it is a great laugh. Charles Vernon is unbelievably amusing and I
roar. Frank Douglass, Helen Braithwaite are in it too. It cheers me
up no end.
9 December – We go to Vanderbijlpark to see our old friends. We see the Alexanders – Inge is home for the weekend. They have two lovely dachshunds.
We see the Hills in passing. Mr H used to teach me music in days long ago. We pop into the Innes’s next door to them. Kathleen is now a picture of health after her terrible car accident. Sadly, she will never dance again.
finish up at the Watts. Mr W has been very ill with lung problems and
has been away from work.
10 December – Work hard. Anne phones in the afternoon. “Hello, Jean?” “Yes?” “Darling, this is Anne.” “Hello.” She wants me to change the time from 4.30 to 3.30. I agree – it will suit me much better.
I phone Ruth at night and we talk for 40 minutes about nothing. I tell her about Gill and she tells me about a wrapping party at her house for the Press Ball. Her father is a director in an advertising agency. She is going to the Drakensberg for the long weekend.
11 December – Go to singing and meet a little boy, Eddie who used to be in my Sunday School class with a lovely little puppy. He blushes when I stop to pat it.
I arrive no one answers the door and then lift opens and Webster
emerges very quietly and I get a terrible fright. He laughs at me and
says, “Really, Jean. Your nerves are bad – jumping like that!”
He imitates me. “I expect she must be phoning someone.”
go in and he complains to me about the heat and tells me that he’s
had a terrible thirst all day and has been drinking a lot of tea.
While he makes more tea he feeds the pigeons in a concerned fashion
and I say, “Your pets,” and he smiles at me.
is busy phoning the doctor about her ears and when she comes out of
the office she tells him to let me hear the records. He produces
Kathleen’s record first and I prepare myself for an effort in
self-control. Her singing of Father of Heav’n is quite
glorious. He remarks that she takes it rather slowly and he doesn’t
think this necessary. She says that her broad Lancashire accent comes
over very much in the way she broadens her consonants. Obviously she
wasn’t very fond of her.
then endeavour to sing the same aria. He makes me hold the music up
so that I don’t have to look down and swallow. I fill in a breath
mark and she says that she sees I’m left-handed. I say, “Yes,
another of my faults!” She says, “Nonsense! I’m very left-handed
and left-handed people are all infinitely more intelligent.”
“Anyway, what’s all this about faults? If we didn’t all have faults
we’d be dull!” “Yes, but I have more faults than most,” I
listen to Prepare Thyself and I am pleased to see that the
singer takes a breath in the middle of the long run. When it is
finished Webster sings, “And thank God that’s over!” I then sing
it and he beats time along with me. It goes quite well.
say they’re feeling the heat. “It used to be a dry heat that was
pleasant but now it’s very humid,” says he. “A damp, horrible
I come home with Kathleen’s record and a huge picture of her on the cover. During the lesson, Anne mimics her accent and he says, “She was so terribly ill when she made it.”
12 December – Work in the morning and then lunch in Ansteys with Mum – very nice.
Go to SS studio. Gill is there and tells me that she is planning to go on holiday soon. We steer clear of the pet subject – I’ve had enough revelations to last me a lifetime! I have a good theory lesson with Mrs S.
13 December – Go into the library to work and meet the German cellist from the orchestra there. He tells me he is going to Cape Town for his holiday. Lunch with Mum and meet Dawn Snyman from the rink. She hasn’t been there for ages.
hour concert – Anton H and Gé K. Not bad but latter takes a lot
out of himself.
Listen to G and S at night. He goes on with HMS Pinafore and plays He is an Englishman. He tells of broken bottles in “Dear old Dublin in those hectic revolutionary days when we sang this song.” He says that the programme finishes on the twenty-seventh. Next week he’s playing Pineapple Poll. “You can write down all the tunes you recognise,” says he.
14 December – Work and lunch in Capinero with Mum. Go to singing and Webster arrives first wearing his white sports jacket and feeling warm. He says he can’t imagine what has happened to Anne. He dropped her off at a quarter to three at the ABC shoe shop.
go in together and the phone rings – someone enquiring about the
musical activities at the SABC. He suggests the caller joins the
choir and says it’s run by someone called van der Merwe. He stops and
calls through to me to ask about it and I tell him that Johan has
gone overseas and I think Pieter de V is managing it now. He says to
the person on the phone, “Better phone Anton Hartman – he’s the
head boy of the SABC!” After this conversation, he says he can’t
imagine why the person phoned him when he could have phoned the SABC
He says he had to collect a package and pay 5/- for it which he thought rather a cheek. He says that since his illness he hasn’t been able to stand the heat – sweat pours off him. I make some sympathetic noises.
do exercises and they go so well that he says I should forget them
until nearer the time or I’ll get sick of them.
We start on the first study which he plays rather hideously. Luckily the phone rings again and Anne arrives. He returns and says to me, “Did you or I make a mistake or was it the bell?” He sits down at the piano and insists on playing for me again. We get halfway through and she intervenes by giving him a huge poke in the waist. I stop singing and he teases me, “Any excuse for you to stop when I’m playing for you. Don’t you like my accompaniment?” I have a good laugh at him.
studies go very well too and they are pleased. Anne says her hands
are getting stiff – probably from old age.
We start on Open Thy Blue Eyes by Massenet and she says I must sing it twice as fast. Being a love song I must put guts into it!
also go through I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly. I say I
think it’s a bit high for me but they say it doesn’t sound strained
at all. Webster tells me it sounds very fresh.
We complain about the heat and I say I should prefer a nice fog. She says the fog was all right when she was young but not now. He tells me he felt very cold in bed last night and Lemon was shivering after his recent haircut, and now today is a killer. He told me this before Anne arrives. He doesn’t look very well with his sunken jaw, rotten teeth and the suggestion of a nervous tic at his eye.
I come home on bus with Rita Marsden and she tells me she has finished matric and is going to work in the library.
15 December – Go skating after a long absence. M skating is just the same apart from some muscular stiffness. Arthur Apfel is back teaching at the rink and Armand Perren has left. There are few there that I know. When I think of the fabulous crowd we had in Erica Batchelor’s day. Still, I enjoy it once more.
have lunch and then see No Man is an Island with Jeffrey
Hunter who has gorgeous blue eyes.
I hear the choir’s recording of Oranje Blanje Blou on the radio.
16December (Day of the Covenant) Go to family service at church and then to Betty’s to listen to the two records. Kath is wonderful despite her rolling consonants. At night I listen for the long-awaited broadcast of excerpts from Messiah and Elijah from PE. The announcer states that the soloists are Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher and Graham Burns but he doesn’t mention Webster at all. I imagine that he has made a mistake so I listen for one of the tenor arias.
other soloists sing at least three solos each but not one of his
arias are played – no explanation or apology. It makes me furious.
