DIARIES CONTINUED – October 1963

4 October – Webster phones and Lucille comes to the studio and we arrange to meet tomorrow at the Rand Show Grounds for the Theatrical Garden Party. I meet Webster outside Thrupps. When I come back, I give him the bob and he is delighted and bends over me and kisses me sweetly and thrillingly. Anne is pleased with the result. Webster goes through songs with me and I have a long chat with him – heaven!

1 October.- Go to studio. Irish woman, Eileen Lawless phones about the theatrical garden party. Talks of “Anne and Leslie”. Ruth phones at night to invite us to Intimate theatre to see Playboy of the Western World. It is excellent. The young actor, James White is brilliant. We have coffee in Hillbrow afterwards and then take her home.

2 October – Go into studio. The pianist, Ivor Dennis comes to visit them. I lunch with Mum and buy some new clothes.

3 October – Go into studio and Webster arrives after making record with boy soprano, Robin Lister and feeling exhausted. Anne and I have an interesting chat. We visit Mrs Hooper and her son Alan. She is the sister of Ralph Trewhela. I sing for them and they seem to like it.

4 October – Go to studio and Mummy phones with results for ATCL – 77% which is very good.

Webster phones and Lucille comes to the studio and we arrange to meet tomorrow at the Rand Show Grounds for the Theatrical Garden Party. I meet Webster outside Thrupps. When I come back, I give him the bob and he is delighted and bends over me and kisses me sweetly and thrillingly. Anne is pleased with the result. Webster goes through songs with me and I have a long chat with him – heaven!

5 October. – Theatrical Garden party. I meet Lucille and Ruth outside the Rand Show Grounds. We have a cold drink in the refreshment pavilion because Anne and Webster are late and we are not too sure how to aid proceedings. The New Zealand bass, Inia te Wiata who is in the country to sing in Show Boat for the Johannesburg Operatic Society, is there, saying that he is very keen to see his old friend, Webster Booth. When Webster and Anne eventually arrive, we can hear them fighting with each other before we even see them. When they see us, Webster stops fighting and is pleased to see us, telling us that we look gorgeous. He puts his arm around me, saying that we have plenty of time to have a look around at everything. In contrast, Anne is still in a terrible mood, doesn’t even speak to us and marches off by herself. Webster has to run to catch up with her and we are left to our own devices.

We eventually see them having strawberries and cream with the VIPs. He signals to us to come over to their table but Ruth tells us to ignore them after Anne’s unpleasant behaviour towards us. Ruth brings me home and we have tea and decide that we will tell them that we met some boys we knew and had a hilarious time dancing in the rock ‘n roll tent! We could have had a lovely time with them were it not for Anne’s bad mood. I wonder why she was so cross with him.

6 October- Drive like a hell hound along the airport road and have rather a reactionary day recovering from Anne’s snub yesterday.

7 October – Go to studio and work for a bit. Ralph Trewhela phones. He has a friend who would like to meet Webster. I meet Ruth and her mother and the latter drives us home where Ruth and I have lunch. We enjoy ourselves running the Booths down after the disappointment on Saturday, and singing corny duets together which we record. She invites me to her house tomorrow to swim. We give her a run home.

8 October – Go to Ruth’s to swim and have fun apart from developing beetroot sunburn on my delicate Scottish skin. After having lunch there I go to studio. Webster is very charming when talking about the garden party but they make no mention of Anne’s bad mood. Apparently Inia te Wiata went back to Leslie Green’s house and they all had a party there. Anne asks if I can come on Monday from now on as they are going to teach at home on Tuesday.

10 October – Aunt Ina comes and we spend a day of constant natter as she runs down all our mutual relatives. We take her to Zoo Lake for tea.

11 October – Go into studio and lunch with Mum. Anne arrives in the afternoon. It is impossible to hold a grudge against her for long. Her arm is still sore and she feels sure she’s getting arthritis. Webster comes and says I might as well get on and do the LTCL. I sing My Heart and I for a last fling before thinking of the next exam.

12 October – Go to Mrs S in morning and have piano lesson and then work with Elaine. Just before choir practise Mrs S tells me that Webster was simply raving about me to her and saying how proud he is of me – and apparently Anne is also.

