THEATRE IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1973)

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared in South Africa, as well as amateur shows in which they appeared or which were directed by them – either separately or together.

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared, as well as amateur shows directed by them – either together or separately. The list is not complete so I would be glad to hear from anyone who can add to it or enlarge on the information presented below.

SPRING QUARTET September 1956, Cape Town. Anne and Webster. Before Anne and Webster went to Johannesburg to settle, they played in Spring Quartet, straight after their trip to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle. Leonard Schach directed the play for the Cockpit Players, at the Hofmeyr Theatre. Others in the cast were  Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn, Gavin Houghton and Sydney Welch. Decor by David Crichton, costumes by Doreen Graves. At the piano were Keith Jewell and Geoffrey Miller.

In Cape Town for “Spring Quartet”. September 1956

JOHANNESBURG 1956-1967

NIGHT IN VENICE Wednesday 14 November to Saturday 1 December 1956, Reps Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Johannesburg Operatic Society, Anne Ziegler, Webster Booth, June Hern, Tom Reid, Harold Lake, Stella Beder, Director: Arnold Dover, Music: Drummond Bell.

Night in Venice.
Night in Venice November 1956

ANGELS IN LOVE 29 July 1957, Reps Theatre, Anne played the part of Dearest, with Rory McDermot, Joan Blake, Michael Turner, Arthur Hall, and Edwin Quail (Fauntleroy), directed by Minna Schneier.

31 July 1957 Anne’s first non-singing role

WALTZ TIME 31 May 1958, Springs Civic Theatre, Anne and Webster, produced by Bert Dobson for Springs Operatic Society.

MERRIE ENGLAND 16 to 21 June 1958, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London. Anne and Webster, Mabel Fenney, Pamela Emslie, Hilary Adams, Cawood Meaker, Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Doreen Egan, conducted by Jean Fowler.

16 June 1958 Merrie England, East London.
16 June 1958, Merrie England, East London

THE VAGABOND KING 1 August 1958, Durban. Anne and Webster starred in the show. Produced by Isobel McLaren (wife of singing teacher Arnold Fulton.

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

November 1958. Merrie England at the Reps Theatre, Johannesburg.
November 1958. Anne and Webster produced and starred in Merrie England at the Reps Theatre in Braamfontein for JODs.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Christmas 1958, City Hall, East London, Anne appeared as principal boy. Anne told me that she had also appeared in DICK WHITTINGTON in East London.

WALTZ TIME 1959, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London, Anne and Webster and East London cast.

Waltz Time East London.

THE GLASS SLIPPER December 1959, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg Repertory Players, National Theatre and Childrens Theatre, Anne Ziegler, Yvonne Theron, Siegfried Mynhardt, David Beattie, Hilda Kriseman, Olive King, Bruce Anderson, directed by Hugh Goldie. Music: Joyce Goldie (Piano conductor) Band: Leader Walter Mony, Bassoon: Richard Cherry, Clarinet: P Reinders, Percussion: A Johnson, Violin: Erica Anderson, Viola: Lance Lange, Cello: Phyllis Chaplin

The Glass Slipper, December 1959. Children’s Theatre
Anne as the Fairy Godmother pointing the way for Cinderella’s coach to go to the ball. I ushered at the Reps Theatre for one of the performances.

MIKADO 1960, Bloemfontein, Webster. I know very little about this show. I am not sure whether Webster sang in it, directed it or did both.

A COUNTRY GIRL October 1960, Produced by Anne and Webster at Little Theatre, Springs. Leads were played by Corinne van Wyk and John Wilcox.

LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS 19 December 1960 to January 1961, Playhouse, Johannesburg, Anne, Valerie Miller, Leon Eagles, John Boulter, Robert Haber and Ivor Berold, directed by Leonard Schach.

Anne, Dame Flora Robson, Ivan Berold
Anne and Valerie Miller

THE AMOROUS PRAWN September to October 30 1961, Alexander Theatre (previously the Reps Theatre), National Theatre, Pretoria, 31 October to November 12, Alhambra Theatre, Durban, November 15?

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

Amorous Prawn rehearsal with Joan Blake, Simon Swindell, Ronald Wallace, producer: Victor Melleney. Webster with a monocle was the Prawn.

