My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated. Little did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest of my life. JEAN COLLEN.
17 September 1956
Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town. Cockpit
Players present Spring
with Anne and Webster, Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn,
Gavin Houghton, Sydney Welch, directed by Leonard Schach.
17 October 1956 –
Hall, Johannesburg. Webster, Betsy de la Porte, Mimi Coertse,
Frederick Dalberg, SABC Orchestra, Festival Choir, conducted by Sir
21 April 1957 – Easter Sunday morning, The Crucifixion. St George’s Presbyterian Church, Noord Street, Webster, Wilfred Hutchings, Choir augmented with Johannesburg Operatic Society chorus, conducted by Drummond Bell.
1957 – Keith Jewell and The Dream of Gerontius
Town – and this is almost unbelievable (but it is true) – young
organist, Keith Jewell (only 27) put on the St
Matthew Passion in the City
Hall. But more than that he has another three oratorios scheduled
before the end of the year, one of which is Elgar’s gigantic work
The Dream of Gerontius,
which has never before been performed in South Africa. Webster Booth,
who has sung in a number of Dreams
under Malcolm Sargent at the Albert Hall will be taking a leading
know for a fact – he told me a day or two ago – that Edgar Cree
is itching to put it on here. While we have the orchestra, the choirs
and singers like Booth right on our doorstep, my reaction is an
exasperated: WHY NOT?
20 November 1957 –
Anne Hamblin was
awarded 95% in the Scots Eisteddfod. Webster Booth was the
23 November 1957 –
George’s Presbyterian Church and St James’ Presbyterian Church,
Malvern. Anne, Webster, Joy Hillier and Wilfred Hutchings, conducted
by Drummond Bell.
My parents and I (aged 13) attended the performance at St James’ Presbyterian Church, Mars Street, Malvern. It was the first time I had seen Anne and Webster, although I had already heard many of their recordings on the radio.
We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in the same firm as a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR in Vanderbijl Park and we were living in the Valmeidere Hotel in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.
boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy
Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs
McDonald-Rouse. Mrs McDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert
party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her
daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and
sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the
Valmeidere. In due course we were introduced to the McDonald-Rouses,
Heather and her husband.
Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth shortly after their arrival in South Africa the year before and had become very friendly with them. Through the grapevine, we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding, entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one of his favourite choices when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another of his wedding favourites was the ballad, My Prayer.
John Corrigan, my father’s colleague, was an elder at St James’ Presbyterian Church, then situated in Mars Street, Malvern. He invited us to a performance of Messiah to be held in the Church Hall, conducted by Drummond Bell, organist and choirmaster at the Central Presbyterian Church, St George’s. Coincidentally, the tenor and soprano soloists were to be Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. This was the first time I ever attended a performance of Messiah, and the first time I ever saw Anne and Webster. I did not know then that Webster had been one of the foremost oratorio tenors in Britain, but I had heard a number of their duet recordings, which were often played on the radio. It now seems rather incongruous that they should be singing Messiah in a suburban Church Hall when only two years before Webster’s oratorio stamping ground had been the Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Choral Society, with Sir Malcolm Sargent as conductor and other foremost oratorio soloists.
Since their arrival in South Africa, Anne and Webster had received a great deal of publicity on the radio and in the newspapers. As I have mentioned, their records were featured on South African radio a number of times each day. South Africans could not quite believe that such an illustrious theatrical couple had willingly chosen to exchange their successful careers and lives in the UK as the best-known duettists in Britain – possibly the world – to become immigrants in the colonial backwater of Johannesburg. My parents remembered them fondly from their frequent broadcasts in the UK, and seeing them in Variety and in the musical play, Sweet Yesterday at Glasgow theatres.
We sat fairly near the front of the hall on the right-hand side. I wish I could say that I remember every moment of that performance nearly sixty years ago. But sadly. I only remember snatches of it. Webster looked rather stern during the whole proceeding and I am sorry to admit that I was not immediately struck with the exquisite beauty of his voice. I did not know every aria from the Messiah then as I do now. In fact, the only piece I had heard before was the Halleluiah Chorus.
My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated.
did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest
of my life. JEAN COLLEN.
25 November 1957 – Messiah, Johannesburg Town Hall, Webster Booth(tenor)
December 1957 – The Dream of Gerontius, City Hall, Cape Town. Webster, conducted by Keith Jewell, aged 27. This was the first performance of Gerontius in South Africa.
23 May – Dora S praises Stravinsky to the heights but thinks Robert Craft and choir were bloodless and insignificant.
Walker praises Stravinsky but says Robert Craft is no “sorcerer’s
apprentice”. He says that the third movement of the Psalms was good
although the diction was poor. We sounded – says he – more
harassed than exalted!
1 May – I go to the Durban icerink in the morning. It is delightfully modern and I skate well.
2 May – We go to the beach in the morning and swim in the surf. We meet Lyndith Irvine and her parents there. They live in Salisbury now. Dad and I see Light on the Piazza in the afternoon and at night the Irvines visit us at the hotel and I play the piano.
3 May – Am listening to Drawing Room with Peggy Haddon and Anna Bender playing duets. Webster says, “I give you – the misses Haddon and Bender!” Signor Vitali plays the trumpet – he remarked on the wonderful playing when we met him on that memorable evening last month. He says, “Wonderful! You make it sound so easy.” After Sarie Lamprecht sings, he says, “Bravo, Miss Lamprecht! That was quite charming.” He sings three Irish songs – the Ballymure Ballad, Trottin’ to the Fair and Maira, My Girl. I wish I could have recorded them.
Dad and I have a swim in the afternoon.
4 May – We go to the beach in the morning and have fun in the surf. I am beginning to tan.
At night we go to the Irvines’ hotel and listen to a small band in stuffy “intimate” lounge. Lyndith has a Crème de Menthe. They went to the Oyster Box today. They also visited Anne Ahlers (friend of Penny Berrington)
5 May – Go to town and postcards to friends and then see The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Good in parts – like the curate’s egg!
Irvines phone to say the Webbs have arrived so we go to their hotel
to see them. Jackie Keenan is with them. I play the piano in the
lounge after walk.
6 May – Go to the beach in the morning and then it starts to rain. After lunch I have a rest and then play the “pianoforte” in the “drawing room”!
I listen to Webster at night. He continues with the Mikado.
7 May – Go to town and have lunch in Paynes department store and swim in the afternoon.
8 May – Swim in the surf. Dad and I see The Guns of Navaronne, with Gregory Peck and David Niven.
am now listening to the Norma Broadcast – the one we did in
Afrikaans at the Aula. Mimi is excellent but Jossie B sounds very
worried and a little flat.
9 May – Go to town and have tea in Paynes. In the afternoon go on a coach tour to Umhlanga Rocks . We stop at the Chevron Hotel for tea and go onto the beach which is lovely. We pass through Glen Ashley (where Miss Ursula Scott lives).
I listen to Drawing Room (the second programme with Anne singing duets)
10 May – We go to beach and I come back to listen to repeat of Drawing Room. Anne’s Smilin’ Thro’ is beautiful but the other things she sings are shadows of her former glory.
The Irvines call to say goodbye. They leave tomorrow night by train for a long journey to Rhodesia. I play the piano to a packed lounge at night and they applaud loudly.
11 May – In the afternoon we go to the Playhouse to see Lover Come Back, with Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
12 May – Last full day of holiday. We go to town and have tea in Paynes with pianist playing the piano. In the afternoon I go for a ride in a motor boat with Dad then come back to pack.
13 May – Last day. We take a taxi to the airport after delightful holiday. The Marsdens meet us at Jan Smuts and take us home. Shandy is very glad to see us again! I listen to G and S at night.
14 May – Go to SABC at night. Hester and company tell me that Stravinsky is progressing nicely and there are oodles of professional singers augmenting the choir. He will conduct us on Saturday night.
See Gill and Ruth. Latter is thrilled to see me again and tells me she has been busy with exams and was delighted with my card. Johan works us hard, and guess who is singing in the chorus? Jossie Boshoff! Anton H arrives and tells us how honoured we should feel to be singing with Stravinsky who is no conductor but a very great composer and musician.
says she thinks Webster is being snobbish and big by refusing to sing
in the chorus as all the good singers are in it anyway. Anne, says
she, is finished and they should both stop singing publicly. “They’ve
had their day,” says she.
I suppose it wouldn’t have hurt Webster’s reputation to sing with us. It would have been very sporting of him but I can understand his point of view.
15 May – Listen to half of the English version of Norma in the evening. Mimi and Jossie B’s Afrikaans accents are very much in evidence in their singing. Choir sounds much better here than in the Afrikaans version. I am reminded that at this particular recording, Webster kissed us – just to think of it!
16 May –. Singing practice goes really well and I am quite thrilled with it.
Go to piano in the afternoon. Mrs S kisses me, and when I go in a party is in progress – it is her birthday! Svea gives me cake and coffee. My lesson goes reasonably well and after it I practise scales to put in the time.
We go to Gill’s studio which is in a rather austere, grim building where music teachers of every variety conduct their lessons – Castle Mansions. Polliacks building is a palace compared with it. We go to Hillbrow to visit a friend of Gill’s – Lynn – a rather alarming but fascinating girl with unusual pictures arranged throughout her flatlet on the eighth floor.
We have supper in the Lili Marlene restaurant. We return to SABC after depositing Svea at Blood Transfusion and hang around in the foyer. Ruth arrives looking very smart. The orchestra is there and we practise hard. The tubist (Englishman) does his best to amuse us and Andy Johnson (the drummer) is good fun too. After hearing the piece with orchestra I can only ask, is Stravinsky mad? It certainly looks like it.
Mrs S is there sitting next to Jossie B. She is most affable to Ruth and me.
Ruth says that Drawing Room was a great flop. She hasn’t a good word to say about them, it seems. Iris Williams gives me a lift home.
17 May – I listen to Drawing Room – the one with trumpeter, Signor Vitali, and Sarie Lamprecht. Webster sings Friend o’ Mine and a Tosti song, Beauty’s Eyes.
Go to choir at night. Talk to Andy Johnson and Iris beforehand. We work very hard with Johan. Ruth tells me that she had a big fight with Eleanor (another member of the choir) who kept Ruth and her father waiting for twenty minutes.