Dad phoned Webster today and he agreed that I could sublet the studio from next March and that I should go on with licentiate and fellowship.

We go to the Piccadilly and see Carry on Taxi.

14 October – I work hard at harmony. Ruth phones to ask me to some concerts. She’s given the Booths free tickets to the Maria Stander recital and is going to go with them. I wish I was going to that concert too.

Maria Stader (soprano)

15 October – Webster phones in the morning to ask if I’d play for him on Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday as Anne is going to have her neck stretched. Naturally I agree. I decline during the rest of the day so get Mum to phone them to say I can’t come to lesson. Apparently he and Mum are now on Christian name terms. I phone him at night and he tells me the hours for accompanying. He says Anne will have to have a week of treatment. He asks whether I’m feeling any better now and tells me not to work so hard.

17 October – Accompany for Webster. During Linda’s lesson he spends time patting me on the cheek! Yvonne, Margriet, Louisetta, audition, Graham and Freddie come and we have jolly day with them. Freddie takes us to the garage and when Webster helps me out of the car he puts his arm around my waist and keeps it there. He takes me home and we talk outside for a while. I phone Anne to say he’s on his way home. She is feeling a lot better after the treatment. She was probably feeling ill on the day of the garden party and possibly didn’t even want to go to it!

18 October – Lucille arrives first and tells me all about her recently holiday. When Webster arrives wearing his dress suit, he tells me he’s going to the first night of Show Boat and Clara Butt will take me home. Lucille has her lesson and then I have mine during which we decide what to do for next exam. Selwyn, Myrna, Gertie and Charlotte come and all goes well as far as the piano is concerned. I say goodbye to him and am taken home by “Clara Butt” and husband. I feel a bit put out that Anne was not well enough to come to the studio but is well enough to attend the first night.

19 October – Go to Mrs S and have piano lesson. Go to Booth studio and Webster arrives shortly afterwards full of moans about last night’s late night at Show Boat. I make him some black coffee and we have Leanore who is also tired. Erica and Ruth follow. Ruth is very agitated and excited about going with them to hear Maria Stader. At one moment she tells Webster not to look at her when she’s singing and he says, “You want to spend the whole evening at the concert with me but you can’t bear me to look at you!” Robin is full of events in Show Boat chorus, and then we have Frances and Henrietta, sisters who sing duets together. Webster brings me home – we meet Margaret on the way to the garage. He tells me about their new house in Parktown North and about the wallpaper he has chosen for his bedroom. He is not keen on going to the concert as he is still very tired and says it’s a pity I couldn’t go instead of him but he knows Ruth would be upset if he didn’t go. He says he doesn’t like going out at night now that he is old!

20 October – Ruth phones in the morning to tell me about last night. She got home at 10.45 and they had coffee in the café in Parktown North afterwards. She asks me to go to a Shura Cherkasky recital at the SABC in the afternoon. Gill is there. Cherkasky is brilliant and plays the Mozart sonata I am playing myself. Ruth brings me home and we have supper and a cosy chat.

Shura Cherkassky

PUPILS OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER IN JOHANNESBURG.

Students of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

The following people studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth at their studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Building, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, or at their home in Parktown North. The list is incomplete as it has been compiled from memory and from the diaries I kept at the time I was accompanying for Webster in the studio. In some cases, I have forgotten people’s full names.

LUCILLE ACKERMAN (Soprano) I was in the middle of my lesson when Lucille and her family arrived for her audition. She had spent a year recuperating after an illness on the family farm near Piet Retief. During that year she had worked at improving her singing technique. Hendrik Sussann, the well known Afrikaans bandleader and violinist, lived on a neighbouring farm. He featured her as a singer in his band’s broadcasts on the SABC. She was nineteen years old – a year older than me – and she had a remarkably mature and pleasing soprano. She was already a consummate performer, but needed lessons to improve her musicianship. She and I did several singing examinations at the same time.

During her studies with Anne and Webster, she took the lead in an Afrikaans production of The Merry Widow in Kempton Park. She went on to make a number of Afrikaans recordings and formed a successful duet partnership with the broadcaster, the late Francois van Heyningen, who became her second husband.

