BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1962 – 1963)

I have told about this wonderful period of my life in my book, Sweethearts of Song. Indeed, the whole pattern of my life changed from that time on. Webster has been dead for many years now but he will always remain one of the strongest influences of my life and I will always remember him with love.

Anne and Webster 29 January 1962 in Lower Houghton.
Gilbert and Sullivan programme 7 January 1962 SABC Bulletin
The Andersonville Trial February 1962.
February 1962. The Andersonville Trial. Webster played a very small part indeed!
9 March 1962
Hymn competition winners. March 1962
17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC.

17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC. Article by Webster in the SABC Bulletin.

17 March 1962 Drawing Room on the English Service of the SABC.
Gary Allighan, March 1962
Showing some antiques to the press. 1962.
Anne choosing wallpaper – 1962.
April 1962 Olivet to Calvary, St George’s Presbyterian Church, Noord Street.
4 May 1962 The Vagabond King
June 1962. Music for Romance.
Arriving in Bulawayo, July 1962. He was ill.
July 1962 Bulawayo Eisteddfod
21 July 1962 Bulawayo
July 1962 Bulawayo

July 1962 – Leslie Green broadcasts from the UK.

Leslie Green was in the UK on holiday and Anne and I listened to Tea with Mr Green (broadcast from the UK) when she was in the studio on her own and Webster was very ill. By this time Paddy O’Byrne was reading Webster’s scripts on the Gilbert and Sullivan programme as he was too ill and weak to record the programmes. He visited Anne’s great friend, Babs Wilson Hill and did a broadcast from her home. He said she had the most beautiful garden in England.

Webster was very ill indeed when he returned from Rhodesia and had to spend some time in the Fever Hospital in Johannesburg.

Fever Hospital.

August 1962 – Music for Romance. Anne presented a series of programmes of recordings and reminisces about her life and career in England. It received adverse criticism from various radio critics and only ran until December.

August 1962 – Anne Ziegler
28 August 1962 Round the Christian Year, St Mark’s, Yeoville.
28 August 1962 St Mark’s Yeoville, Round the Christian Year.
At the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in the garden of Petrina Fry (pictured) and her husband, Brian Brooke. October 1962

October 1962 –The Pirates of Penzance. Bloemfontein. Webster directed this production. As a gimmick, he had a chimpanzee to accompany the pirates on stage, but the chimpanzee was not without problems. She disgraced herself during Webster’s opening night speech. He quipped, “You naughty girl. I won’t take you out in a hurry again.”

August 1962 – Webster Booth
Lord Oom Piet. Guest artists, eventually furious to have their singing disrupted by the antics of Jamie Uys. I always thought that was a terrible film and couldn’t understand why Anne and Webster had any part of it.
November 1962 Lord Oom Piet.
November 1962. Elijah.

November 1962 – Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival. Elijah and Messiah, Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape as usual. Later, excerpts were broadcast nationally but, for some unexplained reason, none of Webster’s solos were used in the national broadcast. Two older members of the SABC choir (Gill and Iris) took delight in cattily telling Ruth and me that it was because Webster’s singing was not up to standard and that was why he was not included in the broadcast. That was the last year that Webster sang at the PE Oratorio Festival.

1963

Great Voices – January 1963.
15 January 1963 At Alexander Theatre, Braamfontein
Mr and Mrs Fordyce and their stage family 15 January 1963.
Mrs Puffin (Jane Fenn) and Mr Fordyce (Webster) January 1963
Anne holds a tea party in Goodnight Mrs Puffin.
Photo in the programme of Goodnight Mrs Puffin.
Lewis Sowden crit.
Oliver Walker crit.
Dora Sowden’s crit?
7 January 1963 Great Voices

Accompanying for Webster. Shortly after Goodnight Mrs Puffin ended its run at the Alexander Theatre my father heard a recording I had made of myself singing Father of Heav’n from Judas Maccabeus on my recently-acquired reel-to-reel tape recorder. He passed several disparaging remarks about the quality of my singing and I was feeling extremely despondent when I went for my lesson. Anne and Webster were kind and sympathetic when I told them what he had said.