What could have happened that they did not play one of his arias?
Imagine how he must be feeling tonight. Yet imagine what he was! Imagine him as a young man – tall, well built with dark hair and a handsome face; Britain’s wonder tenor. How awful he must feel now being spurned in this corny one-eyed country. I know what Gill and Iris will be saying.
18 December – Go to singing in the afternoon. Webster answers the door and appears quite cheerful. He tells me to help myself to a cup of tea and I clatter around with the cups.
The girl before me (Mary Harrison) is singing light songs. She’s an Australian in the cast of My Fair Lady. She sounds rather fun and being theatrical they get on well with her.
I go in I see that they have started to redecorate the studio –
white paper with silver motifs. I tell him that it looks lovely and
he is very pleased.
comes out and asks if I could come in the mornings while they are
rehearsing for the next play at the Alex – Goodnight Mrs Puffin.
It opens on the 16 January and goes into rehearsal on Friday.
says, “We haven’t done The Swan for a hell of a long time.
We had better do it.” I sing it too softly. “You are singing a
Drawing room pianissimo – sing a City Hall one,” says he.
do Blue Eyes and he comes and stands next to me and stares at
the music, informing me that I’ve made a mistake with one of the
notes. She says she doesn’t believe him. We do it again and he
springs on me in delight when I make the mistake. He says he knew it
was most unusual for me to make a mistake in my notation. He crows
over me in delight.
say I’ll fill in form for exam. She says that she’s glad she can
depend on me to do things like that. Lucille, who has also to do an
exam is quite helpless and has to have everything done for her.
Webster says that if she passes this exam he has a good mind to do it
himself! He does not appear to be particularly cast down about
omission on the oratorio programme.
19 December – Go to SS studio. Gill informs me that she had a fight with Svea and proceeds to tell me all about it in a fuming fashion. She also tells me that Iris phoned her on the evening of the PE Messiah to tell her she’d got through to it. I say, “I suppose you were both able to sit down and run Webster down together?” She says, “Oh no. He hadn’t come on yet.” She herself couldn’t get through but listened on Sunday, saying that he probably wasn’t good enough to be broadcast. I say that he got a good crit and she says, “But so did Nan Mayer.” I say, “Damn it all, He wouldn’t have sung out of tune anyway.” She says acidly, “I’ve seen them having to turn their duets into a comedy act.” I make no further comment.
After that unpleasantness, I have a good and restorative lesson with Mrs S.
I get a Christmas card from Ruth and one from Gill. Ruth’s has their address printed on it.
phones me in the evening. They had a lovely time in the Drakensberg
and she met a man there who did the lighting for the Merry Widow.
He didn’t like Anne but liked Webster. There were lots of fights
during the show and everyone was temperamental. He said that they are
very hard up now and can’t make much appearing in shows but producing
brings in a lot of money.
He also told her that at a party someone insulted Webster and he was so furious that he didn’t wish to stay on. Anne refused to leave and this man danced with her for the rest of the evening. If anyone had insulted my husband I would have left with him.
She tells me that Caroline has failed her B Com exams but can write supps. She says she hopes she’ll pass her own exams. She is going to her school dance tonight and isn’t looking forward to it because of all the restrictions. We make lengthy arrangements to see Lord Oom Piet on Monday seeing they’re in it and we’re going to have lunch first. I’m to meet her outside the Carlton at 1.00. It should be interesting to see what she thinks of it.
20 December – Listen to Webster at night and he plays the ballet suite Pineapple Poll. Next week is his last G and S programme.
21 December – Go into town and meet Ruth in Ansteys. We talk for a little while and then I go to the studio. Webster answers the door and complains bitterly about the heat and makes me help myself to tea. Mary departs after wishing them a happy Christmas.
We start on Father of Heav’n and this goes much better today except for my diphthongs which he imitates. We do Zion. He says I do it much more easily than the other. He wonders why.
scripts are left on the piano for all in sundry to see. She asks if
she thanked me for my card. She says, “It was so sweet of you,”
to which I give a watery grin.
I wish them a happy Christmas and they wish me one too. She tells me she expects they’ll be working over Christmas with rehearsals and so on. I say hello to Ruth once more and depart in grim frame of mind.
Mr Stabler comes with a present at night and then I go carol singing with the guild. Archie and David have supps at varsity too. We have fun in my usual dull boring uninteresting way and I act gaily with pain gnawing at my heart.
22 December – I phone Ruth early in the morning. She went to a party last night and hated every moment of it and didn’t dance once. The school dance, however, was nice and she enjoyed it.
discuss our parents’ ages and she tells me that her mother and father
are both 50. We agree that our parents are all wonderful for their
ages. She says that Webster isn’t bad for his age but Anne is very
worried about the way he drinks. He’s not quite an alcoholic, mind
you, but he loves drinking!
swimming pool is finished and she says that I must go one afternoon
to swim there. It’s very quiet, for her sisters are at work and we’ll
have fun. She is so sweet. At the beginning of this year I made a
resolution to make her my friend and pass my music exams. I’ve
managed to do both, thank heaven.
We arrange to meet at a quarter to ten on Monday outside the Carlton. Unfortunately, I decline into a state of dire illness and am indisposed in a most excruciating fashion for the best part of the day.
23 December – Am ill today as well – no church, no nothing!
24 December – Go into town and buy Ruth a present. I meet her outside the Carlton. She’s a bit late but terribly apologetic so I don’t mind having to wait for her. We go to Capri and she tells me that she has not been made a prefect next year and hasn’t had her report yet. She tells me about a new boyfriend called Peter.
enjoy the film and have a good giggle at them. His head trembles –
I didn’t notice before – shame. His bad teeth are also very much in
evidence. She gives me a present and I give her one.
go to Greatermans so that she can get the tip of her shoe mended.
Caroline is going to work in the Standard Bank and continue with her
commerce degree part-time.
I take her to lunch in Ansteys. She says she prefers Webster to Anne because he’s always the same and never has moods. Her father is a partner in an advertising agency and had to work his way up from the bottom. When he came out to SA he didn’t like it but he couldn’t afford to go back to Scotland so he stuck it out. She says her parents had George Moore and his wife to lunch one day and GM drank a lot.
We have great fun and she promises to phone me after the New Year and I will be able to go out to swim at her house. We wish each other a happy Christmas and part cheerfully.
meet Elna H on bus. She’s still studying ballet and doing commercial
Webster’s new programme Great Voices starts at 7.30 on the first Saturday of the year.
present is a pair of blue slipperettes which are very sweet.
25 December – We spend a quiet Christmas day at home and enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner. In the afternoon I listen to the programme of carols of our choir which we did last year. It takes me back to the night we made that recording.
26 December -We go to His Majesty’s to see The Music Man with Robert Preston, Shirley Jones and Hermione Gingold. It is very pleasant and Robert Preston is full of energy.
