EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARY – SEPTEMBER 1961

Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne – the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!

5 September – Have lunch with mum. Opening night of The Amorous Prawn. Peter phones at night.

6 September – Go for piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan in the afternoon. She says that I can do a Senior Trinity College exam and seems quite pleased with my  playing. Start on set work and she is stickler about fingering. She is very good but quite impersonal – quite the opposite to Webster and Anne. Her niece brings her a cup of coffee but certainly not to me! Now look at Webster and Anne –  the great man makes tea himself and then gives us all a cup into the bargain!

Oliver Walker’s crit in the Star is a dream as far as Webster is concerned. He says that he has a wonderful sense of timing.

We go to the Strattons at night and are showered with Ann’s handiwork made in connection with the Teachers’ Training College.

Anne and Leslie Green at The Amorous Prawn First Night, September 1961

Article about Mabel Fenney – back in South Africa on a visit from Berlin.

Mabel Fenney back in South Africa on holiday. Returning to Berlin.

7 September – Go into town in the afternoon and book for The Amorous Prawn matinee next Saturday. Go up to Webster and Anne and Webster answers the door as large as life and in quite a gay mood.

My friend Dell is in having lesson once more singing Mimi’s aria from La Bohème and breathing badly. Anne gives her usual breathing lecture and makes her practise. Dell says, somewhat sarcastically, “I had better take up swimming to improve my breathing.” Anne says that the area around her own ribs is quite hard which is unusual for a woman and also very large. She used to be quite tiny when she was young – 89,000 years ago – but intercostal breathing developed her. She goes on about how healthy it is to breathe properly and yesterday morning after Webster’s first night when they both felt like hell, breathing did them good.

I go in and pay. Webster asks if I’d like some tea and I say I would love a cup. Anne shouts through – “Boo – will you bring the biscuits, darling?” She asks if I’m going to see him in his play and I say, “Yes. I booked today for next Saturday’s matinee.”

Anne says, “Oh, sweet! It’s really a wonderful play. The first night was one of the best I’ve been to – the audience laughed right through the whole three hours. Being British, I think you’ll really enjoy it.” I say that the crits were wonderful and she agrees emphatically. Webster says I mustn’t expect to see him till about 5 o’clock. He’s actually very modest about the whole thing.

We start on scales and she makes me smile into a little mirror. I get it right but my cheeks tremble for some reason. She, of course, has to notice this.”

She corrects the Delilah vowels – I tell her that she’ll have to excuse it because I was ill at the weekend when I did it. She is all sympathy and finds out that I had a stomach chill. Most of the vowels are right. She tests them as she goes through it and says, “This would sound funny on the tape.”

When we do the aria they are both very happy about it and say that there is an improvement. Webster goes to put 6d in the meter. She says the aria has come on very nicely and next week we must do something about the consonants.

When we have tea and Anne has a biscuit, she says, “I shouldn’t have this really. I’m getting so fat!” I almost choke with derisive laughter! Thankfully, I don’t say the inevitable, “Oh, nonsense, Anne. Look at me!”

I happen to be wearing a copper bracelet for it matches the clip in my hair. Anne says she hopes I’m not suffering from rheumatism. We have a good laugh about it.

I meet Webster at the bottom of the stairs and say goodbye to him.

I go to choir at night and we work through anthem which is lovely – I hope they do it properly on Sunday.

Listen to Webster at night. He presents a really charming programme. He starts with Elijah and says that it’s popular because it’s tuneful music and he thinks that, first and foremost, music should be tuneful. He plays a duet sung by Isobel Baillie and Gladys Ripley, conducted by Sir Malcolm. Next, he plays his own recording If, With All Your Hearts, with Warwick Braithwaite conducting, next Is Not His Word Like a Fire? By Harold Williams. He plays three arias from the Magic Flute, more from Gypsy Baron and ends with Nutcracker suite.

9 September In the Star there is a gorgeous picture of an almost aristocratic-looking Anne with Mr Leslie Green at first night of Amorous Prawn.