“My family never praised me for my singing either,” Webster growled. “If it had been up to them I would never have become a singer. Bring the recording along next time and let’s see what it’s like.”

They listened in silence the following week – perhaps my father had been right and it was awful – but afterwards, Anne asked rather sharply as to who my accompanist had been. They were surprised when I admitted to accompanying myself.

Nothing more was said. In the fullness of time, I recovered from the hurt my father’s criticism had caused me and I plodded on regardless. A few weeks later Anne phoned my mother to ask whether I’d like to play for Webster in the studio for a few weeks in April as she was going on a tour round the country with Leslie Green, the broadcaster of Tea With Mr Green fame on Springbok Radio, a great friend of theirs.

I have told about this wonderful period of my life in my book, Sweethearts of Song. Indeed, the whole pattern of my life changed from that time on. Webster has been dead for many years now but he will always remain one of the strongest influences of my life and I will always remember him with love.

Accompanying for Webster (April 1963)
Anne sent me a postcard when I was playing for Webster and she was away on holiday with Leslie Green.
Anne advertising a facial cream for “mature” women! I’m sure most mature women would have been delighted to look as perfect as Anne did at the age of 53!
Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard. 6 June 1963.
The Yeomen of the Guard.
6 June 1963 various cuttings including crits for The Yeomen of the Guard at the Alexander.
Kimberley Jim. Webster plays a bit part – the Inn Keeper – in that silly film. 1963,
9 August 1963 for the opening night of The Sound of Music.
September 1963 Jon Sylvester, radio critic The Star
A nasty comment – probably from “Jon Sylvester” (the pseudonym for the Star’s radio critic, about Webster’s programme.
I was Pooh Bah in this instance. I met Webster in the street one day and he asked me if I had written this note to beastly “Jon Sylvester”. I asked him how he knew that, and he said I was the only person in Johannesburg who could have done so!
They presented a children’s programme on the SABC, produced by Kathleen Davydd. At the same time they made an LP called The Nursery School Sing-along with the children from Nazareth House, conducted by my piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, and Heinz Alexander accompanying them.
21 September 1963 at Pietermaritzburg City Hall.
Michaelhouse, Balgowan.
Pietermaritzburg City Hall.
October 1963 – Ballads Old and New.
November 1963. Fauré Requiem.
Saturday Night at the Palace on the radio in November 1963, Anne, Webster, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson.

MESSAGES SENT TO MY WEBSITE REGARDING WEBSTER AND ANNE (2008 – 2011).

