MY STAR/LITTLE SON BASSETT SILVER

Peter also sent me part of a Music Hall BBC broadcast on the Home Service on 26 April 1949. This recording is also in good condition and features Webster singing My Star during that broadcast. The applause by the studio audience was warm and it is obvious that My Star was one of Webster’s favourite songs as he was still singing it over ten years after he first recorded it.

Several days ago I had an email from Peter Silver, the son of the composer, the late Bassett Silver in connection with these recordings by Webster Booth. I had come across a photo of the cover of My Star several years ago but could not find any information about the song in the HMV catalogues. The recordings of My Star and Little Son originated in 1937 although I can find no evidence that they were issued commercially by HMV.

Little Son https://clyp.it/nmpdxwit
My Starhttps://clyp.it/rub0mrp5

Webster made many BBC broadcasts with Charles Ernesco and his Quintet in 1937 and 1938 and sang My Star and Little Son on several occasions on these programmes. Anne Ziegler made one broadcast with Charles Ernesco and sang My Star during her own broadcast.

Charles Ernesco and his Salon Orchestra
25 February 1937 My Star
26 December 1937 Anne Ziegler – My Star
15 February 1938 Little Son
24 April 1938 Little Son

September 1938
14 October 1938 With a Smile and a Song. Charles Ernesco is the violinist (left). Sydney Jerome is playing the piano.(Right)
Radio Luxembourg.

Peter also sent me part of a Music Hall BBC broadcast on the Home Service on 26 April 1949. This recording is also in good condition and features Webster singing My Star during that broadcast. The applause by the studio audience was warm and it is obvious that My Star was one of Webster’s favourite songs as he was still singing it over ten years after he first recorded it.

25 April 1949 My Star BBC Home – part of Music Hall Broadcast https://clyp.it/a5esqa5h

Peter has given me permission to share these recordings. I am very sorry that I was not able to improve the sound quality of Little Son.

I am very glad that my love for Webster and Anne and admiration for many of the related artists of their generation has led me to take an interest in a fine composer like Bassett Silver rather than the contemporary performers who were popular when I was young.

Jean Collen 21 February 2019.

MEDLEYS FROM THE WEBSTER BOOTH-ANNE ZIEGLER GROUP

The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook has acquired most of the recordings made by Webster and Anne. Until we come across some of the missing recordings (only about 10 sides to go now) I have been creating medleys for the group. Most of them last about half-an-hour and feature AZ-WB recordings and recordings by artists associated with them. Click on the links to listen to them and please let me know what you think of them.

The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook has acquired most of the recordings made by Webster and Anne. Until we come across some of the missing recordings (only about 10 sides to go now) I have been creating medleys for the group. Most of them last about half-an-hour and feature AZ-WB recordings and recordings by artists associated with them. Click on the links to listen to them and please let me know what you think of them.

Follow me on clypit at: https://clyp.it/user/3dacarmv

MEDLEYS

Beneath Her Window – Serenade medley https://clyp.it/5try4jji

Berlin Medley https://clyp.it/i4ko1uvl

Carmen Vocal Gems https://clyp.it/hvsgfiur

Caro Nome (Gwen Catley) and duet from La Boheme; https://clyp.it/zbp5cicv

Chappell Ballads https://clyp.it/usmmfazd

Christopher Robin songs https://clyp.it/zbmkb4zx

Co-optimists’ Medley (1) https://clyp.it/xwhjy5jo

Co-optimists’ Medley (2) https://clyp.it/ivgrw30v

Don Giovanni arias https://clyp.it/2d5qdxt4

Four Indian love lyrics https://clyp.it/avealivo

Heart’s Desire (1) http://youtu.be/Yu-yn3q0g6M

Heart’s Desire (2) https://clyp.it/4przfzz1

Home and Beauty https://soundcloud.com/mike-taylor-216/home-beauty-selection-by-magda-neeld-janet-lind-webster-booth

Irving Berlin medley (WB only) https://clyp.it/i4ko1uvl

Irving Berlin medley (in full) https://clyp.it/rlgvs413

Ivor Novello Vocal Gems 1 and 2 https://clyp.it/55owti5z

Ivor Novello vocal gems (3 and 4) https://clyp.it/ybq4yzk4

Land Without Music https://clyp.it/2nxvezhh

Lehar Medley 1 https://clyp.it/hy1mygca

Lehar Medley 2 https://clyp.it/hve0wojk

Merrie England Vocal Gems https://clyp.it/q30yolyj

Mikado Vocal Gems https://clyp.it/ieb4hgfh

More Songs that have sold a million (2) https://clyp.it/hmpttrnu

Noel Coward Vocal Gems https://clyp.it/wasffibi

Noel Coward medley (second record) https://clyp.it/siy2nc4j

Noel Coward medley (Anne only) https://clyp.it/gvszogj4

Porgy and Bess (complete, joined) https://clyp.it/4g2vho0a

Rigoletto medley https://clyp.it/t3jtniju

Rosemarie selection, WB, Victor Conway, Anne Welch https://clyp.it/egemxvfy

Songs that have sold a million (1) https://clyp.it/zkmb51lr

More Songs that have sold a million (2) https://clyp.it/hmpttrnu

Songs that have sold a million (1 and 2) https://clyp.it/z3f2qryw

Theatreland at Coronation time https://clyp.it/0thmbll2

Theatreland at Coronation time1937 https://soundcloud.com/mike-taylor-216/theatre-land-at-coronation-time-parts-1-2-1937

The Cat and the fiddle https://clyp.it/p30fjie0

The Gondoliers vocal gems https://clyp.it/2xjmc1f0

This year of Theatreland (1936) https://soundcloud.com/mike-taylor-216/webster-booth-janet-lind-this-year-of-theatre-land-1936

MEDLEYS COMPILED BY ME (JEAN COLLEN)

Birthday Medley 2019: https://clyp.it/ens5ahwf

Donald O’Keefe medley on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nao3-c1D0oI&feature=youtu.be

Romantic medley WB https://clyp.it/ov4uvqm0

Say that you are mine/Sylvia https://clyp.it/zhdcx40j

Songs I like (14 September 1938) https://clyp.it/zhlyqgut

St George’s Day medley WB JC https://clyp.it/2rcg0qyo

Tell me tonight/ah sweet mystery of life //clyp.it/ssuybzfn

Waltz Time medley: https://clyp.it/g0azrc3u

Webster Booth miscellany https://soundcloud.com/boothziegler/webster-booth-miscellany

BY DATE

JANUARY

January medley 2019 Campoli, WB, Rawicz and Landauer https://clyp.it/3uhnd0eq

2 January 2020 Oratorio medley for birthday : Acis and Galatea, Samson and Judas Maccabeus. Webster Booth https://clyp.it/zi1pmall

6 January 2020 Serenade in the Night Medley: La Serenata (Tosti), Serenade in the Night (WB), Heimwee (S. le Roux-Marais), Toselli’s serenade (WB), Trees piano and (WB), Jealousy (Gade) https://clyp.it/czh5a0qt

21 January 2020: Serenade from Frasquita Robert McDonaugh, Liebestraum (WB), Caré Selve (Zanta Malan), Love passes by (WB), Merry Widow waltz, Show me the way (WB) Ragamuffin (Mantovani) https://clyp.it/1ekbbq4t

31 January 2020 February 2020 medley: Deep River (Alfredo Campoli), Nazareth (Webster Booth), Estrellita (AC), A Perfect Day (WB), Only My Song (AC), I Love Thee (WB), Tell Me Tonight (AC), If You Had but Known (WB), Summer Garden (Charles Williams) https://clyp.it/0mzdht0r