18 May – Go to the studio and am greeted by a tired-looking Anne who says, “Hello, stranger.” She thanks me for my postcard and tells me that Piet van Zyl (rugby Springbok who won a prize at the recent eisteddfod) has had a stroke and she is most upset about it. Lucille’s grandmother died last week and Webster is having a most awful time with toothache. “He had toothache a couple of days ago and thought that a few whiskies and soda would sort it out but when it persisted he had to have the tooth out. There was an abscess in the gum and last night he sat up in bed trembling violently and I had to go and fetch two hot-water bottles for him. Today he had a penicillin injection so he’s sleeping now.”
Webster, and poor her having to do all the work and worry about him.
doesn’t go too badly today except for lower register.
We talk of Stravinsky and I tell her about Jossie Boshoff etc. She says that it was a pure cheek to ask Webster and not even offer him a fee – after all, they make their living by singing.
He phones and says he feels a bit better now and has woken up. She talks to him like a mother to her little boy and calls him darling. She says he can stand a lot of pain but this was all too much for him.
goodbye – it’s nice to be back but what a lot of bad things have
happened since I’ve been away.
19 May – I am up early and go for my piano lesson. My chromatic scales are shocking. Have ear tests wit Elaine Commons and a few others. I hear someone whisper that I have a lovely voice – cheering. Leave with Margaret who tells me that she could sing top C recently but now she’s singing badly.
go to Ansteys with mother and after lunch we see The Absent Minded
Professor which is amusing.
Go to SABC at night. Anna Bender is at one piano; Gordon Beasley at the other, Kathleen Allister on the harp and Andy Johnson on drums. Robert Craft, a thin, pale man with glasses and lovely hands appears and in a soft American accent starts working with us on Symphony of Psalms. Edgar Cree and Johan are seated on the side, and Dora Sowden in a purple turban, sits next to Ruth.
Anton H enters with small, stooped little man with large nose, a bald
head and high forehead, wearing two pairs of glasses – it is the
Maestro Stravinsky, the greatest living composer and musician in the
world today. We all stand up and clap violently. I feel quite
We continue our rehearsal and Robert Craft is very happy with us. Johan talks a lot to Stravinsky who has taken a great liking to him. S follows the score, and beats his music violently.
tells me that Anne phoned her at 6.30 this morning to say that
Webster was sick. Could she go to the house. Ruth agrees. At 8.30
Anne phones once more to tell her that he is far worse than before,
very ill indeed in fact, and she is calling the Doctor immediately so
is a picture of Anne in the paper being presented with a bouquet at
the Varsity production of Vagabond King. Her dress is very low
cut and hair rather strange. She looks tired.
second half goes well. We do the Bach and Stravinsky looks happy and
so does Robert Craft. He lets us depart. “I’ll give a booby prize
to the last one out!” says he.
20 May. Sunday school. Afterwards Mr Rainer asks if I would care to take over the post as pianist in junior Sunday School and take a class there. As it will be good experience for me, I accept although I will be sorry to leave the little boys.
I get home parents tell me that I ought to phone Anne to see how
Webster is and if I can do anything at the studio for her. I do so,
telling Anne that I heard Webster was not very well yesterday.
you phoning to ask about him – how sweet! He’s still in a lot of
pain and getting penicillin but he’s improving slowly.’
“I’m so glad. I wondered, seeing I’ve nothing much to do, if I could help you in the studio next week? I could answer the door and the phone and so on if he wasn’t able to manage in.”
Jean, that’s terribly sweet of you and if he isn’t up to it, I’ll
phone you by all means, but I think he’ll be able to record his G and
S tomorrow morning and he might be well enough to go to the studio.”
I hope he feels much better soon. Do tell him that.”
will, Jean. I appreciate your offer very much and I know he will too.
God bless you, Jean. Goodbye.”
to G and S. Webster plays full recording of A Wand’ring Minstrel,
“conducted by my old friend and fellow Birmingham citizen, Leslie
Heward.” He promises to play Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes
which is on the flip side, shortly.
continues with Mikado and tells us that Ko Ko means Pickles so
if you have a friend called Wilfred Pickles, as I have, it’ll be
quite in keeping to call him Ko Ko!”
21 May – Work hard at music. Anne doesn’t phone so I presume Webster is better now or perhaps she thinks I might be more of a hindrance than a help to her!
and self go to final rehearsal for Stravinsky concert in the City
Hall. Quite a lot of visitors arrive and sit in the gallery. Robert
Craft goes through the whole Symphony of Psalms which takes 25
minutes. Stravinsky and his wife sit in front with Edgar Cree and
listen to it all. Stravinsky is very tired and puts his feet up.
At interval Mum and Dad leave and I collect Ruth. We go across to café and she asks about Webster so I’m able to tell her that he’s improving. The Ormonds arrive – he dressed in a duffle coat and cap. Mr O says I brighten up the front row of the choir. They buy us cold drinks and we discuss everything.
and I return and are overwhelmed by a group of Parktown Girls who are
most impressed with Ruth and me. Ruth tells them, “Of course, we’re
not just singing in the Stravinsky concert. We’re in the SABC choir
all the time.” She tells them that the Bach is pretty dreich! I
have a good laugh at the word but she doesn’t even realise how
Scottish it is.
We practise walking in. The steps are frightfully steep and we do the Bach again. We get tickets for tomorrow – “With the compliments of the SABC,” and some of them get Robert Craft’s autograph. He is conducting us, and Stravinsky is conducting Petrouchka. Mum and Dad enjoyed the rehearsal but thought it sounds a little weird.
22 May – Practise and then rest in the afternoon ready for the big occasion. I go into the City Hall in my long white dress. I stand with Ila Silansky and Anna Marie and we survey the audience. We go into the mayoral reception rooms to leave our things.
Ruth arrives wearing her mother’s coat so, as I have my coat on as well, we look like peas in a pod together. We go onto the stage of the crammed City Hall prepared for the concert. Anna Bender and Kathleen Allister look quite delightful as does Annie Kossman. Braam Ver Hoef, the orchestra leader, comes on and finally Robert Craft in white tie and tails, still looking very pale. We sing Vom Himmel Hoch and then he conducts the orchestra. After that we sing the Symphony of Psalms, which goes very well. We are given a tremendous ovation and Robert Craft brings Johan on to take a bow as the choirmaster. We all applaud him.
At the interval, we hear from all sides how wonderful everyone in the choir was – so young and talented, and wasn’t the symphony delightful? In the second half we are kept at least 5 minutes waiting for Stravinsky. Anton H leads him on to the stage. He looks around at the audience as though he is frightened and bows and waves his hands to them.
He conducts Fireworks and Petrouchka without a baton. His whole attention is focused on his music and he forgets the huge audience in the City Hall. He licks his finger each time he turns a page.
During Petrouchka heloses his place in the score but manages to find it again. Then it is all over and we hear the greatest ovation, possibly in the history of music in South Africa. Anton H has to lead him on three times more to take bows. The last time he leaves he pats each of the members of the orchestra that he passes, like a father.
go outside and I wait with Iris for her husband. We see Percy Tucker
and Dame Flora Robson with his party. She wears no make-up at all but
looks a rather sweet woman.
23 May – Dora S praises Stravinsky to the heights but thinks Robert Craft and choir were bloodless and insignificant.
Walker praises Stravinsky but says Robert Craft is no “sorcerer’s
apprentice”. He says that the third movement of the Psalms was good
although the diction was poor. We sounded – says he – more
harassed than exalted!
Go to Mrs S in the afternoon and do a lot of ear tests. I’m very good at them. Gill groans and moans about Johan, and Hartman not allowing her to see Robert Craft who has some of her music, and weren’t the write-ups awful?
listen to Drawing Room at night – the second last one, alas.
The soloists are Maisie Flink, Walter Mony, Graham Burns and Doris
Brasch. It’s the best programme yet – lovely songs and nice
instrumental pieces. Webster joins Graham Burns in a duet, Watchman,
what of the night?
There is a picture of the choir with Stravinsky in the Star. I can pick myself out from the crowd on the stage quite well.
May Anne phones about 11. “Hello, is that Mrs Campbell?” “No,
this is Jean.” “Oh, Jean, this is Anne … Ziegler.”
tells me she’s phoning about the audition tonight. Did Ruth tell me
about it? Evidently they just want to see us if we’re in the SABC
choir and we don’t have to sing. Anne says if we get accepted we had
better “lie doggo” – an old British expression says she – from
Johan for a bit and then talk to him about it afterwards. I tell Anne
that we have decided to ask him if we may be excused for a few months
but if he refuses we’ll just stay in the choir.
discuss Stravinsky. She says she listened to the concert but it just
isn’t her kind of music. She prefers a little more melody.
discuss Webster’s sore teeth. She says he sweated it out on Monday
morning and was determined to go into the studio in the afternoon but
he just couldn’t make it and it was too late to phone me. He was in
the whole of Tuesday but had a bad time of it. Today he’s gone to
have the other tooth out and feels a little better.
says she really appreciated my kind offer but didn’t like to phone me
so late when I had Stravinsky to worry about. “Bless you,” says
she. We spoke for twenty minutes on the phone.
night Dad takes me to the Duncan Hall. I tell Ruth about Anne phoning
and she says she had a lovely lesson. Anne told her that if you are
unwell the first thing to go is the voice. She says that she’s unwell
at the moment so hopes we don’t have to sing.
says, “We’re the best-looking girls in the whole hall!” Anton
Hartman arrives and tells us they need 7 altos, 8 sopranos, 10 tenors
and 10 basses. Evidently we are in and are told to collect our music
from Solly Aronowsky, 406 Internation House, Loveday Street. Ask for
a Miss Basson. The first rehearsal is 6 June at Duncan Hall.
25 May – I receive £100-0-0 from Aunt Nellie! I nearly faint – my money worries are over for a while.
go to the studio in the afternoon. Webster answers the door looking
very smart in a black pinstripe suit. He says he still feels a bit
grim, “But I think I’ll live.”
