January 1961 – Go for a lesson with Anne. I arrive before them and when they arrive they wish me a happy New Year. When we go in Anne picks up the letters and says, “No love letters – only bills!”
I sit on studio couch and Webster asks whether I had a nice holiday. I say, “Yes, but it’s all over now.” He says, “Yes, thank heaven!”
Anne asks me whether I would like to enter the eisteddfod. I say I’d like to enter if I didn’t make a fool of myself. She says, “Oh, we wouldn’t let you do that.”
During my lesson with Anne, Webster goes and makes us coffee, is very sweet and calls me Jean a lot. We work through She Walks in Beauty while Webster prepares coffee and she tells me dozens of things to do to improve it.
She says, “You may think I’m pulling you to pieces completely, but you need someone else to notice your mistakes. Over the years Boo (that’s Webster) and I have pulled each other to pieces all the time.”
Anne tells me that when she was very hard up in London she became a model and the photographer told her to use her eyes. She says this is a good tip, and I must use mine. I mustn’t become a poseur, but I must use my eyes moderately.
Anne in the Craven A advert (circa 1935).
7 January – Matric results are in the paper and I manage to look up my own name. I pass! Breathe a sigh of happiest relief – now I shall really be able to concentrate on my breathing!
8 January – On the Springbok Radio programme, Tea with Mr Green, Leslie Green talks of his daughter, Penny’s recent wedding and says that just before she and her new husband were leaving the reception to change their outfits to leave on their honeymoon, the band was playing We’ll Gather Lilacs. Webster and Anne were at the wedding so they told the orchestra to carry on while they sang it for the bridal couple – very nicely too! That was a lovely thing to do. I’d love to be so spontaneous and not to be frightened of what people might say or think of me, but act as the spirit prompts me. Honestly, I think that was so sweet!
At night there is a gorgeous picture of Anne with Valerie Miller, complete with their Maltese pets in their dressing room at Lock Up Your Daughters! Anne uses her eyes like anything! Hope she remembers the sonnet for tomorrow.
9 January – Go for lesson today. Anne answers the door wearing a tight white skirt and over-blouse. She looks nice but a bit tired. Webster is in the studio too and is busy making coffee. He offers me some and I accept and sit on the divan drinking it a wee bit nervously, glancing at the array of adorable photographs enclosed behind the glass on the wall above it. Anne brings out her Shakespeare and we talk of Eisteddfod and the sonnet, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? Webster tells me where to get the entry form and they have a little squabble about whether I have to buy a syllabus to go with it. He ends the argument by saying, “It only costs a shilling anyway!”
We go over She Walks in Beauty amidst tremendous noise and she says, “Use your face more.” Only wish I could. Then we do Shall I Compare Thee.. Anne says I do it well but then says that my dimm’d sounds nasal and Liverpoolish and gives me an example of it! She says, “I love a Liverpool accent – it reminds me of home but…”
It goes on to tape once more and we all listen with rapt attention and I have mistakes pointed out to me. Webster says, “Be emphatic with clipping your words off at the end.” She says, “But not too emphatic,” and another small argument develops. She reads it – very nicely too – and says that of course, Shakespeare was thinking of home when he wrote the sonnet – if he did write it!. Home – England naturally – she and Miss Scott should get together.
Anne takes me over to the mirror to show me an exercise to practise with tip of my tongue to make it more flexible. Afterwards she asks Boo to do the exercise. He says he can’t, so she says, “Oh, darling, really! After all those years.”
He says, “My tongue isn’t a snake like yours!”
Anne’s favourite expression, “You be the boss,” with regards to lungs, tongue, speech, face, anything. She shows me how she keeps her tongue on the floor of her mouth when singing and starts off at low A and goes right up – must have been past high C. Really stupendous.
Anne complains of the heat and is generally homesick. Tells me that she always has nerves before a show – she’s frightened in case she forgets her lines – but sees that I’m dry-mouthed when nervous. She says that Thomas Beecham always had his score photographed in his mind and concentrated on that when he was conducting. She says, “It’s the only way.”
Both of them come to the door this time to bid me goodbye and I think this is sweet.
12 January – Biting remark from Taubie Kushlick concerning flops, “I don’t believe audiences stay away from plays to see GI Blues. Two’s Company and King Kong are sell-outs. Perhaps there has been so much theatre lately that there has not been enough talent to go round.” With regards to Lock Up Your Daughters, methinks that there was oodles of talent but bad material.
14 January – Dad comes home from work with some magazines. In Let’s Go is a photograph of Webster and Anne advertising LM Radio. I would take a bet that they never listen to it! Quite a nice picture though.
