EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – OCTOBER 1962

We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

1 October – Go up to the studio for report cards and Webster answers looking quite well. He greets me with, “I don’t know what Ruth is going to say when she hears but you’ve beaten her.” I say, “But she sang nicely – much better than I did.” “The examiner didn’t seem to think so!” he says with a hollow laugh. Anne brings in the cards. I have 76% and Ruth has 72%. We have exactly the same for our exercises which I think is rather unfair considering how well Ruth sang them.

Go to SABC and when Ruth arrives I give her the report and she is thankful to have passed. Iris and Ila Silansky talk to us at interval and I get rather carried away defending Webster (whom Ila and Iris don’t like for some unknown reason).

There is a rumour that Johan is leaving the SABC. I see the Ormonds’ new black Rover.

2 October – I work hard in the morning and then Mum and I go to Ansteys for lunch. I’m at the studio first. Webster and Anne arrive, looking very smart. I tell them of my desire to do Higher Local and skip Senior. Webster says, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t.” I add that I want to do it in April and they are still quite complacent and pleased about the idea.

They look out all the Bach and Handel arias and try to decide which one to do. We swither over Father of Heav’n but they decide it is too long. “When I played the record Kathleen made of it, I had to cut it,” Webster tells me. We decide on an aria from the Christmas Oratorio by Bach called Prepare Thyself Zion. It is very nice and he sings it for me very softly and sweetly. There is another aria in the work that is beautiful and I must look at it at home when I’m copying out the Zion one – Slumber Beloved. The book belonged to Mabel Fenney (who taught at our school. Webster says he’d like me to do the same aria as she did for my final exam.

They tell me to get The Swan by Grieg. “I can tell you before we start that any song by Granville Bantock would be difficult, so we won’t do that one,” says he flatly.

They tell me that another of their pupils has just started on the exam I have finished and is doing Polly Oliver. He told her that he had another pupil who would probably be delighted to throw the old music at her!

We talk about Mrs Fenney and Anne tells me that she worked very hard indeed and used to come into the studio before they arrived and practised like mad. She adds that the tragedy of it was that she fell madly in love with Webster and showered him with so much attention that the poor darling was very embarrassed. I roar with laughter and look at him and he looks rather uncomfortable and says he must confess he felt rather flattered. Anne says that towards the end it was rather awful – not that she blamed her for she had such an awful husband! Everyone falls for Webster. “She was a bit mad,” says Anne. I think I’m a bit mad myself to be doing this exam. We have a good laugh and I depart feeling quite elated.

3 October – Work hard in the morning copying from the Christmas Oratorio. After lunch, I say goodbye to Mum and toddle into town to purchase The Swan and the new vocal studies.

Go up to studio and Gill is there in the midst of practising for a last minute accordion duet she is to play at the SA Championships. Miss Margaret Cameron comes up and takes a fancy to me and shows me her book of kitchen tea verses with illustrations by Heather McDonald-Rouse. Apparently she has known her for years. Shealso did the script for Mrs McD-R’s concert on Saturday night in Malvern.

Gill departs to practise with her partner – a chap called Lynn from Durban – “Who would just suit you,” she says. She tells me that Johan has been given the sack. I am so sorry.

I am left alone in the studio and Arnold Fulton phones to inquire about speech exams – he seems to haunt me and I’m sure I’m haunting him.

I come home and try over songs and studies – all most complicated and heaven knows why I have decided to torture myself once more.

4 October – Go to SABC at night. Ruth doesn’t come. Johan works us hard and plays the organ beautifully – I’m so sorry he’s leaving. I really can’t understand that he would have been “given the sack”!

5 October – Work. Dad takes Mum and me for a run to Pretoria which is fun despite the rain.

I listen to recorded version of G and S from last night. Patience is very good. I think Dennis (the boy whose mother made apple tart for Anne, Webster and me) sings Danny Boy on Stars of Tomorrow.

6 October – Go to town and music library. I get three very dry, highly scientific music books. I have to take one back on Monday as it is a work of reference.

Meet Gill who is delighted to have come second in the accordion duet competition. Lynn bought her a brooch to say thank you for playing with him.

Have lunch in Capinero with Mum and Dad and then we see Black Tights, a ballet affair with Cyd Charisse and Moira Shearer. Meet Iris there with her family.