FEBRUARY

February 2019 Webster Booth, Japie Human, Salon Orchestra

Serenade (Frasquita) WB, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Japie Human), Just for Today (WB), Fascination (JH), Show Me the Way (WB), Dreaming (Salon Orchestra)

https://clyp.it/p4yxl3xe

6 February 2020 Welsh medley, Ah, sweet mystery of life (WB), Sweet William, Sweet melody of night (WB), To a Wild Rose, Along th road to dreams (WB), Nimrod, Sylvia (WB), Savoy medley https://clyp.it/5c3nwjaz

Old Ballad Concert – McEachern, Gresham Singers, WB 26 February 1936 https://clyp.it/tsk0bmax

MARCH

March medley 2019 Alfredo Campoli, Anne, Webster, Fred Hartley

Poupée Valse Alfredo Campoli, Slumber Song (Schumann) AZ,
Arioso (Bach) Campoli, I love thee (Grieg) WB, My Star (Bassett Silver) WB, Mystic Beauty (Fred Hartley)
https://clyp.it/ezoipuro

March medley (2) 2019 Alfredo Campoli, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler. Softly awakes my heart (AC), Bless this house (WB), The Poplar Tree (AZ), Gypsy Moon (AC), You are my heart’s delight (WB), Tell Me Tonight (AC). https://clyp.it/3xfdjwvd

6 March 2020 Scherzo Caprice (Leon Goossens/Templeton), Friend o’ Mine (WB), Longing (Haydn Wood), Show Me the Way (WB), Song of Summer (Ketelby) Sweet Melody of Night (WB) Fingerprints (Engleman quintet) https://clyp.it/cyivrbtb

10 March 2020 10 March 2020 Tango medley: Golden Autumn (Ketelby), My Star WB (Bassett Silver), Fascination, O, Dry Those Tears WB (del Riego), Tango, ‘Tis the Day WB (Leoncavallo), Vienna, City of My Dreams.https://clyp.it/30tppqhh

18 March 2020 Song of Paradise medley: Song of Paradise (AZ/WB) Song of Paradise (Albert Sandler), Marigold (Mayerl) Fred Hartley quintet, Music for Romance (AZ/WB), Without your love (AZ/WB), Music for Romance (Campoli), Teddy Bears’ Picnic (Campoli) https://clyp.it/5fvgrebh

18 March 2020 Dusk medley: Romance (Rubinstein), Bird Songs at Eventide (WB), None but the lonely heart (Tchaikowsky), Homing (WB), Jeanie with the light brown hair, If you had but known (WB), Dusk (Armstrong Gibbs), Sylvia (WB), Flower show (Charles Williams) https://clyp.it/huae4vte 

APRIL

April medley 2019 – Harry Mortimer, WB, Albert Sandler, Debroy Somers https://clyp.it/4utgof3k

Good Friday selection WB JC https://clyp.it/2pjvsgv3

MAY

May medley 2019 Loch Lomond medley (Debroy Somers) Love is the key to all glory (AZ/WB) Greensleeves (WB), Gay Vienna (Robert Naylor) Sweethearts/One Day When We Were Young (WB) Dear Miss Phoebe selection ( Parr-Davies) I am grateful to Mike Taylor for several of these fine restorations. https://clyp.it/yv0yjszk

Mid-May medley 2019 Musette (Hartley), Come Back My Love (WB), Lehar medley (WB/AZ), Pomone Waltz (Albert Sandler), Show Me the Way (WB), Fledermaus fantasy (Rawicz and Landauer) https://clyp.it/3tt4axbh

Medley 29 May 2019: Horse Guards Whitehall, Giannina Mia WB, No, My Heart will Never Sing Again, Autumn Dream (Sydney Torch), May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You (WB), White Horse Inn medley (Peggy Cochrane) https://clyp.it/o5fiemig

JUNE

June medley 2018 Gypsy Moon, Still as the night, Loch Lomond, We’ll Gather Lilacs, Ivor Novello medley, Waltz Medley, ‘Tis the Day, featuring Alfredo Campoli, Anne and Webster, Fred Hartley, Rawicz and Landauer. https://clyp.it/olllrro1

4 June 2019 The Three Musketeers, WB Because, Peter Dawson The Floral Dance, Fred Hartley Bonnie Dundee, AZ WB Here in the Quiet Hills, WB Macushla, Harold Williams Lords of the Air https://clyp.it/fw1t4t05

22 June. Always (Leslie-Smith) Dearest of All (Vernon Lathom-Sharp) Old Folks at Home (Campoli), I Hear You Calling Me, Tchaikowsky waltz (Rawicz & Landauer), Homing (del Riego) Throw Open Wide (May), Mignon (Nocetti) https://clyp.it/osk1chdz

27 June 2019: Down the mall (Charles Shadwell), May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, There is no Death, A Love Song, (Charles Williams), Just for Today, Dusk (Armstrong Gibbs), Homing, Music Everywhere (Coates), Webster Booth and bands.

https://clyp.it/r3zlxbkz

28 June 2019: Hornpipe medley: Hornpipe (Eric Coates), Say That You are Mine, Glow Worm Idyll (Paul Linke), Sylvia, The Whistler and His Dog (Harry Mortimer), Trees, Rendezvous (Brooklyn Ensemble) Danny Boy, Nights of Gladness (Harry Mortimer https://clyp.it/giu4fb5d

JULY

July medley 2018 All the world is waiting for the sunrise (Seitz), played by P. Sears from YouTube, Castles in the air (WB), Dance of the Wooden Dolls, Side by Side (Melville Gideon from the Co-optimists), Always (WB), Poor Butterfly (Hugo Rignold), Drinking song (WB).

https://clyp.it/hct1upr2

27 July 2019 Narcissus, Bird Songs at Eventide (WB), Estrellita (Campoli), Absent (WB) Poeme (Campoli), Now is the Hour (AZ,WB), Vanity Fair (Anthony Collins)

https://clyp.it/cujvo4ew

AUGUST

August medley Alfredo Campoli, WB/AZ, Charles Ernesco https://clyp.it/d4itz5dn

7 August 2019 For You Alone (WB), Demande et Reponse (Albert Sandler), Somewhere a voice is Calling (WB), Two Sleepy People (Carroll Gibbons), O, Maiden, My Maiden (WB), Ma Curly-Headed Baby (Gershon Partington Quintet). https://clyp.it/vibxlrb1

20 August 2019 20 August 2019 Abide with me (WB), Harry Parr-Davies instrumental (Philip Sear), Count Your Blessings (Olive Groves) Burlesque Montague Philips (Philip Sear), Indian Summer (WB), Bal Masque https://clyp.it/w34xrguq

SEPTEMBER

September medley 2018 Rawicz and Landauer, Webster Booth, Peter Dawson, Fred Hartley, Anne Ziegler feature in the September medley. https://clyp.it/guoyneoa

20 September 2019 WB medley: Love is a many splendid thing (Fred Hartley), Smilin’ through (WB), Smoke gets in your eyes (Billy Mayerl), Star of my soul (WB), Chanson (Albert Sandler), Somewhere a voice is calling (WB), Gypsy Baron, One day when we were young (WB), Softly awakes my heart (Albert Sandler) https://clyp.it/fxnepncy

OCTOBER

1 October 2019 October medley: https://clyp.it/4c3bn22x Wood Nymphs (Eric Coates), The Rose of Tralee (WB), Love in Bloom (Billy Mayerl) The Shannon River ((John McCormack), Ivor Novello Medley (WB and Helen Hill), ‘Appy ‘Ampstead (Albert Ketelby)

19 October 2019 medley: https://clyp.it/5fw0hirc Parade of the pirates (Alfredo Campoli), Toselli serenade (WB), Carmen (Rawicz & Landauer), Ah yes, I remember it well (WB/AZ), Mary of Argyll (Scott-Wood), If You are There (WB), Laughing Cavalier (Haydn Wood)