THE DESERT SONG October to November 1961 at Springs Theatre, Anne directed this show for the Springs Operatic Society. Sylvia Watson (nee Reilly), who kindly wrote to me to tell me more about these shows was in the chorus.

THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL February 1962, Alexander Theatre, Webster took a small non-singing part with Simon Swindell, Michael McGovern, Gordon Mulholland, Joe Stewardson, directed by Albert Ninio. My piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, saw the play and remarked about Websters role, “Such a small part for such a great man.”

THE VAGABOND KING October 1962, Springs Little Theatre
Anne and Webster directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE October 1962, Bloemfontein. Webster directed this production. As a gimmick he had a chimpanzee going on to the stage with the pirates. The chimpanzee idea was not without problems. She disgraced himself during Websters opening night speech. With a quick wit he quipped, You naughty girl. I wont take you out again in a hurry.

THE MERRY WIDOW November 1962, Springs Little Theatre. Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

GOODNIGHT MRS PUFFIN January 1963, Alexander Theatre, Anne and Webster with Jane Fenn, George Moore, Deborah Francis, Leonne Carnot, Clive Pownall, Paddy Canavan, Anthony James and Michael Newell, directed by John Hayter.

The Amorous Prawn. Anne is Mrs Fordyce, with Leonne Carnot, Jane Fenn
Anne and Webster with their stage family.

THE NEW MOON, 10 April 1964, Springs Little Theatre, Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD May 1963, Alexander Theatre, JODS, Webster took the part of Colonel Fairfax at short notice with Denise Allen, June Hern, Lilian Gartside, Len Rosen, Lyle Matthews, Ethlynne Cohen and Peter Lynsky, directed by Keith Stammers-Bloxham, conducted by Desmond Wright.

Yeomen of the Guard 6 June 1963.
6 June 1963. Yeomen of the Guard.

TONIGHT AT 8.30 8 July 1964, Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, CAPE PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL (CAPAB) Anne and Webster appeared in Family Album with Yvonne Bryceland, Michael Drin, Nanette Rennie and Flora McKenna, directed by Margaret Inglis, conducted by Keith Jewell.

THE MERRY WIDOW October 1965, Bloemfontein. Anne directed this production in Bloemfontein.

The Merry Widow in Anne’s production in Bloemfontein. I don’t know her name. Do you?

THE LOVE POTION November 1966, Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Anne, with Alec Bell, Fiona Fraser and Arthur Hall, directed by Ricky Arden. This show was not a success and came off early.

THE BARTERED BRIDE November (Pretoria) 14, 17, 20, 22 December 1966, (Johannesburg), Aula Theatre, Pretoria, Civic Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Webster played non-singing role of Circus Master, with Gé Korsten, Nellie du Toit, Gert Potgieter and Oysten Liltveld, directed by Victor Melleney, conducted by Leo Quayle

The Bartered Bride?

COUNTESS MARITZA 1967, Pretoria. Anne and Webster either directed or appeared in this production or perhaps they did both.

KNYSNA 1967-1974

MERRIE ENGLAND 11  July 1968, Knysna and District Choral Society, Webster, Anne, Dorothy Davies, James Squier and Ena van der Vijver

CINDERELLA December 1968, Knysna. Anne played principal boy and wrote the script. Del le Roux, Ena van der Vijver, Dorothy Davies and Sadie Hamilton Cox were also in the cast.

Ena van der Vyver and Anne as principal boys.

PANTOMIME December 1969, Knysna, Anne played principal boy and wrote the script but I do not know the name of the pantomime.

COX AND BOX/TRIAL BY JURY ( Date?), Knysna, George, Oudtshoorn and Ladismith (Cape)

LADY AUDLEYS SECRET December 1971, Port Elizabeth Opera House, Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society. Anne produced this show.

Alys Tayler and Ted Mayhew in Lady Audley’s Secret, PE, 1971.

DICK WHITTINGTON December 1972, Port Elizabeth Opera House, PEMADS. Webster produced and conducted for this pantomime, while Anne played Principal Boy.

Rehearsing Dick Whittington in PE>

THE MIKADO 4 to 14 April 1973, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pam Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas. Webster produced this show.

Webster at rehearsal.
Rehearsal
Me and June Evans
Me, June Evans and Neil Evans.
Me in The Mikado.
Me – back left with June Evans and other members of the chorus.