8 October – Go into town with Mum. We have lunch in Ansteys and then go to hear organ recital given by Harry Stanton in the city hall. Very few attend but he plays wonderfully all the same and we enjoy it.

Webster, Petrina Fry and Anne at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford.

At night go to SABC – we work madly on Ninth Symphony and Messiah. Talk to Ruth who is feeling very miserable because she has broken up with Alan as he was getting a bit too serious. She had a lesson on Saturday and is going to do the next exam – Senior. We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

9 October – I manage to get the diploma syllabus from Mannings. The contents frighten me to death but I’m determined to see it through.

Go up to studio and Webster is there by himself. He tells me that Anne has gone shopping and should have been back hours ago – he is quite worried about her.

He is in the middle of mending a plug which has lost its screw and he seems to find this a most complicated procedure. He curses it in no dignified terms. I ask him how he enjoyed Margaret Inglis’ wedding and he says, “Oh, it was jolly! We had such a delightful time. It was a very small affair.”

He makes me a cup of tea and we take it over to the piano. He starts to get very agitated about Anne and says, “I always worry about her when she doesn’t get back in time. She could easily have been run down by a car.” Knowing Anne, I doubt whether that would be at all likely.

We start on the HL studies and exercises with him playing the piano with sausage fingers. They go quite well, but he says I must learn to cut out the intrusive ‘h’ – it’s bad. Remember what the examiner said in the report.

The studies are fairly complicated and he says that he thinks I should turn the acciacatura into an appoggiatura seeing the note is dotted – I hope he’s right. He suddenly turns round to me and asks whether I read music better with my eyes or my fingers. I say, “My fingers!” He says “I can’t read music with my fingers – they’re too stiff now and I don’t practise much on the piano, but I don’t find it at all difficult to sing at sight!”

He goes to phone the garage because their car is there. Anne arrives in in the middle of the call and tells me she has had to spend forty minutes in Kelly’s – they’re so stupid.

We go through studies and The Swan and he says I must sing it in German. He asks about solo parts in Ninth Symphony. I say that I think Gé Korsten and Graham Burns are going to sing the tenor and bass roles – he looks quite crestfallen at this.

A woman they both detest arrives and Webster gives her a cup of tea. Anne talks to me about the heat and I say that there will probably be a storm later. There always seems to be a storm on the evening of her programme. I tell her that we all enjoy it very much. She is pleased and tells me that although it is a great success the SABC is taking it off at Christmas. I say that it’s about the most enjoyable programme on the radio and it’s a shame to have it taken off so quickly. Needless to say, we part on very friendly terms.

Listen to Anne at night and she is quite wonderful – conjures up London Palladium memories with Tommy Trinder, and them singing So Deep is the Night.

Plays Lock Up Your Daughters – a mistake – and My Fair Lady. She tells us about Rex Harrison almost becoming her brother-in-law. He worked in the Liverpool Repertory company, lived near them and took a fancy to her sister Phyllis. Perhaps it’s just as well that he didn’t marry her sister, judging by his amorous adventures.

I felt sorry for Webster today. He looked so old and tired and acted in a doddery manner, merely a skeleton of the former man. He has to go to Bloemfontein to direct The Pirates of Penzance soon so perhaps that will put some life into him.

11 October – Go to Mrs S in the afternoon. She had bad weather when she was away in Cape Town. We go through the piles of theory I have completed while she was away. I have to go on Saturday for ear tests.

Listen to Webster on G and S at night – he repeats about half of last week’s programme but still manages to get through the first act of Patience after three weeks at it, after much twisting of the tongue over “The Dragoon guards.”

13 October – Go to SS studio in morning. Margaret is there so I go through some of her ear tests with her.

We lunch in Capinero and Mum brings me a letter from Suzanne Pitchford my old Winchester Castle pal whom I haven’t heard from for almost three years. She’s working in Barclays Bank and seems very happy in Brighton and has a steady boyfriend with whom she intends to “rest her case”.

We see Sergeants Three which I enjoy and hear Only a Rose at night sung by my two pals.

14 October – Go to Sunday School and practise for anniversary.

We go to Diamonds in afternoon and pass Anne’s car outside the SABC. Webster is going to Bloemfontein soon so perhaps he is recording his G and S programme today.

15 October – Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that Webster went to Bloemfontein to produce Pirates of Penzance on Friday. He might have said goodbye! We pretend to mope about it and Gill asks why I’m sad. Ruth says, “Because her lover is away!” Have a laugh.