Chris, who cannot sing in tune is having a lesson. He is a bass and
having awful trouble. Webster sings his song but Chris still cannot
get it. Eventually he leaves after telling me I must have suffered
and I must remember that he is strictly an amateur!
is in no mood for giggling and tells me that the boy is hopeless and
whenever he comes she goes and sits in the office. I say he does sing
out of tune. Webster says that Chris is afraid he’ll ruin his piping
or his rowing – why does he sing then? Anne says it takes her an
hour to get over it every week.
ask about the opera and I tell them how they want 10 basses and 10
tenors. He says, “Where will they get 10 tenors? There aren’t 10
tenors in Johannesburg!” Bragger!
do scales and he keeps saying, “We must do set exercises and then
record My Mother Bids Me.” He imitates my faults. As far as
I can see, his teeth are all there!
phones and Anne answers. He goes to the office and says, “Tell her
you can’t talk now. You’re busy giving a lesson.”
shouts, “I can’t do that. It would be rude!”
comes out in an awful rage and tells me that it is such a cheek of
people to phone in the middle of a lesson for once one runs late it’s
quite fatal. He points out the few mistakes and I watch his hand
tremble slightly. He fetches tea and Anne returns and we try to
record second verse once more.
I go, he asks, “How did you enjoy yourself? It’s the first time
I’ve seen you since you got back from your holiday.” At least he
remembered that I did go on holiday in the first place. I say I had a
lovely time and he says, “Lucky girl. I wish I could get away!”
If only he knew it – his life is an eternal holiday.
Fletcher gives me a lift down Juno Street. At night I go to guild and
we have a braai which is fun. Peter is very much in evidence.
27 May – Go to Sunday School and have my little boys for the last time. Feel quite sad.
listen to G and S. He must have recorded this last Monday when he was
still under the weather. He starts on Ruddigore and says that
he never sang the tenor role in this because the tenor has to dance a
hornpipe and no one ever took the trouble to teach him the hornpipe!
Of the main character he says, “He has the manners of a Marquis and the morals of a Methodist!”
29 May – In the afternoon I phone Ruth to check on address in International House. Her sister, very nicely spoken, answers the phone. Ruth says she had an awful lesson on Saturday and couldn’t sing to save her life. She also thought that Webster looks far better than usual.
30 May – We see Taxi to Tobruk with Hardy Kruger and listen to the last Drawing Room which is excellent. He sings a duet with Graham Burns – The Battle Eve.
We listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over (with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it – he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We both go red.
1 April – Go to SABC in the afternoon. Johan takes men and Harry Stanton the ladies. We practise Norma and there is an improvement. Tufty has become very friendly with Gill. Talk to Ruth at interval. Says she’s very tired after dance last night. She is going on Wednesday and is shocked about the cruel cartoon.
was going to listen to Webster but tape breaks down three-quarters of
the way through. Station announcer apologises to listeners “and Mr
Webster Booth.” I am livid.
2 April – Go to SABC in evening. Gill comes early and I go with her to have supper. Ruth is there wearing blue jeans and a duffle coat. She says she also calls the Booths by their Christian names. “Stage people like that!” I hope she’s right!
4 April – Work quite hard in the morning and then go to music in afternoon.
At night I go to the SABC for Drawing Room recording. Anne and Webster greet us all – rather like the King and Queen greeting their loyal subjects – and we sit down in tense nervous state. Anne looks gorgeous in a low-cut black sheath dress and mink stole.
Programme begins and Anne sings two songs (one by Ivor Novello with his writing on it) – the Little Damozel, and He’ll Say That for My Love (Handel). She has expression and all else required of a singer. Bob Barowsky sings and a bassoonist plays. Anne and Webster sing The Second Minuet and Drink to Me Only. He puts his hand on her bare shoulder as they sing.
Ruth asks him for a lift home and he says, “Certainly, darling.” The second broadcast is fabulous. Anne sings If No One Ever Marries Me and Smilin’ Through. They sing two more duets – Love’s Old Sweet Song and another. Ruth and I wait afterwards and talk to Anne. I tell her that her singing made me cry and she is thrilled, “The highest compliment you can pay a singer!” she says. She was worried about what her voice might sound like with the cold. While we are talking a Lancashire woman comes and congratulates her and says she heard her twenty years ago in Sheffield – she’s English, you know. Says Anne, “Yes, I thought you were!” We all laugh and she says, “Oh, ‘ave I still got me accent?”
Come home after a really delightful evening. When you hear an artist like Anne you realise how far you have to go to be even half as good. It makes me feel utterly hopeless.
5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme of last week – Gé Korsten etc.
6 April – Public holiday and Ruth’s seventeenth birthday. Have a rest in the morning and then go into town for singing lesson. Webster answers door wearing white jersey with green, yellow and red stripes!
Go in. Anne is wearing tight black stovies and revealing jersey. I do scales and am in bad form – if I see them sing the next lesson is harrowing for I know how far I have to go!
makes tea for me. He forgets the sugar so goes to fetch some and Anne
tells me of Peter Broomfield’s remark on the radio. “Last night
Hennie Joubert accompanied Mi-mi-mi-mi – all the way!”
do Where E’er You Walk and somehow I just cannot sing well and
feel awful. She says I mustn’t sing too loudly in Norma.
“Everyone has their off days,” Webster says, “Today is one of
mine.” (Probably to cheer me up).
7 April – Collect my long white SABC dress and go to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s at night.
8 April – Go to Sunday School in the morning I really like the new children now.
Go to SABC in the afternoon. Mr Miller, one of the second violins in the orchestra, is on my bus. The full orchestra, Anton Hartman, Mimi Coertse, Gé K and other soloists are there. Anton works us hard. Mimi is petulant and bossy but she sings beautifully.
At interval Ruth tells me she got a Maria Callas record for her birthday and a card from the Booths. Yesterday Anne wasn’t feeling well so she asked Ruth to go to the house for a lesson while Webster went to the studio. She’s coming home with Gill and me tomorrow in Gill’s car. We manage to record last quarter of Norma.
to Webster’s G and S programme at night. He says, “After my costume
was made for this part I had my photograph taken and this constitutes
one of my few claims to fame. They put the photo into a series of G
and S cigarette cards. That dates me, doesn’t it?” He plays
Princess Ida and I fall asleep halfway through.
9 April – Have sudden urge to have my hair cut and set so have this done at Marie Distler in the morning and feel a boost to my morale. I meet Diane Munro on the bus and she doesn’t recognise me, but when she realises who I am she likes the new look a lot.
go to the SABC and we get on the bus to Pretoria. Ruth says the
Booth’s house is small and not much to look at from the outside, but
charming but whimsical within.
we arrive in Pretoria we are fed with hamburgers at Tukkies’
cafeteria. We go into the Aula theatre – it seats 3000 people. We
Anton lets us go home at 11.00 pm. Ruth and I go home with Gill. She and Ruth have an argument about the choir on the journey home. Ruth has a very nice house, white double-storey with undergrowth and trees in the garden.
stays quite near her (also in Parkwood) and has a flatlet to herself.
I go to sleep quickly.
10 April – Go to town with Gill and then go home. Go to SABC once more, armed with box containing white dress.
Ruth and Gill arrive and we sit at the very back of the bus. Ruth says Anne and Webster should have had children of their own. She whistles beautifully and we travel along in a state of semi-consciousness. We arrive and change into our dresses, parade around for a while and have a meat roll for supper in the cafeteria.
house is absolutely packed – men in evening dress, orchestra in
evening dress, and furs flying, Hartman in tails and Mimi in a black
dress with silver top showing her vast chest. She sings well and
there are shouts of “bravo!”. She takes bows and we take bows and
it is interval.
Gill has tea with Uncle Edgar and Johan, but Ruth and I don’t have anything to drink!
Second half is much better although Jossie Boshoff lets the side down. We finish at ten. Cheers, curtain calls, excitement, bouquets for soloists, an orchid for Mimi…
Return to Parkwood and Ruth is very rude about Edgar Cree, saying that he had a broad accent and puts on his good one. Gill says that he studied at Cambridge. I say I like him as a broadcaster. Gill and Ruth are probably enemies for life.
11 April – Go into town very early in the morning and get home in time for breakfast. Farewell to Parkwood.
to have a rest when there is a knock at the door – Roselle arrives
with music and a dog. She wasn’t placed in the eisteddfod and is most
disappointed. We sing for each other and record the results.
Go to music in the afternoon and go to SABC in the evening. We go into studio and Anton H begins his recording. At interval, Ruth and I go to have a cold drink at nearby café and return with the same object in view – the recording of TheDrawing Room!
listen at the door to Webster singing – glorious! When it is over
(with much debate) we decide to wait to see him. We go and look in at
the studio and Ruth calls to him to “Come here!” He obliges like
a lamb and comes out and, guess what?? He kisses us!! I mean it –
he gives Ruth and me a kiss each – quite calmly and unhurriedly. We
both go red.
tells us the programme is gorgeous, particularly the brilliant
trumpeter. Why don’t we come in and we tell him we’re recording with
Mimi. He says, “Oh yes. You’re working.”
tells us about the eisteddfod. The tenor got a first and quite a few
more were highly placed.
say we’ll have to be going and Ruth walks straight into the men’s
cloakroom! He says diplomatically, “The exit is there, and the
ladies is over there!” We depart – Ruth nearly hysterical and I
go back to recording and tell Gill and Tufty about the kiss and Gill
says, “Since I saw Webster Booth going into the ladies change rooms
with a bottle of brandy, I’ve had no time for him!”
leave before the recording ends and look out for my father. The first
person I meet is Webster, leaving with a retinue of seemingly
important men. He stops when he sees me and asks, “Has the
recording finished?” I say, “No. I’m looking for my father.” He
says, “D’ye think he’ll come?” I say, “Oh yes,” and he says
“Well cheery-bye, Jean,” and I say, “Cheerio.”
appears and we come home. But honestly, what a night. Mimi gave us
some prima donna tactics. (“They do,” says Webster) and she
leaves the country tomorrow.
in Ruth’s night and mine, one thing stands out!
kissed us when we met,
from the chair he sat in,
you thief, who loves to get sweets into your list,
don’t care what anyone says about them – or him. Even if it’s all
true, I know one thing. He is a great man, a great singer and a
pleasure to know!
12 April – Work and record the glorious Drawing Room programme with Oh, Dry Those Tears and the Kashmiri Song.
13 April – In the afternoon I go to the SABC to claim my lost purse. The receptionist tells me proudly that Johan handed it in so I tell her to thank him for me. Honest Hans.
