BOOTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1957)

My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated. Little did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest of my life. JEAN COLLEN.

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Signing autographs in South Africa – 1956.
16 August 1956 Anne and Webster appeared in Spring Quartet in Cape Town shortly after they arrived in South Africa.

17 September 1956 Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town. Cockpit Players present Spring Quartet with Anne and Webster, Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn, Gavin Houghton, Sydney Welch, directed by Leonard Schach.

17 October 1956 – Beethoven Ninth Symphony. City Hall, Johannesburg. Webster, Betsy de la Porte, Mimi Coertse, Frederick Dalberg, SABC Orchestra, Festival Choir, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.


A very poor newspaper cutting (taken by microfiche) showing Webster, Betsy de la Porte, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Mimi Coertse and Frederick Dalberg,
12 November 1956 – Night in Venice for JODS
14 November 1956 – Night in Venice for JODs.

NIGHT IN VENICE

15 November 1956 – Star “crit” by Oliver Walker.

Booths in convertible Hillman Minx outside their flat at Waverley, Highlands North.
December 1956

16 April 1957. Webster has cartoon drawn at Rand Easter Show by Roy Sumner.

21 April 1957 – Easter Sunday morning, The Crucifixion. St George’s Presbyterian Church, Noord Street, Webster, Wilfred Hutchings, Choir augmented with Johannesburg Operatic Society chorus, conducted by Drummond Bell.

Polliack’s Corner – eighth floor balcony Booth studio Singing and Stagecraft. (Photo: Gail Wilson)
Anne’s new hairstyle – July 1957.

July 1957 – Keith Jewell and The Dream of Gerontius

At Cape Town – and this is almost unbelievable (but it is true) – young organist, Keith Jewell (only 27) put on the St Matthew Passion in the City Hall. But more than that he has another three oratorios scheduled before the end of the year, one of which is Elgar’s gigantic work The Dream of Gerontius, which has never before been performed in South Africa. Webster Booth, who has sung in a number of Dreams under Malcolm Sargent at the Albert Hall will be taking a leading role.

I know for a fact – he told me a day or two ago – that Edgar Cree is itching to put it on here. While we have the orchestra, the choirs and singers like Booth right on our doorstep, my reaction is an exasperated: WHY NOT?

1 August 1957 – Anne in her first straight play in South Africa as Dearest in Angels in Love.
September 1957. The Reps did not take up the option on this play.
Advert for Adrenaline!

20 November 1957 – Scots Eisteddfod.

Anne Hamblin was awarded 95% in the Scots Eisteddfod. Webster Booth was the adjudicator.

23 November 1957 – Messiah, St George’s Presbyterian Church and St James’ Presbyterian Church, Malvern. Anne, Webster, Joy Hillier and Wilfred Hutchings, conducted by Drummond Bell.

My parents and I (aged 13) attended the performance at St James’ Presbyterian Church, Mars Street, Malvern. It was the first time I had seen Anne and Webster, although I had already heard many of their recordings on the radio.

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in the same firm as a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR in Vanderbijl Park and we were living in the Valmeidere Hotel in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

  The boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs McDonald-Rouse. Mrs McDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the Valmeidere. In due course we were introduced to the McDonald-Rouses, Heather and her husband.

Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth shortly after their arrival in South Africa the year before and had become very friendly with them. Through the grapevine, we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding, entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one of his favourite choices when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another of his wedding favourites was the ballad, My Prayer.

John Corrigan, my father’s colleague, was an elder at St James’ Presbyterian Church, then situated in Mars Street, Malvern. He invited us to a performance of Messiah to be held in the Church Hall, conducted by Drummond Bell, organist and choirmaster at the Central Presbyterian Church, St George’s. Coincidentally, the tenor and soprano soloists were to be Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. This was the first time I ever attended a performance of Messiah, and the first time I ever saw Anne and Webster. I did not know then that Webster had been one of the foremost oratorio tenors in Britain, but I had heard a number of their duet recordings, which were often played on the radio. It now seems rather incongruous that they should be singing Messiah in a suburban Church Hall when only two years before Webster’s oratorio stamping ground had been the Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Choral Society, with Sir Malcolm Sargent as conductor and other foremost oratorio soloists.

Since their arrival in South Africa, Anne and Webster had received a great deal of publicity on the radio and in the newspapers. As I have mentioned, their records were featured on South African radio a number of times each day. South Africans could not quite believe that such an illustrious theatrical couple had willingly chosen to exchange their successful careers and lives in the UK as the best-known duettists in Britain – possibly the world – to become immigrants in the colonial backwater of Johannesburg. My parents remembered them fondly from their frequent broadcasts in the UK, and seeing them in Variety and in the musical play, Sweet Yesterday at Glasgow theatres.

We sat fairly near the front of the hall on the right-hand side. I wish I could say that I remember every moment of that performance nearly sixty years ago. But sadly. I only remember snatches of it. Webster looked rather stern during the whole proceeding and I am sorry to admit that I was not immediately struck with the exquisite beauty of his voice. I did not know every aria from the Messiah then as I do now. In fact, the only piece I had heard before was the Halleluiah Chorus.

My most enduring memory of the occasion was the tea break when Anne, her hair recently cut in a rather startling Italian Boy hairstyle, drank tea and chatted animatedly with the star-struck tea ladies a few feet away from where we were seated. Little did I know then what a great influence they would exert on the rest of my life. JEAN COLLEN.

25 November 1957 – Messiah, Johannesburg Town Hall, Webster Booth(tenor)

December 1957 – The Dream of Gerontius, City Hall, Cape Town. Webster, conducted by Keith Jewell, aged 27. This was the first performance of Gerontius in South Africa.

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1953 – AUGUST 1956

Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.

18 February 1953 Ash Wednesday.
Elected Joint presidents of Concert Artistes’ Association.

Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.

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Opening of Desert Island Discs script. Sadly the recording is not available on the BBC webpage.
11 April 1953 – hardly something to commend him!

Anne as Mistress Knight and Webster as King Charles II in And So to Bed.

24 April 1953 – a poor crit for And so to Bed
in Coventry.
Diamond Wedding anniversary of Anne’s parents April 1953.
Anne and Webster went on an extensive tour of And So to Bed in the midst of many other commitments, particularly Merrie England in the Coronation Year.
Booths sing in concert version of Merrie England in Calgary on May 9 1953.
Merrie England at Luton Hoo with Douglas Fairbanks Junior

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.
CAA dinner 1953 Anne and Webster as presidents.
Advert – 1954

8 April 1954
15 April 1954

30 April 1954
16 May 1954

May 1954
Hiawatha concert had been cancelled for lack of interest. It was replaced by an extract from Aida.

21 September 1954 – Attack of Shingles. Far from “staying indoors for four or five days,” the pain troubled him periodically for many years to come.

28 October 1954
24 November 1954 – Victoria Congregational Church, Derby from Webster’s score.
15 December 1954

Webster’s score 10 December 1954
31 December 1954
I do not know whether Webster and Anne had any singing pupils in the UK.

27 May 1955 Gilbert and Sullivan concert.
29 April 1955 – Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert.
24 June 1955 – St Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow.
27 July 1955. Anne and Webster were presented to Princess Alexandra.

13 August 1955 Promenade Concert.
13 October 1955 Lady Audley’s Secret.
25 October 1955
November 1955 0n the way to South Africa for tour of Cape Province.

12 December 1955 – Arriving back in the UK again.

15 December 1955 Messiah, Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Town Hall

Return to South Africa for a further tour.

2 February 1956 Crit by Dora L. Sowden in Rand Daily Mail.

On “platteland tour”. Having tea in Bethal with accompanist, Arthur Tatler.
27 June 1956

Passenger List, Pretoria Castle – 12 July 1956.