10 September Sunday Times crit by James Ambrose Brown is also excellent and says much the same about Webster – suave, man of the world. Very nice.

Mum and I go with the Diamonds to Hartebeespoort dam and we skirt Craighall Park. I like it very much – it isn’t anything like Houghton but just nice, and in-between and quite modern.

12 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum. We decide that as I am presumably going to start work soon I should go today and see Anne to arrange a time for my lessons.

She phones and Webster answers and tells him that it is Mrs Campbell, Jean’s mother. He says, “Oh yes, how d’ye do?” Mum asks to speak to Anne and he says, “Who?” and eventually obliges with Anne who says I can come at half past one.

I go up to the studio. Webster answers the door. He opens door, looks at me and says in outraged manner, “What the dickens are you doing here?” I tell him that I have an appointment at half past one and he looks relieved and tells me to have a seat for a few minutes. There is a big bass singing very loudly. Hear Webster cursing the kettle – “My God, this kettle’s got too damn hot!”

Anne comes in to see me, dressed in tight skirt and dark over-blouse. Her hair is almost straight but attractive as always. She goes through her appointment book while big bass continues to sing. We decide on Friday at 5.30 for next week. She asks, “Are you glad you’re starting work?” I say, “Not particularly. I’ve enjoyed doing nothing!”

13 September – Go for piano lesson in afternoon. I feel more at home with Mrs S now.

14 September – Go to Anne in afternoon. She answers the door looking glorious in a very low-cut summer dress. A girl is singing Hello, Young Lovers – not very well. Anne says, “That must be the Irish in you.” The girl says quite vehemently that there is no Irish blood in her. Anne says, “Oh, surely – with a name like Maureen!”

Maureen departs I get a surprise when I see that it is Maureen Schneider who was at college with me.

Anne and I have discussion about times and come to reasonably satisfactory arrangements. Webster presents me with the Samson and Delilah record with a really seductive picture on the cover. Anne says we should listen to it here first so while Webster sets up the record we start on scales. She makes me go to the mirror to see that I drop my jaw right down and then she comes over and puts her arm round me and we do it together. She says that my scales are really lovely.

Webster plays the aria and says I have in my own voice all the power and quality of Risé Stevens if I would project and bring it forward and work. He wants to hear me singing with as much richness as Risé Stevens next week. I have a wonderful voice and I must use it. I feel quite embarrassed but it must be true – he doesn’t say things without meaning them.

Webster makes tea and I sing the aria – well, I think. Webster goes to put 3d in the meter. Anne says she doesn’t think I’m too young to sing Delilah because she had a friend, Nancy Evans and she sang it at 16. She tells me that when she was 17 she joined a women’s choir of 24 voices and received more training in it than anywhere else.

I tell her that I know Maureen and Anne says she seems a sweet girl but hasn’t got a voice anywhere near mine.

We go on with the aria and it goes well. Webster’s suit arrives and Anne signs for it. Webster is in the kitchen with Roselle who is making a frantic attempt to wash the dishes. I depart with record and the signature of Webster Booth scrawled all over it.

I go to choir and then listen to Webster. Today is the 220th anniversary of Messiah so he plays some of it. It was first produced in Dublin where you can get gorgeous shrimps. Handel discovered that one of the singers – a little man from the North wasn’t singing in the right time. He said to him in broken English, “I zot you zed zat you could seeng at sight?” Replied the man, “Ay, so I did, but not at first sight!” His accents are gorgeous and I have a good laugh. He plays the chorus, The Glory of the Lord.

At the opening ladies were requested not to come to the performance wearing hoops. He, himself, has given a recital in the same music hall and he liked it. He plays his own recordings from Messiah and says that this is one of his favourite recordings and one of his best.

He goes on to Madame Butterfly which he says he doesn’t like it very much as it is built around two arias, The Love Duet and One Fine Day.

He goes on to Eldorado by Ralph Trewhela. He says it was originally written for “Anne and myself” for a radio programme but because Anne had so many commitments he was “ably partnered by Doris Brasch”.