NOVEMBER

15 November 2019 Handel in the Strand (Grainger), Bless this house (WB), A Quiet Stroll (Williams), Drink to Me Only (WB), Just a Corner of Heaven to Me (Peter Dawson), Indian Summer (WB), Gipsy Princess (Lehar) https://clyp.it/yqp0s5gb

November Medley 2018 A medley featuring Webster Booth, Alfredo Campoli. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life (Campoli), Serenade from The Student Prince, Ay, ay, ay, Phil, the fluter’s ball, (WB), clyp.it/3ifexoar

DECEMBER

1 December 2019 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Billy Mayerl), Ah, Moon of My Delight WB (Lehmann), popular tunes (Billy Mayerl), In the Shade of the Palm/Queen of June (WB), Butterflies in the Rain (Fred Hartley), Sweet Melody of Light (WB) Dancing Fool. https://clyp.it/user/3dacarmv

December Christmas broadcast 2015 #Christmas2015 A broadcast featuring Rawicz and Landauer, Webster Booth White Dove, and Anne Ziegler, Maurice Elwin – Josephine, At the end of the day, Little Road to Bethlehem, WB, Lift up your hearts (AZ/WB) Sylvia (WB) Silent Night (AZ/WB). O, Come All Ye Faithful (WB) Presented by me https://clyp.it/o5z5ttsu

Christmas Medley 2016 Albert Sandler, Rawicz and Landauer, Fred Hartley (piano), Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler. https://clyp.it/2cxcbsvt

Christmas medley 2018 When Big Ben Chimes, The Holy City, The Little Road to Bethlehem, Silent Night (with Anne Ziegler), The Star of Bethlehem, O, Come All Ye Faithful. https://clyp.it/b0zdg31t

December 2018 medley Campoli, Webster Booth, Rawicz and Landauer, Harold Williams, Malcolm McEachern in a selection for December https://clyp.it/emymfc1r

December 2019 Christmas medley The Lord’s Prayer, Nazareth, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful (Webster Booth, Anne Ziegler), Poeme Op41 – 14 (Alfredo Campoli) https://clyp.it/b2jbz4wj

25 December 2019: 25 December 2019 Medley – Marche Loraine, Azulao (de los Angeles), Moths around the candle flame, Snow Bird (Dawson) Just for today (Booth) Melodie d’amour, Just a Corner of heaven for me (Dawson) Mignon https://clyp.it/yfj4nw5l

27 December 2019 27 December 2019 – medley for 2020: Over to you, Greensleeves (WB), Deep in the heart of a rose (WB/AZ), Dancing Fool, Everywhere I go (WB), Music everywhere, When Big Ben Chimes (WB), Nights of Gladness https://clyp.it/xgctoskc

List compiled: 15 March 2020, Jean Collen

Alfredo Campoli, Webster Booth 
 

Songs I Like, by Webster Booth. 14 September 1938. Broadcast. Not all the songs from the broadcast have been located. https://clyp.it/zhlyqgut

Morgen (Strauss)/Come into the Garden, Maud (Balfe) Recorded in January 1945 HMV C3418. Webster Booth, accompanied by Ernest Lush and Alfredo Campoli. Both records restored by Mike Taylor. https://clyp.it/2sfecfdh

Song of the Vagabonds (WB), Smilin’ Through (WB), Laat Ons nie van Liefde Weer Praat nie (WB/AZ), Showboat medley (Billy Mayerl), Just a Little Love, a Little Kiss (WB), Shine Through My Dreams, Love is My Reason (WB) https://clyp.it/giydvsrz

April 2019 medley: Scipio march (Mortimer), Let Me Dream in Your Arms Again (WB), Love is My Song (WB), Demande et Reponse (Albert Sandler), Stay with Me Forever (WB) (If You are There) Scottish medley (Debroy Somers) https://clyp.it/4utgof3k

May 2019 Loch Lomond medley (Debroy Somers) Love is the key to all glory (AZ/WB) Greensleeves (WB), Gay Vienna (Robert Naylor) Sweethearts/One Day When We Were Young (WB) Dear Miss Phoebe selection ( Parr-Davies) I am grateful to Mike Taylor for several of these fine restorations. https://clyp.it/yv0yjszk

Robert Naylor, Anne and Webster, Debroy Somers.

https://clyp.it/3tt4axbh May 2019 Waltz Time medley (Hans May) Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (1945/1947) Albert Sandler on Violin.

Anne and Webster in the film “Waltz Time”
Mid-May Medley: Musette (Hartley), Come Back My Love (WB), Lehar medley (WB/AZ), Pomone Waltz (Albert Sandler), Show Me the Way (WB), Fledermaus fantasy (Rawicz and Landauer)
Medley 29 May 2019 Horse Guards Whitehall, Giannina Mia WB, No, My Heart will Never Sing Again, Autumn Dream (Sydney Torch), May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You (WB), White Horse Inn medley (Peggy Cochrane)
posted 19 days ago
Remembering Webster Booth on the 35th anniversary of his death on 21 June, and Anne Ziegler on the 109th anniversary of her birth on 22 June. https://clyp.it/osk1chdz Click on the link to listen to the anniversary medley.
Webster Booth (1936) Hornpipe medley: Hornpipe (Eric Coates), Say That You are Mine, Glow Worm Idyll (Paul Linke), Sylvia, The Whistler and His Dog (Harry Mortimer), Trees, Rendezvous (Brooklyn Ensemble) Danny Boy, Nights of Gladness (Harry Mortimer) https://clyp.it/giu4fb5d
27 June 2019 medley – Down the mall (Charles Shadwell), May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, There is no Death, A Love Song, (Charles Williams), Just for Today, Dusk (Armstrong Gibbs), Homing, Music Everywhere (Coates), Webster Booth and bands. https://clyp.it/r3zlxbkz
1 July 2019 Hornpipe medley: Hornpipe (Eric Coates), Say That You are Mine, Glow Worm Idyll (Paul Linke), Sylvia, The Whistler and His Dog (Harry Mortimer), Trees, Rendezvous (Brooklyn Ensemble) Danny Boy, Nights of Gladness (Harry Mortimer) https://clyp.it/giu4fb5d
Irish medley 8 July 2019: Irish medley (Debroy Somers), The Snowy-breasted Pearl, Lullaby (Cyril Scott), Macushla, Trees (Julian Lloyd Webber). Irish medley with Webster Booth, Over to You (Eric Coates) https://clyp.it/jrdkmikj

ANNE ZIEGLER née IRENE FRANCES EASTWOOD (1910 – 2003)

Irené Frances Eastwood (Anne Ziegler) was born on 22 June 1910, the youngest child of Ernest and Eliza Frances Eastwood (née Doyle) of 13 Marmion Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool.  Her father was a cotton broker, and her mother, born in Bootle, was the daughter of James and Elizabeth Doyle. James was an architect, who had designed the Grand Hotel, Llandudno and other well-known buildings. Her sister, Phyllis, and brother, Cyril, were some years older than her, so Irené was almost an only child. At the time of her birth, her father was in Houston, Texas, buying cotton, so he did not see her until she was three months old.

Marmion Road, Sefton Park

Her father did not want her to risk the might of the Zeppelins, so she had a Scottish nursery governess to teach her reading, writing and basic arithmetic. Later she attended Belvedere School. Her sister, Phyll, had done well there, but Anne was only interested in music and dancing, so the staff at Belvedere often compared her unfavourably to her studious elder sister, who had become a pharmacist when she left school.

 Anne left school at the age of sixteen and continued playing the piano up to Grade VIII of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and began to study singing with the eminent teacher, John Tobin. In the nineteen-twenties a girl of her class had no need to work for a living. She was beautiful: tall and slim with emerald green eyes, fair hair and a fine bone structure. She became engaged – several times – to suitable young men, including a curate!