Updated 16 December 2019.

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1964 – 1969)

1964 was a very sad year as my dear friend Ruth Ormond died in Cape Town at the age of 19. I managed to pass the LTCL singing exam and Webster and Anne starred in Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in June and July. I continued accompanying for Webster when he returned from PE.

1964 was a very sad year as my dear friend Ruth Ormond died in Cape Town at the age of 19. I managed to pass the LTCL singing exam and Webster and Anne starred in Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in June and July. I continued accompanying for Webster when he returned from PE.

10 April 1964 The New Moon at The Springs Operatic Society. Anne directs the show.
29 March 1964 The Crucifixion.
March/April – accompanying for the Booth’s pupils at the National Eisteddfod. – “G” rather than “J” Campbell!
May 1964, My best friend, Ruth Ormond died suddenly in Cape Town. I was heart-broken.
29 June 1964 Cape Town, The play went to other cities in the province.
8 July 1964 from Sea Point, Cape Town.
Anne and Webster stayed at Hotel Elizabeth, Sea Point.
Anne and Webster stayed at the Grand Hotel in Port Elizabeth when they were appearing in Tonight at 8.30.
10 July 1964 from Port Elizabeth. I had managed to pass my Licentiate singing exam!
19 September 1964 Pietermaritzburg. The Creation.
1 February 1965 – Reference for Kingsmead College.
A photo from an article written in 1965. Anne, Webster and Lemon. I started teaching at Kingsmead College, Rosebank but continued with my singing lessons and taught in their studio every Wednesday.
Another photo from the 1965 article.
Webster played the small part of British Ambassador in King Hendrik.
The British Ambassador – complete with monocle. On the night he was filming this small scene I was in Nabucco. Anne attended the performance with Dudley Holmes’ mother and a friend. They returned to Anne’s for drinks after the show. I was dropped off at Kingsmead College. I decided to go to the UK after that incident.

Anne directed The Merry Widow in Bloemfontein. I think this was her leading lady. (circa October 1965) I went to the UK in January of 1966.
15 January 1966 I went to the UK with this reference.
Guests of honour at The Merry Widow in Irené, produced by Doris Boulton and starring Doris as the Merry Widow.
Doris Boulton as the Merry Widow in Irené production.
2 October 1966 Johannesburg 80th birthday concert.
2 October 1966 Programme for concert.
10 October 1966 Artice about forthcoming productions – with Lemon and Silva.
Opened on 22 October 1966 – it was not a success.
Webster as the Circus Barker in The Bartered Bride – a non-singing role.
14 December 1966.
7 April 1967 in Parktown North
April 1967 SABC programmes. Webster had told me about them in one of the last letters I received from him before he went to Knysna.
May 1967.
2 September 1967. The Rococo Canada LP briefly reviewed!

11 July 1968
15 September 1967. The first concert in Knysna 15 September 1967.
11 July 1968
Knysna 1967/68
24 August 1968 I found this edition of the paper in the shop on the SA Oranje when I was returning to South Africa from the UK in August 1968. It was surprising to see that they were trying to sell their house not very long after they had settled in Knysna.
Anne with Silva and Lemon. Was she in a Cox and Box costume? Photo: Dudley Holmes.
Webster and Lemon. Photo: Dudley Holmes.


Anne and Dudley Holmes, Knysna. Photo: Webster Booth.

Anne and Silva. Photo: Dudley Holmes.
Anne and Webster in Knysna (Photo: Dudley Holmes)
Anne and Silva. Photo: Dudley Holmes
Webster and Lemon in the garden in Knysna. Photo: Dudley Holmes.
On the beach at Knoetzie with Silva. Photo: Dudley Holmes.
Anne. Photo: Dudley Holmes
Excerpts from Messiah and Elijah 1969.
Elijah (1969)
1969 Knysna
Ena van den Vyver and Anne – two principal boys in the Knysna Pantomime!
Anne and Webster in Knysna.

BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1958 – 1959)

October 1958 –
Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring. Our charming stage
celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie
England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.
When the Booths
came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be
quick,” they said.
Cars loom large in
the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed
her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed
at which she was travelling.”
Mr Booth may have
endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!

21 January 1958 – At Home with Anne. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.

A poor newspaper cutting photocopied by microfiche. 1 February 1958.