DENNIS ANDREWS (boy soprano) I played for Dennis and Selwyn Lotzoff at an audition for Taubie Kushlick’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. The audition took place one Saturday morning in Gwen Clark’s luxurious penthouse on top of Anstey’s Building in central Johannesburg. I accompanied the boys on an excellent grand piano, and afterwards we were treated to a slap-up tea with Mrs Kushlick, Mrs Clark and Ockert Botha. Neither boy won the part of Amahl as a boy soprano was imported from England.

DORIS BOULTON (soprano) Doris Boulton was originally from the Potteries district of England. Her husband worked at a pottery near Irené, on the outskirts of Pretoria. She had an exceptional soprano voice and was also extremely musical – the two gifts do not always go together! She had broadcast extensively with the SABC, but with a change of management, her file was mysteriously lost and she was required to re-audition. This second audition was not favourable, despite her being a better singer than many who continued to give regular broadcasts.

She was singing Richard Strauss’s Serenade in an impossible key, and my attempt at sight-reading this makes me blush even forty-odd years on. Doris and her husband gave Anne and Webster a beautiful white tiled table, inscribed with roses and a few bars of their signature tune, Only a Rose, made by Mr Boulton on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary in 1963.

In 1966 Doris Boulton produced The Merry Widow in Irené and took the leading role of the widow in question, Hannah Glavari.

Webster and Anne attending “The Merry Widow” first night as guests of honour.
Doris Boulton as the Merry Widow (1966)

Doris remained friends with Anne and Webster and visited them a number of times in Penrhyn Bay. She returned to the UK some years ago and settled in Stone. I was sorry to hear from her daughter, Jan Bruns that Doris had passed away in 2008.

 

HEATHER COXON (soprano) Heather was a charming young schoolgirl. She had a light, sweet soprano.

ROSELLE DEAVALL (mezzo soprano) I first heard Roselle sing when she was fourteen years old. I was impressed at the maturity of her voice at such a young age. We discovered that we lived in the same suburb, and visited each other several times. I still have a reel-to-reel recording of her singing The Mountains of Morne, complete with Irish accent.

She stopped having lessons but took them up again after she left school.  In 1966 Webster told me that Roselle had stopped having lessons with them as “They were unable to teach me anything more.” The last I heard was that she was singing with the Performing Arts Company of the Free State. (PACOFS).

NORMA DENNIS (soprano) Norma was the understudy to Diane Todd in the role of Eliza in the production of My Fair Lady in the Empire Theatre, Johannesburg.

Mabel Fenney (extreme left) as Jill-all-Alone in East London production of Merrie England. (Photo courtesy of Julian Nicholas)

MABEL FENNEY PERKIN (soprano) Mabel met Anne and Webster first when she appeared with them in a production of Merrie England in East London, in the Eastern Cape. At the time she was preparing for further music diplomas, so she decided to come up to Johannesburg to have lessons with the Booths.

In 1960 she came to Jeppe Girls’ High as a relief music teacher and gave a recital for the girls in the School Hall. She was instrumental in my decision to study with Anne and Webster. She won the University of South Africa Singing Bursary and studied at the Hochschule in Berlin for two years.

She met her second husband, Maurice Perkin while she was abroad and after her divorce and remarriage to Maurice, she lived and worked in England for a number of years before they came out to South Africa. During her time in England, she sang the role of Susannah in a semi-professional production of The Marriage of Figaro. I met her again in 1976 when she was living in Florida (South Africa) and we became very good friends. We sang duets together until she and her husband retired to the South Coast of Natal.

In April 2009 Mabel celebrated her ninetieth birthday. She died in Uvongo on 6 March 2011, just a month short of her ninety-second birthday. She is sadly missed but ever remembered by me.

VALERIE FIGGINS (soprano) Valerie Figgins also attended Jeppe Girls’ High School, and she too was present at the Mabel Fenney recital. Valerie had a strong voice at an early age and studied with another teacher in Johannesburg before going to Anne and Webster for lessons. I do not know how long she remained with them. We were in the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal’s (PACT) production of Nabucco together in 1965.