Anne

She sang in John Tobin’s female choir of twenty-four voices and took the part of the May Queen in an amateur production of Merrie England

Anne (seated) surrounded by cast members.

She won the gold medal at the Liverpool eisteddfod and sang at concerts in and around Liverpool. At this stage singing was a pleasant way of passing the time rather than a means of earning her living for a girl of her class had no need to work and earn money. Her father financed a vocal recital in Liverpool and a further recital at the Wigmore Hall under John Tobin’s tutelage. At the Wigmore Hall she sang everything from Handel’s He’ll say that for my love from Xerses to Roger Quilter’s Love’s Philosophy and Scheherzade, but neither of these recitals brought forth any professional singing engagements.

30 April 1934 Wigmore Hall recital.

Her family’s fortune took a downturn in the early thirties with the depression and the collapse of the cotton shares. For the first time in her life, she had to think seriously about earning a living to relieve her family’s finances. She was not trained to do anything as mundane as serving in a shop or typing, but she was attractive and she could sing. She and her friend, the mezzo-soprano, Nancy Evans, went to London to audition. Nancy didn’t find any work on that occasion, but Anne got the part of top voice in the octet of a musical play, By Appointment, starring the famous singer, Maggie Teyte, changed her name to the more glamorous Anne Ziegler, was accepted on the books of the theatrical agent Robert Layton, and was determined to establish herself on the stage and not become a financial burden to her father. 

By Appointment was not a success and lasted only three weeks but she found another job singing for Mr Joe Lyon’s organisation amidst the clatter of the restaurants of the Regent Palace and Cumberland Hotels, and the Trocadero. She auditioned for the part of Marguerite in a colour film version of Gounod’s Faust Fantasy. She had seen the opera as a child and was so enchanted with it that she determined she would play the role of Marguerite when she grew up.

From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.

Anne and Webster in the “Faust Fantasy”

They fell in love almost at first sight, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were eventually married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

In the intervening four years from the time Anne and Webster met and when they were free to marry, Anne was principal boy in her first pantomime, was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in the early days of British television in 1936, and starred, under the name of Anne Booth, in the musical Virginia in New York. 

Anne had made a test recording for HMV  in 1935 but she made very few solo recordings for the company. It was only when she began singing duets with Webster that her recording career as a duettist was established in 1939. Here is her test recording from 1935:
The Waltz Song from Merrie England

At  the end of 1935, she was principal boy in Mother Goose, her first pantomime, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool with George Formby and George Lacey. The following year she was principal boy in Cinderella in Scotland with the popular Scottish comedian, Will Fyffe. 

Will Fyffe

Will Fyffe sings Twelve and a tanner a bottle

July 1937. Anne was invited to go to the States to appear in the musical Virginia by Schwartz.  She decided to take the name of Anne Booth for her appearance there and made up a fictional life story to go with her new name! The show was presented at the Center Theater, New York, but it was not a great success, and Anne did not receive very good notices. She returned to the UK after the show ended although a film company in Hollywood had been interested in employing her.

8 October 1937 Virginia

Anne and Webster were married on 5 November 1938 and from then on their lives and careers were intertwined and in the 1940s they were to reach the top of the entertainment tree as duettists.

Anne and Webster wedding

 

Jean Collen 13 September 2018.

 

WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER – MERRIE ENGLAND

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were associated with Edward German’s comic opera, Merrie England for most of their lives, and they sang other Edward German songs into the bargain. Anne had taken the role of the May Queen in an amateur production of Merrie England when still in her teens, and she sang Bessie Throckmorton’s Waltz Song as a test recording when she auditioned for HMV in the nineteen-thirties. One of her few solo recordings was the Waltz Song from German’s Tom Jones. 

Webster, as part of the HMV Light Opera Company, had recorded The English RoseRobin Hood’s Wedding and With a Hey, Robin in the nineteen thirties’ recording of Merrie England Vocal Gems (C2106) He made his own solo recording of The English Rose in 1939. The latter recording was one of his most popular recordings. Later he made a recording of Where Haven Lies from German’s A Princess of Kensington and told me he considered this song to be “the greatest love song ever written”.

Bessie’s Waltz Song (test record for HMV)

Merrie England Vocal Gems (with Webster Booth)

24 April 1939 Another concert by the Glee Club – Merrie England. Eight years ago 16 music lovers met in a recreation room at North End and formed the nucleus of the Portsmouth Glee Club, now a well-known organisation. The first concert they produced in the Guildhall took the form of a Coronation presentation of Merrie England. That was on April 14, 1937. Since then they have given numerous performances and on Wednesday next will give a concert of the music by Sir Edward German. Olive Groves and Webster Booth, the opera singer will take part. The programme consists of excerpts from Merrie England, Nell Gwyn dances, which will be played by the orchestra, and a complete concert selection of A Princess of Kensington. This last-named will be performed by the full chorus and orchestra of the Glee Club under the direction of Mr Harold Hall.

20 November 1940 – Oldham Evening Chronicle

This performance, conducted by Ernest Craig in the darkest days of the war, was in aid of the Mayor’s Spitfire Fund. The Avro Works in Chadderton, just down the road was, of course, an important centre of aircraft production, although they made bombers, not fighters. Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, fairly recently married and among the most famous variety duettists of that time took part. Tickets rapidly sold out and a second performance had to be arranged in the evening.

They appeared together in Merrie England was in a concert version in a Circus Big Top in Blackpool in the summer of 1941.

In 1945 they starred in a concert performance of Merrie England with the Oldham Choral Society at the Odeon Cinema, Oldham. The performance took place on a Sunday afternoon, conducted by the resident conductor, Ernest Craig. The show was so popular that it had to be repeated again that evening by public demand.

Merrie England – Captivating Singing in Oldham.

So great was the demand for seats to hear the concert performance of Merrie England by the Oldham Musical Society and well-known soloists at the Odeon Theatre on Sunday that it was necessary to repeat it in the evening. Originally the intention had been to have only an afternoon performance. Both houses were full, and the audiences were enthusiastic.

This light opera, Edward German’s masterpiece, abounds in beautiful and easily remembered melodies and in gay and happy choruses. It was in these choruses that the members of the Musical Society, of whom 79 were to be counted on the platform (27 of them men) excelled. They have seldom been heard to better advantage and appeared to enjoy the performances as much as did the audiences. They were accompanied by an orchestra of 23 players led by Alfred Barker, under the baton of Mr Ernest Craig, ARCM.

Ernest Craig

The principal soloists were: Anne Ziegler, Bessie Collins, Webster Booth and Arthur Copley.

But it was in the early nineteen-fifties when Anne and Webster came into their own in Merrie England,  taking the starring roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh with various amateur operatic societies. The first such performance was from 15 – 18 August 1951 at Westbourne Gardens, Liskeard, Cornwall. The show was presented by Liskeard Musical Theatre, directed by Thomas J. Bell and conducted by Percival Hill.

24 June 1952 – Merrie England was performed at Priory Park, Chichester. The show was an open-air production presented by the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society and starred Anne and Webster in their usual roles, with Leslie Rands and Marjorie Eyres another husband and wife singing team, once distinguished members of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, playing the Earl of Essex and Jill-All-Alone in a week’s run in aid of charity in Priory Park, Chichester, Leslie’s birthplace. The remainder of the principals were drawn from the Chichester and Bognor Regis Amateur Operatic Society and Societies from the surrounding districts.

Merrie England – Anne and Marjorie Eyres sign autographs.

1953 was Coronation Year so Merrie England, set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, seemed like an ideal work to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Anne and Webster were booked to appear in a number of these productions.

31 January 1953 – Northern Miner Luton’s Coronation pageant to be held in the grounds of Luton Hoo, one of England’s stateliest homes, from June 9 till June 15, will be one of the largest events of its kind ever staged in Britain. There will be more than 1000 performers, all in Elizabethan costume for this special version of Merrie England. The setting of the pageant will represent Old Windsor, with an impressive reproduction of the castle in the background.