At interval, Ruth says she much prefers Webster to Anne. She has a laugh when I imitate him talking about Margaret Inglis’ wedding.

16 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there in a crimson dress looking hot and flustered. We have tea and moan about the heat. She says it is so hot and dry that she could cry at the slightest provocation.

We start on scales and I sing them to “mee” – I tell her I sound like a sheep. I manage to reach top C. I do exercises and studies and decide that they are quite nauseating. She tells me that Mabel Fenney got her diploma in Berlin and is now going to London to carry on studying either with Keith Faulkner or at the Royal Academy. Her husband is still here, stuck outside of PE managing a cheap hotel. She has been away for over two years and the only way he manages to support her is by gambling on the stock exchange. She flew over here last year and the first thing she did was to drive straight to their house and sat with Webster (who had ‘flu at the time) for practically the whole day. She says it was really very painful for everyone and the more Webster snubbed her, the more she made up to him. He practically ignored her in the end but nothing put her off.

She says that Ruth is having a swimming pool – have I seen it yet? That is the first I’ve heard of it. We discuss the Rover and she says that they’re being quite sensible with their money and not buying another house.

17 October – I work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. We buy a gorgeous hat afterwards.

Go to SS studio where Gill tells me that Tufty is thinking of following Johan when he goes overseas. I have a good lesson and then have tea with Miss Cameron and Mrs S.

18 October Go to SABC at night and possibly due to the horrors of Latin or a compelling desire to listen to G and S, Ruth doesn’t come.

Roger O’Hogan (choirmaster at St Mary’s, Yeoville) takes us, and is excellent. He was one of the judges in the recent hymn competition. I talk to Tufty and Gill but they’re not as much fun as Ruth.

19 October – I listen to a recorded version of G and S. Webster finishes Patience at last and says that next week he has something interesting for the listeners but he imagines some eyebrows will be raised at it. If he’s going to start playing jazzed up G and S I shall die.

Have lunch with Mum and then go to Piccadilly to see Raising the Wind, a British comedy about music students with James R. Justice, Kenneth Williams and Liz Fraser. It is a wonderful film. How I’d adore to go to a London music college.

20 October – Go to SS studios and work with Margaret and then sing in ensemble. Margaret tells us corny jokes just as she used to do at school.

Go to see Roman Holiday in the afternoon.

22 October – Go to SABC. Pieter de Vaal takes us. Ruth tells me that her singing is growing harsh owing to her mother forcing her to sing high notes. She was talking to Anne and saying how depressed she felt and Anne said, “Well, never mind. You’re not the only one. I get depressed with all these pupils. I can’t stand any of them. There’s only four I like and that’s you, Jean, Lucille and someone else.” (she couldn’t remember the name). Ruth told her that she was only including our names to be polite and Anne replied, “No, darling. I really mean it.” Well, that is something!

23 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there by herself in a shocking pink hat. She makes tea and phones about the car – they’ve bought a new Anglia and it’s giving them a lot of trouble. It has to be ready for next Wednesday because she’s driving down to Bloemfontein to fetch Webster.

We have tea and she is very depressed. “I’ve never felt so unhappy in all my life. I hate this city and the whole country. The people are so inconsiderate and rude here and I loathe it. I’ve hated it from the very first but now here, by myself, I hate it more than ever. If I had a family it might be all right but for a woman all by herself, it’s awful.” I feel very sorry for her.

We start on Ein Schwan and it goes fairly well. We go through it a few times and it improves. She says that Ruth’s voice is tending on the harsh side, probably owing to the Ninth symphony (Probably owing to her mother more likely!) She’s terribly depressed with the weather and Alan. I say – at Ruth’s bidding from last night – that she was much cheerier now. Anne says, “Oh, how sweet. I’m very fond of her indeed.”

She tells me that a shop in Edinburgh sent her a parcel of white heather and she had to pay 20 cents on it because the intimation from the post office never arrived. She says heather tends to get very messy.

We work on the Bach aria and take down Mabel’s breath marks. She tells me that Mabel had wonderful breath control. They had a letter from her the other day and it was quite sensible. “Whether it’s because she’s found a new boyfriend or not, I don’t know, but it was a normal letter, like you or I would write!”

We work at the aria and Anne says, “Mum’ll have to work at the accompaniment of that soon!” We do study and she says that it is really excellent and I have memorised it well for it is very difficult indeed.