15 September – Go to guild at night. I give the epilogue which goes very well and everyone congratulates me about it. We practise for Guild Sunday and they can’t manage one of the hymns so Mrs Russell makes the 4 from the choir sing it alone. Once again I practically sing a solo. I have to do the reading and talk about the work.

Peter walks Doreen, and me home and I get home at about 11.

16 September – We go to see Webster’s play and it is really gorgeous. When we arrive the first people I meet are Claire Judelman and Adele Fisher. Claire tells me about European trip and I tell her I’m here to see my singing teacher. First two acts are good and at the beginning of the third act I see a woman slipping in to the theatre and think it is Anne. Webster comes on – handsome, well-dressed, young-looking – perfect for his role. His diction is glorious, his acting well-timed. He makes the play and when he takes his bow I clap until my hands are red and almost blistered.

I see that Anne slips out the minute the lights go up and I am a little disappointed but when we get outside I see her a little way down the road talking to a fat garrulous man. She is wearing the same dress that she wore on Thursday, flat shoes and straight hair. I go up to her and her face lights up and I tell her, “Oh, Anne, I thought your husband was lovely.” She says, “Oh, I’m so glad you liked him. Did you enjoy the play?” I say, “Oh, yes, it was wonderful. Please tell Webster I thought he was lovely.” She asks if I came with my parents and when she sees them she smiles in charming fashion.

I come home – on air. I believe I enjoyed my little talk with Anne better than anything else that afternoon – except Webster of course. I noticed that she also clapped violently for Webster and laughed loudly at all his jokes. She probably didn’t want to be recognised because she did look a little bit of a sight. The blurb in the programme reads:

17 September – Go and have all my little children for Sunday school. Afterwards I go to Betty’s house with my record (Webster’s actually!) and we listen to Risé Stevens. She has a really thick – or should I say, velvety? – voice. I shall never sing like that. I wish Webster didn’t have such confidence in my voice. I have a nice tea with the Johnsons but feel a bit insulted when Mrs J says that she thinks Webster has a far better voice than Anne and she doesn’t like her. People – especially women of her own age seem to dislike Anne but it’s probably because she’s too attractive for them.

At night we have a guild service and I do the reading which goes off well. Afterwards we have a social and see a film about Liverpool delinquents.

18 September – Letter comes from Aunt Nellie in Scotland and she says her stepson and his wife know my teachers and remember them well.  Practise piano and singing.

20 September – Go to piano lesson and all goes well. Mrs S is very affable and we concentrate entirely on the work in hand.

21 September – Go into town and have lunch with Mum and then go to lunch hour concert. Phillip Levy is the piano soloist. I meet Jill Harry. She doesn’t like her job and is leaving at the end of the month.

Meet Gill Mc D in the street and she is very affable for a change. I go up to studio and Anne arrives late with her hair almost straight. She says that all she seems to do is rush around. She was playing for an exam this morning and what with the Springs eisteddfod she has had “a hell of a week”. She gives me a new exercise to do so that I can get up speed.

She says I must be getting a bit sick of Oh Love so I can start a new song soon. We do Oh Love and on the trill my tongue goes up so I must get it down. We look in the mirror and her tongue goes up too! She says she didn’t pay enough attention to her tongue when she was a girl and now – “at my age I’m having to battle with it. When I’m singing publicly I know that if my tongue goes up my voice will go out of pitch and I’d hate to think that when you get to my age you’ll blame me for not insisting that you keep your tongue down!”

Maureen is ill today so Anne comes down on the lift with me to do some shopping. We talk about the play and I say how lovely I thought it was. She says, “Weren’t you shocked?” I say, no. She says she thought he was very well-cast. “Of course some snobs say that it isn’t real theatre, though, is it? But I think it’s a masterpiece.” She quotes, “Easy to write first and second acts but the third act is the telling one.”  She treats me as though she is genuinely fond of me and she always brings out the best in me.

Go to choir and come home and listen to Webster. He starts with Dream of Gerontius sung by Heddle Nash and Dennis Noble. He says, “It may be of interest to you to know that I am going to sing in The Dream in PE in November.”  He goes on to Tosca. He plays his own recording from it and two other recordings by the Rome opera company.

