BROADCASTING IN SOUTH AFRICA

Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following lis of radio programmes from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.


Anne and Webster settled in South Africa in mid-July 1956. I compiled the following lis of radio programmes from newspapers, magazines and personal diaries. Contact me if you can add more information to this list.


MOBILGAS MELODY WORLD 16 February 1956/57? Springbok Radio,

16 February 1956

Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in a programme compèred by Michael Drinn.


LIGHT UP AND LAUGH – ITMA, December 1956

December 1956

Thirteen-week series on Springbok Radio, recorded at the Brooke Theatre. Webster (rather incongruously!) took Tommy Handley’s part in South African presentation of ITMA scripts.


ELDORADO, (Ralph Trewhela) 1957

Anne and Webster took the leading roles in this musical, directed by Frank Douglass, SABC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Jeremy Schulman. Work commissioned by SABC for 21st anniversary programme.


AT HOME WITH ANNE, commenced on 21 January 1958. Anne presented this series on Springbok Radio. The programme was still running in July 1959.


DO YOU REMEMBER? 1959 to 24 April 1960, Anne and Webster presented weekly music programme on Springbok Radio on Sunday afternoon. They spoke about their illustrious careers and the people with whom they had worked.

Anne in a recording of a broadcast at SABC, 1963

CONCERT HOUR 1960 – English service of the SABC. SABC Concert Orchestra, Rita Roberts, Webster Booth, Asaf and Philharmonic Choirs, conducted by Anton Hartman.


DOUGLAS LAWS Record show, 4 October 1960. Anne and Webster appeared as guest artistes.


MESSIAH 8 December 1960 Webster sang tenor solos in the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley.


TEST YOURSELF 1960. Anne and Webster presented this quiz show together on Springbok Radio.


OPERA, ORATORIO AND OPERETTA (ON WINGS OF SONG) Wednesdays at

On Wings of Song. 1961

8.30 pm, later Thursday, 9.20 pm, 1961

Webster presented a weekly programme of recordings (including some of their own) on the English Service.


DREAM OF GERONTIUS, MESSIAH, 27 November 1961. Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival broadcast Monday and Wednesday at 8pm. Webster, with Emelie Hooke, Joyce Scotcher, Harold Hart, Port Elizabeth Orchestra, directed by Robert Selley.

27 November 1961 from Port Elizabeth.


GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 1962, 1963. When the copyright on Gilbert’s words ended, Webster presented a weekly programme on the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas on the English Service. During his illness in 1962, Paddy O’Byrne read the scripts of this programme.

Webster presents the Gilbert and Sullivan Radio programme January 1962.


DRAWING ROOM, April 1962

Webster presented a short series of drawing room concerts before a studio audience on the English Service. He and Anne sang in this series, and a number of guest artistes took part. He also sang duets with the bass, Graham Burns. The guest artistes were Doris Brasch, Rita Roberts, Gert Potgieter, Gé Korsten, Graham Burns, Jean Gluckman, Kathleen Allister and Walter Mony The accompanist was Anna Bender.


MUSIC FOR ROMANCE, August 1962. Anne presented a series of programmes in which she presented recordings and reminisced about her life and career in England.


PORT ELIZABETH ORATORIO FESTIVAL, November 1962

Elijah and Messiah from Port Elizabeth.

Webster, Monica Hunter, Joyce Scotcher, and Graham Burns, conducted by Robert Selley. The complete oratorios were broadcast locally in the Eastern Cape. Excerpts were broadcast nationally later, but strangely none of Webster’s recordings were used in the national broadcast.


SUNDAY AT HOME, January 1963. English Service. Paddy O’Byrne conducted a fifteen minute interview with Anne and Webster at their home in Craighall Park.


GREAT VOICES, January 1963-1964. Webster presented this series on the English Service. He was criticised by the critic Jon Sylvester of The Star for including some of his own recordings, yet most people expected to hear Webster Booth the singer as well as Webster Booth, lately-turned broadcaster.

RECITAL WITH ORCHESTRA 8 April 1963. Anne and Webster sang a programme of duets, with orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree, on the English service.

I was Pooh Bah!


BALLADS OLD AND NEW, July 1963. Webster presented this short series on the English Service towards the end of 1963.


