2 October – Start working in Barclays Bank, Simmonds Street. It is not as bad as I had expected. Am put in cables department where I do a little typing. Girl, Marty teaches me what I have to do. My boss is an elderly silent type, Mr Peddie, and his underling is an elderly jovial type, Mr Ford.
At night I get mummy to phone Webster about a reference. He answers and mummy explains that she hopes he will be a referee for me. He says he knows all about it – he had a form to fill in a few weeks ago – how long he had known me etc. He hasn’t a clue where he sent the form back to but he did send it. Mummy thanks him very much and he says, “She needn’t worry: I said she didn’t back horses or gamble!” He says he’ll give me a written reference if necessary. It’s funny that he didn’t mention it to me.
Mr Russell also filled in a form and gave them all the low-down about me, and will give me a reference on Thursday.
3 October – Work and make a half-hearted attempt to practise both morning and evening.
4 October – Work a half day and go to music in afternoon. Mrs S works me hard but she is very sweet and I like her. Go and play table tennis at night.
5 October – Work. We talk about singing and Martie says she loves to sing.
After work I go to the studio. Webster answers the door. I listen to Nellie (who is about 40) singing the Liddle setting of Abide With Me. Her voice isn’t bad but she’ll never be an opera star. Webster goes to put money in the meter and I go in and pay Anne. I tell her that I appreciate Webster filling in that form for the bank and she says that it was a pleasure. I say that they need a written testimonial as well and she says he will also give me one. He’ll type it out at home and post it to me tomorrow. Anne says she knows somebody in Kensington – Heather McDonald-Rouse’s mother. Do I know her? Yes, I know her well. She is delighted!
We do some scales after tea which don’t go very well at first but improve as I go higher. She says my range is developing beautifully, especially my high notes.
We start on the Noel Coward medley and Anne says that I must cover my ee vowels and sing forward. She says that of course it’s very pop and common, then she stops and says reflectively, “I shouldn’t call it that when we made so much money on that type of music.” I say that I like it very much and I love listening to their recordings of it. She says, “Oh, sweet!” and turns red.
They sing Dearest Love together and I just keep quiet. They sing so beautifully that I want to cry. I clench my teeth together so that I don’t cry! On Let’s Say Goodbye they find the music (and words) rather nauseating. Anne says Noel Coward probably wrote it after a hectic night out in the Bahamas. She says he is described by Eric Blum in the Actors’ Who’s Who? As an actor, playwright and AMATEUR musician!
Webster discovers that the sink in the kitchenette is blocked and the water is seeping through to the seventh floor. He phones up about it and when nothing is done he gets into a rage and says if they don’t do something soon the water will seep through and the people on the seventh floor have just had their walls redecorated. He says violently, “Bloody fools!” First time I’ve heard him that violent. After this interlude we pass on to Hark, Hark which Anne says we must concentrate on very hard next week.
Depart, leaving them fussing over the blocked sink.
Go to choir at night.
Listen and record Webster’ programme. He starts with a sacred record by himself which is beautiful, then more from The Dream, Pagliacci and then two duets from Lilac Time by themselves.
6 October – Work, but not terribly hard. Martie and I talk for hours and I manage to transpose I’ll Follow My Secret Heart – it goes well.
7 October – Work harder today. Webster’s reference is there. It is very nice.
It was sweet of him to write it and it touched me to read it! He is such a famous and busy man and yet he took time to write me a reference. Mr Russell gave me a very long eloquent reference but somehow I shall always treasure Webster’s halting one which he typed himself and signed with a flourish.
9 October– Back to work. Quite a pleasant day.
10 October – Public holiday. In the afternoon Dad and I go to see Hand in Hand at the Monte Carlo. See the Booths’ green Zephyr when we come home.
11 October – Work hard and go to music in the afternoon. Mrs S says I am doing good work. I go to ordination service at night – very impressive.