ROBINETTE GORDON (soprano) Robin had a sweet soprano voice. When I first met her when I was accompanying for Webster she was singing in the Johannesburg Operatic Society’s production of Show Boat, in which the great Maori bass, Inia Te Wiata was engaged to sing Ole Man River. She went on to sing in further JODS productions of The Yeomen of the Guard, The Merry Widow and Guys and Dolls. I remember coaching her in a jazzy chorus in the latter work – Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat! She later joined PACT, where she sang in a number of operas. I was sorry to read of her death several years ago.

MARY HARRISON (mezzo soprano) Mary was an Australian who came to South Africa with a production of My Fair Lady. She and the understudy to Scottish Diane Todd’s Eliza Doolittle, Norma Dennis, took lessons with Anne and Webster while they were appearing in My Fair Lady in Johannesburg. Mary was an attractive redhead, with a lively personality and ready wit. She stayed on in South Africa after the show and established herself as a professional actress in Durban. She died prematurely some years ago. I was also sorry to hear that Diane Todd died from leukemia in London earlier this month  (April 2010) at the age of 72.

DUDLEY HOLMES (bass) Dudley was completely taken aback to find me at the piano for one of his lessons. He told me later that he had never sung for anyone but Anne and Webster and was very nervous to sing in front of me. He need not have worried. He had a pleasing bass voice, and went on to do many concerts, recitals and shows, first in Johannesburg, and later in Kimberley, where he lived for many years. He returned to Johannesburg some years ago and kindly contributed a memory to my book with an article about his long association and friendship with Anne and Webster.

INNES KENNERSLEY I played for Innes, who was a miner, several times. At the time he was singing a series of Victorian and Edwardian ballads, such as Goodbye and Parted. He used to arrive at his lesson with a large reel-to-reel tape recorder and record the entire lesson. I wonder what happened to all those interesting recordings. They would certainly be of great interest to me if they are still around.

MYRNA LEACH I played at some of Myrna’s lessons and got to know her better when we were in The Merry Widow together in 1964. She had recently married and was particularly proud that Webster had sung My Prayer at her wedding. I believe she subsequently divorced and married for a second time later.

MARGARET LINKLATER (soprano) Margaret was Scottish and lived on the East Rand, where her family ran a bakery in Benoni. She had a very pleasing soprano voice. I remember her singing Gounod’s O Divine Redeemer.

ROBIN LISTER (boy soprano) Robin had an exceptional soprano voice, more like a mature female soprano than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He made several recordings which Anne and Webster supervised. Through the recordings he became well known and appeared at a number of concerts until his voice broke. After his voice broke, Anne and Webster taught him to play the piano. He became an engineer and immigrated to Australia.  Robin Lister sings “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. 

Robin Lister (1964)

SELWYN LOTZOFF (boy soprano) I played for Selwyn at several eisteddfods and at the Amahl and the Night Visitors audition. I particularly remember him singing the Afrikaans song, Die Roos. He immigrated to America and now lives in New York. He is pictured (above left) with his wife.

COLLEEN MCMENAMIN (mezzo soprano) Colleen had a rich mezzo voice and she was very keen to turn professional. She auditioned for Brian Brooke’s production of The Sound of Music at the Brooke Theatre. Brian Brooke was impressed with her singing but suggested that she should take speech lessons before considering a stage career. Despite this setback she appeared in several professional productions in Johannesburg.

BRIAN MORRIS (baritone) He had a voice reminiscent of Peter Dawson’s and a confident stage presence. I got to know him better when he sang in PACT’s production of Nabucco in 1965. Anne chose Brian to take the leading male role of Danillo in her Bloemfontein production of The Merry Widow in 1965. Through this blog I have heard that Brian died in 2006 and is survived by his wife Denise. Those who heard him sing through the years will remember his beautiful voice and charming personality.

PIET MULLER (tenor) Piet Muller had a beautiful tenor voice. He was studying with Anne and Webster in 1962 and for a time had the lesson before mine. I particularly remember him singing Can I Forget You? on the day Webster returned to the studio after his serious illness in 1962. Webster sang part of the song to illustrate a particular point to Piet. Amazingly, Webster’s voice sounded as good as ever despite his illness and his advancing age. Several years ago I heard from Piet’s family member that Piet had died some years ago.