I go to the studio. I see Webster in the CNA so I walk round the block and when I get back I go in almost immediately for the girl before me doesn’t come. Anne likes my hair. We fill in the form for the exam and she tells Webster not to interfere and he looks hurt. We have a glorious fifteen minutes running down Anton H, Jossie Boshoff etc. Anne says that Adalgisa should be a contralto, but of course, Jossie had to have a part.
We talk about Mabel Fenney and I say that she taught at our school for a term. Anne says she was batty but worked like mad.
We work at songs and vocal studies and they encourage me to smile (as always!) All great singers of previous generations sold their songs even if they didn’t have good voices such as John Coates, Anne tells me.
I wait for the lift and when it arrives I open it, thinking no one is
there. Get a shock to see Webster. He laughs and says, “Did I
startle you, Jean? I’m sorry!”
16 April – Go to choir at night and have supper with Gill and feel like a traitor. We do Stravinsky. Sit with Ruth at interval and we talk about drinking. Apparently her father is a connoisseur of wine. Her parents went to a première at Colosseum costing £5 a ticket!
I start telling her what Gill said about Webster but we have to go back before I can finish the tale. I get her to promise not to mention anything about this incident to Gill in the car. I think Gill overhears this. I feel very muddled about the whole matter. It’s all Gill’s fault for telling me this story and trying to disillusion me about him.
17 April – Go to studio and Webster answers the door. Girl with high but harsh voice is singing Waltz of My Heart and This is My Lovely Day. High notes are quite awful. Anne is wearing a brick red dress.
work hard at all the exam pieces.
tell them that I’m going to Durban on holiday. He asks if I’m going
to the Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, and I say we’re going to the
18 April – Oh, dear! A terrible thing happens in the broadcast of Drawing Room. It all goes nicely until the last announcement which goes like this, “Now, on behalf of Madame Jean Gluckman, Miss Kathleen – oh, I beg your pardon – Madame Kathleen Allister, Miss Jean er er – oh, yes – Miss Jean Gluckman – that’s right, Mr Gé Korsten and myself, Webster Booth, goodnight – Oh dear, I’d better do that all over again, hadn’t I? Now on…” (Cut short)
Obviously the controller reproduced the wrong announcement and not the repeat, so he’ll get into trouble. It damns him in the eyes of the public and perhaps the SABC. He sounded old, doddery and drunk. He couldn’t have heard the broadcast tonight. If he wasn’t making a programme he’d be at the prize-winners concert. He’s going to get a nasty shock when he hears about it. I saw him that night and he wasn’t drunk but what will people think?
19 April – Programme is done correctly today. Work hard and go to choir at night. Ruth comes and we talk about the mess and she is most distressed. We work at Stravinsky. Ruth wishes father and me a happy Easter.
20 April – Good Friday. I talk to Peter Marsden who is back from the army for two days leave.
listen to our SABC choir recording of the Passion and Cantata. It is
lovely and I am proud of it.
21 April – Go skating in the morning after a long absence. Dawn Vivian is there. My skating is more or less the same but I’m a bit stiff. She tells me that Gwyn has joined the cast of Holiday on Ice and has gone touring all over the world and doesn’t intend returning to SA.
I buy theory questions in Kelly’s and wander around John Orrs. We see Swiss Family Robinson in the afternoon – John Mills, Cecil Parker etc.
22 April – Go to Sunday School and church. I still haven’t got my music from Peter who has given up his singing lessons after less than three months!
and Mrs Watts come from Vanderbijl for lunch. They like the Booths. I
sing for them and they are impressed – or are polite!
to Webster and he finishes Princess Ida and promises to start
Mikado next week when I’ll probably be on holiday.
27 April – Go to singing and Anne arrives looking very attractive. She says she’s exhausted because of the production of Vagabond King in Springs. They have to go there every night and are furious that some members of the cast haven’t even learnt their parts properly. She had to go by herself on Wednesday because Webster was doing the last recording of Drawing Room and there was an awful storm on the way there.
says I should practise singing octaves and chromatics when I’m on
holiday. He says, “I can’t sing a chromatic scale – I never
could!” We decide that the only way to do that is to count the
notes on our fingers!
I say that Johan has given me work for my holiday for forthcoming Stravinsky concert. Anne asks if tenors are weak in the choir and I say, “Rather!” He tells me, “They wrote me a letter asking if I’d sing in the chorus for the Stravinsky concert.” I say, “What!”
She says, “We don’t want to act big or anything but, I mean to say, the chorus!” I say I think it is a real insult and he agrees with me. I say, “Are you going to?” and he replies, “Not likely! I phoned them up and said I had no intention of rehearsing every Saturday night for Stravinsky!” Boy, what an insult!
says that people will only go to the Stravinsky concerts for snob
We do Where E’er You Walk and work at it. She says I can sing scales on the seashore. I laugh, and he says, “Don’t laugh! I’ve sung whole scores on the seashore. Vagabond King, Waltz Time. People think you’re mad but it’s a wonderful place to sing.”
He makes tea and asks if I’d like a cup. I say, “It doesn’t matter,” and Anne says, “Stay and have a cup. It’ll be ready in five minutes.”
There is a knock at the door – An English lady with little boy (soprano) and a gorgeous hot apple tart so Anne decides that we’ll all have tea and apple tart. “Can we eat it now?” she asks. Mrs Andrews and her son, Dennis are sweet and homely with delightful accents. Webster says, “Where’s the Devonshire cream?” and she says, “Oh, I forgot it at home.” Anne says, “Some of us are from the North Country and Jean comes from Scotland.” Anne takes a piece of cake with cloves, spice and apple and says, “To hell with my figure!”
notices that I eat left-handed as does she and she remarks on it, so
I say, “All great people are left-handed.” We all laugh.
talk about Drawing Room and Webster tells me that Doris Brasch
(he spelt her name BRASH and she was livid) and Graham Burns were the
soloists on Wednesday. Anne says, “What did you think of Wednesday
night’s programme? My singing was really awful, wasn’t it!” We
protest and she adds, “It wasn’t lovely. It was disgusting!”
When I say goodbye to Anne I promise to send them a postcard and she says, “You can tell me if you manage to sing any octaves on the seashore!”
talk to Dennis’s mother and we say how sweet they are. Dennis calls
them Auntie Anne and Uncle Webster. They are wonderful and I love
29 April – Mr Marsden kindly gives us a lift to the airport and we eventually board the plane and have a delightful flight to Durban. It’s the first time I have ever flown – it was more like a bus than a plane. The land below looks like a map of physical geography.
We arrive at the Berkeley Hotel where I met Maisie Weldon and Carl Carlisle five years ago. We have a walk along the seafront but I can hardly see myself singing scales there. My room has a radio so I’ll be able to listen to Drawing Room and G and S. I listen to G and S. Webster bursts into song periodically during Mikado.
30 April – We go into town and to the lunch hour concert. Swim in the afternoon in the same pool where we swam five years ago, and I play the piano in the lounge at night.
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.
21 Juno Street, Kensington – our house at that time.
1 May – Picture of Anne in RDM at first night of the opera La Traviata. She looks quite gorgeous and not nearly 51! The two women with her are Mrs Bosman de Kok (husband is SABC musical director) and the pianist Adelaide Newman. They are probably far younger than Anne but she looks by far the best.
Song by Webster on radio If With All Your Hearts from Elijah. Beautiful song, lovely diction and wonderfully restrained.
2 May – College. Marion Levine gives an interesting talk about communism.
Go to studio once more. Webster answers door and takes me into the sacred presence who is very affable and I pay her. She asks if I can come next Monday because they’re arranging the programme for the ballet and have to be at the theatre at 7 o’clock every night, so can I come at 4 on Monday. She feels so embarrassed having to change me around all the time.
Webster brings me a cup of tea which I really need, and then we start on the lesson. Webster is very authoritative, and after singing scales he says I get down so low I should be a contralto. Anne retaliates and says (once again) that I’m a very high mezzo. “You mustn’t forget that high B!” Webster is stubborn and I don’t have any say in the matter at all. I sing “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose…” and Webster sits facing me and criticises me. I must be more resonant on the low b and we practise this for ages. Webster gets up and gives a beautiful demonstration. Anne sings too – quite nasally – probably owing to the lowness of the note. As she says, it’s miles too low for her.
Webster then makes me sing from Messiah – He Shall Feed His Flock. Asks whether I can sight-read music. I say I can only do that on the piano and Anne says that it is exactly the same with her. She learnt to play the piano when she was six and could never sing at sight, but Webster is wonderful at that because he was trained to do it as a choir boy. However, I sing this to accompaniment without hearing the tune and it is reasonable. Find the jump from high C to low C difficult and Webster is quite hurt because of his belief in my contralto abilities.
He says of one particular note, “If you could get all your notes like that one you would be a singer out of this world, Jean.”
One teeny-weeny compliment opposed to a thousand retributions. At one stage of the proceedings, he gets up from the chair and can hardly walk. He looks really agonised and I feel sorry him. It must be arthritis or some such ailment. Poor old Webster.
Take departure – all very affable. Must look over Ave Maria for next week. Anne says of noise, “God, just shut up for heaven’s sake.” Her nerves are sorely tried – shame. She wears a lovely tweed suit with brown jersey and little furry collar and looks lovely, but she would never do to be anybody’s mother because she doesn’t look half her age and she’d steal her daughter’s boyfriends. But she is a honey all the same.
3 May – College during the day and then we go to the opera at night. What can I say of opera? Mimi Coertse has a voice like a bell. With what seems like little effort she sends out notes that ripple and thrill. She plays her part well with great feeling and her high notes are really excellent.
Bob Borowsky as her baritone father is the only other cast member who sings really well but he lacks expression and tends to be lugubrious. The chorus, in my opinion, is bad. The tenor was sweet at times but his voice grew very throaty towards the end.
4 May – College. We go to lunch hour concert. The soloist is young pianist, Yonti Solomon who is really brilliant. He plays a Schumann concerto with Edgar Cree conducting.
At the moment I’m lying in bed waiting for Webster’s programme. Introduces it with the usual, “Hello everyone,” in honeyed accents. First he plays the Jennifer Vyvyan recording of Rejoice Greatly conducted by Sir Thomas B and says, “Here it is, so hold yer breath!”