1 February 1958 – Jennifer Vyvyan recital

A photograph of the Booths appeared in the Rand Daily Mail. They had attended the recital given by English soprano Jennifer Vyvyan in the Selborne Hall. Webster had appeared with Jennifer Vyvyan in performances of Hiawatha and Messiah in 1955 before he left the UK.

7 March 1958 with Harry Stanton.

7 March 1958. Outdoor theatre at Joubert Park.

14 March 1958. Little Theatre, Springs.

17 May 1958 Elijah at the City Hall.
20 May 1958.

31 May 1958 – Springs Operatic Society – May Time

31 May 1958 – Springs Operatic Society – May Time
31 May 1958
16 June 1958
16 June 1958

Merrie England 16 June 1958 with Mabel Fenney, Jimmy Nicholas and Pam Emslie
Anne and Webster in Merrie England, East London 1958.
Anne and Webster in Cape Town.
1 August 1958 Vagabond King, Durban.
22 July 1958.
July 1958

October 1958 – Wedding Anniversary – Merrie motoring.

Our charming stage celebrities, Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth, will spend the night of their 20th wedding anniversary, which takes place early next month, rehearsing until 1 am for Merrie England for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society. It opens in the Reps Theatre with a gala performance in aid of Santa on November 12.

When the Booths came to see me recently about this they were worried about their car parking situation. “Double parked – oh, dear – we must be quick,” they said.

Cars loom large in the lives of the couple. Anne’s husband said, “I once followed her in my car from Maritzburg to Durban. I won’t tell you the speed at which she was travelling.”

Mr Booth may have endorsed the remark, but the driving licence remains unendorsed!

November 1958 JODS

l January 1959

8 January, 12 March 1959 Variety under the stars.
17 February 1959.
February 1959.
7 March 1959 – A bed for Zandile.
12 March 1959 Merrie England – Dora Sowden.
11 April 1959 SABC Pavilion Rand Easter Show.
May 1959.
Waltz Time, East London 18 May 1959.
Anne and Lemon. Anne opens flower show at the City Hall. 1959.

At the old Carlton Hotel – the Press Club party for the All Blacks.
At home in Craighall Park.

With Lemon and Spinach.

With Lemon.

Advertising Lourenco Marques Radio.

Anne and Webster launch their Afrikaans LP – Net Maar ‘n Roos.

The Glass Slipper December 1959.

Anne plays the Fairy Godmother.

Jean Collen 30 April 2019.

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1953 – AUGUST 1956

Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.

18 February 1953 Ash Wednesday.
Elected Joint presidents of Concert Artistes’ Association.

Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.

.

Opening of Desert Island Discs script. Sadly the recording is not available on the BBC webpage.
11 April 1953 – hardly something to commend him!

Anne as Mistress Knight and Webster as King Charles II in And So to Bed.

24 April, 1953 Coventry Hippodrome, poor review.
Diamond Wedding anniversary of Anne’s parents April 1953.
Anne and Webster went on an extensive tour of And So to Bed in the midst of many other commitments, particularly Merrie England in the Coronation Year.
Booths sing in concert version of Merrie England in Calgary on May 9 1953.
Merrie England at Luton Hoo with Douglas Fairbanks Junior

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.
CAA dinner 1953 Anne and Webster as presidents.
Advert – 1954

8 April 1954
15 April 1954

30 April 1954
16 May 1954

May 1954
Hiawatha concert had been cancelled for lack of interest. It was replaced by an extract from Aida.

21 September 1954 – Attack of Shingles. Far from “staying indoors for four or five days,” the pain troubled him periodically for many years to come.

28 October 1954
24 November 1954 – Victoria Congregational Church, Derby from Webster’s score.
15 December 1954

Webster’s score 10 December 1954
31 December 1954
I do not know whether Webster and Anne had any singing pupils in the UK.

27 May 1955 Gilbert and Sullivan concert.
29 April 1955 – Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert.
24 June 1955 – St Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow.
27 July 1955. Anne and Webster were presented to Princess Alexandra.

13 August 1955 Promenade Concert.
13 October 1955 Lady Audley’s Secret.
25 October 1955
November 1955 0n the way to South Africa for tour of Cape Province.