On board the Pretoria Castle, 12 July 1956.

Signing the menu on board ship.
15 August 1956

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.

 

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – APRIL 1961

1 April – Go to Rhodes Park library today. Jennifer Humphreys serves me. Get out autobiographies of Humphrey Lyttleton and Donald Peers – both mention Webster and Anne.  Go to town and have lunch with Mum and Dad, then we see Once More with Feeling, starring Yul Brunner and wonderful, whimsical Kay Kendall who died two years ago.  See a snippet in the newsreel of Lennie and Glenda doing a routine at the rink – they get a huge ovation from the movie audience and I clap jolly hard too and feel proud of them.

2 April – Sunday school. Not many kids there owing to holiday. I have Neill, Mark, Desmond and a little boy called David in my class. I tell them a story and let them colour in. Eugenie Braun makes me lead singing and I practically sing a solo – can hardly hear the kids!  Peter gives me hymns for the guild afterwards – practically all unknown! Go into church with the usual crowd – Leona Rowe is away at camp, and Mr Russell gives a rather dreary sermon.

In the afternoon the Diamonds come and we have pleasant time. I perk up when conversation leads to a discussion about the Booths – they still maintain that Anne’s singing voice is painful but she has a lovely personality and speaking voice. Am persuaded by everyone to sing which I do reasonably.

3 April – Easter Monday In afternoon Dad and I go to eisteddfod and I buy a season ticket. We go to Duncan Hall to hear singing and instrumental items. A little Welshman presides and the adjudicator is from England – very good.  After the interval the Welshman tells us to take our seats. I turn round to see what’s what and, out of the corner of my eye, catch sight of Webster. I get a real shock. Whisper to my father who is not at all perturbed, so we sit through the whole competition without further ado.

We get up to go and the first person I come across is Anne looking too gorgeous for words in a flowery dress. Her face lights up as only her face can, and she says, “Why, hello, Jean, how are you?” Webster, who is sitting in front of her, turns round to say hello. I introduce them to Dad and they are really charmed when he says, “I’m privileged to meet you.”

Webster asks in his usual vague fashion, “Have you done your piece yet, Jean?” She says, “Of course not!’ and I say, “It’s not till Thursday, Webster

Webster and Anne

.” He looks very knowing as though he knew that all the time.

She says, “It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next item, Jean,” and I say that Mum is expecting us home so I’m afraid we can’t stay. She tells me how sorry she is and we say goodbye to them.  We stand at the back of the hall and listen to the last adjudication then depart to the sight of Anne going up to the front, preparing herself to accompany their singer in an art song.

Dad tells me on the way home that he doesn’t think Webster looks very well and that everybody around us was staring at us in admiration for knowing them – I didn’t even notice this as I was too wrapped up in speaking to them! All I know is that I adore them, and other peoples’ opinion don’t count two hoots! 

5 April – Listen to Webster’s programme at night, and he was right as usual – it is good tonight! He starts off talking about the difference between opera and oratorio and gives an example from Handel’s Samson – his own recording. He goes on with his story, how he had an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan, how he came to join the D’Oyly Carte Company by barn-storming an audition when the company was in Birmingham and not turning up for an audit when he was asked to go to London to sing for Rupert D’Oyly Carte so that he was sacked. His teacher Dr Wassall was angry that he joined the company and never acknowledged him in future. He toured the UK with the company which included Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis, Darrell Fancourt, Sydney Granville and Derek Oldham as principals, and Malcolm Sargent as the conductor in 1926. Webster asked Sir Malcolm whether he should sing in Grand Opera, and sang to him from La Bohème. “If you’ve no money, don’t sing in grand opera,” was his advice. He toured Canada with the company where his companion was Martyn Green and he had a wonderful time over there.

He plays a record by Harold Williams whom he obviously feels is the bees’ knees and ends with the overture to Mikado, an anecdote about Gilbert and Sullivan and the promise to play one of the G and S operettas after copyright is surrendered by Bridget D’Oyly Carte at the end of the year. Lovely programme by a wonderful man.

6 April – Eisteddfod at night. Sonnets are all done fairly well mainly by varsity students reciting poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I don’t disgrace myself but I don’t win a gold medal either. The girl who wins is about 25. The adjudicator, Miss Levitas, says on my report that I’m sincere!

7 April – Go to the Booths today feeling rather apprehensive. Webster answers door holding a large bell which, he tells me, is supposed to ring every half an hour to let him know when to put another sixpence into the parking meter. He says he’s forgotten how to wind it up. “I can’t depend on my watch because I forget what time I put the money in, in the first place.” Lemon is there so I play with him until Anne comes in, looking beautiful in a charcoal-grey pleated skirt and sweater and black court shoes, all in the best of style.

She asks me about the Eisteddfod and I tell her that I didn’t get any medal but I didn’t dry up either. She reads the report and says, “Who the hell is C. Levitas? I thought the adjudicator was Mary Webster!”

Webster goes out to put money in the meter and to go to a jeweller to find a real copper bracelet for Anne’s rheumatism. Says, “Goodbye, see you in a little while.” Before Anne starts on the play, she tells me that their bass came second, their girl got a gold medal in Lieder and there were several more seconds. I make fitting remarks about their success. She tells me that the girl who got the gold medal didn’t really deserve it, “God forgive me. She got it on musical knowledge.” This girl had great trouble with her voice – her husband didn’t like it but she persevered so that was a kick in the teeth for him when she did well!

We start on And So to Bed and really give it stick. She asks me whether my parents had any theatrical experience because I have such good control of words and cues. Webster comes back and says that the jeweller had no real copper but a someone in a shop in Eloff street would make one for her.

We go on with the play and Anne praises Leslie Henson (who played Pepys) to the heights – did I ever see him? I say no, but my father said he was wonderful. She goes into ecstasies about him and says, “If only they would put this play on here.”

Excerpt from Anne’s score of And So To Bed.

Webster says I am good but must be careful not to tear my throat otherwise, if I was doing a show, I would soon not have any voice left. “Get French through the nose!” I must say that Anne becomes rather flustered herself when she does my part to show me what to do. She says I must learn the scene.

Tells me that Mr Salmon, the music adjudicator took far too long over adjudications. “He’s from Lancashire, but still he took too long!”  We have tea and Anne naturally says once again that it is like TCP and some discussion ensues. Asks me to come at the same time next Friday and all is lovely. They’re nice.

8 April – Go skating today. Sue, Neill and Menina are there and I spend most of morning talking to Sue. She tells me about building the float for varsity rag. Says that Jennifer Nicks now lives in Canada. Jennifer Nicks wrote to Gwyn and told him she has called her baby Methuselah-Star – I ask you!  Sue skates like a honey as usual and I skate as normal and enjoy myself. She says she thinks Christians don’t have much enjoyment in life.

Scotts come at night. Linda cute, Mr S armed with violin – I accompany him at piano to hitherto unseen pieces which, strangely enough, I succeed in playing. We also gallop (he misses beats) through Only a Rose. All convivial.

10 April Have lunch with Mum and she promises to phone Anne about doing singing instead of speech from a week on Friday. This point has been mooted in the family circle so I’m going to do that instead of speech – if they’ll have me.  Buy an SABC bulletin and there is an interview with Webster in it in which he talks about his career, stage fright and rewarding moments. He says that he wouldn’t change his life if he could live it over again. “I was given a voice, a figure and my marriage with Anne Ziegler – something that has been successful and happy, and I have adopted what I think to be about the finest country in the world.” He was lucky, but his luck certainly hasn’t spoilt him in any way. 