He goes on to Merrie England and says, “Anne and I have played Bessie and Raleigh innumerable times.” He plays his recording of the English Rose – one of the loveliest recordings I have heard.

Then he says, “I’m going to let you into a secret. When I first took Anne to the recording studios for a test recording, the song which she sang was Bessie’s Waltz song. When she signed her first contract the company gave me the test record and I have it here with me now.” He says after the record is over, “Not bad for a young beginner, is it?”

Next week he is going to play more from The Dream, Der Rosenkavalier and the White Horse Inn.

23 September – Go into town in the morning and meet Ann and Leona preparing to study in Rhodes Park library. I go to Central library and then to John Orrs. When I come out the first people I meet are Webster and Anne and Lemon. Anne is wearing black and white striped dress. She is terribly sweet and Webster gives me big grin. Lemon dashes around madly. What a lovely surprise.  Meet Liz Moir as I’m going down Eloff Street.

27 September – Go for lesson with Mrs S. Her studio houses the Trinity College examinations room. Imagine my surprise when I hear a well-known voice talking to someone, “You’ll have to come and have dinner with us then.” I decide not to greet her in case she thinks I’m taking singing with Mrs S instead of with them.

I have my lesson and Mrs S loads me with work which I shall do. On the bus home I think that I should have greeted Anne for I shall have to mention it to her tomorrow so that she understands that I’m doing piano and not singing with Mrs S.

28 September – I have lunch with Mum and then go to a lovely lunch hour concert – Sonette Heyns sings and Edgar Cree conducts. I meet Jill and Lynn afterwards and we talk for a while.

I kill time in the library for a while and then go up to studio. Anne is wearing a pink striped dress. Middle-aged pupil called Nellie is having a lesson. Webster is playing a recording of his Abide With Me (Liddle) and he says, “I’ll play this for you one Thursday night – say a fortnight from today.

Nellie departs and Webster tells me to go in. Before we start on scales Anne tells me about all the prizes they had won at the Springs eisteddfod. I say, “Were you at the Trinity College examination rooms yesterday?” She says she was, and I tell her I was going for a piano lesson with Sylvia Sullivan and I heard her speaking to someone. She said she was speaking to the old examiner from Britain who comes out every year and looks about 90 although he’s only 70!

We start on scales and on one note Webster says, “That was glorious – sing it again!” Over tea I tell Webster rather nervously that I loved his play. He says, “Oh, did you like it? It is fun, isn’t it. Did the others like it?”  I say, “Yes, it was lovely.”

Anne says that on that day after the show she went out to see a particular garden. The roof was off on the Hillman and she was wearing flat shoes so she arrived looking a dreadful sight but didn’t expect to see anyone she knew. When she walked in all her friends were there and she felt terribly embarrassed.

We do Roslein and it is agreed that it is an improvement beyond bounds from the last time I sang it.  We do Hark, Hark, the Lark and she decides that we should do it. We look at it in one of her books which she has had since school days. He says he hates it for he sang too much of it as a choir boy.

I listen to Webster at night and find complete peace listening to him. He plays a few excerpts from The Dream sung by Heddle Nash and Gladys Ripley. He says he found it very difficult at first but then decided it was the loveliest oratorio of the lot.

Then he goes on to The Rosenkavalier which he sang in 1938 at Covent Garden with Erich Kleiber conducting. He tells the story of Lotte Lehmann’s husband being arrested by the Nazis and she was so upset that she was unable to continue with the performance.

He plays some pieces from The White Horse Inn and says that he spent many happy weeks in the Austrian Alps where the musical is set.

Continue reading “EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARY – SEPTEMBER 1961”

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – MAY 1961

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.

Anne at La Traviata with Mrs Bosman de Kock and Adelaide Newman

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 MessiahHe 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 PenzanceCome 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.

Mabel Fenney (1959)

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?”

“Yes.”

“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”

Goodbye.”

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.

Gary Allighan

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!”

Durban concert