12 December 1955 – Arriving back in the UK again.

15 December 1955 Messiah, Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Town Hall

Return to South Africa for a further tour.

2 February 1956 Crit by Dora L. Sowden in Rand Daily Mail.

On “platteland tour”. Having tea in Bethal with accompanist, Arthur Tatler.
27 June 1956

Passenger List, Pretoria Castle – 12 July 1956.

A

Anne and Webster sailed to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle on 12 July 1956. They had been having trouble with the Inland Revenue because of unpaid tax on American record sales. This had not been settled by the accountant acting for their agent, Julius Darewski. By the time the fault was discovered Webster told the Inland Revenue that he could not afford to pay the full amount and they were facing having some of their belonging being taken by the taxman. They therefore decided to immigrate to South Africa.

On board the Pretoria Castle, 12 July 1956.

Signing the menu on board ship.
15 August 1956

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1951 -1952

The Booth’s joint autobiography was published in 1951 and is now long out of print. I digitised the book several years ago and John Marwood was kind enough to proofread it for me. It is now available in paperback and as an epub at: https://www.lulu.com/duettists

30 March 1952 – Merely Players at Drury Lane
23 March 1951
April 1951
May 1951 from a talk on the BBC.
HIAWATHA – Croydon – 31 May 1951
11 July 1951
12 July 1951
3 August 1951, Webster and Anne with accompanist, Geoffrey Parsons. Unfortunately the photo is very poor but the only one I could find of them together. Geoffrey Parsons went on to be the natural successor to Gerald Moore.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 15-september-1951-wb-blackburn-music-society.jpg
15 September 1951 – Blackburn
From Webster’s score – 20 October 1951

Duet – first published on `15 September 1951 by Stanley Paul.

The Booth’s joint autobiography was published in 1951 and is now long out of print. I digitised the book several years ago and John Marwood was kind enough to proofread it for me. It is now available in paperback and as an epub at: https://www.lulu.com/duettists

16 October 1951.

Webster’s voice was heard twice – dubbed in a scene from Yeomen of the Guard and at the end, singing an echoey version of A Wand’ring Minstrel. He was not very pleased with his billing in the film.

22 January 1952

Creation 29 April 1952 – Sir Malcolm’s birthday.
May 1952 – Anne and Webster featured in an article in the magazine.
Photo in the John Bull article. Anne and Webster with Smokey.
22 June 1952
Anne in Merrie England at Chichester.
21 August 1952
27 October 1952

26 December 1952 – Warwick Castle. Webster’s second cousin, Trevor Luckcuck and a friend cycled to the event from their home in Solihull.

WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER – MERRIE ENGLAND

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

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

Bessie’s Waltz Song (test record for HMV)

Merrie England Vocal Gems (with Webster Booth)

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

20 November 1940 – Oldham Evening Chronicle

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

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

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

Merrie England – Captivating Singing in Oldham.

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

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

Ernest Craig

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

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

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

Merrie England – Anne and Marjorie Eyres sign autographs.

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

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

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

Calgary, Canada

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

The Calgary Herald, 3 March 1953 read as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Merrie England show pleases 6000 persons by Shirley McNeill 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stampede Corral, Calgary – opened in 1950

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

1953 Calgary Merrie England

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

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

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

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.

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

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

Luton Hoo bigger

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

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

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

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

Merrie England in South Africa

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

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

Merrie England 19581958 Merrie England 1958a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 November 1958 – Merrie England

Merrie England, Johannesburg

 

Merrie England WB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jean Collen (updated 14 September 2018)

TWENTY-TWO YEARS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1978) A brief summary.

In 1976 there was civil unrest in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Babs realised that Anne and Webster were keen to return to the UK, but could not afford to buy or rent accommodation there. She kindly offered to buy a property for them where they could live rent-free for the rest of their lives. The offer was too good to refuse. At the beginning of 1978 they returned to the UK and, to their surprise, soon embarked on their “third” career.

Sailing to South Africa on board the Pretoria Castle (July 1956)

Anne and Webster had never taught singing before. They had been far too busy performing in the UK to have had the time or even the inclination to teach, although an advert had appeared in the Musical Times in the middle of 1955 indicating that Webster was considering accepting a few selected pupils. As far as I know, he did not teach anyone in the UK as they decided to settle in South Africa shortly afterwards.