27 December – Story about Goodnight Mrs Puffin and big picture of Anne and Webster who play Ma and Pa in the play.
Listen to last G and S. He plays all his favourite Sullivan music: Invocation from Iolanthe, selection from Gondoliers, the Wine song from The Rose of Persia and the Long Day Closes by the Tommy Handley Memorial Choir, “which was formed from Tommy Handley’s famous singing friends so that we could pay tribute to this great comedian.” One way of saying you’re famous! He wishes everyone a fabulous new year and invites them to join him a week on Saturday to hear his new programme, Great Voices.
28 December Go to singing in the afternoon determined to be bright and have a fabulous time. Webster answers the door and I give him a fright with my cheerful greeting, so much so that he tells me not to bother with the cold tea – he’ll make me a fresh cup later on. I chat gaily to Anne who tells me how run off their feet they are with the play but they still managed to have a lovely Christmas. I tell her that Ruth and I saw their picture and enjoyed it very much but thought Jamie Uys should have let them finish their song before he jumped in the river. They both have a great laugh at this.
Anne tells me that they went this morning to have their passports stamped as aliens and he says indignantly that they had to wait one and a half hours to have it done. I tell her we went a few months ago. We agree it would be madness to lose one’s British citizenship. Hilda, however, was not allowed to have permanent residence in this country. They’re very cross about it.
We start on Zion and I sing it very well. He brings me some tea. They tell me that they had a Christmas card from Uncle Mac who told them that poor Anderson Tyrer died on the boat home – possibly from a heart attack. Webster says rather callously, “Uncle Mac must be about 100 – I only hope he lasts long enough for you to get your diploma!”
Also, poor Bill Perry lost all his brothers and sisters in a head-on collision. He had to go to identify the bodies on Christmas eve.
She says I may either come at 10 next Thursday or 4.30 next Friday – the two times are between Ruth and me. I say that I’m sure she would like to go on Thursday and he says they might give her a lift in seeing they virtually pass her door – lucky Ruth.
I wish them a happy new year most effusively and shake Anne’s hand – she gets a surprise. I wonder what to do about him but his hand is already out ready to shake mine with a strong, firm, dependable grip – he holds it for ages. He says something about celebrating Hogmanay in joking tones and she says, presumably trying to imitate Scots accent. “Are you not having a party?” They’re going to one. “But we should really be at home learning our lines.”
feel quite elated when I leave today. My hand tingles with their
handshakes – ridiculous, I know!
says that he was very cold yesterday and they nearly lit the fire. He
says that last Boxing day they did light the fire and sat huddled in
front of it. She says she went out last night to do a Springbok
programme Password and had to wear winter clothes.
29 December – Death of Anderson T reported in paper. He was a famous composer and conductor. In SABC Bulletin there is another article about Great Voices, remarking on the fact that he doesn’t intend to put in his own recordings. He started off at a salary of £4 a week as a singer – and now look at him! They are to appear as Entertainers at Home in Paddy O’Byrne’s Sunday morning programme on 13 January.
30 December – Gary A says that G and S was one of the Top Ten radio programmes of the year.
to church and Cecil Oberholzer takes the service. There are very few
31 December –
we are at the end of another year. My only real achievements were
passing the exams. Next year I have to pass my finals and earn some
money with music.
As far as personal relations go – I’ve made real friends with Ruth and I’m very happy about it. I was sorry to see the last of Peter C and Peter S. As for the Booths – they’ve caused me heartache but they’re the only ones who can make me feel elated. I am as fond of them now as I was when I first met them. I’m glad Webster got over his illness and is now prospering theatrically – I got to know Anne well during his illness and I’m grateful for that.
The SABC has helped me developing musicianship and I have enjoyed my experiences there. It is a pity that we shan’t have Johan with us next year.
been a varied and interesting year if not always a happy one. I hope
that next year, despite the hard work in store for me, will be
interesting and happy at the same time.
As Ruth had to return a record to them she went along after church last night still in her choir robes. She asked Anne if she could see him and Anne agreed reluctantly. She says she’s never seen anyone looking quite so ill in her life. There he was, lying with all the clothes pulled up over him and his hair hanging all over his face, his medicine bottles on one side, looking absolutely ghastly. Ruth says she felt like crying for him – he looked so ill.
1 June – Go to studio and Webster answers door wearing Wanderers Blazer. Christopher is having another unsuccessful lesson. He argues about opening throat and mouth and they argue back at him. Anne tells him that he will have to send his cheque and remember that there are 5 Fridays in the month.
Anne comes into the kitchen and talks to me. When Christopher leaves Anne goes to phone and Webster says in his possessive voice, “And how is Jean today?” I say, “Fine, and yourself?” He looks slightly pained and says, “Not too bad.”
We do exercises and he is impossible at trying to transpose on the piano, so I do it for him. He gets rather a shock. Must say that the piano is lovely. We carry on to his bad accompaniment.
Anne returns, complaining about the cold and all goes smoother. We do the unaccompanied piece and they say that it is good too and if I do go slightly sharp it is barely noticeable. He tells me to open my mouth wider and I say, “I can’t,” and he says “Oh, Jean, of course, you can!”
also do My Mother on tape and this goes very nicely. Anne says
that my tone and voice are lovely but, “Don’t be so stingy with
They are very affable to me but jump down each other’s throats at an awful rate. “Put that cigarette out!” snaps Anne. As for the woman who comes after me, Anne says, “Oh, hello Mrs.. I shan’t be a moment.” She comes back to the studio and pulls a tortured face!
2 June – Go into town with Dad to fetch score of Tales of Hoffman from the music library and then go to Thrupps to meet Mum. While I am waiting there, who should come and look in the window but Leslie Green. I see that he goes into Polliacks Building presumably to the studio for tea – lucky creature!
In the SABC Bulletin there is an article mentioning the fortnightly programme Anne is to do starting about 19 June.
3 June – Play piano in Junior Sunday School today. Am given class of eight-year-olds including David Duly, a very sweet but ardent little boy.
In the G and S programme Webster plays his recording of The Lost Chord – about the third time he has played it but it is worth hearing more than once.
5 June – Listen to Leslie Green. He is going abroad soon and has had a yellow fever injection.
go to a rehearsal at the Duncan Hall. Hartman and Company don’t turn
up! I am livid as I had to drag poor Dad out for nothing.
6 June – Go to Doreen’s twenty-first birthday party at night and have good fun.
is there and also Mavis Knox. She has been learning singing for two
years. She sang in this year’s eisteddfod but wasn’t placed. Peter is
there and we dance and he tells me he’s leaving at the end of August
to go to Sheffield for a year and isn’t really looking forward to it.
Party finishes about midnight.
7 June – Go to town and have lunch with Mum. I go to the lunch hour concert in which Johan conducts, and Gert Potgieter is the soloist. I say hello to German cellist and meet a lady from the choir.