CHILDREN’S PROGRAMME 1963/64 Anne and Webster presented a series of children’s programmes, directed by Kathleen Davydd.

Nursery School Sing-Along.


SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE, November 1963. A short series, which attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Music Hall on the English Service. Anne and Webster were guest artistes on this programme. 

Webster, Anne, Jeanette James and Bruce Anderson sing a quartet in the programme


OPERA AND OPERETTA, July 1964, Monday, 7.35 pm Webster returned to the English Service with this series.


IF THE SHOE FITS, Christmas 1964. Webster and Anne starred in this Christmas pantomime on the English Service.


TEN OCLOCK AND ALL’S WELL, September 1966. Webster was guest presenter for a week in this short series on the English Service.


2 October 1966, CITY HALL, JOHANNESBURG. ORCHESTRAL CONCERT (FOR JOHANNESBURG EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY)

Anne and Webster were soloists, with the SABC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cree. Webster told Edgar Cree that he was not pleased with his voice and thought it was time for him to stop singing.

O lovely night (Anne and Webster)

Drink to me only with thine eyes (Anne)

Lehar medley (Anne and Webster)

The Holy City (Webster)

Love’s old sweet song (Anne and Webster)

We’ll gather lilacs (Anne and Webster)

Selection from Bitter Sweet (Anne and Webster)


MELODY MARKET, May 1967. Webster presented this programme in the early morning on the English Service.  “A sort of housewife’s choice,” was how he described it in a letter to me. It was the last programme for the SABC before leaving Johannesburg for Knysna a month or so later.

19 September 1966


SOUTH AFRICA A TOUCH OF THE BRITISH, 29 May 1973. BBC TV. Documentary. Anne and Webster appeared in this BBC TV documentary. Anne said that she had had enough of South Africa and wanted to go home to die. The programme ended with Anne and Webster singing We’ll gather lilacs.


PETER BROOMFIELD’S OPEN HOUSE, 20 March 1975. English Service. Anne and Webster were guests of Peter Broomfield on his morning programme, broadcast from Cape Town, on the English Service. Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) who was on a visit from the UK, and Anne and Webster’s singing dog, Silva were also present in the studio. Silva sang along to a Harry Lauder record!


A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 19 and 26 October 1975. English Service. Webster reminisced about his career in the theatre.


A MUSICIAN REMEMBERS, 2 and 9 November 1975. English Service. Anne reminisced about her career in the theatre.


WOMENS’ WORLD, English Service, 1975 – Pamela Deal, who had conducted the first interview with Anne and Webster when they stopped off briefly on their way to Australia in 1948, interviewed them again when they decided to stop singing in public. They had given a farewell concert in Somerset West towards the end of 1975. This decision was rescinded when they moved back to the UK in early 1978 and found that people remembered them and wanted to see and hear them once again.


RADIO TODAY 1485 When Anne and Webster left South Africa their voices were rarely heard on South African radio. Ronald Charles, the broadcaster and musician who had been the musical director at Michaelhouse in the sixties, played several of Webster’s oratorio recordings from his personal collection on his classical request programme. As far as I know most of the 78s in the SABC record library were discarded, but as time passed, a number of their recordings were released on CD. Occasionally a recording was played on Uit Vergange se Dae on Radio Pretoria.


Paddy O’Byrne was always happy to play a recording when he was with the SABC and later at Radio Today, although his access to their recordings was extremely limited. Clare Marshall, on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star on Radio Today 1485, is about the only broadcaster in South Africa to feature their recordings regularly. Sadly, Radio Today does not feature her excellent programme Morning Star any more.


Compiled by Jean Collen. Updated in 2019. 

WEBSTER BOOTH IN ORATORIO

Webster Booth and oratorioAlthough Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

Webster Booth and oratorio

Although Webster Booth is remembered today as a romantic duettist in partnership with his third wife, Anne Ziegler, he told me that oratorio had given him the greatest satisfaction in his singing career. He was certainly a renowned oratorio singer in his day but this has been forgotten by most people who know more about him singing We’ll Gather Lilacs than tenor solos in various oratorios.

Two of my most cherished possessions are Webster’s Messiah and Elijah scores. The Messiah score had belonged to his father, Edwin Booth, whose name is written in the score, followed by Webster’s own name.