A special feature will be an illuminated water curtain, which will screen the stage from the auditorium before the performance. The famous Luton Girls’ Choir will take part in the pageant and other well-known singers will support the principals – Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. Mounted performers will be dressed in full uniform of the Yeomen of the Guard, and ballet, folk-dancing will be demonstrated by experts.

Calgary, Canada

There was even a concert performance of the work in Canada. An advance notice about this notified the public that it would take place in the Stampede Corral, Calgary in May conducted by Harold Ramsay, an old friend of the Booths. He had been born Harold Ramsbottom in England, but raised in Canada. He changed his name to Harold Ramsay and became a gifted cinema organist, first in Canada and the USA. He went to England in 1933 and became Granada’s Chief Organist. He returned to Canada after World War 2.

The Calgary Herald, 3 March 1953 read as follows:

17 April 1953 – Calgary Herald. Merrie England Presentation. British Stars Feature in Choral Society Début. When the Calgary Choral Society makes its first public appearance in the Stampede Corral on May 9, two of Britain’s brightest singing stars, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be there to sing the leading tenor and soprano roles of the society’s Merrie England presentation…

The roles of Sir Walter and Bessie will be played by the British singers, who are making a special air trip to Canada for the production.

The two artists are probably the most popular singing team in the British concert stage today. They are familiar with the principal roles in Merrie England and having sung them on many occasions.

Webster Booth has been singing since he was a small boy. He began his singing career as a boy soprano in Lincoln Cathedral. When his voice broke he returned to his native Birmingham and took a job as a clerk in an accountant’s office.

Their trip to Canada in May will inaugurate the Calgary Choral Society which was organised last September by the Calgary Kiwanis Club. Music for Merrie England will be provided by 50 musicians drawn from the Calgary Symphony Orchestra.

The Calgary Choral Society has 188 male and female voices and from this group several have been selected to sing title roles in the production…Conductor of the choir is Harold Ramsay, director of Mount Royal Conservatory of Music and organist and choirmaster at Wesley United Church…

28 April 1953 – Ottawa Citizen. British Stars Flying 8,800 Miles to Sing – by the Canadian Press. London – Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, Britain’s top man-and-wife operatic team, will ditch a well-earned holiday to fly 8,800 miles to a one-night stand in Calgary.

Calgarians can thank a long-standing friendship between the British couple and Harold Ramsay, former BBC organist who founded the Calgary Choral Society under the sponsorship of the Calgary Kiwanis Club.

Ramsay said wistfully in a letter describing a musical play he is producing: “I only wish you and Anne were free.”

The couple immediately gave up plans for a three-week holiday in France and will appear in the opening performance on May 9 of Merrie England, a Tudor production well suited to the coronation of the second Elizabeth. They will be the only professionals in an otherwise all-Canadian cast…Calgarians will be the more appreciative of Ramsay’s success because the Booths have leading roles in this country’s coronation summer entertainment plans.

The Calgary appearance will be one in a series of Merrie England performances. The first in the United Kingdom is scheduled to begin on June 1 at Newport, Wales. One of the biggest will be at the country home of Sir Harold Wernher at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire.

Bulldozers have processed three acres for a vast open-air stage that will hold a cast of 1,000, of which 300 will be on horseback. Forty-one microphones have been installed to accommodate audiences of about 21,000 expected every day in a week-long festival starting on June 8.

It will be Miss Ziegler’s first trip to Canada. Booth last visited the country in the ‘20s when the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company toured North America. They will have three days’ holidays here before leaving for Calgary and will make a few radio, and possibly television appearances before returning by sea.

17 May 1953 MERRIE ENGLAND, Calgary, Canada; Kiwani’s Club sponsored Anne and Webster in one performance of Merrie England in the incongruous setting of the Rodeo Stadium, Calgary. As part of their fee they were treated to a memorable luxurious train journey through the Canadian Rockies to Montreal.

Although the show in Canada was a great success, the trip was spoilt when Webster suffered a severe bout of sciatica in his hip. He could barely move his right leg.

Here is the criticism of the show: Calgary Herald 11 May 1953

 Merrie England show pleases 6000 persons by Shirley McNeill 

From the opening chorus of Merrie England at the Stampede Corral Saturday night, the audience of 6,000 people who went to hear the premier performances of the Calgary Choral Society showed by their applause that hey approved heartily of what they heard.

Much of the success of the concert must be credited to singing stars Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, who came all the way from England to appear with the society. This accomplished vocal team turned in performances that were polished and professional throughout.

The two other soloists of Merrie England, Calgarians Janet Warren and Ian Smith, are deserving of high praise for their roles in the delightful little opera. Mrs Warren’s vibrant contralto voice gave her roles of Jill-all-Alone and Elizabeth both contrast and warmth.

Mr Smith as the Earl of Essex was a convincing, confident performer. His deep well-rounded tones and the good control he displayed were a pleasure to hear.

But the man who deserves perhaps the greatest share of laurels for the success of Merrie England is Harold Ramsay, who in a few short months conducted the Calgary Choral Society to the high standard of musical accomplishment which they gave the audience on Saturday evening. It was Mr Ramsay’s job to conduct the choir as well as the 50 members of the Calgary Symphony Orchestra who gave instrumental support to the singers. This double duty was commendably performed.

One of the most rousing songs from Merrie England, the finale to the first part, It is a Tale of Robin Hood, was unfortunately distorted by loudspeakers, particularly for those members of the audience seated directly beneath them. The chorus and the four soloists combining voices in this finale were all too powerful a singing combination for the public address system set up to carry to all corners of the vast Corral. The microphones, however, were a necessary evil. Without them, it is doubtful if the concert would have been clearly audible to the entire audience.

The story of Elizabethan court days was incidental to the vocal beauty which Merrie England provoked in the ears of the audience. The rigid training program undergone by the Choral Society in recent months came to the fore in such selections as Sing a Down, a Down and the grand finale, Robin Hood’s Wedding.

The Singing courtship of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth as Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh was romance of a high calibre, particularly so in such songs as Bessie’s Who shall say sic (The Waltz Song) and Raleigh’s The English Rose, one of the loveliest songs in the entire light opera.

With the concert version of Merrie England over, Miss Ziegler and Mr Booth delighted the audience with an aria from Faust, a medley of Viennese waltz songs and a comic performance of the popular Wunderbar.

Before singing this song from Broadway, the team had been presented with big white cowboy hats by Art Baines, president of the Calgary Kiwanis club which sponsored the concert. Miss Ziegler, wearing a black and gold hoop-skirted gown, tossed aside a feather hair adornment, and, assuming a genuine western air, donned the ten-gallon hat to the delight of the audience.

Stampede Corral, Calgary – opened in 1950

Anne and Webster signed the Coronation menu on the sea trip back to the UK.

1953 Calgary Merrie England

Luton’s Merrie EnglandComplete arrangements have been made for the Harold Fielding and Luton Coronation Pageant Committee production of Merrie England at the historic Luton Hoo house, nightly from June 9-13. With Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be Redvers Llewellyn, Nancy Evans, Graham Clifford, Betty Sagon, Amanda Rolfe, the Luton Girls’ Choir and the Irish Guards Band, conducted by Captain CH Jaeger. The producer is H Powell Lloyd.

June 1953 – Merrie England, Crescent Cinema, Leatherhead. Leatherhead Dramatic & Operatic Society’s 1953 Coronation production starring Webster Booth as Raleigh and Anne Ziegler as Bessie Throckmorton.

8 June 1953 – Merrie England, Luton Hoo Anne and Webster, the Luton Girls Choir. There were over 600 singers in the chorus, 200 dancers and 50 men on horseback. A massive 250 foot stage was created beside Luton Hoo lake for the performances.

