6 July – I go to the music library and have lunch with Mum in the Capeniro. Afterwards I go to the lunch hour concert and meet Jill Harry, who is much nicer than usual. Edgar Cree conducts orchestra beautifully – Eric Coates suite, My Fair Lady, with soloists from the orchestra.
At night I go to the choir with the Strattons. Anne has gone on holiday with Leona. Mr Stratton and Mrs Weakly are singing a duet on Sunday night. Come home from choir and listen to Webster on the radio. It’s difficult to believe that I haven’t seen him for over two weeks. He starts off with something from Elijah but makes the terrible mistake of saying, “Now something from Mendelssohn’s Messiah!” He plays Woe Unto Them sung by Gladys Ripley and an aria by Harold W. He also plays his own recording of In Native Worth (Creation), which is lovely and two extracts from Nabucco. Evidently Nabucco was the nickname Verdi gave to Nebuchadnezzar because the proper name was so long. “I always associated Nebuchadnezzar with one of the earliest stories I ever heard. A man knocked down a cow in Nebuchadnezzar street and went to fetch a policeman to see what he could do about it. The policeman came along and took out his notebook to write down the details. When he realised the name of the street he said, “Let’s drag the cow round into Smith Street – I can’t spell Nebuchadnezzar!”
He plays an aria by Ezzio Pinza and then the Slaves’ Chorus. After that comes the part of the programme I’ve been waiting for – The Vagabond King, revived by them in 1943 at the Winter Garden Theatre. He plays three duets from the show and I lie in bed and cry the whole way through!
He ends with the overture to Iolanthe and says it’s his favourite G and S opera. And then goodnight and goodbye for another week, but I’m luckier than most – I’ll see them on Monday. I don’t honestly think I could live without seeing them. They’re different from parents and relations. I know that one day I’ll have to say goodbye to them – it’s inevitable – happiness like this doesn’t last forever, but while it does there is no harm in being happy, is there?
7 July – I hear Webster singing in an early recording from 1936 – I Breathe on Windows – a very lively affair by Billy Mayerl.
8 July – Go into town in the morning and buy a few things, including a Rhodesian newspaper. Webster and Anne’s concert in Salisbury is splashed all over it. Go to see Return to Peyton Place with Dad – seaminess isn’t in it!
9 July – Go to Sunday school and have the pleasure of teaching my little boys – and one little girl – and also playing the piano for the department. Sing in choir at night.
10 July – Go to lesson in the afternoon and enter a very quiet Polliacks building (family day) They are running late so I sit in the kitchen and listen to them giving a lesson to Dell. She sings Il Bacio very charmingly and Webster sings along with her. Anne can’t stand this so she says quite rudely, “Shut up!” He does for a time and then joins in again. Dell says that she heard Doris Brasch singing this song very nicely the other evening and evidently Anne gives her a very fishy look for Dell says, “Oh, don’t you like her?” and Anne replies, “Yes, but I think that this is far too high for her.”
Anne has her hair died mousy blonde which looks quite attractive and startling. She tells me she had a really nasty time in the last week. “As you know, I went up to Rhodesia and the first thing I did was to contract a ‘flu virus so I spent practically the whole time in bed.” We start on scales and she looks really ill. I feel terrible for making her pound away at the piano. Webster comes in from the verandah dressed very flamboyantly in a brown checked waistcoat and brown shirt. They are pleased with my scales.
We go on to Rest in the Lord and Webster tells me to almost hum the first note to get the hang of it. He sings along with me and this time she doesn’t tell him to shut up. During one of the breaks, Anne tells me that when she was in Rhodesia she had to make a recording but collapsed halfway through it on Tuesday and then had to get up to do the concert on Wednesday and then they had to finish the recording on Thursday and by the time they got home he had the ‘flu as well. Anne shivers the whole time during my lesson and complains of the cold – she can even make the ‘flu romantic!
We do the Messiah aria which goes reasonably but not nearly as well as when I had Anne to herself. She discovers the Noel Coward songs that I have in a book and she plays them through, singing them vaguely and is quite delighted with them. She says I may as well do a few of them because what I’m doing is hell of a serious, so she picks out three and I try them. I feel a bit nervous singing musical comedy in front of them for isn’t that where they made their money and their name? Anyhow, I do and all goes fairly reasonably. If Webster didn’t exert that magnetic personality of his, I should feel far happier.