Outside of Ansteys I meet Mrs O in a skirt just like mine and a suede jacket. I tell her of the happenings of last night and she is disgusted. She says Johan might ask us to resign from the choir if we go into the opera, and the choir is better for us at this stage.
buy a skirt after much searching and see Peter Spargo on the bus
Ruth phones to tell me that owing to the exams she is writing in August she feels it would be wiser to leave the opera. Says she had a very distressing lesson on Sunday and at the end of it she felt miserable. They told her that they criticise her because her voice is worth bothering about – there are only 6 or 7 pupils whose voices are worth worrying about and therefore they criticise them. They certainly criticise me. She says she’s sure I’m one of the chosen few!
Tells me that Alan (her boyfriend) had a car crash and is suffering from shock. The Parktown girls who were at the Stravinsky rehearsal put the event into the School magazine saying that she and Mrs S sang in the SABC choir!
I tell her about Anne making faces behind people’s backs and we agree that we ought to take what Anne says with a pinch of salt.
8 June Have a last look at the theory for the exam and go to the studio. Webster answers the door and, as I have skates with me, he says, “Hello, what have we here? Been or going?” Anne tells me that she used to skate with some girlfriends until she nearly broke her neck.
I tell them about goings-on at the opera and they are quite disgusted. We see the crowns being removed from His Majesty’s buildings and I say perhaps they will replace them with heads of Dr Verwoerd. Anne says she really hates this country. She tells me they are also teaching in Boksburg now and she finds it rather tiring.
9 June – Go to write the theory exams at the Selbourne Hall. We sit in rows rather like the workhouse and Arnold Fulton regards us closely in case anyone cheats. All goes well.
Pritchard Street I bump into a dreamy-eyed Ruth who tells me she’s
been “with them” for an hour and ten minutes. They discussed
Wednesday’s happenings and are furious and want someone – maybe Mr
O – to write to the paper about it.
go to the Old Girls Reunion with Betty and Doreen and see a number of
old school friends and teachers there.
am developing laryngitis.
10 June – Remain in bed with laryngitis. Listen to G and S. Webster continues with Ruddigore and says that when they were in Ireland (just after the revolution) a small Union Jack was taken on stage. They had to crawl home to their lodgings to avoid the wrath of the irate Irish.
11 June – Still ill. Sir Malcolm “my old friend and colleague” is coming to South Africa next year.
12 June – Mum and I are both in bed with laryngitis! It is her birthday today.
13 June – Ruth phones. She talks of her sisters and tells me that they are both prettier than her. “My middle sister is a real classic beauty but she isn’t a very nice person!”
is busy with exams.
14 June – Go to lunch hour concert to allay boredom in the house. Norman Bailly, a baritone, sings and is really excellent. I see Andy Johnson, the drummer. Anton Hartman is the conductor.
15 June – Still a bit fluish but I go to my lesson anyway. Anne answers door dressed in “fly-away” coat and big orange hat! She is affable and I go into kitchenette and hear Christopher braying away having most unsuccessful lesson in which Anne asks him coldly, “Do you ever practise?”
are starting to paper the kitchen and are having the studio
I go in she goes to phone someone. Webster says to me, “Well, my
lady, d’ye know what we’re going to do today? We’re going to record
the exercises. Smile; make the adjudicator enjoy them and charm him
at the same time!”
We do exercises which go very well and he is pleased but tells me to do them a bit quicker so that they sound jollier!
We go on to the studies and he says I’m still putting a few ‘hs’ into them and I must constantly think about not doing that! He says that maybe if I accent the ahs I’ll be able to get out of the habit. The Germans stick in “h” but, being English, he cannot tolerate the habit. In oratorio, it sounds awful and he is distressed that Jennifer Vyvyan does it. We do it again and it goes better.
finishes phoning and comes out to tell him that as two people have
‘flu and can’t come, she’s put off the third one as well. He is
delighted and says to me sardonically, “We love our work!”
record the two exercises and although the tone is good, the tempo
drags and I don’t observe the hairpins. He says that Ruth has exactly
the same fault and we both have to learn the expression marks off by
heart. He says I must think of it as a gay dance – even though it
isn’t and must interpret the studies as I would songs. In the second
study I mustn’t lag on the run and must practise it – also there’s
a place where I must breathe where I don’t!
I certainly learn a lot today if it’s any consolation to me. Anne tells that their servant, Hilda has ‘flu too and is delirious and singing. He says he wishes he could have caught her singing.
He comes down with me on the lift to put 3d in the meter. We have to wait ages for it and spend time moaning about it. When it arrives he displays his excellent manners. The building worker comes on as well and he is most affable to him. He ushers me out, hand on my shoulder all the way, talks jovially to the worker about RCA, and tells me to have a look at the studies at home. He knows they aren’t particularly nice but I must have a good attitude of mind towards them. He smokes his famous Gold Flake and when he says goodbye to me he dashes up Pritchard street, still smoking.
16 June – Go into town in the morning and do various chores – library etc. Meet Dad in Galaxy and then we see Circle of Fire at the Empire – excellent.
Carlé plays Hear My Song, Violetta by my friends and says, “I
hope Anne and Webster are listening up in Johannesburg. Greetings to
17 June – Sunday school. Play piano and have a fresh collection of little boys to teach.
to G and S at night and it is lovely. He starts playing the Yeomenof the Guard and bursts into I have a Song to Sing-O
and plays a record made 40 years ago. “Listen to dear old Peter
Dawson as he was when a very young man of 40!” Lovely.
18 June – Work hard during the day and go to the SABC at night. First person I meet is Andy Johnson. Sit with Anna-Marie and Hester, and see John Walker, Douggie Laws, Ken Espen and Hugh Rouse, also Harry Stanton. Quite a collection.
with Gill for dinner and when we come back Johan asks us to go to his
office to collect the Stravinsky score. He is most affable and has a
lovely comfortable office.
comes and tells me of a great calamity in Domestic Science over a
misunderstanding about the “thrift article” she had to make this
afternoon. She spent the afternoon crying while she was making it –
work on Ninth Symphony and Die Lied van Jong Suid Afrika
– the latter for a commercial recording with an orphanage choir.
Ruth tells me at the interval that Anne has ‘flu so she had him on Saturday and had a wonderful time.
Anne. I was quite horrible about her on Friday and she was probably
feeling ghastly. Ruth says she prefers having him to teach her.
Anne’s fine as a friend but she doesn’t like having lessons with her.
I come home with Iris Williams who is nice.
19 June – Practise in morning and then go into town for a photograph for an audition. Have lunch with Mum. Come home on bus with Gill Mc D.