SABC Bulletin April 1961 WB interview

Mum phones Anne in the afternoon and tells her that I’d like to do singing. She is quite happy about this and says that it’ll be a pleasure to teach me. She tells mum that I’m a sweet thing and they’re very fond of me. Mother says, “Jean enjoys going to you and she’d like to do singing as it goes with the piano.” Anne says that it is half the battle learning to sing if one knows music.

Mummy says, “Jean was a bit nervous to ask about singing,” and Anne says, “Oh, why?” Mummy says, “Well, she’s not too sure of her own voice.”  Anne is evidently as big a honey as always, and when Mummy says that I love to listen to Webster’s programmes, she says, “Oh, no! Not really!”  Well that is that and I hope that I can do well at singing because I love to sing so I must do well. This is really their true sphere.

11 April – Start college again today – new typing teacher – all affable.

12 April – College. Typing teacher says my accuracy is best in the class – whew! Must keep up this good standard.

At night I listen to Webster’s programme. After he left D’Oyly Carte he joined Tom Howell’s concert party, the Opieros, singing operatic excerpts in parks and at the seaside. He eventually sang oratorio tenor solos with the Huddersfield Choral Society and Royal Choral society under the direction of Sir Malcolm and started recording for BBC studio opera programmes.

He plays records by Isobel Baillie, Dennis Noble and himself singing in La Bohème, and bass Oscar Natzke, with a most beautiful bass voice who died at the age of 39, and a duet from Carmen by South American Soprano and a man with an unpronounceable name. There are several recordings by Webster himself singing opera. He has a beautifully restrained voice and gives a more polished performance. He presents the programme beautifully – polished to a ‘t’. Songs of sopranos all gorgeous – dread to think what he’ll have to say about me – still, the programme is terribly nice.

13 April – College – long day today. Jill, Lyn, Audrey and I go to the library and I meet David Cross there who is very sweet and looks nice enough to divert attention!

In the afternoon I listen to Leslie Green, with Charles Berman as his guest. Latter has made a new recording. 

At night phone rings and I know, almost instinctively, that it is Anne – am right as usual!  Gives usual greeting, “Is that Jean? Jean, this is Anne Ziegler here!”

She asks (talking very loudly tonight), “Jean, could you possibly come at 4.30 instead of 4 tomorrow?”

“Yes, that would be all right.”

“You see, tomorrow night is the music prize-winners’ concert and I’ve had to change all the lessons around because of it.” (Can’t see any connection at all, but still!)

“So, will that be all right, Jean?”

“Yes, fine.”

“Well, goodbye, we’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Goodbye, Anne.”

14 April. College as usual. My deskmate Lorraine Feinblum, who is a year or two older than the rest of us, is engaged. We are all thrilled for her.

I go to the Booths in the afternoon. Lemon snuffles at the door and Anne answers it. She wears a straight skirt with a jersey and grey shoes with an overdose of eye make-up (probably for tonight’s concert). We have customary greeting and she finishes practising an intricate accompaniment for the concert tonight.

Webster comes in and brings various purchases into the kitchen and says, “Oh, hello, Jean. I didn’t know you were here.” We have customary greetings and Anne finishes practising piece for concert.

Anne calls me in and says, “I hear you want to do singing, Jean. I think that’s splendid.”

I say, “Well, I’d like to, but I’m not sure about my voice.”

Webster says, “Well, judging from what I remember from last hearing you, I don’t think you have to worry much about that.”

He asks me what sort of music I have at home and goes to look out some music while I go through the last scene of And So to Bed with Anne. I have learnt it and do it quite well. She says afterwards, “It’s too wonderful! You really do it beautifully – it’s a miracle how you learnt the part – some people doing singing won’t even learn a song I give them to do – but this – brilliant, and very well done.”

Webster says, “It’s very good. You could know the part in a fortnight!” He asks where I have acted before and I say, “‘School plays etc.”

We go through it again and she tells me I have the makings of a fine actress.

They insist that I should sing. I go through some scales with Anne playing and looking down my throat at the same time, and Webster listening very intently with the ear of a master. Anne says my tongue is in a perfect position – how hard I have practised to get it there! – but I must open my mouth wider on the high notes. Webster says I have a very good voice which will be fine for training and Mrs. B says, “It’s all there – you’ve probably got about four notes to add to it yet.”

She makes me look in the mirror to see how to hold my mouth when singing high – the rule is not to show teeth. I’m afraid I look rather like a horse laughing! Webster takes the music and we debate about what I should sing – a Schubert album with dozens of lieder (all in English including On Wings of Song).

I say that I know Wiegenlied best but it isn’t in that book so what about Hark, Hark the Lark? I say I know Hark, Hark, the Lark but when I’ve tried that at home I couldn’t reach high notes. Anne says it was probably in a higher key, so I agree to try it although this key is actually higher than mine, for the top note is high G but somehow I reach it perfectly. Anne sings with me. She really has a lovely voice. Webster stands at my side listening very intently. Thank heaven he expresses approval. He says I must go through my own Schubert album and bring it next week. I have nothing to worry about with regards to my voice –it’s good. I tell him, “Well, I wasn’t too sure about it because I’d never heard it!”

He says, “Well, we won’t let you hear it just yet. Everybody gets a terrible shock when they hear their own voice.”

Anne comes with me to the door and says, “Well, Jean, I’m glad that at last, you’ve decided to obey the request we made to you so nicely such a long while ago. You can go home and tell your parents you have a lovely voice and we’re both thrilled that you’re going to do singing.”

I say goodbye to Anne and Lemon and come down on the lift floating on air. I’m so thrilled about it because they have such a fine musical understanding and can tell a good voice when they hear one. Also Webster has taken on a more authoritative position because singing is his forte. But he’s quite different from the Webster on the radio – I prefer him as he is in the studio.

For ages – since I heard them sing at the church last year – I’ve wanted to do singing. After I heard them I started to enjoy music and singing far more – I know that what they sang that particular evening was light but their presentation of it was perfect. But it has taken me practically a whole year to start my singing lessons with them. I know I’ll never regret it. Not only are they top-notch singers, but they’re top-notch all round.

On Wednesday evening Webster said of Isobel Baillie, “I understand she’s teaching at the Manchester School of Music – lucky pupils.” Well, that’s the way I feel about them. They’re awe-inspiring and make me feel as though I might do well if I work hard.

15 April – Go into rink today. Menina, Neill Craus, Dawn Vivian are all there – Sue is in the rag – and we have reasonably gay time but have to work. Menina is learning with Mr Perren while Jill is getting married, and says he is a real old tartar!

Skating goes very well and is exhilarating. Come into town and buy On Wings of Song in Kelly’s and then have lunch with Mum and Dad in Capinero and then go to see Bottoms Up with Jimmy Edwards. Good but a bit kiddish in places!

16 April Sunday School today. Mark, Neill, Desmond and Gary W are there and all of them tell me strangest things – some of Mark’s stories are decidedly exaggerated. Stay to sermon by Mr R – quite good but a bit disjointed towards the end. All the usual crowd there but can’t say they thrill me with their spirit. Gail won the prize for best beatnik on Friday night.

18 April RDM provides pleasant shock for me in morning. Full page picture of Webster and Anne advertising Skal beer! Doesn’t say it’s them but of course it is! Webster complete with beard (he had it shaved off on Friday!) sitting holding glass of beer and Anne sitting on his lap with telegram in one hand and a look of sheer delight on her face. It’s a really gorgeous advert and large – larger than life – up it goes on my wall – if there’s another I’ll put it in my diary!

College goes well today – Lorraine F is excited about her engagement. Go with Jill Harry to library and meet Mary Theodosiou who says she’s working hard, isn’t living in Kensington, and hears that Atholie is pretty fed up working in the library. I’m not surprised with those awful hours!  In the afternoon I vegetate owing to a cold which I must get rid of before Friday at least.