12 October – Work hard and have lunch with Mum. Go to Webster and Anne in the afternoon. Webster answers the door and says, “Isn’t the heat dreadful?” I agree wholeheartedly. Nellie is singing quite nicely today and she gives me a big grin when she leaves. Anne comes in and we complain about the rather ghastly hot weather and then the very cold winter. She says that when she first moved into the house in Craighall Park she needed 4 blankets, a hot water bottle and an electric blanket and thinks the winters here are worse than they are in the UK.
We start with scales and they go well. When Webster comes in I thank him for my reference and he says, “Oh, was it all right? I told some fine lies, didn’t I?” We all have a good laugh.
Anne tells him to make some tea because “Jean is dead.” Says Webster, “That makes two of us.” He goes in and upsets the kettle on the table. Anne turns white and rushes in to see what is wrong. She comes back and says, “What frights that man gives me!”
We go on to the Noel Coward medley and she is delighted with the transposition of I’ll Follow My Secret Heart. It all goes quite well. She tells me that she sang the song in panto after she’d fought the dragon, and won the lady in Puss in Boots in East London. She sings Dearest Love by herself and it sounds really gorgeous. She explains that I must push the time forward and then pull it back in songs of this kind. We go through them and she marks the pauses. She says that good songs sing themselves but Noel Coward’s songs need showmanship and selling otherwise they would sound corny.
Webster says that my voice sounds beautiful and in a few years it’ll be really gorgeous. He says that my “e” vowels have improved tremendously, and I say that I’ve been practising hard! He says, “Yes, I can tell that!”
Anne asks when I get time to practise and I tell her of piano practice in the morning and singing in the evening. She says that if you are tired, the voice is the first thing to go because it is so much part of you.
When we finish – miles over time – she tells me that she has to appear in court tomorrow at 9.00 am. Evidently she bought a sewing machine from someone in Forsdsburg and traded in her old one. The man ran off with her old one and she refused to pay the full price so she now has a court order against her. She says she’ll probably be there all day so “Maestro” will have to hold the fort in the studio. I say goodbye and wish her luck in tomorrow’s case.
Webster’s programme is gorgeous as usual. He plays the prelude to Missa Solemnis by Beethoven and a Jewish chant. Then he plays his own recording of Just For Today, with Gerald Moore accompanying.
His opera is Turandot and then two duets from The New Moon “sung by Anne and myself,” Wanting You and Lover, Come Back to Me.
13 October (Friday!) Have damnably gruelling day at work and then go to guild where I play in front of about 300 people for hymns at the Youth Rally where they have a Methodist cavalcade play which is very good. Dr Webb comes to the event and receives a wonderful ovation.
14 October – Practise and at night we go to Spargos. Ann Stratton is there too, so Joan, Ann and I go to see a group of one-act plays at the boys’ school. Cecil Williams (the communistically-inclined producer) adjudicates and talks for an hour – brilliant and witty. Kudu House wins on a play held last night. We come home with Peter Spargo. It is about 1 in the morning now!
19 October – Go to Webster and Anne after work. Nellie is singing O Love, From Thy Power badly. When she gets to the high note Anne says that she changed it on “Jean’s copy” so they change it on her copy too.
I go in and we talk about the horrible weather and she asks if I’ve seen any good plays lately. For want of something to say I talk about the plays at the boys’ school and Cecil Williams. She is not at all keen on him. She makes tea and tells me that her brother was ten years older than her, and her sister twelve and a half years older so she was almost like an only child in another generation.
We start on scales and she says I must control my breath more and not move my “bos”. We toddle over to the mirror and she demonstrates her fantastic breathing once more. Webster comes in and says, “If you don’t smile I won’t give you a cup of tea!” I smile!
I say I hate singing in front of my father because he criticises me so much. Anne says it’s fatal to sing in front of someone – she won’t even sing in front of Webster. She says Roselle’s father has a down on her voice and made her give up singing to concentrate on the piano for a year. Webster says, “I think he’s Afrikaans though, isn’t he?” That dismisses him!