21 June – Go to lunch hour concerts and guess who I have sitting next to me? Mr Ormond. He says that he had a feeling his secretary had asked to leave early to go to the concert so he was there to check up on her. He is very affable – talks about music, the opera, the Booths, and tells me they’re going to have tea in the mayoral parlour with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra soon and is delighted about it. He’s rather a snob but quite sweet. I say that I see Walter Mony is going to play and he says he isn’t good enough. I’ll swear WM was sitting in front of us so I feel awful.
Concert conducted by Edgar Cree is excellent and soloist, Helena van Heerden plays well.
to Mrs S and have a good lesson. She says I have improved vastly.
Listen to Leslie Green at home – he is going abroad tomorrow.
22 June Anne’s 52nd birthday. Go to studio and Anne answers door – still wearing a hat. Christopher is singing The Volga Boatman – very badly.
his lesson I go in and say I heard she has had ‘flu. She says that
she hasn’t had ‘flu but Webster has gone down with it and as he is
supposed to go to Bulawayo on Monday to adjudicate at the eisteddfod
there, she’s awfully worried. His temperature was 102 degrees. On
Sunday he felt awful and couldn’t breathe and she thought he was
having a coronary thrombosis. She tried to be calm and sent him to
lie down and called the doctor. Antibiotics don’t work with him so
the doctor said he was going to let him sweat it out. She says he
looks really haggard – about ninety – and has lost a lot of
darling, I do feel sorry for him, but what can I do?” She stops and
then says, “Honestly, Jean, I’ve had more than I can stand with his
abscessed tooth and now this. If I have any more trouble, I don’t
know what I’ll do.” Her eyes fill with tears and I feel simply
dreadful and terribly sorry for her.
says that if he can’t go he wants her to go but she can’t leave the
studio to him because he isn’t in a fit state to deal with it.
all three songs and studies and they all go very well. I can sing
much better when Webster isn’t there, although I adore him!
She is pleased with singing but tells me to sing through the vowels of Polly Oliver. She promises to look up the JV record to see from which county it comes. We talk about the studio where we will do the exam – shall be glad when it is over – and all is reasonably cheerful although I feel quite miserable about Webster.
say goodbye and that I hope Webster will be all right and able to go
to Rhodesia. Poor Anne. It is her birthday today but as I learnt this
from the Stage Who’s Who I felt embarrassed about wishing her
a happy birthday because she’d know then that I know her age. I wish
I could have cheered her up today – she really is a darling no
matter how insincere she is at times, and she is having a horrible
time at the moment.
to guild at night – we have a debate about eugenics which is
reasonably interesting if a bit depressing.
Quail in Stoep Talk wishes Anne a happy birthday and quotes a
bit from the Stage Who’s Who!
birthday to: Anne Ziegler, well-known for musical and romantic roles
on stage and in films, was born in Liverpool, England.
Eastwood, her real name, married Webster Booth, the well-known tenor
in 1938 and two years later began their double act.
have made extensive tours of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand
and have appeared at many of the leading theatres and music halls in
London and the Provinces.
1956, due to the high rate of British taxation, the Booths settled in
South Africa. A year later, Anne Ziegler played her first straight
stage role in South Africa in Angels
in Love at the then Reps theatre, and has since appeared in
numerous plays, operas and SABC broadcasts.
23 June – Go into town with Mummy in the morning but I feel very ill and almost faint so am brought home again in a taxi! Feel absolutely ghastly for the rest of the day. However, we manage to get the SABC bulletin which tells of Anne’s new programmed called Music for Romance starting a week on Tuesday. There is an article about her in which she is very arch and talks about Boo! Imagine using that name in public!
24 June – Very weak today. I listen to Time to Remember at night presented by Leslie Bayley. Also listen to Life with the Lyons which I love.
– poor darling – is wonderful tonight and goes on with Yeomen
of the Guard – vamping, kissing and marrying with Martyn Green
– all glorious.
25 June – Go to choir at night. Gill comes first and then Ruth. I talk to her beforehand and hear a story about poor Webster. As Ruth had to return a record to them she went along after church last night still in her choir robes. She asked Anne if she could see him and Anne agreed reluctantly. She says she’s never seen anyone looking quite so ill in her life. There he was, lying with all the clothes pulled up over him and his hair hanging all over his face, his medicine bottles on one side, looking absolutely ghastly. Ruth says she felt like crying for him – he looked so ill. Poor, poor sweet old Webster – Bless him!
Apparently, it is quite definite that he went to Bulawayo today.
We work hard and practise madly. Ruth is going on holiday and promises to write – I hope she will. No one could ever have a nicer friend than Ruth. We work hard again and then Gill, Iris and I go for coffee and Iris gives me a lift home.
I don’t honestly think I would have dared to ask Anne to see Webster when he was so sick. In fact, it was rather a cheek, but I can see Ruth’s point in a way. I know she adores and worships him and I’m afraid I do too.
27 June – Work in the morning and have lunch with Mum. Go up to Mrs S’s studio and Gill tells me she’s going to have clarinet lessons with delightful, handsome, bearded oboist, Gerrit Bon, who plays in the orchestra! We do ear exercises and sing and it is all rather fun. Svea and Elaine have very bad colds.
At night Anne phones and before I go to the phone I know it is her. She says she has an appointment on Friday afternoon. We both know this is a lie – and seeing there are 5 Fridays in the month, do I mind not having a lesson. She’ll make it up in July when the little boy before me goes on holiday. I say that’s all right and ask after Webster. She says he went to Bulawayo on Monday looking absolutely ghastly but perhaps the heat up there will cure him. I say that he probably needs to be taken out of himself and I hope he’ll be all right. As she is obviously phoning oodles of people we say goodbye – see you a week on Friday. She isn’t really a very good liar.
going to listen to Make Mine Music to cheer me up!
28 June – Work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum and feel – I must admit – grim and depressed.
I go to the lunch hour concert. Johan conducts well but looks rather miserable also. The Lyra Vocal Quartet are soloists – Doris Brasch, Sarie Lamprecht, Gert Potgieter and Graham Burns. Gert P is the best singer. Sarie L looks and sings grimly. Doris B opens her mouth a mile and Graham B sings well but looks morose. They are very good as a whole.
30 June – Sleep late today. Ruth will be gone on holiday by now. Mum and Dad go to a party in the afternoon and we are going to pictures at night. We see Pollyanna with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman. It is a really lovely show and a great tear-jerker. We have supper out afterwards.
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.
1 June – College again. We have a long day which is rather depressing after the excitement of the week. This is broken by the lunch hour concert conducted by Jeremy Schulman with Annie Kossman as first violin. They play Poet and Peasant overture. Alan Solomon plays a violin solo with orchestra – Symphonie Espagnol. Last – Knightsbridge March by Coates. I meet Pat Eastwood again in the afternoon.
At night Mr Stratton calls for me for choir and this is enjoyable – any chance to sing is nice for me. A young tenor comes to practise songs for a wedding on Saturday – he’s singing This is My Lovely Day. He has a good voice but a face as miserable as death!
Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. First, he plays a quartet from the Verdi Requiem. Webster says, “Verdi seemed to have a grudge against sopranos. In this record the soprano has to hold a note for twenty seconds – a real test of breathing if ever there was one!”
Plays an aria from Judas Maccabeus sung by Isobel Baillie. “Isobel is my ideal singer of oratorio. The way she floats up to the high Bs and B flats is beautiful to hear. It’s a long time since she visited this country, but I know she is well loved by all who saw and heard her.”
He talks about Faust and says, “I met Anne Ziegler during the filming of Faust. Of course, I was Faust and she the heroine, Marguerite. We used to be so tired doing it that it took the make-up man all his time to cover up our tired looks.”
This leads him into Rosemarie and he plays recordings by George Tsotsi, Frederick Harvey and Julie Andrews. The last sings Pretty Things and, says Webster. “Very prettily she sings it too!” He says he knew Julie Andrews as a child prodigy of 12 years old singing coloratura opera arias and making a lot of money for her parents. She lost her beautiful voice but still has a very workable, pleasing voice and acting talent to go with it.
He clears his throat violently, plays the Soldiers’ March and starts reminiscing about Canada and the Rockies and how much he and Anne enjoyed being there when they did a concert performance of Merrie England in Calgary in 1953. He says that a brown bear pulled at Anne’s skirt and that this was a very happy period of their lives. He plays the finale from Faust with himself, Joan Cross and Norman Walker.
Webster says, “Now Anne will join me in singing Indian Love Call. I’ve heard this record before but I shall never cease to wonder at their voices. So long as that record continues to be played they will be remembered for ever. He ends with the overture to Oklahoma! and then it’s “Goodnight until next week!”
2 June – College and thank heaven for the weekend. In the afternoon I buy a Durban paper and there is the advert for their concert in the city hall for over 60s – 25 cents a ticket with limited seating for the general public at 50 cents a ticket!
Go to guild at night. We have a bible quiz which is quite good fun but wouldn’t I rather have been at the Durban concert!
3 June – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and Dad and buy a few songs. Come home and sing and sing. Hear Webster and Anne singing Only a Rose on Freddie Carlé’s programme – feel terribly happy about this – too gorgeous for words!
6 June – College and then to studio. Phone rings and Anne comes through and says to him, “Webster, Salisbury wants you.” Webster speaks to someone in Salisbury and I hear him say, “Well Anne could come up too if necessary.” Anne comes into the kitchen wearing a red hat to cover absolutely straight unset hair, and a black dress and coat with wings for sleeves. She looks a bit corny all round. I go in and pay her and this makes her happy.
Anne and Webster meeting All Blacks at residence of New Zealand ambassador, Lower Houghton.
We start on singing and she informs me brightly that I’m going to get a new exercise today to get the tongue flat. “ca, ca, ca” – very exhausting. She says, “Nothing is impossible.” Says Webster, “Once you get this you’ll wonder why you couldn’t do it all along.” We do The Lass and my breathing is dreadful. He says I’m expounding too much energy in diction and does a cruel imitation of this. We start again with breathing and he sings with me and breathes with me as well, and it goes better.
Anne tells me I have some excellent notes but I shall have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to be a contralto, do I mind? “Most singers are so disappointed when they hear that they’re going to be contraltos because they think sopranos are far more romantic.” She says this in her most stagy, catty voice. Webster says that I shall definitely have to start on some contralto oratorio arias. O, Rest in the Lord would be best. I say that I shall copy it into a manuscript book for next week. He looks surprised that I should be able to do this.
I ask how they enjoyed Durban and Anne says theatrically, “It was lovely! Very rushed of course, but we managed to get a dip in the sea on Saturday morning, but it was freezing. Both concerts went marvellously – the second one was in the open air.”
Anne asks me if I can go at 4.30 next Tuesday. Will it be convenient? Oh, yes. Offers me an Eetsummore biscuit but I decline with thanks. Anne escorts me to door still in red hat, angel-like coat and straight reddish-blonde hair. Today she was in one of her stagy and therefore less attractive moods.
8 June – Go to lunch hour concert – Edgar Cree conducting. The soloist is Cecilia Wessels – a large lady in her fifties looking every inch the typical prima donna of fifty years ago. On the loud notes her voice (dramatic soprano) is excellent but her soft notes tend to crack. Apparently, she is very well known and there is a saying about her, “Don’t say ships; say Wessels!”
At night Mr Stratton takes me to choir and we have reasonable time – all would be so much more pleasant if Mrs Weakley shut up a little. Come home and listen to Webster while lying in bed. He plays an aria from Messiah sung by American bass-baritone, Donald Gramm – Why Do the Nations?
Webster talks about Bach and says that he and Bach have something in common – they were both educated at a cathedral school – free! But there the resemblance ends. Plays the Cantata for Ascension Day sung by four dear friends – Eva Turner, Kathleen Ferrier and two others whose names I don’t catch.
Next he plays something from Thais by Massenet, and then Don Pasquale. Rossini was in poor health when writing this and died in an asylum. Next come three songs from My Fair Lady sung by Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stan Holloway. He says, “Anne always says that Rex should have been her brother-in-law but her sister married an Edinburgh accountant instead.” Re Julie Andrews, “We’ve known her since she was ten years of age and at one time she trained with Anne’s former singing teacher – Lilian Stiles-Allen who might be known to older listeners as an oratorio soprano.” Stan Holloway: “I’ve known Stan since his concert party days. All three were dear friends of ours.” What a lot of name-dropping in one session! But I’ve always admired the three, especially Rex Harrison for what he did for Kay Kendall.
Lastly, he plays Merry Widow by Mantovani – Manty as he is affectionately known. Lovely programme but none of his records there, I notice.
9 June College. Gail Blue leaves today – she has found a job!
Go to guild at night. George Fleetwood, Claudie, Rose and I go with Kippie to Parkwood guild and after much searching we find the hall and enter late amidst the rendering of a song by an unfortunate young baritone.
A play is presented – The Late Mr Wesley which is very good and the girl turns out to be Wendy Smith from the rink. Afterwards, we greet each other effusively and she tells me that she’s doing a BSc at varsity and she must come to the rink some time. She is terribly sweet and her acting was lovely. Also meet Lynnette Roberts from college and she is most effusive too. In her effusion she knocks a cup of tea on to George and his suit! Rushes for cloth to wipe it and apologises – effusively!
10 June – Go skating this morning. Neill is there and is gay (when not bragging) and so is Menina full of a long holiday in Durban. Dawn V comes and she too is full of herself. My skating is still the same as it was a year or two ago! Talk on and off and am pestered by Dawn to dance. I have actually lost all lust for skating – the only reason I go there now is for a social occasion. I hope that my interest in singing will not peter out as my interest for skating has but I have been brought up on music so maybe it’ll win through!