19 April College. We have a party for Lorraine F which is fun. Come home on bus with unknown but very affable girl who is doing a speed-writing course.

I listen to On Wings of Song at night. Webster doesn’t continue with his own life story but plays records. First one is a Thomas Beecham recording which he got for Easter, then a song by Gigli and an aria from Messiah.

He says that in 1938 he had the honour of singing the tenor role in Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden. Richard Tauber was also in the production. He says, “When Richard Tauber was appearing in the same concert as us at the Coliseum Anne asked him what songs he intended to sing. Tauber replied, ‘German songs,’ and his little accompanist (Percy Kahn) added, ‘With English words by me!’”

He talks of another opera by Rossini (I think) and says, “Anne and I sang it at the festival opera season in 1953 and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

He mentions that he sang with Kathleen Ferrier and Gladys Ripley, the two tragic contraltos who both died within a year of one another, Kathleen, a switchboard operator, and Gladys, a hairdresser. Plays record by Gladys and another tenor – how I wished it had been a Kathleen Ferrier recording – very nice though.  Ends with overture to HMS Pinafore, conductor – Sir Malcolm, and says, “It’s very light-hearted but I love it!”

Very nice programme and well presented. I do approve of the “Anne and I” part!

21 April – College – thank heaven for the weekend! I kill time in the afternoon by having a long drawn-out snack in the Capinero. I go up to studio at a quarter to four and am greeted by Webster. He says, “Anne isn’t back yet, so do come in and sit down. I’m just trying through the examination pieces – please excuse the mess.” He sits down at the piano and labours away at the exam pieces. I feel a bit corny sitting there so stare at the photographs and see one of Lincoln Cathedral where he was a chorister.

There is a peremptory knock at the door which heralds the entrance of Anne. He answers the door and she walks in without greeting him. She wears a grey princess line coat (she had her picture taken in it autographing their new LP record last October) and says something about gardenias and donating something to some society or other – all a bit vague. She looks very tired today.

She says. “Well, let’s start!” Sits at the piano and he sits on a chair opposite and says that he forgot to note my range. We do all the scales once again and she tells me to drop my jaw more on the higher notes. I reach high A fairly comfortably but B natural is a bit much – I end up looking like a horse on the higher notes. Anne says that she bets that within 2 months I’ll sing high C – I doubt it! He says that I’m a mezzo, but she says, “If she’s a mezzo she’ll be a very high one.” I go fairly low too and reach a bottom E. Amazing – I can hardly reach low G at home. They tell me about vowel sounds, all to be sung with the mouth in the same position. Mrs. B says, “He’s an example of perfect vowel sounds. No matter where in his range he sings, or what the vowel sound is, his mouth is always in the same position.”

Anne makes me sing Hedge Roses in English and they say that my vowels are fairly good except “ee” – I must sing that one in the same way as the others. Anne gives me a demonstration. I sing Hedge Roses in German all by myself with no assistance at all. We go through this twice, and Anne says, “You learnt And So to Bed so nicely for me a little while ago – will you learn this for next week?”

German, I find, is a wee bit more difficult to learn than English but nevertheless, I will for her!

A fire engine passes sounding a siren and Anne says, “Fire engines and sirens remind me of the war and make me feel terrible!” She says I have a well-placed voice and thinks that the few months of speech-training did me good. She feels my breathing and both she and Webster are happy about it. She says to me, “You want to sing good songs, don’t you? Not musical comedy or pop songs?”

Before I have a chance to answer Webster hops in with, “There’s nothing wrong with musical comedy!” So be it.

I depart, saying goodbye, see you next week, with the worry of learning three verses in German. Anne says that next week I must bring some Scottish songs (for English words).

Come home on bus with Rosemary, Jennifer Bawden and Gill Colborne. Meet Miss Ward coming home and take great relish in telling her that I’m completely exhausted after my singing lesson.

Go up to guild tonight. Ann is happy to see me and her reaction about singing lessons all that could be desired.  We go to the Central Hall to hear panel of men: Dr Roux (a botanist), Mr McEwan (lawyer), Dr Webb – my favourite minister, and Gary Allighan the journalist and author of Verwoerd – the End. Meeting becomes practically political. All denounce government’s apartheid policy and in one particular question, Gary Allighan answers by starting, “First, let’s forget about the government!” Violent clapping. “There is only one race – the human race!” Shot for him – he was a labour MP in Britain and is a Cockney through and through.  Shorty gives us a lift back and we all go to the roadhouse and have something to eat – good fun.

22 April Play piano and sing in the morning and then go to town. Go into CNA and mooch around. Look in the SABC bulletin for programmes and am disappointed to see that Webster’s programme seems to be cut out – perhaps it’s been changed to another evening, but if it isn’t, to hang the SABC!

We have lunch at the Capinero and then Mum, Dad and I go to Brooke Theatre to see Roar Like a Dove with Margaret Inglis, Brian Brooke, Norma West, Robert Haver and also Alfred Stretton (the old man who spoke to us after Caesar and Cleopatra – he’s sweet). Play isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Margaret Inglis and Brian Brooke have whisky voices and Margaret I is hard as nails, although she’s probably meant to be in this part.

24 April College – goes reasonably – dozens absent. Go into Music library and buy the SABC bulletin in afternoon and study it carefully. I am glad to see that Webster has had ten minutes added to his programme – forty minutes now! On Thursday evening at 9.20pm.

26 April – My father’s fifty-ninth birthday.  Webster’s programme tonight is really about the best I’ve heard so far. He says that the first time he sang with Thomas Beecham, Joan Hammond was one of the other soloists. At that time she had a light, lyrical soprano which later developed into a heavy dramatic soprano. He plays the duet from Madame Butterfly which he made with her, which is quite fantastic. Webster is a tenor of great restraint which is pleasing. His voice contrasts sharply with her loud, almost harsh soprano.

Then Webster makes me laugh. He discusses the Strauss operetta, Night in Venice and says that during the Jo’burg production Anne wore a crinoline that covered practically the whole stage. “I look on this duet I am about to play with certain misgivings because during the Jo’burg production I tripped and broke my foot and was laid up in plaster for three weeks!” Poor Webster!  He talks of his old friend, conductor Mark Lubbock and how many happy hours “Anne and I” spent with him. “He was a specialist in the music of Franz Lehar and arranged some of Lehar’s songs for Anne and I to sing as duets with his own London orchestra.”

These songs are about the finest I have heard. They sing so beautifully they make me cry because they’re so glorious. Her voice is out of this world – like water floating gently over tiny pebbles. He sings the Serenade richly, gloriously, temperately. Webster and Anne were terribly lucky to be blessed with such voices and I’m terribly lucky to be training under them!  He ends off the programme by playing the overture to Don Pasquale, the comic opera soon to be seen in Johanesburg.

27 April – College. Go to lunch hour concert conducted by Anton Hartman with soloists Rita Roberts and Bob Borowsky. This series of concerts is a prelude to the forthcoming opera and ballet season. Both sing operatic arias (separately and together). Duet from La Traviata. Anton Hartman conducts overture to Les Pateneurs and the Flower Dance from the Nut Cracker Suite. Hetty and Jill sit with me and Hetty is charmed – so am I.

28 April. I arrive at the studio before the Booths today. I sit on the little ledge outside and vegetate. One of Madge Wallace’s pupils comes out of her studio and grumbles about having to wait for the lift, but just as lift arrives she goes back into the studio to say goodbye once more so I hold the lift for her.