Next he talks about the opera and how nice it was and plays an aria from Rigoletto sung by Mimi Coertse and George Fourie. He then plays record by instrumentalists including Maxie Goldberg. “What a name to say with a cold in the nose!” says Webster! Next the Fledermaus with the Melachrino strings and then he reverts back to oratorio. He talks about Kathleen Ferrier who lived opposite them in their home in Frognal and who used to entertain them with Lancashire stories. During her long illness, they used to visit her often. He plays her recording of Father of Heav’n and I lie in bed and cry during the whole recording. Her voice is beautiful and rich. No wonder she was considered the greatest contralto in the world. From her letters in her biography she seemed a lovely, adorable creature, one I would have loved to have known but never shall. It is so sad that she died at such an early age.
He then plays his own recording of Sound an Alarm also from Judas Maccabeus and it is excellent. He introduces the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore and says that Gilbert made a great parody of this and sings a snatch of it from Pirates of Penzance – Come Friends, Who Plough the Sea… His last recording is the overture to the Pirates and then goodbye for another week.
6 May – We see Elmer Gantry in the afternoon. Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons. Best picture I’ve seen for ages, adapted from the book by Sinclair Lewis – shades of Miss Scott who told us all about Sinclair Lewis.
7 May Go to Diamonds in the afternoon. They play records – tenors, tenors, tenors – mainly Kenneth McKellar – obviously their favoroute!
8 May College again. Shorthand and typing are blooming dull.
I am transported in the afternoon when I go for singing lesson. Webster answers the door and shows me into the kitchen. Anne is on the phone talking to a girl, Mary about her lessons. Webster goes into the studio and informs her of my arrival. She greets me and then disappears once more, has an argument with Webster about the credit note he got from the bottle store for 8 dozen bottles at 3d each – I ask you! I think Anne realises that I am actually there and innocent to the horrors of the bottle store, so while Webster has a late lunch, Anne makes a second entrance and says, “Well, my little one, and how are you and what are you doing with yourself these days?”
I say I’m still at college which sounds infernally dull. She asks what I thought about the opera. I say that I adored Mimi but wasn’t too fond of the French tenor. Anne says, “He’s only a baby of 23 so the two roles were a bit much for him.” Webster says that the role was far too heavy for him anyway. She says, “Weren’t the scenery and costumes terrible?” I didn’t actually think so, but what do I know?
The letters arrive and Anne is quite excited that they have been asked to do a concert tour to Witbank and various other towns in that area. I hope they don’t go! Anne says she wants to ask me a question and can’t wait to see my face, and insists that he sees it too. Would I like to enter the Afrikaans eisteddfod? I grimace wildly and Webster says, “Her profile was enough!” I don’t commit myself however and Anne says that I could enter the ballad section and sing The Lass with the Delicate Air. She says, “Get it anyway and you can see what you think. It’ll be good for you and get you moving.”
I do scales and Anne says I must look happy about them and takes me over to that damned mirror and makes me sing a scale happily. I can’t! She says, “Do it just for me, Jean, dear. I mean this quite sincerely.” Will try.
Webster makes tea for us and I say, “Thank you, Webster,” and Anne says, “Thank you – waiter!” Webster doesn’t look very happy about this. I sing Roslein and it is pulled to pieces again, mainly by Webster who says I show my teeth too much and says he can’t show his when he’s singing. He tries and succeeds in showing a horrible set of teeth altogether. No matter, we proceed and all goes better. At the end of the lesson my little “friend” Roselle arrives and we smile at one another when I leave. Anne asks if I’m going to the ballet and I say, “No.” Rather blunt but true – I loathe ballet anyway.
11 May – Sunday school picnic – walking, standing and working! Listen to Webster at night. He starts with He Shall Feed His Flock by Norma Procter, a contralto with whom he sang a few years ago and thinks could be a worthy successor to Kathleen Ferrier. He plays a record by Roy Henderson who trained both Kathleen Ferrier and Norma Procter and was chorus master of the Huddersfield Choral Society. He says he has a sweet small voice with perfect diction.
He talks about Mrs Fenney who stood in for Miss Heller at Jeppe for a term. “Anne and I had the pleasure of putting Mabel Fenney through to a scholarship to study lieder in Berlin and she and Anne worked very hard on the set piece by Bach.” He plays this piece sung by Margaret Balfour.
He goes on to the opera Samson – the opera, and goes into all the gory details of the plot and says, “Nice people!” Plays an excerpt from the opera by Jan Peerce. Then comes music from Schubert’s Rosamunde and after that his own recording – excerpts from Carmen with himself, Dennis Noble, Nancy Evans and Noel Eadie – lovely.
14 May – Church. Dull and unimaginative with sermon by Mr R and ravings from Peter about Song Without End. Shorty gives Doreen and me a lift to her house where I have tea and we run down the camp concert committee and the Lombard family! Play piano and sing. Dad has a cold and I’m heading in that direction too.
16 May Cold is still rotten so I am absent from college and any idea of going for singing lesson is curtailed. About midday I phone in bleary-eyed fashion to Booth’s house. Woman answers the phone and I ask, “Is that Anne?”
She answers, “No, this is Anne’s maid.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is Anne there?”
“No, they’re both at the studio. Do you know the number?”
“Yes, thanks. Goodbye.”
I must have spoken to Hilda, their St Helena maid. She sounds remarkably well-spoken. Phone the studio and Anne answers.
“Is that Anne?”
“Yes!” in startled tones.
“This is Jean speaking.” (Vague affirmation)
“Anne, I’m terribly sorry but I have a horrible cold so I shan’t be able to come today.”
“Oh, Jean, I’m so sorry. Are you in bed?”
“I don’t know how I can make the lesson up to you” (Pause) “But there are five Tuesdays in this month.”
“Yes, that’s what I was thinking.”
“Then we’ll see you next week? I can hear you talking through a cold. I do hope you feel better soon.”
“Thank you – and I’m sorry, Anne.”
Pause “Yes, so am I! Goodbye, Jean”
Spend a miserable day.
17 May – Retire to bed permanently! Voice practically non-existent. Minister comes in the evening but I remain silent and still.
18 May – Still in bed. Listen to Webster at night which is cheering. The first record (not obtainable here) was lent to him – Requiem by Verdi, written after the death of Rossini. He says that he’ll play an extract each week. It contains arias sung by his favourite tenor (Jussi Bjorling?). He plays a choral piece – Sanctus.
The next record is from Elijah, Oh, Come Everyone That Thirsteth by a quartet – Isobel Baillie, Harold Williams, Gladys Ripley and James Johnston.What a wonderful recording. Next is an aria from the work by Webster with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Warwick Braithwaite – often cut from the oratorio. His voice is just perfect. There can hardly be another tenor in this century – and I do believe this – to touch his voice at its best! Next is the overture to the Magic Flute, written by Mozart in “Viennar” – intrusive r terribly and wrongly distinct. He says that this was considered his best work.
He then plays an aria from the opera by Oscar Natzke… Then some more Mozart sung by “that versatile young singer”, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf. He reverts to operetta – The Chocolate Soldier and says, “Anne and I have sung in The Chocolate Soldier many times. It is an adaptation of Shaw’s Arms and the Man, as My Fair Lady is an adaptation of Pygmalion but I do wonder whether we shall hear My Fair Lady fifty years hence as often as we hear the Chocolate Soldier now. Plays the duet Sympathy with Risé Stevens and someone else. Then, says Webster, “Let’s play out with The Gypsy Baron. Very nice programme indeed. Webster has a slight wheeze tonight.
19 May – Still ill – until 22 May!
23 May – Manage to go to college once more after a cold and go to the studio in the afternoon. Anne ushers me into kitchen while they usher two old women – very old-maidish – out, while they chat brightly about the best radiograms to buy. Webster answers them in very indifferent tones. They depart, having thanked them too, too eloquently for sparing some of their valuable time. They call me in and Anne says, “God – we’ll need another cup of tea after that. Will you have one too, Jean?” “Yes, thank you, Anne.”
She says that the women took an awful lot out of her. She says I still sound very nasal after the cold. Convinces me that I am just about dying of illness! We start on scales and all goes reasonably well. Webster says I shall never need my very high or very low notes.
Anne tells me over tea that the tiny dilapidated cottage they bought two years ago and redecorated themselves needed fresh plaster above the curtain rails in the hall, so she spent the weekend on top of a ladder, scraping old plaster off, and as she was literally breathing plaster, she doesn’t know how she is managing to talk today. Webster says dryly, “It must be all the liquid refreshment you had while you were doing it.” Anne pauses and replies, “Oh, yes, I had plenty of tea, coffee, cocoa and – an occasional gin and tonic to go with it!” Another dramatic pause and then she asks, “Do you like gin, Jean?” I say that it’s not very nice. “Don’t you even like sherry?” “No.” “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Well don’t ever develop any of those bad habits.”
We go on with singing The Lass With the Delicate Air. Webster mimics all my mistakes mercilessly and makes me laugh. He says that my “delicate air” sounds like “delicatessen” – the height of insult!
We go on with the song and Anne says, “Watch the time,” and I think she had said, “What’s the time?” I say “Twenty past four!” She says, “That was well picked up!” I stare in confusion and she tells me what she had said and we have a good laugh. Finish with Roslein and Webster says I open my mouth too wide for low notes – a good fault – but it will take too much out of me to do it.
Anne asks if I can come next Monday instead of Tuesday as an uprising by natives before Republic Day is forecast. They have to go to Durban to give a concert on Wednesday and don’t know what they will do if there should be an uprising. That doesn’t strike me until I leave that Wednesday is Republic Day. I hope that they will be safe. Say goodbye (cheerio) effusively and see Roselle, whom I always feel is a far better singer than me. Play piano, sing and listen to radio – Ivor Dennis and Douggie Laws at night.
25 May – College. Go with Jill and Audrey to the lunch hour concert. The soloist is Laura (someone) – a pianist of insignificant looks but with very significant playing!
At night I decide to go to choir practice at church. All make a pretence of being happy to see me. I sit next to Joan Spargo and make myself as insignificant as possible. Ann’s father, Mr Stratton is the choir leader. He certainly has a resounding voice and mimics everyone’s musical and vocal faults aptly.
Come home and listen to Webster on wireless. He starts off with Dies Irae (from that rare recording of last week with chorus and bass (George Tsotsi) with Vienna Philharmonic. “It’s a bit noisy, so I suggest you close the children’s bedroom door!”