Webster’s Messiah score

Elijah cover

In the two front pages, he listed some of his Messiah dates from 1928 when he sang at the Birmingham Town Hall on 3 November 1928 with the Choral and Orchestral Union, to performances of various oratorios in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa with Robert Selley at the Oratorio Festivals there in 1961. The list includes a performance at the Royal Lodge Chapel on 15 February 1948 with Anne Ziegler in the presence of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, performances with the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society and the Hallé Concert Society. Several Good Friday Messiahs at the Albert Hall are listed, where the entire work is performed without any cuts.

His first Good Friday Messiah was on the 10 April 1936 when he was 34 years of age. The Royal Choral Society concerts were usually with his champion, Malcolm Sargent as conductor, but he also sang with Sir Thomas Beecham at the Queens Hall on 17 December 1938.

21 December 1938 Messiah

He sang in many performances of Elijah, The Creation, Joshua, Judas Maccabeus, The Creation and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. It was after an afternoon performance of this last work at the Queen’s Hall on 10 May 1941 that this beautiful hall, Webster’s favourite concert hall, was destroyed by an incendiary bomb that night. Webster preferred Handel to Bach, but I see that he did sing in a performance of the latter’s Christmas Oratorio in South Africa in 1960.

December 1938 Messiah

Another Good Friday Messiah in April 1943

I think it is sad that he did not make a recording of the Dream of Gerontius as he was renowned for his performance in this work. Neither did he take part in complete recordings of Messiah or Elijah. When I was studying with him and Anne Ziegler I learnt the part of the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius and he sang the tenor part with me – how I wish I had a recording of it now! He sang in the first performance in South Africa of the work with the young Keith Jewell, Cape Town’s city organist (then aged 27) in 1957, the year after the Booths arrived in South Africa.

People in South Africa were inclined to think that the Booths had been out of favour in the UK and that was the reason why they moved to South Africa in 1956. This was far from the case. Admittedly their recording contract with HMV had been cancelled in 1951 and I have never been able to work out why the contract was cancelled as they were both in excellent voice at the time. But they had plenty of theatre, television, radio and concert engagements in the 1950s. Webster sang his last Messiahs with the Huddersfield Choral Society in December 1955 and January 1956. They moved to South Africa because of increasing problems with the Inland Revenue rather than because they were not as popular as before.

Anne Ziegler sang in exactly one first class performance of Messiah in Blackpool in January of 1944. Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was at that time) conducted the performance with the Huddersfield Choral Society.

1944 Blackpool Messiah

As a thirteen-year-old girl, I heard Webster and Anne sing in a performance of Messiah at St James’ Presbyterian Church which was then situated in Mars Street Malvern. The advertisement below (from 1956)  shows the same soloists and choir at St George’s Presbyterian Church (the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg) which appeared a year later  at St James. Even at that young age, I was aware that it must have been a come-down for Webster to be singing this work in a suburban church in South Africa after he had been singing at the Albert Hall not very long before. While Anne sang in the performance at St James under the musical director of the main Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, Drummond Bell, she was not asked to sing in more important oratorio performances, such as the one at the Johannesburg City Hall a month later, or with Robert Selley at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival.

In 1957 the first South African performance of The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar) was presented at the City Hall in Cape Town with Webster in the main role, conducted by Keith Jewell (aged 27).

The Dream of Gerontius was also presented in Port Elizabeth at the Oratorio Festival conducted by Robert Selley, where Webster was a soloist from 1957 to 1962.

27 November 1961 – SABC bulletin.

In 1963 Webster was invited to sing in a performance of Elijah with the combined choirs of Michaelhouse and St Anne’s in Natal, conducted by the young Barry Smith who was musical director at Michaelhouse at the time.

The following year he sang in a performance of Creation with the same singers. This time Ronald Charles was the musical director at Michaelhouse.

By that time Webster was 64 years of age. When he moved to Knysna he presented excerpts of various oratorios with the Knysna Choral Society and (in his late sixties) sang several bass solos in Elijah in 1968, something he had always wanted to do as he had a very wide range and a resonant lower register.

Webster’s oratorio recordings include the arias from Handel’s Messiah, Judas Maccabeus, Samson, and Acis and Galatea, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St Paul, and Haydn’s Creation.

Jean Collen

12 July 2017.

Revised and enlarged on 13 March 2019.