Mrs. B comes up on the other lift armed with the evening dress she wore to our church concert and a fur cape. She is also carrying a little vanity case. She asks, “Was the lift stuck at the eighth floor?” I have to admit my guilt in this matter but she is quite cheery about it and takes me into the studio.

She tells me they were at first night of La Traviata last night and didn’t get in till half past three. She says, “I just can’t take late nights any more! Tonight it’ll probably be just as late too because we’ve got Don Pasquale.”

Anne says that the production of La Traviata didn’t nearly match the standard of an overseas production, but Mimi Coertse was wonderful. She covered her top notes well and used her face at every possible moment. Her song at the end of the first act, however, was breathy and she broke the trills, but this might have been due to first night nerves or not being used to the altitude. She says it’ll be good for me to see it as Mimi’s singing is wonderfully controlled.

We start on My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose after doing oodles of scales to work on the English vowels. Apparently my phrasing is all wrong. Webster arrives at this point, dressed in tails and black bow tie, looking too gorgeous for words, ready for the first night of Don Pasquale and is very affable. Anne says, “Jean is doing My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose,” and he says, “Oh! I know that one!”

I do Heidenroslein by memory. Webster watches me closely the whole time I am singing and I feel a bit silly. He says to me afterwards, “Honestly, Jean, you’ve got a wonderful memory – and of German too! If I had a memory like yours I could really do wonders!” I smile at him. He says, “But Jean – I wish you’d smile like that when you sing. You’ve got such a lovely smile.”

I sing it again, trying to look a little happier this time. The phone rings and Webster answers it and comes out of the office, saying, “Do you remember people called Wilkinson?”  Anne looks quite blank and then says she believes she remembers them vaguely. “Well, they’ve asked us over on Saturday, the sixth of May. Are we free?”

“Oh, no, darling. We’ve got that Mimi Coertse presentation cocktail party. We can’t miss that.”

“Well, shall I say we’ll go over later?”

“Well, we can’t go for drinks. Say we might go later if we can make it.”

“These damned socialites,” says Anne to me in hollow tones.

We go on with Roslein and they say I look a bit cheerier about it. To finish she makes me sing Hark, hark… Webster asks, “Do you like Hark, Hark the Lark?” I say, “Yes, it’s very nice.” He says, “Well, I hate it – probably because I was made to sing it so often when I was young.”

They sing it together – beautifully – as though they know exactly what the other one is thinking and exactly what to do. No. Mimi Coertse might be excellent but she’ll never ever beat Anne, and although Gigli was a great tenor he never had that lovely restraint which Webster displays so eloquently and beautifully. OK, so I’m prejudiced but I don’t care – they’re wonderful singers and lovely people.

Anne asks whether I could change from Friday to Tuesday next week because Webster has a recital in Krugersdorp on Friday. She asks whether 4 o’clock would be OK. I agree and Webster says, “Will I get you a pencil and paper to write it down?”

“It’s quite OK. I’ll remember it, thank you.”

“Yes, I know you will. If only I had a memory like you.”

Anne says, “But darling, look how young Jean is compared with you…”

“Yes, but still…”

Anne makes me feel her breathing again and says that as we’re the same height we should have the same rib-expansion. She has such wonderful breath control – it’s unsurpassed, really it is!  I say goodbye and Webster sees me to the door, his tails following behind him.

29 April. Go into town and book seats for La Traviata. We’re going on 3 May – a Wednesday. I feel rather the worse for wear after the debate last night. I also go to music library and procure dozens of songs.  I go to Capinero and have lunch with Mum and Dad. He has a book from the library with oodles in it about Webster. Author says that he could have been the finest British tenor if… But tomorrow I’ll type out the relevant parts and put them in the diary.

We go to see Song Without End, the story of Franz Liszt – Dirk Bogarde as Franz – good up to a point. Dirk is gorgeous though!

At night I listen to Afrikaans programme and announcer says, “Nou gaan die sang-tweeling, Anne Ziegler en Webster Booth Indian Love Call sing.”

30 April Anne in paper advertising Stork margarine.

Stork Ad

GRAND OPERA AND SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR

Webster Booth had always hoped to sing in Grand Opera despite Malcolm Sargent’s advice that unless he had a private income it would be best to leave opera alone. In 1938 he was asked by Sir Thomas Beecham to go to Covent Garden and sing for him. By that time he was already an established singer on the radio, on record,  in oratorio and lighter forms of entertainment and was rather affronted that he should have to audition at all. Sir Thomas and Lady Emerald Cunard were seated in the middle of the empty auditorium and chatted to one another while he sang Your Tiny Hand is Frozen from La Bohème and The Flower Song from Carmen. To add insult to injury Sir Thomas offered him two very small parts – one in The Magic Flute, the other as the tenor singer in Rosenkavalier at the princely sum of £10 per performance and nothing for rehearsals.

Unlike Sir Thomas’s disdainful attitude towards Webster, Erich Kleiber, who was conducting Der Rosenkavalier was most impressed with his voice and congratulated him on his performance of the aria before the whole company. It was during the first performance of Rosenkavalier that the famous soprano, Lotte Lehmann, who was playing the role of the Marschallein, stopped singing in the middle of the performance and walked off the stage. She had been informed before the performance that her husband had been arrested by the Nazis.



Early in 1939, Webster appeared in Rosenkavalier at Sadler’s Wells and accepted no fee. Miss Lilian Baylis could only afford to pay him £4 per performance. Webster wrote in his autobiography, Duet: “I laughed and replied, “Don’t bother with the £4. I’ll sing four performances for you anyway!”

 

Although Webster was offered the part of Lohengrin and other roles at Covent Garden in 1951 during the Festival of Britain, he turned it down.  People often question why he “wasted so much time” singing duets in Variety, but one of the reasons he did this was because Variety paid a great deal more than Opera and required far less hard work. 
 
September 1 2012 is the
centenary of the death of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who died
at the early age of 37 on September 1 1912. Despite his early death he
left a legacy of fine music behind him. I have many of his piano solos
in my possession and get much pleasure in playing them.


Webster Booth was associated with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor because of his many appearances in Hiawatha,
Coleridge-Taylor’s best known and most popular work. He made his first appearance in this work at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1936 with Harold Williams and others
and made another appearance in Hiawatha in June 1937, shortly before he sailed for New York the following month.


Before the war, the work was presented in full native-American costume and
here is Webster in his costume below. Dr Malcolm Sargent (as he was
then) conducted the work and continued to present it with the Royal
Choral Society and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra many times.


Webster appeared in many other performances of Hiawatha, including one presented at Kenilworth Castle in  1952. I have included a few of the advertisements below:

Hiawatha at Kenilworth Castle 1952

Webster Booth appeared in the Jubilee concert of  Hiawatha to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the concert which was first presented in March 1900. 

 
May 1951. Croydon, Davis Theatre.
As part of the Festival of Britain celebrations a concert mainly devoted to the works of local composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was held in the Davis Theatre on 31 May 1951, part of a series of concerts sponsored by Croydon Corporation for the Festival. Parts One and Two of Hiawatha were presented by the Croydon Philharmonic Society, conducted by Alan J. Kirby. Gwen Catley, Webster Booth and Dennis Noble were the soloists. 
.
14 Ju

 

 
 
Although
the planned presentation of Hiawatha in 1954 was called off at the last
minute because of poor ticket sales, Sir Malcolm Sargent asked that
Webster should be the soloist in the work at his sixtieth birthday
concert on 29 April 1955 at the Royal Festival Hall, where his fellow
soloists were Jennifer Vyvian and Australian baritone John Cameron.
Perhaps because the performance was associated with Sir Malcolm’s
birthday, tickets were in great demand.
 