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.

Merrie England 1953
Merrie England, Luton Hoo, June 1953.

Douglas Fairbanks Junior with Anne, Webster and other cast members of the Luton Hoo production of Merrie England.

Luton Hoo bigger

Luton’s Merrie EnglandComplete arrangements have been made for the Harold Fielding and Luton Coronation Pageant Committee production of Merrie England at the historic Luton Hoo house, nightly from June 9-13. With Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler will be Redvers Llewellyn, Nancy Evans, Graham Clifford, Betty Sagon, Amanda Rolfe, the Luton Girls’ Choir and the Irish Guards Band, conducted by Captain CH Jaeger. The producer is H Powell Lloyd.

8 June 1953 – Merrie England, Luton Hoo Anne and Webster, the Luton Girls Choir. There were over 600 singers in the chorus, 200 dancers and 50 men on horseback. A massive 250-foot stage was created beside Luton Hoo lake for the performances.

Pamela Davies remarked in her book, Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? :

“After And so to Bed finished in April 1953, I was so busy preparing to go to work in the United States that I learned too late that Anne and Webster had taken part in a spectacular show in June, when Merrie England was staged as a pageant at the historic Luton Hoo. They had only just returned from a lightning trip to Canada, to take part in the same operetta. On a tour of Canada the following year I had a brief glimpse of the huge rodeo stadium in Calgary at the entrance to the Rockies where it was staged – a more unlikely setting for Merrie England is hard to imagine.”

Merrie England in South Africa

Webster and Anne moved to South Africa in 1956 and did two more full productions of Merrie England in 1958, one in East London and the final one in Johannesburg.

16 – 21 June 1958 – Merrie England, City Hall, East London. Anne and Webster, with Jimmy Nicholas, Mabel Fenney, Pam Emslie and others.

Merrie England 19581958 Merrie England 1958a

3 November 1958 – Merrie England – Anne and Webster know the show backwards.

Any Monday, Wednesday or Friday Evening of the past few weeks, Fox Street (corner of Eloff) has been ringing with loud, lusty singing of God Save Queen Elizabeth (sic).

It is not a new anti-republican movement but Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society rehearsing Merrie England. And as one passing listener remarked the other night: “With things going as they are, it’s likely we shan’t ever again hear this kind of production here, isn’t it?”

This production of Merrie England, which opens at the Reps Theatre on November 12, has more to it than this “last ever” interest. For one thing, it has a cat. Jill-All-Alone (Marian Saunders) one of the characters of Edward German’s operetta has to sing a ditty to her cat. She is accused of witchcraft and Sputnik (owned by a member of the chorus) is as black as any witch could wish.

Used to noise. He comes from a musical household where (as his owner explained) he has been used to noise since kitten-hood.  At rehearsals, he lies in the laps of young ladies and purrs pleasantly.

Co-producers Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth are themselves a treat to watch. Anne, who plays Bessie Throckmorton has every little error taped: “You looked like a sack of potatoes there. Don’t stand as if you were at a South African tea-party – girls on one side, men on the other.”

How do they manage it almost without glancing at the text? “We know it backwards,” says Anne. DLS (Dora Sowden)

12 to 29 November 1958 – Merrie England, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg JODS. Anne and Webster starred and produced the show, with Marian Saunders, June Bass, Nohline Mitchell, Kenneth Anderson, Len Rosen, and Dudley Cock, conducted by Drummond Bell.

14 November 1958 – Merrie England

Merrie England, Johannesburg

 

Merrie England WB

All behaved well in Merrie England. Rand Daily Mail. Contrary to all misgivings, Sputnik the cat behave beautifully in Merrie England at his premiere. He seemed a little timid but he clung prettily to Jill All-Alone (Marian Saunders) and he looked once or twice at the audience as if told when to turn.

That was also the manner of the whole production. Everyone behaved beautifully, went through the paces well, and if there was some first-night timidity, it had worn off before the final curtain.

One day someone (an American perhaps) will revise the libretto, pep up the music and make a great musical out of it. There may be those then who will feel about it as the quartet of singers fell about Cupid dressed up – that they “wouldn’t complain if he was a naked child again.”

There was too much sauntering about by the principals, too much preparation for the onset of a song, too many obvious smiles and bows.

Yet there was much excellent material both in the piece and in the performance. Len Rosen, when he put weight into his voice made an amusing character of Walter Witkins, even though one couldn’t believe he was ever in Master Shakespeare’s company.

June Bass was a dainty minx as the May Queen, Nohline Mitchell the very figure of a stiff Queen Bess, and when she steadied up, as regal in voice.  Kenneth Anderson made much of The Yeomen of England but his appearance more resembled Malvolio than Lord Essex.

Not surprisingly, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (also produced) were thoroughly at ease in their roles.  Drummond Bell’s direction was as reliable as ever. DORA SOWDEN.

Tuneful English musical – an eyeful of pleasure – Oliver Walker – The Star. Odd’s fish, but what a punning rogue of a librettist we have here! Was he also yclept Edward German like the composer? Marry, it could well be, for, like the music, the words are at all times prettily true and truly pretty as if written in the shadow of a maypole…

Do not be put off by the “ie” in “Merrie”. This is old world stuff, but not olde worlde. The references to “Cupid’s garden” and the sweetness of the English roses are there. But not in any mimsy-pimsy way. And besides, Edward German’s music is made of sugar not saccharine.

Apart from a shortage of yeomen and bowmen to match the bevies of blooming dairy-maids, this is a spanking, handsome production behind whose liveliness of movement and apt “business” it is easy to detect the guiding hands of its two evergreen, debonair principals Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Jerkined giant. What the men lacked in numbers they made up for in heroic stature. Dudley Cock was a tuneful giant in green jerkin. Emil Beth matched him in voice and presence, while Len Rosen’s Walter Wilkins was a veritable Malvolio in cross-gartered fantastical humour.

June Bass’s May Queen needed more lung-power and Marian Sanders’ Jill-all-alone was altogether too parlour-bred for a suspect witch. Nohline Mitchell’s Queen Bess was gowned and jewelled fit for a Holbein portrait but should spare the yellow make-up.  She was one of the several new voices of excellent promise in a production that gave an eyeful of pleasure and was always easy on the ear.

1958 – Merrie England – Star Oliver Walker wrote an article concerning the flop of Merrie England, a show which had proved a great success in places like East London and Port Elizabeth. “JODS will lose its boots on what is voted a very tuneful colourful musical.”

He wondered whether English musicals of this type were losing their appeal with Johannesburg audiences.

JODS – Merrie England At a committee meeting of JODS, the Booths said that they hoped that one day they would get a full cast at rehearsals. Not the most propitious conditions under which to work when trying to create a success for the society.

1968 Knysna Ten years later the Booths presented a concert version of Merrie England in Knysna shortly after they moved to the village.

1 to 13 July 1968: Merrie England (Concert Version)  at 8.15 pm Knysna and District Choral Society D R Church Hall, Fichat Street, Knysna Webster, Anne, Dorothy Davies, James Squier and Ena Van der Vyver, directed by Anne Ziegler, conducted by Webster Booth, Accompanist: Wanda Willis.

 

Jean Collen (updated 14 September 2018)

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.

2014-03-13_140054

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

SWEET YESTERDAY – 1945

 

15 August 19451While Sweet Yesterday by Kenneth Leslie-Smith was a popular show and would have run for a much longer time had Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler agreed to transfer to a new theatre in December of 1945, it was not a very happy experience for them. In fact, Anne nicknamed it Dreadful Yesterday and was only too happy when it came to an end. From the beginning, they were dissatisfied with the way the show was directed and annoyed that the actor, Hugh Morton, whom they considered to be excellent in his role, was peremptorily dismissed by producer, Lee Ephraim.