RUTH ORMOND (soprano) Ruth was my special friend at the studio. She and I joined the SABC choir,when it was resurrected in 1961, and Anne suggested that we should meet one another. She was still at school, a year-and-a-half younger than me and, like me, she was originally from Glasgow. She was short, with piercing blue eyes and honey-coloured hair. We both thought the world of Anne and Webster and we loved singing, although neither of us was filled with confidence about our vocal abilities. We did exams together and although we lived a fair distance apart, we visited each other regularly. We made up for the distance between us by making frequent telephone calls. At the cost of a tickey (3d) a call, we could afford to talk as long as we liked – and we did! We made tape recordings of our singing and impromptu play-readings. I still have these recordings in my possession today. In 1962 her mother won a substantial amount of money in the (then) Rhodesian Sweep.

My dear friend, Ruth Ormond, 1963

Ruth went to Cape Town University to study singing in 1964 and sadly died of a cerebral haemorrhage at the end of her first term there. Her parents created an award in her name at Cape Town for the best first-year soprano. She was nineteen years old when she died. I still miss her. I have never had a dearer friend.

LINDA WALTERS Linda came all the way from Vereeniging for her singing lessons. She sang lighter material, like Fly me to the Moon.

ERNEST WESTBROOK (tenor) I did not know Ernest when he was taking lessons, but I met him many years later when Paddy O’Byrne,  the broadcaster gave him my phone number. He had many of Anne and Webster’s recordings and was also an admirer of the Australian bass-baritone, Peter Dawson.

MARY WRIGHT (soprano) Mary’s brother, Desmond Wright, had conducted The Yeomen of the Guard in 1963 when Webster took over the role of Colonel Fairfax at short notice. She had a pleasant light soprano and concentrated on oratorio.

OTHERS: Richard Darley, Elizabeth du Plessis (soprano), Jennifer Fieldgate, John Fletcher, Yvonne Marais (soprano), Joan Metson, Thea Mullins, Betsie Oosthuizen (soprano), Bill Perry (tenor), Piet van Zyl (bass).

I do not remember the full names of the following: Corrie, Dell, Erica, Ferdy, Frances and Henrietta (sisters who sang duets together), Gertie, Graham, Gretchen, Miss Greyvenstein, Hennie, Janet, Kathy, Leanore, Lorentzia, Louella, Louis, Marian, Myrtle, Nellie (a mezzo-soprano who moved to the Free State), Reeka, Shirley, Winnie (a Scot who lived in Modderfontein and sang in the local operatic society).

If anyone can tell me what became of any of Anne and Webster’s pupils, or if you studied with them, I would be very glad to hear from you.

Jean Collen 12 September 2018.

 

 

ACCOMPANYING FOR WEBSTER AGAIN.

Later that week we went to see The Yeomen at the old Reps Theatre in Braamfontein, now named the Alexander Theatre after Muriel Alexander. We were very impressed by Webster’s performance as the somewhat elderly Colonel Fairfax, who wins Elsie Maynard and breaks poor Jack Point’s heart in the process. Anne told me that Webster would be very hurt if I didn’t go backstage to see him afterwards, so I did. He was fighting off the ‘flu and did not look well, although from the auditorium nobody would have realised that he was ill.

This article is mainly from my book, available at: Lulu.com

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I had played for Webster for two weeks while Anne was away in April and assumed that I would no longer be needed now that she had returned. Anne and Webster insisted that I keep the spare keys to the studio so that I could work there when they were not teaching. I was preparing for the ATCL singing examination in October and Grade 8 piano the following year, so I found the studio, high above the hustle and bustle of downtown Johannesburg, the ideal place to work and practise. In return, I answered queries, took messages on the phone, and answered the door to visitors.

Towards the end of May the Johannesburg Operatic Society (JODS) asked Webster to take over the role of Colonel Fairfax in their production of The Yeomen of the Guard at short notice. This was an incongruously youthful role for someone aged sixty-one, but he acquitted himself as well as he always did and lifted the production with his dynamic stage presence and undiminished vocal gifts. The show opened to mixed reviews, but all the critics had great praise for Webster. Dora Sowden headed her review in one of the Sunday papers:”Webster towers”. He had certainly taken on a remarkable feat as the juvenile lead at sixty-one.