There is a picture of Anne in the paper in connection with Music for Romance, and Webster sings Love, Could I Only Tell Thee on the radio. Her programme is wonderful. She plays Blossom Time with recordings by Richard Tauber and says she went to see the film with the “young man of the moment after a lovers’ quarrel”.

Plays Annie, Get Your Gun and talks of attending the London first night. Goes on to Merrie England and tells of the production which took place in the grounds of Luton Hoo with a chorus of 600 including the Luton Girls’ Choir and a seating capacity for thousands. She plays his recording of The English Rose, and The Night Was Made for Love, which he made in 1935 with George Melachrino in the orchestra playing the clarinet. He had a cold when he made it.

I’ll bet they will go back to England the moment he gets his post-war credits, and good luck to them!

24 October – In the morning Mum and I go to get registered as aliens which, as someone remarked, is rather like going to prison. We have lunch in Ansteys to cheer us up and this is nice.

Go to SS studio and talk to Gill who runs down Mrs S and raves about Gerrit Bonn, whom she calls by his Christian name now. She does some ear tests with me. I have a good lesson but I have a cold coming on – my third this year. I ask Gill to excuse me from choir tomorrow night if I don’t manage to get there.

25 October – Stay in bed in the morning with ghastly cold – feel stiff, cold, achy and miserable. In the afternoon I phone Ruth to tell her that I can’t go tonight and we talk for half an hour.

She says Anne is going to Bloemfontein so she’s going to miss a lesson as there are 5 weeks in the month. We talk of her picture being in the paper and she tells me about the scrapbook she has full of press-cuttings. I relate a story of my own scrapbooks. She says that some girls at her school don’t like them and one said she heard them sing at the Wanderers and though they were dreadful. Ruth says she was so cross that she nearly slapped the girl in question. We decide that they are lucky to have at least two people who’ll stick up for them, come hell or high water. She tells me jokingly that with Webster being away my resistance is low and that explains my cold. Her mother met Diane Todd (who starred in My Fair Lady and thought she was common.

Listen to Webster at night and he does give us a surprise by playing a version of Mikado recorded for American TV and produced by Martyn Green, with Stan Holloway as Pooh-Bah and Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko. Next week he’s playing Pirates of Penzance as he is “having the pleasure of producing it in the charming new Bloemfontein Civic Theatre.”

27 October – Go to SS studio. Elaine and I spend time doing technical exercises and after tea, I play ear tests for everyone.

28 October – Go to Sunday school and we have our last practice before the anniversary. One little girl tells me that she knows I take singing lessons because they heard me singing when I played the piano and heard how beautifully I could sing!

David Cross tells me that I’ve been nominated to stand for literary CCD minute secretary. I don’t commit myself to anything.

In the paper, Gary A says that G and S is finishing at the end of the year and will be replaced with Webster presenting a programme called Great Voices. Gary A thinks it will run even longer than G and S.

Lord Oom Piet!
Lord Oom Piet

29 October Go to SABC. We rehearse with Pieter de V. At interval I am introduced by Ruth to Hester, the new girl who sits next to her. She informs us that she pays £1-10-0 a month for singing lessons with a Mrs du Preez in Roodepoort. Ruth remarks patronisingly that when she improves she can always go into town and learn with someone great!

30 October – Anne phones early in the morning and tells me that “something has come up” and she can’t possibly go into the studio at all today, but could I come next Monday at 3.30 to make up for it. I could. She says that Ruth told her I wasn’t keeping very well. I say, no, I’m not – next Monday will be better. She says she hopes I’ll be better. Degenerate into a state of illness and nausea. Mum has to come home. Spend day in sheer torture.

31 October – Ruth phones me at night to worry me further. The Performing Arts Council is holding auditions on Monday evening for singers. She’d like to audition – would I? I don’t commit myself. Evidently she had a grand lesson this afternoon and got in at 3.50. Anne had already phoned her mother to see what the matter was. Anyway she had a charming time having a little tea party with Anne and singing intermittently. Evidently Anne is missing Webster in the worst way and says she loathes teaching without him and if he goes away again she feels like refusing to teach. His first night is on Saturday and they are coming back on Sunday. She told Anne to send Webster all her love!

WEBSTER BOOTH AND GILBERT AND SULLIVAN.

In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.

Webster Booth and Gilbert and Sullivan.