1945 Sweet Yesterday programme-03.jpg

Possibly the best part of the run was when Germany surrendered and Webster, as the leading man, made this joyful announcement to their Glasgow audience and told them that a Bank Holiday had been declared for the following day.

They were invited to appear in the Victory Royal Command performance on their seventh wedding anniversary, 5 November 1945. It was usual for the theatre where they were performing to close on that occasion but Ephraim refused to close the Adelphi and expected them to do the first act before going on to the Coliseum for the Command performance. Naturally, they refused to do so.

1945 Royal Variety 1945

On the last night of the production, 8 December 1945 there was a rowdy crowd in one of the boxes. Webster stopped the show and addressed the audience: ‘“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry, but we cannot continue until the occupants of that box have retired.”
‘I then sat on a table and, I fear, left Anne standing and looking terrified. I was very much upset.
‘Loud shouts came from all over the house: “Put them out!”… “Carry on!”… “Stop that noise there!”…
…’We finished the show in deathly silence from the box and amidst tremendous applause from the audience… I ordered that the curtain should not be raised as I had reason to believe that a demonstration was to be made by certain people.’ (Duet p. 174)

References to Sweet Yesterday in my book: A Scattered Garland. At the top of the tree. MY BOOKSTORE

26 January 1941 – BBC A new historical romance entitled Sweet Yesterday, by Philip Leaver, with music by Kenneth Leslie-Smith, will be produced in the Home Service programme on January 26. The threatened invasion of Britain by Napoleon inspires the theme of the play. The part of Napoleon will be taken by Philip Leaver. In 1945 this radio musical was turned into a musical play with Anne and Webster as its stars.

29 March 1945 – Scotsman. Edinburgh. Sweet Yesterday premiere: This romantic play of espionage in Napoleonic days is set in London, Calais, and Paris in June, 1805, with elaborate staging and magnificent costumes, the colourful splendour of which is sheer delight.

The plot concerns Louise Vareenes, her fiancé, Captain Edouard Labouchère, and Sir John Manders, an English diplomat, who had been sent from London to Paris on a secret mission in the guise of a Dutch diamond merchant. Louise recognises Sir John, whom she had known in London when she was living there as a refugee during the Revolution; but she does not give him away in a scene at a gay party in Sans-Gêne’s residence in Paris. Edouard, slightly tipsy, gives away information regarding a plan of Napoleon’s against England, and his indiscretion leads to his arrest. Sir John, who also loves Louise, plans for her sake Edouard’s escape from prison. After a great deal of plotting, court intrigue, and swordplay, he finally manages to get the young couple safely away from France, making Louise promise to deliver his message to the Prime Minister in London, revealing Napoleon’s plan. He himself does not manage to escape and is shot while waving to them from the window.

The music of the show is delightful, and the cast could not be better. Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler as Edouard and Louise, are the romantic couple, and their superb singing is a joy. They received a warm welcome on opening night. Solos and duets were heartily applauded and encored. Hugh Morton’s polished acting as Sir John Manders calls for special praise. Doris Hare’s supreme artistry as Sans-Gène makes her performance an outstanding triumph. Mark Daly as Cabouchon, a policeman, appears in many amusing disguises and sings several numbers with characteristic skill. Philip Leaver plays Monsieur de Vigny, prefect of police, cleverly.

A large chorus and attractive ballets are arranged by Frank Staff, with décor by Clifford Pember, and costumes designed by Alec Shanks. Esmé Church is to be congratulated on her production. The orchestra is under the direction of Herbert Lodge.

Sweet Yesterday 06

27 April 1945 Sweet Yesterday at Alhambra, Glasgow – To the Alhambra comes a new musical play, Sweet Yesterday. In Sweet Yesterday, which will run for a fortnight are those popular singers, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, which alone would ensure any play’s success…

May 1945 – Sweet Yesterday. Lee Ephraim has arranged to present the musical play, Sweet Yesterday, by Phillip Leaver, with music by Kenneth Leslie Smith, and lyrics by James Dyrenforth, and Max Kester, at the Adelphi, on Thursday, June 21. This play, which is finishing a short tour, was originally produced at the Empire, Edinburgh on March 27. Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth will reappear as the romantic couple in the principal parts of Louise and Edouard. Other members of the cast are Doris Hare, Hugh Morton, Mark Daly, Gwen Lewis and Philip Leaver.

14 June 1945 – Sweet Yesterday. Next Thursday has now been decided on for the re-opening of the Adelphi with Lee Ephraim’s presenting of Sweet Yesterday, Phillip Leaver’s musical play of the days of Trafalgar, which has been on a very successful tour since its production at Edinburgh in March. Anne Ziegler plays the French heroine with Webster Booth as a captain who gives away Napoleon’s plan for the invasion of England. Reginald Tate, just returned to the stage from the RAF, is the British ambassador, who helps the young lovers to escape, at the cost of his own life. Hugh Miller is De Vigny; Doris Hare plays Madame Sans-Gêne of merry memory. It is at a party in her house that the trouble happens. Kenneth Leslie-Smith’s music is said to be delightful.

TOMORROW

Thursday 21 June 1945 – Ego 8, James Agate, pp 139-140. Why are the moderns afraid of standing up to the ancients, since we are always being told that they are better? People get furious when I compare today’s writers of operettas with yesterday’s. Why do they funk reference to Offenbach, Strauss, and Sullivan, or even Planquette, Messagér, and German, since they hold the theatre of the present to be better than that of the past? I will tell them. Even they would recognise, say, as Sullivan and nobody except Sullivan, if they heard it thrummed on bazookas in the Fiji Islands.

But would they recognise as indubitable Leslie-Smith any extract from Sweet Yesterday, tonight’s affair at the Adelphi, if they heard it poured out by, say, Frankie Schubert’s Otiose Tahitians in some Tyneside Palais de Danse? I doubt it. I suggest they would vaguely attribute it to the school of composers which, between the two wars, supplied the pseudo-Viennese drama with its sound-equivalent. I note that the programme attributes the orchestration to a Mr Ben Frankel, who has certainly seen to it that the score is lush to saturation-point. What harps and tumbrels! What wild ecstasy!

And for the bored critic what struggles to escape! I suppose it would be naughty to ask our modern panegyrists who did the orchestration for Offenbach and those others? The essence of grand opera being to fill a void with teeming nonsense, I didn’t expect this grand operette – all about spying under Napoleon – to do more sensibly.

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler in good, and oh so frequent voice, Reginald Tate and Hugh Miller exuding nobility and acumen. Doris Hare as a Sans-Gêne born within the sound of the Bow Bells. Wherefore in the Sunday Times on Sunday I shall suggest deletion of the line: “Does France move against England?” The answer could only be: “If it does, it will be civil war!” No, I shall invite these Mossoos and Madarms to toast each other at the boofy at Booloyne without insisting on their nationality.

22 June 1945 – Times: Adelphi Theatre, Sweet Yesterday, Book by Philip Leaver. Music by Kenneth Leslie-Smith. The costumes are gaily Napoleonic; the music, if derivative, is gaily derivative. and there is the pretty cape-and-sword romance of Sir John’s hazardous journey to France in search of a lady who is, unfortunately, betrothed to another. The final scene of the gallant Englishman helping the Royalist pair of lovers to escape while he himself stays to die may seem to contain an intolerable deal of noble behaviour, yet it is tempered perhaps by the willingness of the heroine, a Frenchwoman, to convey to Pitt the fateful tidings that Villeneuve has sailed from Cadiz and will shortly reach Trafalgar. She at first demurs; but the gratitude of a heroine is quickly found to outweigh dull patriotic scruples. These are trifling matters.