6 June 1963 The Yeomen of the Guard, JODs Alexander Theatre RDM (2)

Later that week we went to see The Yeomen at the old Reps Theatre in Braamfontein, now named the Alexander Theatre after Muriel Alexander. We were very impressed by Webster’s performance as the somewhat elderly Colonel Fairfax, who wins Elsie Maynard and breaks poor Jack Point’s heart in the process. Anne told me that Webster would be very hurt if I didn’t go backstage to see him afterwards, so I did. He was fighting off the ‘flu and did not look well, although from the auditorium nobody would have realised that he was ill.

1963 Yeomen of the Guard 1963-06

In June, while Webster was still involved with The Yeomen, Anne told me that their housekeeper, Hilda, who was from the island of St Helena, was planning a trip home for six and a half weeks. Anne and Webster had decided to do alternate days in the studio while she was away as they would have to do the housework and cooking themselves. Would I care to accompany for Webster again? I did not have to think twice about it before agreeing to do so.

After Hilda left on her trip I settled into accompanying for Webster once again. Anne came in on alternate teaching days so occasionally I had a lesson with her. One Monday afternoon Ruth phoned me at the studio to ask whether I would like to have dinner with her family before going to the SABC choir meeting afterwards. Webster gladly agreed to take me to Parkwood instead of Kensington, as it was on his direct route home. We drove past Zoo Lake and he pointed out his bowling club, saying it was the loveliest setting in the world in which to play bowls. He had played golf in England, but could not afford to do so in South Africa.

I had a pleasant dinner with the Ormonds, and then Mr Ormond transported us to the meeting in his big black Rover which had been bought from the proceeds of the £40,000 Mrs Ormond had won in the Rhodesian Sweep the year before. There was a party after the meeting and Ruth and I chatted to Anton Hartman, the chief orchestral conductor at the SABC. Toward the end of June, we sang in the Light Music Festival where we did a number of unaccompanied American, German and Afrikaans folk songs. The Dutch conductor Jos Cleber conducted the orchestra, with Gert Potgieter and Bob Borowsky as soloists. Ruth was working for matric exams, and I for my singing diploma so we decided to take leave of absence from the choir, with the idea of returning when our respective examinations were behind us.

One evening, after we finished work at the studio, Webster took me with him to see one of The Three Petersen Brothers in connection with going into partnership with them in a new film company. Webster introduced me as: “This is Miss Campbell. She plays for me.” The Petersen brother concerned looked mystified. Webster had to explain to him exactly what it was I played! Although they had a long discussion, nothing came of the film company as far as Webster was concerned.

In July Anne had a very bad cold which lingered on for a long time, and Webster had a funny turn one evening. He lost his vision, and his head was spinning even when he was lying down. Anne told me that she wanted him to see the doctor about the state of his general health and his general grumpiness, but he refused to do so. She admitted that he hated teaching everyone apart from his few “pets”. She was very worried about him.

From the way he treated Lucille at her lessons, I gathered that she was one of the “pets”. She was having her twenty-first birthday party and had invited them to her party, but they had another engagement and could not attend. For some reason I felt quite jealous of her and was glad that they weren’t going to her party!

A few days later Webster told me that Anne’s cold was no better. He wanted her to see the doctor about it but instead she had insisted on going to Leslie Green’s draughty house for dinner. She was not pleased when he told her she would be better off staying in bed and trying to get rid of her cold.

One evening I was washing the dishes in the kitchen before we left the studio for the night, when I overheard him telling Gertie, our last pupil of the day, for whom I had just played the accompaniment of Softly Awakes my Heart from Samson and Delilah, what a wonderful musician I was at only nineteen. Praise indeed.

When Hilda returned from her St Helena holiday, the Booths went to sing at a concert in the country with Desmond Wright, who had conducted The Yeomen, as their accompanist. Webster told me that the only reason he had not asked me to play for them at this concert was because he thought that another woman on the stage would draw the audience’s attention away from Anne.

They made a great fuss of my twentieth birthday at the end of August, with Anne singing Happy Birthday to me, and both of them kissing me to wish me a happy day. There was a present of lipstick and matching nail varnish waiting for me on top of the piano when I went in for my lesson. I was very touched that they had remembered my birthday. Ruth had her lesson after mine, so I waited for her, as we were going out for coffee after her lesson.