We do Rest in the Lord and it doesn’t go too badly. Anne says I must watch diction and not sing in my throat. I must keep my voice forward in the mask and always feel it in the head – easier said than done.
Webster says I must sing everything to “mee” until I get proper resonance. He says that he’ll be playing the aria in the third week of November on his programme, sung by Norma Procter. I ask whether his programme is on tonight and he says, “No. These damned election results have put a stop to it. If only it had been Wednesday for the results and not today.”
20 October Work is fairly quiet today. I don’t practise singing today and feel a little down-hearted.
21 October – Work till 11.30 this morning. I practise in the afternoon and singing improves a bit. We’re going to convert the second bedroom into a studio so that I can have peace to practise.
22 October – Piano is now in its new position in the second bedroom.
Little Sunday School boys are better today. Molly Reinhardt says in her column that Webster is going to Durban with The Amorous Prawn. I hope Anne stays at home. What would I do if I didn’t see either of them for months on end?
Inge Alexander visits in the afternoon so we have rather an unmusical time.
25 October – Work very hard. Go to music in the afternoon and Mrs S works me hard too. She is, nevertheless, very sweet, but I will have to work very hard for the forthcoming piano exam.
Go to anniversary practice at night.
26 October – Work very hard – it’s like a sweat-shop! I do get my first wages though. I have lunch with mum and buy square-toed shoes.
At night I go to singing. Webster answers the door dressed in a short-sleeved shirt. I say hello and sigh and he says, “Yes, it’s that kind of day, isn’t it?”
Nellie is singing “my” Delilah aria very badly indeed. She complains that sometimes she feels she can’t sing at all – That’s just how I feel sometimes too! When she goes, Anne says, “Well, the next victim can come into the hothouse!”
Webster goes down with Nellie to put money in the meter and I go in and unburden my worries and grievances to Anne. She is the ideally sympathetic audience.
We start on scales and they go very well today. Webster says I must sing the high ones twice as quickly as I’m doing at the moment. He goes off to make tea and comes back looking rather aggrieved telling her that his finger has burst again. Evidently he had a very bad burn and now has a big blister.
She marks my vowels in Rest in the Lord – not as good as I did them last night at the anniversary practice. I sing the song and he says it’s very good apart from the “ee” vowels. We do one particular part with all ee vowels and it goes a little better. We do He Shall Feed His Flock and they are thrilled with the improvement – thank goodness, as that was what I sang as a solo in church. We do O Love From Thy Power to fill in time as the next chap doesn’t arrive. Anne says she doesn’t like to talk about other pupils to me but Nellie drags this aria out too much and will never sing it properly. She’s Afrikaans of course and rather slow. Anne says she herself trained in her teens as a mezzo in her teens .
When I ask her whether she’s going to Durban for a month she says, ”God, no! I’m just going for one Thursday because there are five Thursdays in November.”
Webster adds, “Someone has to earn the money, Jean!”
` I say goodbye and depart feeling remarkable invigorated by the lesson. When I went up I was exhausted but when I left I was a new being.
Listen to Webster at night. There was a storm so the reception was grim. He plays the Alto Rhapsody sung by Kathleen Ferrier, Where E’er You Walk (by himself) He also plays the duet from Barber of Seville sung by himself and Dennis Noble. He finishes with Eldorado.
27 October – Work – not quite as busy today but bad enough. Practise in a mediocre fashion at night.
28 October – Work in the morning and thank God to say goodbye to the bank for a day and a half. I meet Mum and we have a shopping spree – 3 dresses and a petticoat. We have lunch then meet Dad and see The Hustlers – a rather revolting picture with Paul Newman as the star.
29 October – It’s pouring this morning. Hope it stops for the anniversary. It does. Sing for about 3 hours in all. It goes very well. Have tea at Betty’s in the afternoon and tea at the manse at night.
31 October – Work hard. I get a lovely surprise in the paper at night – Anne posing as Mrs Siddons from the original Gainsborough painting. It is the most gorgeous photo I have ever seen of her.