When I leave I tell Anne that I hope she will feel better soon. She smiles wanly and says she hopes so too. During the lesson, she remarked several times that she was feeling dizzy, so I was waiting for her to faint into my arms.
Webster comes down with me on the lift to unlock the door, and for want of something better to say, I tell him that it was pity they both got ‘flu in Rhodesia. He says, “I honestly think it was more of a heavy cold that I caught.” His manners are charming as always, and he opens the doors in a courteous fashion and comes right out into the street with me. The pictures are out and I can feel the eyes on us, staring at him. I just happen to be in the way! I leave him standing at the door of Polliacks in the “I am a monarch of all I survey” attitude.
13 July Go to studio in the afternoon. They are talking to a man from the Star as they’re going to advertise for more pupils. “A few vacancies exist for selected pupils..” The ad is going to be in the Star all next week.The man leaves and there is another knock at the door. Webster answers and says, “My God, you’re early aren’t you?”
“I know, I’m sorry,” says Roselle. “But I’ve got a reason. Two men were pestering me downstairs.” Webster looks amused and says, “Well, you’re lucky that someone takes notice of you, aren’t you?” Roselle makes a horrified face and says, “Oh, Mr Booth – they’re horrible.”
Anne tells me that she has to go for her glasses from the optician, but Webster will take me through exercises. What a vile player he is. Exercises go reasonably, but Rest in the Lord cracks on “rest” – an “er” vowel – and we do various experiments to get this without a crack. I think it is partly nervousness at being alone in the presence of the maestro. However I manage to waffle through it and then Anne returns and listens and says it is very unsteady – the understatement of the year.
Do some more exercises and Webster says, “Well her voice cracks in the right place.’ Anne says, “Nonsense – she’s not a bass!” I do more exercises and eventually it is a bit better.
Webster tells me to get Samson and Delilah and look at an aria there. Anne, being in a flippant mood today, rubs it in about me being a contralto with a mezzo top!! I ask her how her ‘flu is now and she says, “Oh, fine, thank you. I got rid of it by working in the garden.” Come home feeling worse than death.
At night Webster plays Schubert’s Ave Maria sung by Marian Anderson – a contralto who doesn’t crack and I don’t suppose she would crack even if she had someone as terrible as Webster to accompany her! He plays Love in her eyes sits playing from Acis and Galatea. He says afterwards, “Well, all you young tenors, get your tongues down and your jaws working!” Bragger.
He plays two recordings from Lohengrin – the prelude and an aria and then some music from Kiss me Kate with Alfred Drake and Pat Morrison, and says that it came to London about 1950 but “Anne and I heard the record before it came to London and we liked Wunderbar, which has since become our most popular duet.” He plays two cuts from the record and says, “Now Anne will join me in singing Wunderbar in Afrikaans, believe it or not.” I can safely say that this left me cold. Their accents, voices, everything about it is terrible. Webster ends with the Nutcracker suite and says that next week he’ll play something from Gangway.
17 July – Poor Linda Michael from college was killed in a motor crash with her brother. Can hardly believe it – poor Linda.
19 July – Back at college and all is miserable because of poor Linda’s tragic death.
2O July – College goes nicely with Jill and Lyn. Go to studio and a gorgeous blonde Anne answers the door. She tells me that Dell is sick – her sixth cold this season.
We start on “ca” and Anne is pleased with new tone. Webster comes in, rather red in the face, and looks surprised to see me there so early. They are pleased with cas and we start on Oh, Love, From Thy Power from Samson and Delilah. Anne sings the whole thing jolly well, considering that it is miles too low for her. She says that Cora Leibowitz sang it at the eisteddfod for the mezzo solo.
This song ends on low A flat and they spend time getting my jaw in the right position for it. After seeing much of Webster’s bad teeth, I manage it. Anne says I must put some “guts” into it and gives rather a good imitation of my choir boy lyrical singing of the dramatic aria. Then she laughs and pats me and tells me that she doesn’t mean to be unkind – I know that, don’t I? I start again and become a little more dynamic and put “Vulgarly I know, darling, guts into it.”