Webster plays his own record – a Recitative from Jephtha which is quite gorgeous – every word as clear as day. He goes into some detail about the finale of Samson and Delilah which, says Webster, is “very awer inspiring!” The singers are Rise Stevens, Robert Merrill and Jan Peerce.
He plays a record by Dawie Couzyn from Magic Flute and says that he thought this production was better than Don Pasquale. DC sings it in Afrikaans with horrible diction and a clicky quality to his voice. Not terribly enjoyable. Webster plays complete selection from The Desert Song which Springs Operatic is doing soon, sung by Gordon McRae and Lucille Norman. He says, “Shades of my old friends, Harry Welchman and Edith Day.”
He ends with the overture to Ruddigore – about a witch who forced a family to commit a crime a day – Nice folk! And then, goodbye and so to bed.
26 May College – we have a party for Terry French who is going overseas soon.
27 May – Go into town in the morning and am stopped by terribly handsome young German student who was selling postcards. I buy one, of course! Go to Kelly’s and buy Where E’er You Walk by Handel, a most gorgeous song!
Have lunch in Capinero with Mum and Dad and then we go to the Empire. In the powder room I meet Pat Eastwood looking terribly smart with bouffant hairdo and also a bit fatter. She is most affable and says, “I haven’t seen you for ages. When are you coming to the rink?”
I say, “Oh, yes, I must come soon…” How lovely to talk so casually to the South African figure skating champion and Springbok.
We see The Great Imposter with Tony Curtis – very good.
28 May In Gary Allighan’s radio crit this morning, he says, “Praise be to Webster Booth, whose On Wings of Song combines familiar music with personal reminiscences, although he should not be so modestly sparse with his own songs.” Shot for good old GA! He’s a man after my own heart – politically and artistically.
Anne phones just afterwards and greets father with, “Mr Campbell, this is Anne Ziegler here. Can I speak to Jean please. I am called to the phone and informed by Anne, after she asks how I am, that she’d like me to come at 4.30 instead of at 4. Would this be convenient? “Certainly.” “Are you sure?”….Sing in choir at church at night. All convivial.
29 May – First day of strike evidently a flop as there are no strikers to be seen. I go to the studio in the afternoon and Webster asks me to have a seat for a while and pour myself some tea. I do this and drink tea feeling terrible blasé, and wash the cup afterwards. He plays over tape recording which is rather funny. I giggle to myself.
Anne comes from nowhere and is charming. She tells me to go in and she’ll be with me in a few moments. I look closely at pictures of the royal family at their performance – King George, Queen Mother and the princesses. Webster talks to me about the strike and says that RCA have no workers but Decca have all their workers. He says the town is nice and quiet with not so many people around. We talk about the success of receiving papers and milk and Webster says direfully, “Tonight will be the crucial deciding time. Just as long as they don’t come out and kill us is all I hope for.” Cheery attitude to life this!
Anne returns and we start with scales and they are thrilled at the new quality of my voice and ask what I’ve been doing to bring about the improvement. I sing Roslein to them and they continue to be quite happy about it all – 2 hours practice a day must help. Feel quite embarrassed.
Webster makes me sing He Shall Feed His Flock for all the low notes and sings this along with me – gorgeous! During Lass With the Delicate Air there are many faults. I crack on middle C on “fill” and Webster makes me do it over and over again and takes me over to the mirror to show me how to produce it correctly. When I sing it again he suddenly doubles up on the piano with a look of agony on his face. Anne looks horrified and says, “What’s the matter?” He doesn’t speak for a moment and then says, “Nothing. I just wanted to listen to Jean sing.” Do not for a moment believe this – poor Webster. He recovers and says I must emphasise “gin” in virgin and sings “virgin” and then “pink gin”! Anne and I nearly die laughing. Anne writes down next to it “pink gin!” She says that my diction is generally good. He sings O, Thou That Tellest from Messiah. She asks whether I’d like to do some oratorio. Tells me about a singer in Don Pasquale and says that she couldn’t hear for about five or ten minutes what language she was singing in, her diction was so bad!
Webster goes down to bring the car nearer to the studio and Anne goes on with the lesson – she gives me a whole hour. She feels my breathing and says that my bust mustn’t move and I must watch it. Gives me a demonstration of her own breathing. If I could even breathe like her, I’d be very happy.
I leave at 5.30 and she tells me that she’s going to Durban for a concert at the weekend and tomorrow they have a show at Wanderers. During lesson Webster asks, “Where’s that contralto album Mabel left us?” I meet him coming from the car and we say goodbye and “Hope there’ll be no riots!”
1 April – Go to Rhodes Park library today. Jennifer Humphreys serves me. Get out autobiographies of Humphrey Lyttleton and Donald Peers – both mention Webster and Anne. Go to town and have lunch with Mum and Dad, then we see Once More with Feeling, starring Yul Brunner and wonderful, whimsical Kay Kendall who died two years ago. See a snippet in the newsreel of Lennie and Glenda doing a routine at the rink – they get a huge ovation from the movie audience and I clap jolly hard too and feel proud of them.
2 April – Sunday school. Not many kids there owing to holiday. I have Neill, Mark, Desmond and a little boy called David in my class. I tell them a story and let them colour in. Eugenie Braun makes me lead singing and I practically sing a solo – can hardly hear the kids! Peter gives me hymns for the guild afterwards – practically all unknown! Go into church with the usual crowd – Leona Rowe is away at camp, and Mr Russell gives a rather dreary sermon.
In the afternoon the Diamonds come and we have pleasant time. I perk up when conversation leads to a discussion about the Booths – they still maintain that Anne’s singing voice is painful but she has a lovely personality and speaking voice. Am persuaded by everyone to sing which I do reasonably.
3 April – Easter Monday In afternoon Dad and I go to eisteddfod and I buy a season ticket. We go to Duncan Hall to hear singing and instrumental items. A little Welshman presides and the adjudicator is from England – very good. After the interval the Welshman tells us to take our seats. I turn round to see what’s what and, out of the corner of my eye, catch sight of Webster. I get a real shock. Whisper to my father who is not at all perturbed, so we sit through the whole competition without further ado.
We get up to go and the first person I come across is Anne looking too gorgeous for words in a flowery dress. Her face lights up as only her face can, and she says, “Why, hello, Jean, how are you?” Webster, who is sitting in front of her, turns round to say hello. I introduce them to Dad and they are really charmed when he says, “I’m privileged to meet you.”
Webster asks in his usual vague fashion, “Have you done your piece yet, Jean?” She says, “Of course not!’ and I say, “It’s not till Thursday, Webster
.” He looks very knowing as though he knew that all the time.
She says, “It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next item, Jean,” and I say that Mum is expecting us home so I’m afraid we can’t stay. She tells me how sorry she is and we say goodbye to them. We stand at the back of the hall and listen to the last adjudication then depart to the sight of Anne going up to the front, preparing herself to accompany their singer in an art song.
Dad tells me on the way home that he doesn’t think Webster looks very well and that everybody around us was staring at us in admiration for knowing them – I didn’t even notice this as I was too wrapped up in speaking to them! All I know is that I adore them, and other peoples’ opinion don’t count two hoots!
5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme at night, and he was right as usual – it is good tonight! He starts off talking about the difference between opera and oratorio and gives an example from Handel’s Samson – his own recording. He goes on with his story, how he had an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan, how he came to join the D’Oyly Carte Company by barn-storming an audition when the company was in Birmingham and not turning up for an audit when he was asked to go to London to sing for Rupert D’Oyly Carte so that he was sacked. His teacher Dr Wassall was angry that he joined the company and never acknowledged him in future. He toured the UK with the company which included Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis, Darrell Fancourt, Sydney Granville and Derek Oldham as principals, and Malcolm Sargent as the conductor in 1926. Webster asked Sir Malcolm whether he should sing in Grand Opera, and sang to him from La Bohème. “If you’ve no money, don’t sing in grand opera,” was his advice. He toured Canada with the company where his companion was Martyn Green and he had a wonderful time over there.
He plays a record by Harold Williams whom he obviously feels is the bees’ knees and ends with the overture to Mikado, an anecdote about Gilbert and Sullivan and the promise to play one of the G and S operettas after copyright is surrendered by Bridget D’Oyly Carte at the end of the year. Lovely programme by a wonderful man.
6 April – Eisteddfod at night. Sonnets are all done fairly well mainly by varsity students reciting poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I don’t disgrace myself but I don’t win a gold medal either. The girl who wins is about 25. The adjudicator, Miss Levitas, says on my report that I’m sincere!
7 April – Go to the Booths today feeling rather apprehensive. Webster answers door holding a large bell which, he tells me, is supposed to ring every half an hour to let him know when to put another sixpence into the parking meter. He says he’s forgotten how to wind it up. “I can’t depend on my watch because I forget what time I put the money in, in the first place.” Lemon is there so I play with him until Anne comes in, looking beautiful in a charcoal-grey pleated skirt and sweater and black court shoes, all in the best of style.
She asks me about the Eisteddfod and I tell her that I didn’t get any medal but I didn’t dry up either. She reads the report and says, “Who the hell is C. Levitas? I thought the adjudicator was Mary Webster!”
Webster goes out to put money in the meter and to go to a jeweller to find a real copper bracelet for Anne’s rheumatism. Says, “Goodbye, see you in a little while.” Before Anne starts on the play, she tells me that their bass came second, their girl got a gold medal in Lieder and there were several more seconds. I make fitting remarks about their success. She tells me that the girl who got the gold medal didn’t really deserve it, “God forgive me. She got it on musical knowledge.” This girl had great trouble with her voice – her husband didn’t like it but she persevered so that was a kick in the teeth for him when she did well!
We start on And So to Bed and really give it stick. She asks me whether my parents had any theatrical experience because I have such good control of words and cues. Webster comes back and says that the jeweller had no real copper but a someone in a shop in Eloff street would make one for her.
We go on with the play and Anne praises Leslie Henson (who played Pepys) to the heights – did I ever see him? I say no, but my father said he was wonderful. She goes into ecstasies about him and says, “If only they would put this play on here.”
Webster says I am good but must be careful not to tear my throat otherwise, if I was doing a show, I would soon not have any voice left. “Get French through the nose!” I must say that Anne becomes rather flustered herself when she does my part to show me what to do. She says I must learn the scene.