Listening to LM Radio
At night we visit the Scotts. We talk about Webster and Anne and they are not complimentary about them. – I feel quite infuriated! The add that of course their names were household words during the war.
16 January – Go into town in the afternoon to buy a few things and meet Margaret Masterton when waiting for tram. We talk of matric and as she is a singer, of Anne, whom she says sings well at times. I tell her about my preparations for the eisteddfod and she says she can’t enter this year because of the upcoming singing exam for which she has to work. She says she will have lots to do this year between Teachers’ Training College, singing, Physical Training – she is going to become a games mistress – and dramatics. Her parents are going overseas in April. Depart after enjoyable conversation with Margaret. She’s fun!
17 January – Go for lesson today and Webster answers the door and is sweet. I am wearing a heavy coat, so he says, “I see you thought it was cold today as well.” How could Mrs Scott say he is past his best? He’s a darling.
I sit in kitchenette until they tidy up the studio and then she comes in looking delightful in white skirt and blouse. We go into studio and Anne looks at entry form for eisteddfod and Webster says that it’s a swindle to have to buy a syllabus for every time an entry form is required. One of their pupils, Elizabeth, is entering four competitions and it will be unfair if she has to buy 4 syllabuses. Says he will go into Kelly’s and complain about it this afternoon.
I do Shall I Compare Thee with Anne and she says I do it well, but more light and shade are required and I tend to move up and down on my feet too often. I say that I do this in case I forget something. She says that she always takes a step backwards if she forgets something. “It’s a natural reaction to remove oneself!” Webster makes tea and we go on with the poetry. She says I must be sincere when I speak, and think and feel from my heart. “Webster and I have made such a success of musical comedy because we have always been sincere in our parts.” Says the usual – use face and eyes – will never be able to!
Anne starts to work on Shall I Compare Thee, and coming to part, And often where I don’t pronounce the d as I ought to, and she is trying to explain to me how to do it, Webster intervenes and says that my and should be accentuated. She disagrees. We all stand and look in the mirror and make motions of tongue with and. Webster says, “In all my records you’ll hear how I accentuate my and slightly.” She had said earlier, “Webster is an example of perfect diction in singing,” but by this time she is a bit cheesed off with him, and says, “I couldn’t even hear your often there. Darling, I don’t want you to think that I think you’re interfering but I think it would be better if you let me deal with this.”
Poor Webster disappears silently. He then turns on the tape recorder and she says, “For God’s sake – turn that thing down!” Whew! Archness can fairly fly!
She says it’s my Scots accent combined with a north country accent that has to be eradicated – I hear this every week. She reverts to a Lancashire accent and says, “A could eas’ly revert to mi old Lancashire way of talkin’ and drop mi jaw dawn, but ah ‘ave to improve mi diction.” I nearly die laughing, although she has probably never had a broad Liverpool accent like that in the first place. Then, at another stage of the proceedings, she says in appropriate accents, “Gor blimey, now yer talking Cockney!”
She tells me how to “make an entrance” at the eisteddfod – I haven’t much clue about this and just can’t smile sincerely for I don’t feel sincere! She says that I should stand with one foot in front of the other so that there is a secure pivot. “I do that always on the stage – as I have done for the past ten thousand years!”
She makes me hold her hand and walk up to the mirror with her, SMILE, and use my TEETH, and appear self-assured. “Be the boss. God gave you teeth to eat with and to smile with – use them!”
Says that when she was little her father said to her, “Look people straight in the eye.” I must do that on stage and half the battle’s won. I must look naughty, saucy, wicked – heaven knows what else – Anne is a darling.
After my lesson, Anne says they are going to try to take a holiday in February, but they will easily be able to fit me in for a lesson before they go. They are so sweet and charming that I hate it when people like Mr Murdoch and Mrs Scott say horrible things about them. I’ll always stick up for them no matter what people say about them. Anne says she is left-handed like me. She wears a big signet ring with A on it – cute.
24 January – Go for my lesson today and meet Shorty from the Church on the tram – he pays my fare!
Anne answers the door looking divine as usual and with her hair done once more – gingery this time. She takes me in and there is no sign of Webster. She arranges the ashtrays and says that when Webster is in the studio by himself he makes such a mess – you know what men are. She sits down and asks me to say poem and then Webster comes in nattering about a glass being missing. Anne says, “Oh, darling, Jean is here.” His face lights up and he says, “Oh, hello, Jean.” Cute – the lighting up part – I mean.