Says something to Webster – and looks fondly at him, saying, “An old North country expression, isn’t it?” She asks me to copy the piece out and, as she says, it’s a stinker to play and to copy. Swears charmingly, “These bloody keys; where the hell is it?”
Webster sees me to the door and asks concernedly if I can manage. They are in good moods today. Meet Roselle on ground floor rushing madly, “Am I late?” she yells, and then, with a “My goodness!” she jumps into the lift and is gone.
There is an article in the paper about them in the morning – they were guests of honour at the Rand Women’s club and spoke archly about their world tour in 1948.
Go to choir and am now listening to Webster. He starts with the Bach Mass in B Minor – Hosanna in Excelsis sung by the Society of Friends of New York. He says he thinks the performance is too staccato. He plays the Ab Dextrum sung beautifully by Kathleen Ferrier. Webster says she was “the loveliest of singers and our dear friend”. He plays his own recording of Sullivan’s Lost Chord made in the Kingsway Hall which seats 2000 people, a full symphony orchestra and a choir of 500. Accompanied by Herbert Dawson on the organ.
He plays three pieces from Il Trovatore and says that he isn’t very fond of the opera – it’s a bit corny. He saw the opera at the Carl Rosa when they were going through a bad period and the chorus was very small so they had to relay it.
25 July – College. At night (after large singing practice) Peter Spargo takes me to Sunday school fellowship at Ann S’s home. A wee bit dull but we have a lovely tea! Come home at 11.
27 July College – all gay. Go to studio in afternoon and I listen to Dell having a lesson. Anne is in a really lovely mood. She comes into the kitchen and asks, “Would you like a cuppa?” I agree and she fills the kettle. “The old man’s sick, so that’s why he isn’t here.” I say, “Oh, shame. What’s wrong?” She tells me that he has ‘flu really badly and she was frightened in case it was going to mean congestion of the lungs. “On Monday he came home from doing his recording and felt so ill he went to bed.” On Tuesday she called the doctor and he said Webster had to stay in bed. By Wednesday he was delirious.
Then Anne says, “Don’t think I’m telling you lies if I tell someone on the phone that he’s gone away for a few days. There is a certain woman who would be over at our house immediately if she knew he was alone in bed!”
We do some scales and then have tea. She says she has a terrible headache from all the running around. She had a lot of penicillin injections in Rhodesia so she warded off the ‘flu but Webster got it badly. She has a misplaced vertebrae and she’s not even supposed to lift a case, but she likes gardening. “Life’s too short to take precautions and worry about everything.”
We do Oh, Love and she is delighted with the transcription and said she’d come to me any day for copy work. The song goes fairly well and we go through it several times. She is a darling today and I sing well – better than when I’m trembling in front of Webster. I say that I hope Webster will be all right soon and she says she’ll be glad to have him back in circulation again.
I listen to him at night. I haven’t got my list of records here but I remember most of them – a glorious record of Be Thou Faithful Unto Death. He says he always sings this at weddings. Please let him sing it at mine! He also plays his recording of Celeste Aida – from Aida, in his opinion Verdi’s best opera – conducted by Sir Malcolm. Plays a selection from South Pacific – not a musical I care for. Next week his musical will be King’s Rhapsody.
He talks about adjudicating in in Salisbury and the good choirs they have there. “But, alas, choral work seems to be a lost art in the Union,” says Webster. I hope he’ll be better soon.
28 July – Last day of college. Say goodbye to Jill and everyone and feel quite OK about it. I have lunch with mummy then we come home – meet Liz Moir and she asks what I’m doing I say in my “Lizzie” voice that I’m unemployed at present. She wishes me luck and we bid each other goodbye – I still think she’s a pet.
29 July – Go for a job interview this morning. We buy a Philips 4 track tape recording and it is really gorgeous.
We see Tea for Two with Doris Day and it is lovely.
At night I hear my own singing voice on tape for the first time and I am quite pleased. It’s not as bad as I imagined it might be. We have fun with the tape recorder!
30 July Tape, tape glorious tape! In the afternoon I record Webster and Anne’s Hear My Song, Violetta and it is perfect in every respect but not sentimental enough to make me cry. I go to church and night – Denis Newton preaches beautifully and the choir sounds a little better than usual.
31 July Spend the day practising singing and piano and amusing myself on the tape – great fun.