Tells me that Mr Salmon, the music adjudicator took far too long over adjudications. “He’s from Lancashire, but still he took too long!” We have tea and Anne naturally says once again that it is like TCP and some discussion ensues. Asks me to come at the same time next Friday and all is lovely. They’re nice.
8 April – Go skating today. Sue, Neill and Menina are there and I spend most of morning talking to Sue. She tells me about building the float for varsity rag. Says that Jennifer Nicks now lives in Canada. Jennifer Nicks wrote to Gwyn and told him she has called her baby Methuselah-Star – I ask you! Sue skates like a honey as usual and I skate as normal and enjoy myself. She says she thinks Christians don’t have much enjoyment in life.
Scotts come at night. Linda cute, Mr S armed with violin – I accompany him at piano to hitherto unseen pieces which, strangely enough, I succeed in playing. We also gallop (he misses beats) through Only a Rose. All convivial.
10 April Have lunch with Mum and she promises to phone Anne about doing singing instead of speech from a week on Friday. This point has been mooted in the family circle so I’m going to do that instead of speech – if they’ll have me. Buy an SABC bulletin and there is an interview with Webster in it in which he talks about his career, stage fright and rewarding moments. He says that he wouldn’t change his life if he could live it over again. “I was given a voice, a figure and my marriage with Anne Ziegler – something that has been successful and happy, and I have adopted what I think to be about the finest country in the world.” He was lucky, but his luck certainly hasn’t spoilt him in any way.
Mum phones Anne in the afternoon and tells her that I’d like to do singing. She is quite happy about this and says that it’ll be a pleasure to teach me. She tells mum that I’m a sweet thing and they’re very fond of me. Mother says, “Jean enjoys going to you and she’d like to do singing as it goes with the piano.” Anne says that it is half the battle learning to sing if one knows music.
Mummy says, “Jean was a bit nervous to ask about singing,” and Anne says, “Oh, why?” Mummy says, “Well, she’s not too sure of her own voice.” Anne is evidently as big a honey as always, and when Mummy says that I love to listen to Webster’s programmes, she says, “Oh, no! Not really!” Well that is that and I hope that I can do well at singing because I love to sing so I must do well. This is really their true sphere.
11 April – Start college again today – new typing teacher – all affable.
12 April – College. Typing teacher says my accuracy is best in the class – whew! Must keep up this good standard.
At night I listen to Webster’s programme. After he left D’Oyly Carte he joined Tom Howell’s concert party, the Opieros, singing operatic excerpts in parks and at the seaside. He eventually sang oratorio tenor solos with the Huddersfield Choral Society and Royal Choral society under the direction of Sir Malcolm and started recording for BBC studio opera programmes.
He plays records by Isobel Baillie, Dennis Noble and himself singing in La Bohème, and bass Oscar Natzke, with a most beautiful bass voice who died at the age of 39, and a duet from Carmen by South American Soprano and a man with an unpronounceable name. There are several recordings by Webster himself singing opera. He has a beautifully restrained voice and gives a more polished performance. He presents the programme beautifully – polished to a ‘t’. Songs of sopranos all gorgeous – dread to think what he’ll have to say about me – still, the programme is terribly nice.
13 April – College – long day today. Jill, Lyn, Audrey and I go to the library and I meet David Cross there who is very sweet and looks nice enough to divert attention!
In the afternoon I listen to Leslie Green, with Charles Berman as his guest. Latter has made a new recording.
At night phone rings and I know, almost instinctively, that it is Anne – am right as usual! Gives usual greeting, “Is that Jean? Jean, this is Anne Ziegler here!”
She asks (talking very loudly tonight), “Jean, could you possibly come at 4.30 instead of 4 tomorrow?”
“Yes, that would be all right.”
“You see, tomorrow night is the music prize-winners’ concert and I’ve had to change all the lessons around because of it.” (Can’t see any connection at all, but still!)
“So, will that be all right, Jean?”
“Well, goodbye, we’ll see you tomorrow then.”
14 April. College as usual. My deskmate Lorraine Feinblum, who is a year or two older than the rest of us, is engaged. We are all thrilled for her.
I go to the Booths in the afternoon. Lemon snuffles at the door and Anne answers it. She wears a straight skirt with a jersey and grey shoes with an overdose of eye make-up (probably for tonight’s concert). We have customary greeting and she finishes practising an intricate accompaniment for the concert tonight.
Webster comes in and brings various purchases into the kitchen and says, “Oh, hello, Jean. I didn’t know you were here.” We have customary greetings and Anne finishes practising piece for concert.
Anne calls me in and says, “I hear you want to do singing, Jean. I think that’s splendid.”
I say, “Well, I’d like to, but I’m not sure about my voice.”
Webster says, “Well, judging from what I remember from last hearing you, I don’t think you have to worry much about that.”
He asks me what sort of music I have at home and goes to look out some music while I go through the last scene of And So to Bed with Anne. I have learnt it and do it quite well. She says afterwards, “It’s too wonderful! You really do it beautifully – it’s a miracle how you learnt the part – some people doing singing won’t even learn a song I give them to do – but this – brilliant, and very well done.”
Webster says, “It’s very good. You could know the part in a fortnight!” He asks where I have acted before and I say, “‘School plays etc.”
We go through it again and she tells me I have the makings of a fine actress.
They insist that I should sing. I go through some scales with Anne playing and looking down my throat at the same time, and Webster listening very intently with the ear of a master. Anne says my tongue is in a perfect position – how hard I have practised to get it there! – but I must open my mouth wider on the high notes. Webster says I have a very good voice which will be fine for training and Mrs. B says, “It’s all there – you’ve probably got about four notes to add to it yet.”
She makes me look in the mirror to see how to hold my mouth when singing high – the rule is not to show teeth. I’m afraid I look rather like a horse laughing! Webster takes the music and we debate about what I should sing – a Schubert album with dozens of lieder (all in English including On Wings of Song).
I say that I know Wiegenlied best but it isn’t in that book so what about Hark, Hark the Lark? I say I know Hark, Hark, the Lark but when I’ve tried that at home I couldn’t reach high notes. Anne says it was probably in a higher key, so I agree to try it although this key is actually higher than mine, for the top note is high G but somehow I reach it perfectly. Anne sings with me. She really has a lovely voice. Webster stands at my side listening very intently. Thank heaven he expresses approval. He says I must go through my own Schubert album and bring it next week. I have nothing to worry about with regards to my voice –it’s good. I tell him, “Well, I wasn’t too sure about it because I’d never heard it!”
He says, “Well, we won’t let you hear it just yet. Everybody gets a terrible shock when they hear their own voice.”
Anne comes with me to the door and says, “Well, Jean, I’m glad that at last, you’ve decided to obey the request we made to you so nicely such a long while ago. You can go home and tell your parents you have a lovely voice and we’re both thrilled that you’re going to do singing.”
I say goodbye to Anne and Lemon and come down on the lift floating on air. I’m so thrilled about it because they have such a fine musical understanding and can tell a good voice when they hear one. Also Webster has taken on a more authoritative position because singing is his forte. But he’s quite different from the Webster on the radio – I prefer him as he is in the studio.
For ages – since I heard them sing at the church last year – I’ve wanted to do singing. After I heard them I started to enjoy music and singing far more – I know that what they sang that particular evening was light but their presentation of it was perfect. But it has taken me practically a whole year to start my singing lessons with them. I know I’ll never regret it. Not only are they top-notch singers, but they’re top-notch all round.
On Wednesday evening Webster said of Isobel Baillie, “I understand she’s teaching at the Manchester School of Music – lucky pupils.” Well, that’s the way I feel about them. They’re awe-inspiring and make me feel as though I might do well if I work hard.
15 April – Go into rink today. Menina, Neill Craus, Dawn Vivian are all there – Sue is in the rag – and we have reasonably gay time but have to work. Menina is learning with Mr Perren while Jill is getting married, and says he is a real old tartar!
Skating goes very well and is exhilarating. Come into town and buy On Wings of Song in Kelly’s and then have lunch with Mum and Dad in Capinero and then go to see Bottoms Up with Jimmy Edwards. Good but a bit kiddish in places!
16 April Sunday School today. Mark, Neill, Desmond and Gary W are there and all of them tell me strangest things – some of Mark’s stories are decidedly exaggerated. Stay to sermon by Mr R – quite good but a bit disjointed towards the end. All the usual crowd there but can’t say they thrill me with their spirit. Gail won the prize for best beatnik on Friday night.
18 April RDM provides pleasant shock for me in morning. Full page picture of Webster and Anne advertising Skal beer! Doesn’t say it’s them but of course it is! Webster complete with beard (he had it shaved off on Friday!) sitting holding glass of beer and Anne sitting on his lap with telegram in one hand and a look of sheer delight on her face. It’s a really gorgeous advert and large – larger than life – up it goes on my wall – if there’s another I’ll put it in my diary!
College goes well today – Lorraine F is excited about her engagement. Go with Jill Harry to library and meet Mary Theodosiou who says she’s working hard, isn’t living in Kensington, and hears that Atholie is pretty fed up working in the library. I’m not surprised with those awful hours! In the afternoon I vegetate owing to a cold which I must get rid of before Friday at least.
19 April College. We have a party for Lorraine F which is fun. Come home on bus with unknown but very affable girl who is doing a speed-writing course.
I listen to On Wings of Song at night. Webster doesn’t continue with his own life story but plays records. First one is a Thomas Beecham recording which he got for Easter, then a song by Gigli and an aria from Messiah.
He says that in 1938 he had the honour of singing the tenor role in Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden. Richard Tauber was also in the production. He says, “When Richard Tauber was appearing in the same concert as us at the Coliseum Anne asked him what songs he intended to sing. Tauber replied, ‘German songs,’ and his little accompanist (Percy Kahn) added, ‘With English words by me!’”
He talks of another opera by Rossini (I think) and says, “Anne and I sang it at the festival opera season in 1953 and thoroughly enjoyed it.”
He mentions that he sang with Kathleen Ferrier and Gladys Ripley, the two tragic contraltos who both died within a year of one another, Kathleen, a switchboard operator, and Gladys, a hairdresser. Plays record by Gladys and another tenor – how I wished it had been a Kathleen Ferrier recording – very nice though. Ends with overture to HMS Pinafore, conductor – Sir Malcolm, and says, “It’s very light-hearted but I love it!”