Webster said, “Don’t drink too much whisky,” as we left. It was another lovely day.

They had acquired a protégé, a talented boy soprano called Robin Lister, whom they were coaching in preparation for his first LP recording. Robin had an exceptional voice, resembling a mature female soprano rather than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He had been having lessons with a teacher in Benoni, but left her to study with Anne and Webster. Before his voice broke he made several recordings supervised by Anne and Webster. He became very well known and sang at a number of concerts. After his voice broke, he continued his lessons with the Booths, changing from singing to piano. The last I heard was that he became an engineer and had immigrated to Australia.

Webster phoned me before he left for Michaelhouse School in Natal to sing Elijah to ask whether I would play at an audition for two of their boy sopranos for Amahl and the Night Visitors the following Saturday. I agreed to do so and wished him well for the Elijah performance. “I know you’ll sing beautifully,” I added, and he replied, “Bless you, dear”.

On Saturday morning the two boys, Denis Andrews and Selwyn Lotzof, together with their parents and I arrived at Gwen Clark’s sumptuous penthouse at the top of Anstey’s Building, where the audition was to be held. The boys acquitted themselves well and we were given a lovely tea afterwards, but neither was chosen to sing the part of Amahl. Instead they decided to import a boy from Britain. Webster said that Ruth could have done the part, if suitably disguised, as her voice was like a boy’s, with absolutely no vibrato.

I went back to the studio after the audition to let Anne know how the boys had fared. She had had a tiring morning teaching all by herself, as Webster was at Michaelhouse to sing in a performance of Elijah, conducted by Barry Smith, the musical director at Michaelhouse at the time. He and Anne had not parted on good terms when he left for Michaelhouse so she had been rather surprised that he phoned her when he arrived there.

Anne insisted on making us coffee before she left. She spoke of Jo’burg “high” society, who had gone out of its way to cultivate them when they first arrived in South Africa as international stars, but soon dropped them when they realised that they were not rolling in money and were obliged to work for a living and were not able to go with them to race meetings or the like.

My diploma was pending and I spent a lot of time practising ear tests at Sylvia Sullivan’s studio with Edith Sanders, who was working for a piano diploma. She had perfect pitch, so I admired her sense of pitch which made ear tests very easy and she admired my competent sight-reading, which had improved remarkably since the early days of accompanying for Webster.

My Associate diploma, once again with Guy McGrath as examiner and Anne as accompanist, went well in all departments. After the exam, I went with Anne in her pale blue Anglia to Macey’s, a store in the city, where she bought a new carpet sweeper. On the way there she told me that she thought I was going to be another Mabel Fenney. By this time Mabel had passed her final exam at the Höchschule in Berlin. She was divorced from her first husband, Eric Fenney, who had financed her stay in Berlin, and had recently married Maurice Perkin in England.

About a week after the exam Webster phoned me at the studio to ask me to look up something about one of his “great voices” for his radio programme in my musical dictionary. He had seen the heavy tome and always termed it as my Bible.

I met my mother for lunch in Anstey’s that day and was pleased to hear that I had passed the Associate exam with 77%.

When I went to the studio in the afternoon, Webster answered the door. We had our usual shilling bet on passing or failing the exam.


“I owe you a shilling”, I said, handing it to him.


“What’s this for?” he asked as I went into the kitchen-cum-waiting room.


“I’ve passed my exam!” I announced as I sat down.


“Congratulations, darling,” he cried, bending down to kiss me.

We told Anne the good news when I went into the studio for my lesson.
“Did you know about it when I phoned you this morning?” Webster asked.


Anne asked sharply, ‘Why did you phone Jean?”


“I wanted her to look up something in her Bible for me,” he replied mildly.


“Whatever for? We have four Bibles at home!” she retorted, regarding us both with suspicion.


“It’s not a Bible really. It’s a music dictionary,” he explained.

She obviously did not believe a word he told her. I felt embarrassed to suddenly be the object of unfounded suspicions when we had always got on so well together. The episode put a damper on my exam success.

Jean Collen Updated 6 November 2019.