Musical Times 24 February 1955 Singing lessons.

Neither had formal music teaching qualifications but Anne was a competent pianist, and they adopted common sense methods of teaching singing. Above all, they had far more experience of singing professionally at the highest level than anyone else in South Africa who boasted teaching diplomas.

Anne always said that singing was merely an advanced form of speech. They concentrated on good breathing habits and on using correct vowel sounds. The basis of “straight” singing was that one sang through the vowels and tacked consonants to the beginning and end of the vowels to create good diction. There were five vowels: ah, eh, ee, oo and oh and from these vowels all words could be sung. Diphthongs in words such as “I”, were created by a combination of two basic vowels – in this case – ah and ee.

They were very particular about dropping the jaw as notes went higher in pitch. One of their exercises to master this technique was based on the sounds “rah, fah, lah, fah”. It was also essential to keep the tongue flat in the floor of the mouth just behind the teeth, and an exercise on a repeated “cah” sound was good for training the tongue to remain flat and not rise in the mouth to bottle up the vocal sound. The “mee” sound was produced as one would sing “moo”, so that the vowel was covered and focussed. The jaw had to be dropped on all the vowels in the upper register, including the “ee” and “oo” vowels, which one is inclined to sing with a closed mouth. They also emphasized that words like “near” and “dear” should be sung on a pure “ee” vowel, rather than rounding off the word so that it sounded like “nee-ahr” or “dee-ahr”.

The voice had to be placed in a forward position, “in the mask” as Anne always said, so that it resonated in the sinus cavities. They did not dwell on the different vocal registers unless they detected a distinctive “change of gear” from one register to the other.

Webster continued his oratorio singing in South Africa. Drummond Bell, who had conducted the JODS’ production of A Night in Venice the year before, was the organist and choirmaster at St George’s Presbyterian Church in Noord Street. Anne and Webster sang in Messiah at various Presbyterian Churches for Drummond Bell in November 1956 and 1957. It was at the 1957 performance of Messiah at St James Presbyterian Church, then in Mars Street, Malvern, when I, as a thirteen-year-old, heard them sing for the first time. Webster had sung in The Crucifixion at Easter 1957 for Drummond Bell. He also sang in The Dream of Gerontius in Cape Town later that year. The conductor was the young organist Keith Jewell (then aged 27). It was the first time that the work was performed in South Africa. Webster always held Keith Jewell in very high regard, and he was to appear as guest artiste in Anne and Webster’s “farewell” concert in Somerset West in 1975.  

Webster adjudicated at the Scottish eisteddfod in November 1957. Astutely, he awarded the young Anne Hamblin 95 percent for her singing. She was to do well in her singing career in Johannesburg and is still remembered for her part in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in the nineteen-seventies. Webster sang regularly in various oratorios at the annual Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley, and did Elijah at Pietermaritzburg for Barry Smith, director of music at Michaelhouse School in 1963 and The Creation for Ronald Charles, who took the position of  director of music for Michaelhouse in 1964.

Anne and Webster appeared frequently in various advertisements on screen and in the newspapers. Early in Anne’s career she had modelled for an advertisement for Craven A cigarettes. She had learnt a valuable lesson at this assignment when the photographer told her that the photograph would mean nothing unless she smiled at the camera with complete sincerity, despite her never having smoked a cigarette in her life. They had also endorsed Ronson cigarette lighters in the late nineteen-forties.

In late 1957 they were in an advert for Lloyd’s Adrenaline cream. According to the advertisement, this cream had given Webster relief to excruciating sciatic pain he had suffered on their fleeting visit to Calgary to appear in Merrie England. Apparently, Anne used the cream whenever she had an attack of fibrositis. Anne also endorsed Stork margarine, a hair preparation for middle-aged women and a floor polish. Webster appeared on film as a French boulevard roué in an ad for a product I have now forgotten, and they were featured in advertisements listening avidly to Lourenco Marques radio, and celebrating a special occasion with a glass of Skol beer. For this last ad Webster was obliged to grow a beard!

1961 Advertising Skol beer
Listening to LM Radio

1957 and 1958 were very busy years for the Booths in South Africa. In 1958, for example, they went from one production to another in as many months: Waltz Time in Springs; Merrie England in East London; Vagabond King in Durban; and Merrie England again in Johannesburg. Anne was also principal boy in pantomime in East London at the end of that year.