Very nice programme and well presented. I do approve of the “Anne and I” part!
21 April – College – thank heaven for the weekend! I kill time in the afternoon by having a long drawn-out snack in the Capinero. I go up to studio at a quarter to four and am greeted by Webster. He says, “Anne isn’t back yet, so do come in and sit down. I’m just trying through the examination pieces – please excuse the mess.” He sits down at the piano and labours away at the exam pieces. I feel a bit corny sitting there so stare at the photographs and see one of Lincoln Cathedral where he was a chorister.
There is a peremptory knock at the door which heralds the entrance of Anne. He answers the door and she walks in without greeting him. She wears a grey princess line coat (she had her picture taken in it autographing their new LP record last October) and says something about gardenias and donating something to some society or other – all a bit vague. She looks very tired today.
She says. “Well, let’s start!” Sits at the piano and he sits on a chair opposite and says that he forgot to note my range. We do all the scales once again and she tells me to drop my jaw more on the higher notes. I reach high A fairly comfortably but B natural is a bit much – I end up looking like a horse on the higher notes. Anne says that she bets that within 2 months I’ll sing high C – I doubt it! He says that I’m a mezzo, but she says, “If she’s a mezzo she’ll be a very high one.” I go fairly low too and reach a bottom E. Amazing – I can hardly reach low G at home. They tell me about vowel sounds, all to be sung with the mouth in the same position. Mrs. B says, “He’s an example of perfect vowel sounds. No matter where in his range he sings, or what the vowel sound is, his mouth is always in the same position.”
Anne makes me sing Hedge Roses in English and they say that my vowels are fairly good except “ee” – I must sing that one in the same way as the others. Anne gives me a demonstration. I sing Hedge Roses in German all by myself with no assistance at all. We go through this twice, and Anne says, “You learnt And So to Bed so nicely for me a little while ago – will you learn this for next week?”
German, I find, is a wee bit more difficult to learn than English but nevertheless, I will for her!
A fire engine passes sounding a siren and Anne says, “Fire engines and sirens remind me of the war and make me feel terrible!” She says I have a well-placed voice and thinks that the few months of speech-training did me good. She feels my breathing and both she and Webster are happy about it. She says to me, “You want to sing good songs, don’t you? Not musical comedy or pop songs?”
Before I have a chance to answer Webster hops in with, “There’s nothing wrong with musical comedy!” So be it.
I depart, saying goodbye, see you next week, with the worry of learning three verses in German. Anne says that next week I must bring some Scottish songs (for English words).
Come home on bus with Rosemary, Jennifer Bawden and Gill Colborne. Meet Miss Ward coming home and take great relish in telling her that I’m completely exhausted after my singing lesson.
Go up to guild tonight. Ann is happy to see me and her reaction about singing lessons all that could be desired. We go to the Central Hall to hear panel of men: Dr Roux (a botanist), Mr McEwan (lawyer), Dr Webb – my favourite minister, and Gary Allighan the journalist and author of Verwoerd – the End. Meeting becomes practically political. All denounce government’s apartheid policy and in one particular question, Gary Allighan answers by starting, “First, let’s forget about the government!” Violent clapping. “There is only one race – the human race!” Shot for him – he was a labour MP in Britain and is a Cockney through and through. Shorty gives us a lift back and we all go to the roadhouse and have something to eat – good fun.
22 April Play piano and sing in the morning and then go to town. Go into CNA and mooch around. Look in the SABC bulletin for programmes and am disappointed to see that Webster’s programme seems to be cut out – perhaps it’s been changed to another evening, but if it isn’t, to hang the SABC!
We have lunch at the Capinero and then Mum, Dad and I go to Brooke Theatre to see Roar Like a Dove with Margaret Inglis, Brian Brooke, Norma West, Robert Haver and also Alfred Stretton (the old man who spoke to us after Caesar and Cleopatra – he’s sweet). Play isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Margaret Inglis and Brian Brooke have whisky voices and Margaret I is hard as nails, although she’s probably meant to be in this part.
24 April College – goes reasonably – dozens absent. Go into Music library and buy the SABC bulletin in afternoon and study it carefully. I am glad to see that Webster has had ten minutes added to his programme – forty minutes now! On Thursday evening at 9.20pm.
26 April – My father’s fifty-ninth birthday. Webster’s programme tonight is really about the best I’ve heard so far. He says that the first time he sang with Thomas Beecham, Joan Hammond was one of the other soloists. At that time she had a light, lyrical soprano which later developed into a heavy dramatic soprano. He plays the duet from Madame Butterfly which he made with her, which is quite fantastic. Webster is a tenor of great restraint which is pleasing. His voice contrasts sharply with her loud, almost harsh soprano.
Then Webster makes me laugh. He discusses the Strauss operetta, Night in Venice and says that during the Jo’burg production Anne wore a crinoline that covered practically the whole stage. “I look on this duet I am about to play with certain misgivings because during the Jo’burg production I tripped and broke my foot and was laid up in plaster for three weeks!” Poor Webster! He talks of his old friend, conductor Mark Lubbock and how many happy hours “Anne and I” spent with him. “He was a specialist in the music of Franz Lehar and arranged some of Lehar’s songs for Anne and I to sing as duets with his own London orchestra.”
These songs are about the finest I have heard. They sing so beautifully they make me cry because they’re so glorious. Her voice is out of this world – like water floating gently over tiny pebbles. He sings the Serenade richly, gloriously, temperately. Webster and Anne were terribly lucky to be blessed with such voices and I’m terribly lucky to be training under them! He ends off the programme by playing the overture to Don Pasquale, the comic opera soon to be seen in Johanesburg.
27 April – College. Go to lunch hour concert conducted by Anton Hartman with soloists Rita Roberts and Bob Borowsky. This series of concerts is a prelude to the forthcoming opera and ballet season. Both sing operatic arias (separately and together). Duet from La Traviata. Anton Hartman conducts overture to Les Pateneurs and the Flower Dance from the Nut Cracker Suite. Hetty and Jill sit with me and Hetty is charmed – so am I.
28 April. I arrive at the studio before the Booths today. I sit on the little ledge outside and vegetate. One of Madge Wallace’s pupils comes out of her studio and grumbles about having to wait for the lift, but just as lift arrives she goes back into the studio to say goodbye once more so I hold the lift for her.
Mrs. B comes up on the other lift armed with the evening dress she wore to our church concert and a fur cape. She is also carrying a little vanity case. She asks, “Was the lift stuck at the eighth floor?” I have to admit my guilt in this matter but she is quite cheery about it and takes me into the studio.
She tells me they were at first night of La Traviata last night and didn’t get in till half past three. She says, “I just can’t take late nights any more! Tonight it’ll probably be just as late too because we’ve got Don Pasquale.”
Anne says that the production of La Traviata didn’t nearly match the standard of an overseas production, but Mimi Coertse was wonderful. She covered her top notes well and used her face at every possible moment. Her song at the end of the first act, however, was breathy and she broke the trills, but this might have been due to first night nerves or not being used to the altitude. She says it’ll be good for me to see it as Mimi’s singing is wonderfully controlled.
We start on My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose after doing oodles of scales to work on the English vowels. Apparently my phrasing is all wrong. Webster arrives at this point, dressed in tails and black bow tie, looking too gorgeous for words, ready for the first night of Don Pasquale and is very affable. Anne says, “Jean is doing My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose,” and he says, “Oh! I know that one!”
I do Heidenroslein by memory. Webster watches me closely the whole time I am singing and I feel a bit silly. He says to me afterwards, “Honestly, Jean, you’ve got a wonderful memory – and of German too! If I had a memory like yours I could really do wonders!” I smile at him. He says, “But Jean – I wish you’d smile like that when you sing. You’ve got such a lovely smile.”
I sing it again, trying to look a little happier this time. The phone rings and Webster answers it and comes out of the office, saying, “Do you remember people called Wilkinson?” Anne looks quite blank and then says she believes she remembers them vaguely. “Well, they’ve asked us over on Saturday, the sixth of May. Are we free?”
“Oh, no, darling. We’ve got that Mimi Coertse presentation cocktail party. We can’t miss that.”
“Well, shall I say we’ll go over later?”
“Well, we can’t go for drinks. Say we might go later if we can make it.”
“These damned socialites,” says Anne to me in hollow tones.
We go on with Roslein and they say I look a bit cheerier about it. To finish she makes me sing Hark, hark… Webster asks, “Do you like Hark, Hark the Lark?” I say, “Yes, it’s very nice.” He says, “Well, I hate it – probably because I was made to sing it so often when I was young.”
They sing it together – beautifully – as though they know exactly what the other one is thinking and exactly what to do. No. Mimi Coertse might be excellent but she’ll never ever beat Anne, and although Gigli was a great tenor he never had that lovely restraint which Webster displays so eloquently and beautifully. OK, so I’m prejudiced but I don’t care – they’re wonderful singers and lovely people.
Anne asks whether I could change from Friday to Tuesday next week because Webster has a recital in Krugersdorp on Friday. She asks whether 4 o’clock would be OK. I agree and Webster says, “Will I get you a pencil and paper to write it down?”
“It’s quite OK. I’ll remember it, thank you.”
“Yes, I know you will. If only I had a memory like you.”
Anne says, “But darling, look how young Jean is compared with you…”
“Yes, but still…”
Anne makes me feel her breathing again and says that as we’re the same height we should have the same rib-expansion. She has such wonderful breath control – it’s unsurpassed, really it is! I say goodbye and Webster sees me to the door, his tails following behind him.
29 April. Go into town and book seats for La Traviata. We’re going on 3 May – a Wednesday. I feel rather the worse for wear after the debate last night. I also go to music library and procure dozens of songs. I go to Capinero and have lunch with Mum and Dad. He has a book from the library with oodles in it about Webster. Author says that he could have been the finest British tenor if… But tomorrow I’ll type out the relevant parts and put them in the diary.
We go to see Song Without End, the story of Franz Liszt – Dirk Bogarde as Franz – good up to a point. Dirk is gorgeous though!
At night I listen to Afrikaans programme and announcer says, “Nou gaan die sang-tweeling, Anne Ziegler en Webster Booth Indian Love Call sing.”
30 April Anne in paper advertising Stork margarine.