In the afternoon I go with parents to see Tunes of Glory with Alec Guiness, John Mills and Duncan Macrae (Parents knew him in Britain). It is an excellent picture set in Edinburgh and I enjoy it immensely.
11 June Eleven kids in Sunday school today including Michael Ferguson and Mark – what a time I have! In the afternoon I practise singing and sing in choir at church at night. Mr R’s sermon is excellent and after service Leaders’ representatives are elected – Daddy is elected on to the committee.
12 June – Mother’s birthday (60!) College. In the afternoon I happen to meet Dawn Snyman outside the CNA. She hasn’t changed a bit after a year and is still a darling. She says that Erica Batchelor has gone for a holiday overseas. Dawn is going to visit Chubby. Says she wrote five letters to her and got a postcard in return! We talk about Kay and the rink and she says she is at Modern Methods business college. We say we’ll probably see each other at the rink. She is a pet. I always liked her.
Practise singing at night for great day tomorrow.
13 June In afternoon go to reference library and read Stage Who’s Who and Television and Radio Who’s Who – both very eloquent about Webster and Anne – makes me feel terribly insignificant and then very determined to do well at singing!
Go to the studio and Webster answers the door and says, “Anne isn’t back yet, but just have a seat till she comes – she won’t be long.” I sit down and listen to Webster coughing. Anne doesn’t come in for ages so Webster says that I had better come into the studio and he’ll make a cup of tea while we wait for her. He says, “I have to go to Rhodesia the week after next, dammit, and God knows how much music I have to take with me.” I make the necessary grunts in reply. Then he says, “I don’t know what’s happened to Anne – she only went to John Orrs and that was half an hour ago.” Anne duly returns after I have had a nice feast on the photographs. She is wearing a fur coat. She apologises for being late. She went to John Orrs to buy a pattern and all the patterns she wanted were out of stock and won’t be in for six weeks.
Anne removes her coat and says, “Well, my dear, let’s start.” Webster brings tea and I drink it. He says to her, “I’m so sorry, I put sugar in it, darling.”
She says archly, “Monster! We’ve had three cups of tea today and I’ve had sugar in every one of them!”
We start on the ca-ca exercise and I tell Anne how exhausting I find it as a prologue. She is delighted and they both stare at my tongue and are charmed with it. Anne says that I must have practised thoroughly which is very different from most of her other pupils who don’t pay any attention to what she tells them to do!
I mention that they asked me to copy O, Rest in the Lord and I produce my copy. They are both thrilled with the manuscript copy and Anne says that Webster will be coming to me to copy out music for him.
We do it and it goes very well. We concentrate on it line by line, and Webster gives a demonstration – no imitations of me this week – and they tell me that my voice seems to have improved and is settling down nicely. We end with The Lass and Anne says that a two and a half octave range is quite fantastic and I have the makings of an excellent singer.
When she sees me to the door, she asks, “Are you glad you’re doing singing, Jean?” and I say, “Oh, yes. I love it!” and boy, I really do. Ernest is waiting to go in for his lesson and gives me an earnest look. Say goodbye and come away gaily – a little more cheered than at other times.
15 June College. We go to lunch hour concert. Edgar Cree conducts the Ballet suite from Faust and a waltz from Eugene Onegin. Adelaide Newman is one of the best pianists I have heard.
At night I go to choir with Mr Stratton. When I arrive home I listen to Webster and he is excellent as usual. He starts off with an excerpt from the Mozart Requiem and then plays part of the Ninth Symphony, but says that although he likes to listen to it, he loathes singing it, although he has sung it under three twin knights – Sargent, Beecham and Wood, and also Felix Weingartner.
Next he plays two pieces from Cavaliera Rusticana, an opera about ordinary people. He says the opera is very bloody, “A lovely cheerful night’s entertainment.” He plays The Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, which is unpleasant, in my opinion.
“It’s amazed at how many South Africans we meet here can remember us in Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi, specially written for us by Kenneth Leslie-Smith. I would like to play you three songs recorded from the show sung by Anne and me.”
The first is a duet, Life Begins Anew followed by Anne singing Sweet Yesterday and the last one is a rousing one by Webster called Morning Glory. What voices they had! He finishes with some more Lehar.
16 June – College – Go to guild at night and we have Victoria guild over so there is quite a crowd. Playing goes very well and we see two films on refugees – one with Yul Brunner. Ann takes the epilogue.
17 June Go skating – Dawn and friend, Sally, MJ and Neill are there and we have glorious time. Neill does aeroplane spins with Dawn which come on nicely and a double spin with me which is gorgeous. I have regained old form and all is terribly gay.
In the afternoon I practise singing and at night we go to Mr and Mrs Scott – they have a lovely little flat in Reynolds View. We listen to the Gondoliers and they are full of praise for Webster and Anne. See programme of Dancing Years – they are in advert – Sweethearts of Song.
18 June Sunday school then beautiful sermon by Mr Cape. Peter tells me that he has to take speech lessons for preaching so he wants the Booth’s telephone numbers. The Alexanders come in the afternoon with Mrs Radzewitz’s mother.
19 June – College – come home with Margaret Masterton on the bus and ask her how her parents are enjoying their holiday in the UK. She tells me that her father died in Scotland two weeks ago. I feel rotten about it. Poor Margaret and poor Mrs M. She says that she’s dreading her mother’s return and can’t believe that her father is dead.
We talk about singing and her exams and I tell her about Webster and Anne and singing – contralto etc. She says that Yvonne Hudson (Miss Kempton Park) is learning with Anne. We talk about Drummond Bell which takes Margaret’s mind of her sadness. Apparently, her father knew that he was dying and wanted to return to Scotland to die there.
20 June College and then singing lesson. They are discussing various songs when I go in – keep on talking about Sweet Yesterday. I sit in the kitchenette and think how gorgeous their record of it sounded on Thursday night.
Anne comes in – is quite charming and her hair looks lovely. She asks if I can change times from Tuesday to Thursday at 4 o’clock. I say that it will be fine. She says she hates messing me around but that will be settled. She says she’s going up to Rhodesia the week after next but will talk to me about that later.
I sure will have a musical Thursday – lunch hour concert, Webster and Anne, choir and then Webster at night.
We start on scales – ca-ing away – and Anne is very pleased with my tongue. We go on to Rest in the Lord and I don’t do it too badly. Webster sings a bit of it with me and tells me that I must sing louder. He stands further away and tells me to sing loudly, so I do. He says, “It’s beginning to sound like a voice now!” What did it sound like before, I wonder! Webster says, “It’s terrible, but I can’t find that contralto book I wanted for Jean – It had Father of Heav’n in it and everything.”