But 1959 was not quite as busy. They were asked to appear in East London again, this time in Waltz Time, and Anne was the Fairy Godmother in The Glass Slipper for Children’s Theatre towards the end of the year.

From then on they built up their teaching practice and began directing musicals for amateur societies in various parts of the country. In 1959 they did an interesting Sunday afternoon programme on Springbok Radio entitled Do You Remember? in which they told the story of their lives, based on their autobiography, Duet.

By the nineteen-sixties, they were no longer appearing regularly in musicals although Anne took the part of Mrs Squeezum in Lock Up Your Daughters, a restoration musical by Lionel Bart at the end of 1960. Her big song in the show was entitled When Does the Ravishing Begin? A very far cry from We’ll Gather Lilacs. In 1963, aged 61, Webster took over the role of Colonel Fairfax – the juvenile lead – in The Yeomen of the Guard for the Johannesburg Operatic Society at short notice. He had not been JODS’ original choice, but was asked to take over the part when the society decided that the singer in the role could not cope with it. In 1964 Webster and Anne appeared in a Cape Performing Art’s Board (CAPAB) production of Noel Coward’s Family Album, a one-act play in Tonight at 8.30. It could hardly be called a musical although there was some singing in it.

They appeared in a number of straight plays in the nineteen-sixties. Webster was the Prawn in The Amorous Prawn and took the small part of the Doctor in a very long and serious play called The Andersonville Trial in 1962. They played Mr and Mrs Fordyce in the comedy, Goodnight Mrs Puffin at the beginning of 1963 and, just before they left Johannesburg for Knysna, Webster was the Circus Barker in the Performing Art’s Company of the Transvaal’s (PACT’s) production of The Bartered Bride, while Anne played the wife of a circus performer in The Love Potion for the same company at the same time.

They remained in Johannesburg until the middle of 1967. Anne was suffering from hay fever, which grew acuter the longer she remained in Johannesburg. There were times, especially at night, when she could hardly breathe. Anne had a number of allergy tests done, but these did not pinpoint the exact cause of her hay fever. They decided to move to the coast in the hope that Anne’s hay fever would ease, and in the hope of a more peaceful life as they grew older.

At the beginning of 1967, they went on a coastal holiday. They thought Port St Johns in the (then) Transkei was very attractive but slightly too remote for them. The village of Knysna on the Garden Route was more to their taste. They bought a house in Paradise, Knysna and returned to Johannesburg to put their affairs in order and plan their move to the coast.

3 Knysna and Somerset West

It must have given them a sense of déjá vu to receive such a great welcome in Knysna. Anne’s hay fever vanished within a few weeks and she concluded that the dust from the mine dumps in Johannesburg had been the cause of it.

They were soon as busy as ever, with concerts, ranging from oratorio with the Knysna and District Choral Society, to variety concerts with local artistes, and pantomimes, in which Anne not only played the principal boy once again but wrote the scripts into the bargain. They started teaching in Knysna and trained several talented singers, in particular the soprano, Ena van der Vyver, who sang in many performances with them.

Anne was asked to produce several shows for the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society, and Webster produced The Mikado in East London in 1973. 

Mikado rehearsal East London 1973 Photo Pearl Harris

Anne’s life-long friend Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) visited them in Knysna from the UK, and Anne went to Portugal and the UK to spend a holiday with her and to appear in a British TV show at the same time. Anne and Webster were getting older and Anne, in particular, longed to return home to the UK.

In 1975 they moved to Somerset West, believing that the cost of living there was lower than in upmarket Knysna. They bought a cottage in Picardy Avenue with a beautiful view of the mountain, but despite being nearer to Cape Town they were not offered much radio work and did not find many singing students. Webster ran the Somerset West and District Choral Society and presented several oratorios, but he was not even paid for his work with this society.

In 1976 there was civil unrest in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Babs realised that Anne and Webster were keen to return to the UK, but could not afford to buy or rent accommodation there. She kindly offered to buy a property for them where they could live rent-free for the rest of their lives. The offer was too good to refuse. At the beginning of 1978 they returned to the UK and, to their surprise, soon embarked on their “third” career.

Jean Collen 9 July 2018.