We go on with eisteddfod poem and Anne says that Shakespeare is most difficult and if you can manage Shakespeare you can do anything. Says that in singing, Handel is most difficult – if you can sing Handel, you can sing anything.
We go through the poem, line by line, and Webster makes us coffee. While we are drinking coffee, Webster says, “I came across a letter at home yesterday written by a Jean McLennan Campbell” – (I put in McIntyre – sotto voce) – “asking for singing lessons.” I remember that letter written in a very impulsive moment in October to which I never had a reply. I feel extremely embarrassed and admit, “Yes, it was me.” I try to pass this off lightly, saying, “I’ve lost the notion for singing, because I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t got much of a voice.” They are equally embarrassed and try to pass off not replying to my letter by saying how rushed they’d been with producing The Country Girl and Anne appearing in Lock Up Your Daughters. When I had no reply to my letter, I consoled myself by assuming that it got lost in the post.
Anne then says, “Anyway, I’d like to hear some scales.” She sits down at the piano and I go through some arpeggios not too badly – at least I keep in tune – and she determines my range up to high G. She says, “It’s all there anyway. You should practise the scales, even if you don’t take singing, to improve the lazy tongue.”
She makes me read the poem on tape and while over by the recorder I notice an address on the back of an airmail letter to them from Mrs Fenney, the music teacher who taught at Jeppe for a term. Mrs F could fairly sing too.
When we come to the end of the lesson I tell Anne that I am starting work in the library tomorrow so I don’t know about my lesson next week, so she tells me to phone her at home – 42-1078. They are going on holiday for three weeks from the ninth so I’ll only have two lessons next month – better than nothing. Webster and Anne come with me to the door and say they’ll hear from me tomorrow. They’re darlings.
Funny that I write more about them in my diary than anything else although it only takes ¾ of an hour in actual time than of anything else.
25 January – Start work at the Central Library today and boy, talk about working – between issuing, discharging, filing, and running to the vast book-room under the library building – I am exhausted. Am shown the ropes by Merle someone and have lunch with her and her friends. Thank heaven the first day is over. Do not learn my hours and am not sure if I’m going to like working there! The shifts – particularly the split shifts – sound uncongenial.
Come home on the tram with Mr Moodie. He pays my fare and gives me a long spiel about Webster and Anne. He tells me that Webster is really past singing now – they live near Heather, you know. I have met Heather, haven’t I? Yes, yes, yes. He says that Webster and Anne still sing light things well and that they are sweet. He once heard Webster singing with Peter Dawson, the Australian bass-baritone.
After tea I phone the Booths. Webster answers – speaking even more beautifully than normally – and tells me that Anne is out. I tell him that I don’t know my hours yet, but can I phone them tomorrow? He says, “Yes, certainly – any time between 10 and 3 at home.” Thank him, and he asks, “How did you get on at work, Jean?” I say, “Well, I had to work really hard, and boy, am I tired!” He says, “I don’t expect you knew where to turn.” I say, “Well, I’m glad the first day’s over, anyway!”
He says to me, “Well, don’t worry about anything, Jean, and get on with the job.” I say cheerio and promise to phone tomorrow. He’s a pet and he doesn’t drink excessively – I know!
26 January Work, work, glorious work once more. I am given my hours which makes me happy. Now I know whether I’m “coming or going!” During my lunch hour the public phone held up by an old “gentleman” who stays in there for at least half an hour, so I go into the office and ask if I can phone from there.
Anne answers, and I say, “Can I please speak to Mrs Booth,” (knowing all the time that it is her on the phone!). I tell her my hours, and none of my afternoons or mornings off suit because of their holiday. She tells me to hang on while she looks up her appointment book. She comes back with it and I hear her fiddling around with the book, saying, “It’s in such a muddle”. She asks if I can come on Saturday week at 11 and then on Monday at 4. I agree to this and she says, “You won’t forget to come, will you?” I say, “No,” (and mentally add, “And you?”) She is charming as always but her voice doesn’t sound as nice as Webster’s on the phone, who honestly has a most beautiful voice and wonderful diction.
29 January – to church in the morning and feel hacked off with Betty who says she can’t stand the Booth’s act. I say that they are charming in private but she still doesn’t seem too happy about it. I wonder why everyone I know thinks it is fine to criticise them!
Play and play, sing and sing in the afternoon. I’ll appreciate my free days now!
31 January Picture of Anne in the paper at night. In brackets (well-known singer, Anne Ziegler). It isn’t actually a very nice picture – she looks rather cold but as it’s her, I let that pass. She’s really a honey!