As a young man, Webster Booth was serving articles as an accountant in Birmingham and taking singing lessons in his spare time at the Midland Institute with Dr Richard Wassell, the organist, and choirmaster at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. He was a tenor soloist in the church and fulfilling engagements as tenor soloist in regional oratorio performances as far apart as Wales and Scotland.

Midland Institute where Webster had lessons with Dr Richard Wassell.

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Interior of St Martin’s Church, the Bullring, Birmingham

St Martin's

In 1923 the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company came to Birmingham and he managed to obtain an audition with New Zealander, Harry Norris, the D’Oyly Carte conductor. Harry Norris was impressed with Webster’s voice and on his recommendation, he was summoned to see Rupert D’Oyly Carte in London. He was meant to audit a firm’s books in South Wales. Instead, he decided to throw caution to the wind and went to London for the audition instead. He sang five or six songs to an unreceptive D’Oyly Carte and his general manager, Richard Collett.

‘I became increasingly anxious. It was like singing to two mummies…
”I think he’ll do,” Mr D’Oyly Carte said in a rather pained voice, thinking, no doubt, that here was yet another name one the pay-list.
“I should think so, sir,” was the reply.
‘Thus unenthusiastically was I welcomed into the Profession of the Stage.’ (Duet, p. 34)

Although he had been doing well in accountancy, he abandoned his job with little regret to become a professional singer, making his debut with the company as one of the Yeomen in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923.

In 1924 he married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his former headmaster at Aston Commercial School. Winifred borrowed £100 from a relative, with no intention of repaying it, and used the money to follow Leslie to London against her parents’ wishes, or possibly, even without their knowledge. They might have approved of the match had Leslie remained a respectable accountant like his elder brother, Norman, but they were against her taking up with a chorus boy in the D’Oyly Carte. Her family had no more to do with her, partly because of her defiance of their wishes and partly because she had borrowed such a large sum of money under false pretences from a member of the family. Because they disowned her they never knew that she and Leslie had married or that she gave birth to a son, and, thinking the worst of her, imagined that she and Leslie were living together in sin.

Winifred and Leslie’s son, Keith was born the year after their marriage on 12 June 1925, and his birth was registered in Birmingham North.

6 August 1925 – Borough, Stratford. Interest remains unabated in the D’Oyly Carte company, now in the second of their two weeks’ engagement at this theatre. On Tuesday The Yeomen of the Guard was staged, and met with the usual enthusiastic reception from an audience who obviously enjoyed every number. Encores were frequent. The entrance of Mr Henry A Lytton as Jack Point was naturally the signal for an outburst of applause, which was fully justified by his consistently fine work in this well-written role. His apt mingling of humour and pathos is amongst the best things he has ever done. As the other strolling singer Miss Winifred Lawson made a distinct success, singing and acting with real talent. Happily cast also were Mr Leo Sheffield as the grim gaoler and Miss Aileen Davies as Phoebe. Miss Bertha Lewis made a capital Dame Carruthers, whose chief song was rendered artistically; and Miss Irene Hill scored as Kate. Mr Sydney Pointer’s agreeable voice helped him to make Colonel Fairfax a prominent figure, and Mr Darrell Fancourt was a strong Sergeant Meryll. Others who shared in the success were Mr Joseph Griffin as Sir Richard, Mr Herbert Aitken as Leonard, and Mr Leslie W. Booth as the First Yeoman. The stage director is still Mr J.M. Gordon and Mr Harry Norris is the touring musical director.
In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.

18 November 1926 – D’Oyly Carte Canadian Visit. It has been arranged for the D’Oyly Carte principal company to visit Canada at the end of the season at the Princes on December 19. The company will embark for Canada in the steamship Metagama on the 24th. The tour will open in Montreal on January 4. Mr Richard Collett, the general manager of the company, will be in charge of the tour.

After a stay of two weeks in Montreal, the company will proceed to Toronto and thence to Winnipeg, staying in each of these cities for a fortnight. There will also be visits to Lethbridge, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island. The tour will end at Montreal in the middle of May. The Mikado, The Gondoliers, The Yeomen of the Guard, and HMS Pinafore will form the repertory. The leading principals, with the exception of Miss Elsie Griffin, will take part in the tour. Miss Griffin’s place will be filled by Miss Irene Hill. Misses Bertha Lewis, Winifred Lawson, Aileen Davies, Messrs Henry A Lytton, Darrell Fancourt, Leo Sheffield, and Charles Goulding are included in the company.
Webster Booth sang Your Tiny Hand is Frozen at the ship’s concert, so impressing principal soprano Winifred Lawson that she was not at all surprised when he soon rose to fame after he left the company. He was particularly impressed when the chorus sang Hail Poetry in the open air when the company visited Chief Big Crow and Chief Starlight in the Sarcee Reserve, Calgary.