He starts rummaging through all the music albums and Anne says, “Let’s try He Shall Feed His Flock while we’re waiting for him.” My copy of it is “out of date” so she alters it – first wrongly –and she says, “Oh, darling, I’m sorry,” and alters it once more and we start again. She says that I have some beautiful notes in the aria and I must try to get the same quality into all the notes and it’ll sound gorgeous.
Webster says that I mustn’t be afraid of having a good sing. She says, “I hope you don’t feel as though you’ll make a fool of yourself in front of us.” “Good God, no!” Webster says vehemently.
It goes quite well today and they are sweet. Anne says very proudly, “Webster is going up to Rhodesia next week to adjudicate.” I say, “That is lovely.” She also tells me that she is going up the week after next and will have to alter my time again – she’s sorry.
When I leave, Ernest is there once again. Peter is not mentioned so undoubtedly he has not yet phoned. If he decides to go to Nora Taylor I couldn’t give a darn! Listen to the radio at night and Ivor Dennis is excellent in his little programme.
21 June – Hear Kathleen Ferrier singing on the Afrikaans programme. She sings folk songs – The Keel Row, Blow the Wind Southerly, The White Lily, Ma Bonny Lad, Willow, Willow. If that’s what a contralto can do, please let me be one.
22 June – Anne’s 51st birthday. Go up to choir at night – Mr S isn’t there because Mrs S is ill, so we go through the hymns in a haphazard fashion. Ann and Leona come down to excuse him. Joan tells me that she went to see The Dancing Years last Saturday night and loved it, She makes me la away at Waltz of My Heart.
Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. He starts with the Verdi Requiem – Libera and Dies Irae. Soprano ends on pianissimo top B. Very nice but very heavy. He plays his own recording of a recit and aria from Samson conducted by Stanford Robinson with the BBC orchestra – very beautiful indeed. He plays parts of Carmen conducted by Thomas Beecham and sung by Victoria de los Angeles.
He plays parts of Annie Get Your Gun. Emile Littler presented it in London and their friend, Wendy Toye produced it. He says they were at the first night of the show and the audience wouldn’t let the cast go so they had to sing all the numbers from the show over again. When they were in Australia it got the same reception. He ends with the overture to Gipsy Princess which he sang many times for the BBC. The recording is played by their old friend Mantovani.
24 June – Have lunch in and have a look in Polliack’s. Net Maar ‘n Roos is displayed in the window. Mummy says I can have the record some time. We see No Love for Johnny with Peter Finch, Mary Peach, Stan Holloway and Billie Whitelaw – excellent.
Mr and Mrs Diamond come at night and I sing for them. They are impressed and I feel happy.
Webster arrives in Salisbury, (then Rhodesia).
29 June – Go to Anne in the afternoon and have a really gorgeous time. I arrive earlier than her and hear her coming out of the lift and thanking the man profusely for holding the door open for her. She wears a red hat and cape-like coat. She says, “Oh, hello, Jean. Did you think I wasn’t coming?” “Oh no, Anne. I was here early.” “The other two before you have ‘flu so that’s why I’m here so late.”
We go in and she fouters around in the office and I look at the pictures and I try to figure out who some of the people are – I only recognise Leslie Green and the Royal family. Anne asks if I can come on the Monday (a public holiday) because she’s going up to Rhodesia next week on Sunday. Yes, of course I can!
We start on ca exercise which she says is marvellous and dead on. She says that I must do 4 cas at a time on the same note in the same exercise and then my placing will be “bang on”.
We do He Shall Feed His Flock. She says it’s going to be gorgeous but I must watch that I don’t spread my “ees”. She says, “I can say what I like about Boo and I know that we have our little squabbles, but I must admit that he has really beautiful diction. It doesn’t matter what he sings – opera, oratorio or pop musical comedy – his vowels are just the same. He was trained in the right way since he was seven years old as a choir boy and he has never forgotten that basic training. You are just at the right age to be trained in the proper way, Jean, and no matter what you do in the future you’ll always be able to fall back on your first basic training. I think it’s wonderful the way you do everything I tell you to. You’re a good girl and you have a lovely voice.”
She asks, “Do you like singing, Jean, and I say profoundly, “Oh, yes. I like it very much.” Not very eloquent but very true.
We go on to Rest in the Lord and this goes well until we reach, “And wait…” and then my tongue goes into the wrong position. She takes me over to the mirror to see that I get my tongue down and she looks in the mirror and says, “Don’t mind me keeping my hat on, but my hair’s such a mess that I couldn’t possibly take it off. I’m going to have it done tomorrow though, so it’ll be OK again!”
She says that she thinks I’m losing my breath too quickly because of the “h” and that she gets her “hs” out without moving her ribs with her abdomen. She gives me a demonstration, and honestly, it is quite marvellous. She tells me to feel her ribs and puts my hands on them with hers – they’re gloriously warm compared with my cold ones. She’s a miracle with her breathing.
We do The Lass and when it comes to top A it sounds terrible to me – not so much terrible but because my parents have said it sounds terrible. She says, “Jean, you have a really beautiful note there. No! Don’t make a face. I wouldn’t tell you that if it was rotten. But look happy about it and don’t let people see you’re thinking, “Oh, God, I can never reach this!”
When we finish, Anne says, “You know, Jean, you really and truly have a beautiful voice.” I feel quite overcome at this and look a bit grim. She says, “Well, aren’t you happy about it? You look as if it was something terrible.” I manage to get out a strangled, “Thank you,” and she looks at me and says, “Jean, I really believe that you are shy. Please, whatever you do, don’t feel shy with me. I don’t know about HIM, but please never feel shy with me, dear.”
I tell Anne to have a nice time in Rhodesia and we say goodbye… She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She’s so generous and natural – she’s an angel.
Listen to Webster at night. He starts off with something from Elijah. He says that there seems to be everything in the record that he likes – his favourite baritone, Harold Williams, his favourite choral society, Huddersfield, and his favourite conductor, Sir Malcolm. It is a lovely record and Harold Williams is excellent. Webster says HW’s voice is nectar to his ears. Next he plays the quartet from Elijah,Rest Thy Hearts Upon the Lord.
Webster talks about Handel playing the organ for a choral society near Bushy Heath. “Where Anne and I spent much time filming Gounod’s Faust. Evidently the society had a collection of very high tenors and it was for them that Handel wrote Acis and Galatea. Webster plays his own recording this, Love Sounds the Alarm conducted by Warwick Braithwaite. ‘Well, you can see what I mean about the high notes, can’t you?” he says when the record is finished.
He goes on to Lucia di Lammermoor and says that Mimi C is coming out next August to do this and she’ll have a good two hours of coloratura singing to do. He plays two arias from the opera. He plays three songs from The Song of Norway which, he says, he saw in London. It was produced in America in the open air with an artificial iceberg for the skating ballet. He plays Freddie and His Fiddle and Strange music. He will play more of this next week and some items from The Vagabond King.