Here is a photograph from the defunct magazine, Music and Musicians where Webster and Anne are speaking to John Cameron after the performance.
 
His last performance in the work was at the Promenade Concert in August 1955, where he also sang the song cycle To Julia by Roger Quilter.
 

In July 1956 he and Anne Ziegler moved to Johannesburg South Africa. He never sang in another performance of this work.

Webster Booth recorded several songs by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor  below:

Onaway, Awake, Beloved!

Eleanore

Unmindful of the Roses/Life and Death

Jean Collen 2012 Updated May 2017

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MY FIRST MEMORIES OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER (1957 – 1960)

We arrived in Johannesburg in October of 1957. My father had been offered a job in the same firm as a former Scottish colleague from ISCOR (now Arcelor Mittal) in Vanderbijl Park and we were living in the Valmeidere boarding house in Roberts Avenue, Kensington until we found a suitable flat. We witnessed the lights of Sputnik flying over our heads at night and wondered whether this was a sign that we had made the right move to the big city.

 

            My parents and me in Vanderbijlpark (1950) 

The school year in South Africa runs from January to December, so I, aged thirteen, went to yet another new school just in time to prepare to write the end of year exams in subjects with seemingly different syllabuses to the ones I had been studying at my previous school in Vanderbijlpark. I staggered into the middle of the busy road each morning, praying that I would not be knocked down by a speeding car, in order to catch a rattling tram on its way down the hill to Jeppe Girls’ High School, clad in my new green dress and black blazer with white stripes. The most important part of the uniform seemed to be the white panama hat adorned with ribbon of school colours and a badge in the front. There was a strict rule that thishat had to be worn at all times when outside of school. Heaven help anyone who removed it, or worse still, forgot to wear it.

The boarding house proprietors were fellow Scots, Mr and Mrs Jimmy Murdoch. They were friendly with a couple called Mr and Mrs McDonald-Rouse. Mrs McDonald-Rouse ran a flourishing amateur concert party and was the accompanist to all the singers in the group. Her daughter Heather, a theatrical costumier, had recently married and sometimes dined with her parents and her new husband at the Valmeidere. In due course, we were introduced to the McDonald-Rouses, Heather and her husband.

Through her work, Heather had met Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, shortly after their arrival in Johannesburg the year before and had become extremely friendly with them. Through the grapevine we heard that Webster had sung the aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul at Heather’s wedding entitled Be Thou Faithful unto Death. Later I learnt that this aria was one he sang when requested to sing a solo at a wedding. Another lighter wedding favourite of his was the ballad, My Prayer.

Click on the link to hear Webster singing: BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

In mid-1958, my parents, doubtful of what the future in South Africa held, made a bid to return to the UK. We lived in Southampton – yet another new school another different syllabus, new subjects and girls with Hampshire accents. My mode of transport in Southampton was a crowded bus from the suburb of Bitterne to St Anne’s Convent Grammar School. It was winter, so the bus journey began in the dark and ended in the dark by the time I reached home in the afternoon.

One of my parents’ friends had a grand piano on which I was allowed to practise and receive music lessons. The gentleman had a collection of 78 records which had belonged to his late wife. While his son and his friends chatted about various forms of jazz in the sitting room, I looked through the record collection in the dining room and was delighted to find a number of Anne and Webster’s recordings. After listening to their fill of Chris Barber records, the young men departed and I was able to play the duet records on the ancient record player. I enjoyed listening to the records and thinking that I had heard Anne and Webster singing in Johannesburg the previous year and knew something about them.

 By the end of 1958 my parents decided that we would return to South Africa so we were on our way back on board the Pretoria Castle, the same ship on which Anne and Webster had travelled to South Africa in July 1956.

 
 
Despite my disrupted education I was back at Jeppe Girls’ High,admitted to Form IV for my final two years at school, which would culminate in writing the matriculation exams at the end of 1960. My father had returned to his old job with Mr Corrigan, and my parents bought a house in Juno Street, Kensington, having decided that life in South Africa, despite its uncertain political future was easier than life back in the UK where the weather was hard, the cost of living high, and Southampton was still full of bomb sites thirteen years after the war. 
21 Juno Street, Kensington – as it is now.
 
At the end of 1959 I went to the Reps Theatre (now the Alexander Theatre) with the late Gillian McDade, who had been head girl at Jeppe in 1959, to usher for the Children’s Theatre show, The Glass Slipper. The house was full so there were no spare seats for the teenage voluntary ushers, but I was delighted to watch the enchanting show seated on the carpeted stairs of the darkened auditorium. Anne Ziegler was playing the Fairy Godmother and made her entrance in a glass coach drawn by a donkey. She looked every inch an ethereal Fairy Godmother in her gossamer crinoline gown.
 
In 1960 Anne and Webster came to the Methodist Church in Roberts Avenue to sing in a Variety show that had been arranged to raise money for Church funds. I loved their charming act, once again done on the small stage of a suburban Church hall rather than in one of the great Variety Halls in the UK where they had been performing only a few years before. I waited for them to emerge at the interval to ask for their autographs and they signed my book in the vestry, Webster graciously holding the door open for me. Strangely enough I was the only autograph hunter that evening. They were both charming to me.

 
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East London cast of Merrie England (1958). Mabel Fenney (later Perkin) was Jill-All-Alone on the left of the photograph
 
Mrs Mabel Fenney from East London had taken over from Miss Diane Heller as temporary music mistress at Jeppe for a term while Miss Heller was on long leave. At the time she was studying singing with the Booths and had recently won the UNISA (University of South Africa) scholarship to study abroad. Mabel was charming and glamorous and took some of us girls to see Rigoletto at the Empire Theatre in the city centre. She often regaled the music students with tales of her studies with Anne and Webster and at the end of the term gave a memorable vocal recital in the school hall. I particularly remember her singing an aria from Carmen and ending the song by throwing a rose to her fascinated schoolgirl audience. At the end of the term Mabel Fenney went to the Hochschule in Berlin to further her singing studies. I wondered whether my singing voice was good enough for me to have singing lessons with Anne and Webster after I finished school.
 
Jean Collen (revised 17 May 2019)
 
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BROADCASTS BY WEBSTER BOOTH (1946 – 1956)

 

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Webster did many broadcasts with Anne during this period and these will appear on a separate file. In 1948 the Booths did a concert tour to New Zealand and Australia, and did several broadcasts in South Africa while their ship travelled to various South African ports, so there are not many broadcasts listed for either of them in that year.

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – Light Programme, 23 May 1946 20.30

A musical entertainment, given by Webster Booth (tenor), Margaret Good (piano), Marie Wilson (violin), Jean Stewart (viola), William Pleeth (cello), Geoffrey Gilbert (flute), George Elliott (guitar). Music by J. C. Bach, Schumann, Rossini, Chopin, Richard Strauss, and Schubert.

FANTASIA – Light Programme, 7 October 1946 20.45 A musical feature with the BBC Theatre Orchestra and the BBC Theatre Chorus. This week – The Song of the Rivers with Ida Shepley (contralto) and Webster Booth (tenor). Narrator, Preston Lockwood. Conductor, Walter Goehr. Produced by Harold Neden.

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – BBC Home Service Basic, 12 November 1946 16.15 A musical entertainment given by Phyllis Sellick (piano). Webster Booth (tenor). Pauline Juler (clarinet), Max Salpeter and Colin Sauer (violins), Watson Forbes (viola), John Moore (cello), and J. Edward Merrett (double bass). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.

TUESDAY SERENADE – BBC Home Service Basic, 19 November 1946 21.15 BBC Theatre Orchestra (Leader, Alfred Barker ) Conductor, Walter Goehr, BBC Theatre Chorus, Irene Eisinger (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor).