The following messages were sent to me since I have been running this web page. I am also including additional interesting information in note form. I will protect writers’ privacy by omitting surnames. Click on the links to hear relevant recordings. 31 August 2008 I am writing a history of a music firm in New Zealand, Charles Begg and Co. They were the firm responsible for bringing Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth to New Zealand. I am trying to find out all I can about their tour here and was wondering if you have any information, and, possibly, any photographs. I have got a copy of their autobiography which does deal with the tour but would welcome any additional information. Many thanks. Clare My co-author of the book, Do you remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth?, Pamela Davies had received a book of cuttings concerned with Anne and Webster’s tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948. Pam kindly agreed to compile a list of press cuttings which featured Anne and Webster on their tour. She sent this to me by post and I e-mailed it to Clare. Clare used the list when she went to the National Library to find the cuttings. She found some of the microfiche copies indecipherable but kindly sent me typed copies of some of the articles she managed to locate. Anne and Webster arriving in New Zealand (1948)
Anne and Webster arrive in New Zealand. (1948)
6 March 2009 HI, Jeannie I was searching the internet for a song called and the only one I found was on your site in the listing for the This is the song of the Pirate Ship (Heigh Hi Ho) Nursery School Sing-Along No. 2. I know the tune of the song but really need the lyrics as I can’t remember more than 2 verses and I want to teach it to my class. Are you able to help me? Thanks a lot! Regards, Sharon I was glad to help Sharon by sending her an MP3 of the song. She was delighted with it and looked forward to teaching it to her class. 6 March 2009 I have 3 photos of Tom Howell’s Opieros….would you like to have electronic copies? Ken, Swansea Although the photographs were taken before Webster joined the Opieros in 1927, I was delighted to have them. They included Ken’s great grandmother’s sister, Anita Evans of Llanelli. Recently I have added an article to the blog about Tom Howell’s Opieros and I hope to find out more information about Anita’s role in the concert party soon.
Tom Howell’s Opieros. Anita Edwards is to the upper right of Tom Howell who is in the middle of the photo.
8 March 2009 I am Rutland Boughton’s grand-daughter and am very interested to realize that Webster Booth sang The Faery Song from the Immortal Hour. I wondered whether you could email me and we could chat from thereon. I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes, Elaine. Rutland Boughton was on the staff of the Midland Institute, Birmingham when Webster was studying singing there with Richard Wassell. I was able to send Elaine an MP3 of Webster’s recording of The Faery Song and she, in turn, sent copies to members of her family. Later I became Facebook friends with Elaine. 20 March 2009 Their ‘autobiography’ Duet was ghostwritten by the late Frank S. Stuart. I have researched his background in my critical analysis of the Jasper Maskelyne War Magician myths. Frank was adept at presenting amusing tales that were only loosely based on factual events. I have not yet read Duet. I am interested in hearing from you. How accurate a memoir is it? Richard. I exchanged several e-mails with Richard about the ghostwriter, Frank S. Stuart. Anne and Webster wrote the latter part of Duet themselves as they felt that Stuart was implying that they were pacifists (as he himself was). It says a lot for the editor at the publisher Stanley Paul that one cannot tell at what point of the book Frank S. Stuart finished writing and where Anne and Webster continued. Update: Since then I have digitised Duet with the help of John Marwood who proofread my digitisation meticulously. It is available as a paperback and an ebook at: My Bookshop  Various other books concerning Anne and Webster are available at the same link.
Duet – originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. Digitised by me several years ago.
10 April 2009 I was really interested to read that you have in your collection the LPs of the 1963 and 1964 performances of ELIJAH and CREATION in the PMB City Hall. I sang in both these performances as a schoolboy. Any idea how or where I could obtain a copy of either the complete version or even some extracts – and/or a copy of the album sleeves? I recall that the ELIJAH LP box featured the Rose window in the Michaelhouse chapel. Chris EDINBURGH As luck would have it I had been given copies of the LPs which I had transferred to CD several years before and sent copies to the music department of Michaelhouse and to Barry Smith in Cape Town who had conducted the performance when he was director of music at Michaelhouse in 1963. I was able to send Chris the CDs by post and e-mail him a copy of the cover of Elijah which features the Rose window of the Michaelhouse chapel.
Elijah at Michaelhouse School, Balgowan, Natal – September 1963.
Chris shared an amusing anecdote of what had occurred at an Elijah rehearsal: Your comment about Webster showing some strain on the high notes was possibly not only due to his age. I vividly remember a slightly risque comment he made when he arrived for the first Elijah rehearsal with the orchestra and chorus. Barry Smith had the duty of forewarning him that the Pietermaritzburg organ was pitched notoriously sharp and that the orchestra had to tune their instruments up a semitone. Without batting an eyelid, Webster assured him that it was no problem and he would just ‘wear an extra jock-strap!’, a ‘throw away line’ which was the source of much amusement to the teenage boys and girl in the chorus. Update: September 2018. Unfortunately, the postal system in South Africa has all but collapsed since that post was written. The Rand is also in a parlous state, so the days of sending anything by post are long gone. Elijah at Michaelhouse 1963 A brief recitative from the recording.

April 2009 SYLVIA WATSON (NEE REILLY) FROM NEW ZEALAND WRITES:

I have some information about the Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth Springs Operatic Society shows. The 1960 production of A Country Girl was held in the Springs Little Theatre, rather than the Civic Theatre which, I think, was only built in the late sixties or early seventies. John Wilcox and Corinne van Wyk were the leads and I was in the chorus.