Passenger list on return to Liverpool 

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SS Megantic (White Star) return to Liverpool from Canada, May 1927.

He stayed with the company for four and a half years but made no great advancement from singing in the chorus, small parts and understudying the tenor principal roles. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way he would advance in the company was to wait patiently to fill “dead men’s shoes”. Despite this observation, he was one of the few singers allowed to record individual songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire without prior approval of the D’Oyly Carte family.
His recordings of Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes and A Wand’ring Minstrel under the baton of gifted conductor, a fellow native of Birmingham, Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD.

Leslie was away on tour for fifty weeks of the year and Winifred, left alone with her small son, was estranged from her parents although living in the suburb of Moseley in the same city. Leslie had suspicions that all was not well at home when he arrived home from a tour with D’Oyly Carte to find Keith sitting by himself on the doorstep. Winifred had left her small son to his own devices while she went dancing. Several years later, she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son.

Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he happened to be singing, but despite desperate attempts to trace her, he never found her, and eventually divorced her in 1931, citing Trevor Davey as co-respondent. Leslie was granted custody of Keith, who decided on his sixth birthday that he never wanted to see his mother again.

After the stability of a regular – if small – salary from D’Oyly Carte, he was now a freelance performer with a small son to support and no regular money to his name. In the D’Oyly Carte Company he was known as Leslie W. Booth, but now he adopted his middle name and became known as Webster Booth on stage, although his family and close friends continued to call him Leslie for the rest of his life. One of his boyhood nicknames was Jammy, and he once signed a photograph “Yours sincerely, Kingy”!

LWB -01

26 May 1939 – Gilbert and Sullivan The scheme of the London Music Festival is designed to embrace all the chief musical activities of the metropolis and it was proper that the popular concerts given by Mr Ernest Makower at the London Museum should have their place in it. The concert given on Wednesday evening was an unusual one, though Mr Makower never keeps to any beaten path in his selection of music for performance. It was felt that no English festival would be really complete if Gilbert and Sullivan was not represented in it. So, with the permission of Mr D’Oyly Carte, Dr Sargent arranged a programme of selections from the famous comic operas. In a preliminary talk, Dr Sargent apologised for going against Sullivan’s expressed wish that his operatic music should not be performed in concert form.

But no excuse was necessary to justify the admirable singing of the extracts by Miss Irene Eisinger, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr George Baker. We do not often hear Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes so well sung in a theatre. Miss Eisinger’s songs reminded us that Sullivan’s heroines descended at no great distance from Mozart’s soubrettes, whom we are accustomed to hearing her sing so delightfully. It was good too to hear the music played by the Boyd Neel orchestra, whose contributions included the delightful patchwork overture, Un Ballo and the Iolanthe overture. There was, as usual, a large and enthusiastic audience.

1953 – The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (film). Robert Morley, Ian Wallace, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams and voices of Webster Booth, Elsie Morrison, John Cameron.
Webster was annoyed at the billing he was given in this film. He did not appear in it but his voice was dubbed for Colonel Fairfax in the scene from The Yeomen of the Guard and in the final section singing an echoing version of A Wand’ring Minstrel.
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan 

January 1962 When the copyright on Gilbert’s words was lifted at the end of 1961 Webster was asked to present a Gilbert and Sullivan series of programmes on the English Service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

1962 WB radio

1963 Only a few weeks before The Johannesburg Operatic Society was due to open with The Yeomen of the Guard the committee decided that they needed a stronger Colonel Fairfax than the person originally cast in the role. Webster (aged 61) was asked to take over what is essentially the juvenile lead. He was a great success in the role.

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14 June 1963 (from my 5-year diary)

14 jUNE 1963

4 to 14 April 1973 – The Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pamela Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Webster Booth. The musical director was Jean Fowler.

I had moved to East London at the beginning of 1973 and joined the show at the last minute. I had a very happy reunion with Webster after seven years apart.

Jean Collen 23 August 2018.

 

Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London 1973