FANTASIA – Light Programme, 16 December 1946 20.45 A musical feature with the BBC Theatre Orchestra and Theatre Chorus, conducted by Harold Lowe. This week A Hundred Years Ago with Doris Gambell, Webster Booth, Winifred Davey. Jane Grahame, Doris Nichols. and Roy Plomley. Written by Aubrey Danvers-Walker. Produced by Harold Neden.

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TUESDAY SERENADE – BBC Home Service Basic, 11 February 1947 21.15 BBC Theatre Orchestra Conductor, Walter Goehr. BBC Theatre Chorus (Trained by John Clements ) Webster Booth (tenor), Joan and Valerie Trimble – (two pianos) Produced by Eric Fawcett.  

MUSIC IN MINIATURE – Light Programme, 7 August 1947 21.30 A musical entertainment given by Louis Kentner (piano), Webster Booth (tenor), Frederick Thurston and Stephen Waters (clarinets), Paul Draper (bassoon), David Martin (violin), Frederick Riddle (viola), and James Whitehead (cello). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.

STARLIGHT – BBC Home Service Basic, 27 October 1947 19.15 This week Christopher Stone invites Webster Booth to talk with him and to sing for you.

THE KENTUCKY MINSTRELS – BBC Home Service Basic, 2 December 1947 21.30 A black-faced minstrel show – Jimmy Rich, Fred Yule, John Duncan, and C. Denier Warren and Ike Hatch (Ivory and Ebony). Guest Star, Webster Booth.  Kentucky Banjo Team, Augmented BBC Revue Orchestra and Male Voice Chorus, conducted by Leslie Woodgate. At the organ. Charles Smart. Book written and remembered by C. Denier Warren, Choral arrangements by Doris Arnold. Show devised and produced by Harry S. Pepper


Sir Malcolm Sargent.

THE PLAIN MAN’S GUIDE TO MUSIC-10 – Light Programme, 9 December 1949 21.00 Sir Malcolm Sargent talks about the Oratorio and conducts illustrations from Messiah (Handel), The Creation (Haydn), Elijah (Mendelssohn), Dream of Gerontius (Elgar). Elsie Morison (soprano), Mary Jarred (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Norman Walker (bass), Royal Choral Society, BBC Opera Orchestra, Produced by Roger Fiske.

Malcolm Sargent conducting the orchestra at a Promenade concert (1954)

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HUGH THE DROVER – Third Programme, 13 March 1950 20.40 or Love in the Stocks, A romantic ballad opera in two acts. Words by Harold Child, Music by Vaughan Williams. BBC Opera Chorus, BBC Opera Orchestra Led by John Sharpe. Conductor. Stanford Robinson. Presented by Mark Lubbock.  Narrator, Patrick Troughton. Repetiteur, Leo Wurmser.

The constable: Owen Brannigan

Mary, the constable’s daughter: Joyce Gartside, Aunt Jane. the constable’s sister: Mary Jarred, John, the butcher: Frederick Sharp, The turnkey: Powell Lloyd, A showman: Fabian Smith, A sergeant: Denis Dowling, Hugh, the Drover: Webster Booth, A cheap-jack: George Steam Scott, A shell-fish seller: Fisher Morgan, A primrose seller: Ethel Gedge, A ballad seller: David Holman.

 RING UP THE CURTAIN! – BBC Home Service Basic, 1 July 1951 16.00 Joyce Gartside (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Denis Dowling (baritone) BBC Opera Chorus – Trained by Alan G. Melville, BBC Opera Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conductor, Stanford Robinson. British Opera – The programme includes items from: The Siege of Rochelle, The Bohemian Girl, Maritana, The Lily of Killarney, Esmeralda, Ivanhoe, Shamus O’Brien,Koanga, The Immortal Hour, Fete Galante, Hugh the Drover, Sir John in Love. Programme devised by Harold Neden.

O, Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda

MUSIC IN MINIATURELight Programme, 28 July 1950 21.30 A musical entertainment given by Webster Booth (tenor), Leon Goossens (oboe),*Julius Isserlis (piano), Alan Loveday (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola),Harvey Phillips (cello). Ernest Lush (accompanist). Arranged by Basil Douglas.

 *I wonder if Julius Isserlis was the father of the well-known cellist, Steven Isserlis?

THESE RADIO TIMES – Light Programme, 27 October 1951 21.15 A happy history of Everyman’s entertainment. With Henry Hall, Naunton Wayne, Edwin Styles, Howard Marshall, Webster Booth, Claude Dampier, Kenneth Leslie-Smith, Harry S. Pepper and the recorded voices of Davy Burnaby, Stewart MacPherson, John. Snagge, Richard Tauber, Gracie Fields. Nellie Wallace. Everyman, with the wireless set: Anthony Armstrong. Written by Gale Pednick. Producer: Thurstan. Holland

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24 May 1952 Light Programme. Malcolm Sargent conducts the BBC Opera Orchestra with Webster Booth in a concert of Empire music for Empire Day.

SONG OF TWO CITIES – Light Programme, 18 November 1952 21.00 Paris and Vienna – Part 8 This story of a musical rivalry that spanned a century ends with music from two masterpieces Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, the idol of Vienna, and The Tales of Hoffmann with which Offenbach triumphed in Paris even after his death.

Gwen Catley, Ruth Packer, Anna Pollak, Webster Booth, Trefor Jones, Roderick Jones. BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conductor, Gilbert Vinter with Keith Pyott as the Voice of Paris and Rudolph Offenbach as the Voice of Vienna. Devised by Kenneth Pakeman and written by Maurice Gorham. Produced by Malcolm Baker-Smith and Kenneth Pakeman. (Anna Pollak broadcasts by permission of the Governors of Sadler’s Wells)

Haydn – THE CREATION – Third Programme, 4 December 1952 20.05 Ena Mitchell (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Norman Walker (bass), BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Symphony Orchestra – Leader, Paul Beard. Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. Parts 1 and 2

MUSIC OF COLERIDGE-TAYLOR – BBC Home Service Basic, 7 December 1952 16.00  Webster Booth (tenor), BBC Concert Orchestra – (Leader, John Sharpe ) Conductor, Gilbert Vinter. Suite: Othello, Song: Eleanore, Three Dream Dances, Song: Onaway!, awake, beloved (Hiawatha)

The story of GILBERT AND SULLIVANLight Programme, 25 December 1952 16.30 An adaptation from the sound-track of the forthcoming Frank Launder-Sidney Gilliat production based on some episodes in the lives of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert .Written for the screen by Sidney Gilliat and Leslie Baily (by permission of Bridget D’Oyly Carte ) Webster Booth, Martyn Green, Elsie Morison, Margery Thomas, John Cameron, Gordon Clinton, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams, Tom Round, Muriel Brunskill, Jennifer Vyvyan, Joan Gillingham. London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Programme produced by Thurstan Holland.

W S Gilbert: Robert Morley, Mrs Gilbert: Isabel Dean, Arthur Sullivan: Maurice Evans, Richard D’Oyly Carte: Peter Finch, Helen D’Oyly Carte: Eileen Herlie, Mr Marston: Wilfred: Hyde White, Grace Marston: Dinah Sheridan.

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THE GOLDEN THRESHOLD –  BBC Home Service Basic, 18 January 1953 16.00 by Liza Lehmann. Elsie Morison (soprano), Audrey Brice (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Frederick Harvey (baritone) BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate, BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Gilbert Vinter.  

*DESERT ISLAND DISCS – BBC Home Service Basic, 3 April 1953 18.25 Webster Booth – (in a recorded programme) discusses with Roy Plomley the gramophone records he would choose to have with him if he were condemned to spend the rest of his life on a desert island.