The Desert Song was held in the same theatre in October-November 1961. I was in the chorus again for The Desert Song. Incidentally, during the interval a young man from the audience came to the stage door and asked if he could speak to me. We married in 1964 and now live together in New Zealand. So I think we owe Anne and Webster a vote of thanks.

Sylvia Watson

July 2009 Alan Marsh writes: As a teenager in the 1940s I had saved my money to go and hear Webster Booth in Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi Theatre in London. When the night arrived, and just before the performance, they announced that Webster was ill and Heddle Nash took his place. It was magnificent of course, but it was some years before I could have the thrill of hearing Webster Booth in person, but the years of pleasure that followed, before he died, leave wonderful memories of a great English tenor.

I might add that many years ago while I was on Vancouver Island, I went into a little bookshop and came across Anne and Webster’s delightful autobiography Duet, together with her autograph in the book. It not only made my day – but my year too! Percy Bickerdyke, the music editor of Evergreen, was doing an article on them some years ago and he was thrilled to borrow the book from me. It is one of my treasures.

Alan Marsh.

21 September 2009 – My comment. Congratulations to Sipho Fubesi (tenor) from Centane in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, who is this year’s winner of the Anne Ziegler prize at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. 14 October 2009 – My comment. I was very sorry to hear of the death of the Scottish baritone, Ian Wallace at the age of 90. He was one of my favourite singers and I always enjoyed his pithy comments on the BBC programme My Music. He could sing opera, Gilbert and Sullivan, musicals, and Flanders and Swann with the best of them but was not above turning his hand to comic songs with great effect like I can’t do my bally bottom buttons up, Lazin’, and even the rather rude one,  Never do it at the station. My personal favourite was his heartfelt singing of Limehouse Reach by Michael Head. He will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by many. 18 October 2009 – a message from Simon. I just wanted to say how interesting and informative your blog on Anne Ziegler is and how much I have enjoyed the youtube videos. I have been listening to Anne Ziegler since I was 14 and got hold of an old LP, I’m 26 now. I was struck by the video of her singing A Song in the Night. it is beautiful and I wish so much I had it on cd. Do you know of any re-issues featuring it or anywhere I could download it? Also, I thought you may be interested to know there is a video of her on British Pathe.com singing it in 1936 – but alas no sound!!! Wasn’t she beautiful! Thank you, Best regards, Simon I sent Simon an MP3 of Anne’s recording of A Song in the Night by Loughborough. I think this is one of Anne’s best solo recordings. Click on the link to listen. 1 December 2009 – My comment. Tenor, Sipho Fubesi is currently appearing as Paris in the RNCM production of La Belle Helene by Offenbach.

Elizabeth Anne Bailey: My mother and father, Eric and Ivy Johnson were keen amateur singers in Liverpool. My father was a rather talented tenor and might have been professional with the right encouragement. I can’t remember the details of this story well, but one day, I guess it must have been in the early eighties (?), they were wandering …along the beach in Llandudno and my mother said: ‘There’s Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’, and so it was. They fell into conversation and ended up being invited into Anne and Webster’s house for tea, much to their delight.

I replied: What a lovely story – quite typical of Anne and Webster who were friendly and down to earth. Anne was originally from Liverpool so she would have warmed to your parents from her home town. The meeting probably took place in the late seventies or early eighties, as Webster died in 1984.

Charles Jenkins: I remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth fondly from listening to them as a child on the radio. I say ‘remember fondly’ …. this is my recent feeling. As a child, I can not say that I was able to appreciate them …. but WHAT did I know then? I also think that since they were great favourites of my father, I was put off enjoying them. Some rebellions are really stupid in retrospect! I have been listening to them anew on YouTube and have been fortunate enough to re-discover them and lucky enough to realize that they were, and still are, very, very good. I am grateful to Jean for reminding me of them.

Jean Collen. Updated on 10 September 2018.