*Unfortunately no recording of this broadcast still exists, but we did manage to obtain a script of the programme from the BBC.

 29 April 1953 THE CREATION Royal Choral Society, Webster Booth (tenor) Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Malcolm Sargent’s birthday (from Webster’s score.)

Monday, 25 May 1953, 12.00 Robert Morley, Maurice Evans and Eileen Herlie in the story of GILBERT AND SULLIVAN (repeat)

An adaptation from the sound-track of the new Frank Launder -Sidney Gilliat production, based on some episodes in the lives of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert , Written for the screen by Sidney Gilliat and Leslie Baily, (by permission of Bridget D’Oyly Carte) with words and music selected from the operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan sung by Webster Booth,. Martyn Green, Elsie Morison , Marjorie Thomas, John Cameron, Gordon Clinton, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams, Tom Round,  Muriel Brunskill, Jennifer Vyvyan. Joan Gillingham, London Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Radio adaptation by Gordon Gow, Produced by Denys Jones.

NIGHTS OF GLADNESS – Light Programme, 22 December 1953 20.00 Tribute to composers whose melodies have enriched the world of operetta, musical comedy, and revue.Written by Gale Pedrick. Introduced by The Man with the Opera Cloak and illustrated by scenes and music Chapter 9 – The music of: Nat D. Ayer, Harry Parr Davies, Emmerich Kalman. Singers: Victoria Elliott, Webster Booth, Joan Young, Dudley Rolph, Billie Baker, Dick James. BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert orchestra Conducted by Guy Daines. Musical adviser, Harold Neden. Produced by Douglas Moodie.

18 December 1953. 21.15 The Christmas Music from Handel’s Messiah Handel Messiah: part 1 (up to & including Glory to God) plus Hallelujah and  Amen choruses from the Town Hall, HUDDERSFIELD.

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 3 January 1954 18.30 I KNOW WHAT I LIKE, Personalities of the radio and entertainment world 
introduce music of their own choice. 15—Fred Streeter with Doris Gambell (soprano)
Webster Booth (tenor),  Ian Wallace (bass), BBC Concert Orchestra, (Leader, John Sharpe), 
Conducted by Stanford Robinson. Produced by Harold Neden.

I KNOW WHAT I LIKE – BBC Home Service Basic, 31 January 1954 18.30, Personalities of the radio and entertainment world introduce music of their own choice. 19-James Dyrenforth with Lorely Dyer (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor). BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe. Conducted by Rae Jenkins. Produced by Harold Neden.

GRAND HOTEL – Light Programme, 11 April 1954 19.30, Tom Jenkins and the Palm Court Orchestra. Webster Booth (tenor).

HENRY WOOD PROMENADE CONCERTS – BBC Home Service Basic, 1 September 1954 19.30 Webster Booth (tenor), Iris Loveridge (piano), Royal Choral Society, BBC Symphony Orchestra  – Leader, Paul Beard, Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. From the Royal Albert Hall, London.

BALLAD CONCERT – BBC Home Service Basic, 21 September 1954 18.45 The old songs we still love sung by Marion Lowe (soprano), Webster Booth (tenor), Raymond Newell (baritone), with David McCallum and the Spa Orchestra. At the organ, Felton Rapley. At the piano, Clifton Helliwell.

The programme includes: Thora, Where my caravan has rested, I hear you calling me, The Company Sergeant Major, A Summer Night. Produced by Harold Neden.

BALLAD CONCERT – BBC Home Service Basic, 21 December 1954 18.35 The old songs we still love, sung by Gwen Catley (soprano), Audrey Brice (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Owen Brannigan (bass-baritone), David McCallum and the Spa Orchestra. At the organ. Felton Rapley. At the piano, Josephine Lee.

Gwen Catley, the diminutive coloratura soprano.

The programme includes Twickenham Ferry,  An Old Garden,The Star of Bethlehem, Until, Japanese Love Song, A Sergeant of the Line, April Morn, Nazareth. Introduced by Lionel Marson. Produced by Harold Neden.

 IN LIGHTER MOOD – BBC Home Service Basic, 27 December 1954 15.15 BBC Concert Orchestra -Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Charles Mackerras. Webster Booth (tenor) Programme presented by John Tylee.

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April 1955 John Stainer THE CRUCIFIXION A meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer. Webster Booth, John Heddle Nash.

Sir Malcolm Sargent introduces and conducts a GILBERT AND SULLIVAN CONCERT – BBC Television, 30 May 1955 21.15 with Jacqueline Delman (soprano) Marjorie Thomas (contralto) Webster Booth (tenor), John Cameron (bass) and Chorus. The St. Cecilia Orchestra (Leader, Lionel Bentley ) Presented by Philip Bate.

 HENRY WOOD PROMENADE CONCERTSLight Programme, 13 August 1955 19.30  Webster Booth (tenor), Peter Katin (piano) BBC Choral Society – Chorus Master. Leslie Woodgate Royal Choral Society, BBC Symphony Orchestra – Leader, Paul Beard, Conductor, Sir Malcolm Sargent. From the Royal Albert Hall , London

Part 1. 

 

GRAND HOTEL – Light Programme, 16 October 1955 21.00 Jean Pougnet and the Palm Court Orchestra. Visiting artist: Webster Booth. 

21 December 1955 7.15 pm Handel’s MESSIAH Part 1  from the Town Hall, HUDDERSFIELD Part 1 at 7.15 : Part 2 at 9.15.

22 December 1955 21.00 The Christmas Music from Handel’s Messiah Conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Jennifer Vyvyan (soprano), Norma Procter (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), Hervey Alan (bass), Huddersfield Choral Society (Chorus-Master, Herbert Bardgett), BBC Northern Orchestra, (Leader. Reginald Stead), Ernest Cooper (organ), from the Town Hall, Huddersfield.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN – BBC Home Service Basic, 25 December 1955 21.15 Hugh Burden, Clive Morton and Richard Humdall. The story of a great partnership in six episodes by Leslie Baily  – 4— The First Quarrel. Other parts played by: Eric Phillips, Olwen Brookes, George Skillan, Ysanne Churchman; and Betty Fleetwood. Narrator, Hugh Burden. The songs from the operas sung by: Webster Booth, Gwen Catley, Victoria Elliott, Arnold Matters, George James, Janet Howe, Denis Bowen , Gilbert Wright. Pianist. Alan Richardson, BBC Chorus – Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate. BBC Concert Orchestra – Leader, John Sharpe, Conductor, Charles Mackerras. Production by Vernon Harris.

(The BBC acknowledges the assistance of Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte and of Sir Newman Flower , the biographer of Sir Arthur Sullivan.

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8 January 1956 21.15 Hugh Burden, Clive Morton and Richard Hurndall in GILBERT AND SULLIVAN The story of a great partnership in six episodes by Leslie Baily. 6: Yeomen, Gondoliers and Goodbye. Other parts played by: Betty Hardy, Dudley Rolph , Ella Milne, Eric Phillips , Humphrey Morton, Narrator, Hugh Burden.The songs from the operas sung by: Webster Booth. Doris Gambell, Anna Pollak, Roderick Jones, George James. Sheila Rex, Gilbert Wright. Pianist: Alan Richardson. BBC Chorus (Chorus-Master, Leslie Woodgate ), BBC Concert Orchestra (Leader, John Sharpe ). Conductor. Charles Mackerras. Production by Vernon Harris.

 That was the last solo broadcast Webster Booth did in the UK, but he did several more with Anne Ziegler before they sailed for South Africa on board the Pretoria Castle in mid-July, 1956.

 

Compiled by Jean Collen

May 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Compiled by Jean Collen

2017.