The French woman is Miss Anne Ziegler, and she sings delightfully; and her lover, though something of a romantic stick, is Mr. Webster Booth, who also sings delightfully. The dashing Sir John is Mr. Reginald Tate. and though he does not sing at all, he wears his cape and carries his sword with grace and dash. Neither does Mr. Hugh Miller sing, but he is a darkly handsome, well-mannered. and quickwitted policeman, oddly enough assisted in his spy hunting by the blandly amiable Mr. Mark Daly, who sings a number of songs in mellow traditional style. The entertainment seems in the beginning to be nothing in itself, but merely to reflect other things of the kind; yet it grows under the practiced guidance of Mr. Jack Hulbert in glitter and grace.

24 June 1945 – James Agate, Sunday Times: “Mr Webster Booth and Miss Anne Ziegler sing delightfully and very, very often.”

Sweet yesterday 1945

28 June 1945 – Stage. Sweet Yesterday, Adelphi: On Thursday of last week Lee Ephraim presented here the musical play by Phillip Leaver, with music by Kenneth Leslie-Smith, and lyrics by James Dyrenforth, Max Kestler and Phillip Leaver, entitled Sweet Yesterday. It is far too long, but it offers the attractions of good singing, good acting, and good dancing. Some of his more conventional melodies are very easy on the ear. There is a march-time song and chorus, entitled Morning Glory, with an irresistible lilt; and the theme song Sweet Yesterday, the love duet Tomorrow, and other numbers are sure to be widely popular. Click on the link below to listen:

MORNING GLORY

On the whole, the music is far superior to the lyrics. Before considering individual performances it has to be said that Jack Hulbert’s production is masterly. On a not excessively big stage, he achieves some brilliant ensembles. Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler act with any amount of dash and zest as the French lovers, and their singing is always delightful. Yet it is a peculiarity of this production that the best parts are not those of the principals.

Reginald Tate as the self-sacrificing Englishman, and Hugh Miller as his policeman opponent, have nothing to sing but something to act, and they act very well. Doris Hare plays Sans-Gêne on broad – sometimes almost too broad – comedy lines, and Mark Daly brings to the part of a rather vaguely defined assistant police-chief a ripe sense of comedy, a remarkable clarity of enunciation as comic singer, and considerable agility as dancer.

The programme is not very helpful to those anxious to identify all the cast; but some of those who appear to deserve special praise are Marjorie Baker, Franklin Bennett, Rupert White, Paula Grey, and Sheila Reynolds. Frank Staff and Cleo Nordi must be praised for a singularly pretty ballet. The costumes and décor of Alec Shanks and Clifford Pember have been already praise; and Herbert Lodge conducts with judgement. (Stage)

29 June 1945 – Spectator Sweet Yesterday is the best musical play London has seen for a long time. It has an excellent plot and can boast of some real acting on the part of Doris Hare, Reginald Tate, Hugh Miller and of Webster Booth as the romantic hero. Its patriotic sentiment is genuinely moving, and the singing of both Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth is distinctly above the average. When I add that, in addition to these merits, the music by Kenneth Leslie-Smith has style and distinction and is well orchestrated by Ben Frankel, I hope my readers will understand that nobody with a taste for musical plays should miss this quite exceptional one. It is

July 1945 – Spectator Extracts from musical plays rarely survive isolation as gramophone recordings since they depend so much upon the visual glamour of their stage settings: Tomorrow and Life Begins Anew from Sweet Yesterday, sung by Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, are no exception; but in any case these make a bad choice, the number that deserved recording was Morning Glory, sung by Webster Booth and chorus. It is characteristic both of impresarios and recording companies that they rarely know when they have a good thing or the opposite.

LIFE BEGINS ANEW

31 July 1945 – Robbery. During the run of Sweet Yesterday on July 31 Anne and Webster had their home burgled. The following day details of the burglary appeared in the newspapers. This was not the first burglary at their home. They had been burgled in early 1944, and some time later Webster’s Talbot car was stolen from the garage and was later found abandoned and damaged.

3 August 1945 – Nottingham Evening Post Thieves broke into the home of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, the musical comedy singers, at Barnet, and got away with jewellery valued at about £500.

September 1945 – Sweet Yesterday special matinee. A special matinee performance of Lee Ephraim’s musical play Sweet Yesterday, starring Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, is to be given at the Adelphi Theatre on Tuesday, September 4, at 2.15pm to benefit the Institute of Journalists’ Pensions Fund, which provides pensions for journalists who through age and incapacity are no longer able to follow their profession. Tickets, which can be obtained from the usual agencies or the Adelphi Theatre, are the ordinary theatre prices.

1945 Sweet Yesterday (2)

Stage Door records have just released a double CD featuring two songs from Sweet YesterdayLOST WEST END VINTAGE 2 – LONDON’S FORGOTTEN MUSICALS

Jean Collen  2 August 2018.

 

 

TWENTY-TWO YEARS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1978) A brief summary.

In 1976 there was civil unrest in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Babs realised that Anne and Webster were keen to return to the UK, but could not afford to buy or rent accommodation there. She kindly offered to buy a property for them where they could live rent-free for the rest of their lives. The offer was too good to refuse. At the beginning of 1978 they returned to the UK and, to their surprise, soon embarked on their “third” career.

Sailing to South Africa on board the Pretoria Castle (July 1956)

Anne and Webster had never taught singing before. They had been far too busy performing in the UK to have had the time or even the inclination to teach, although an advert had appeared in the Musical Times in the middle of 1955 indicating that Webster was considering accepting a few selected pupils. As far as I know, he did not teach anyone in the UK as they decided to settle in South Africa shortly afterwards.

Musical Times 24 February 1955 Singing lessons.

Neither had formal music teaching qualifications but Anne was a competent pianist, and they adopted common sense methods of teaching singing. Above all, they had far more experience of singing professionally at the highest level than anyone else in South Africa who boasted teaching diplomas.

Anne always said that singing was merely an advanced form of speech. They concentrated on good breathing habits and on using correct vowel sounds. The basis of “straight” singing was that one sang through the vowels and tacked consonants to the beginning and end of the vowels to create good diction. There were five vowels: ah, eh, ee, oo and oh and from these vowels all words could be sung. Diphthongs in words such as “I”, were created by a combination of two basic vowels – in this case – ah and ee.

They were very particular about dropping the jaw as notes went higher in pitch. One of their exercises to master this technique was based on the sounds “rah, fah, lah, fah”. It was also essential to keep the tongue flat in the floor of the mouth just behind the teeth, and an exercise on a repeated “cah” sound was good for training the tongue to remain flat and not rise in the mouth to bottle up the vocal sound. The “mee” sound was produced as one would sing “moo”, so that the vowel was covered and focussed. The jaw had to be dropped on all the vowels in the upper register, including the “ee” and “oo” vowels, which one is inclined to sing with a closed mouth. They also emphasized that words like “near” and “dear” should be sung on a pure “ee” vowel, rather than rounding off the word so that it sounded like “nee-ahr” or “dee-ahr”.

The voice had to be placed in a forward position, “in the mask” as Anne always said, so that it resonated in the sinus cavities. They did not dwell on the different vocal registers unless they detected a distinctive “change of gear” from one register to the other.

Webster continued his oratorio singing in South Africa. Drummond Bell, who had conducted the JODS’ production of A Night in Venice the year before, was the organist and choirmaster at St George’s Presbyterian Church in Noord Street. Anne and Webster sang in Messiah at various Presbyterian Churches for Drummond Bell in November 1956 and 1957. It was at the 1957 performance of Messiah at St James Presbyterian Church, then in Mars Street, Malvern, when I, as a thirteen-year-old, heard them sing for the first time. Webster had sung in The Crucifixion at Easter 1957 for Drummond Bell. He also sang in The Dream of Gerontius in Cape Town later that year. The conductor was the young organist Keith Jewell (then aged 27). It was the first time that the work was performed in South Africa. Webster always held Keith Jewell in very high regard, and he was to appear as guest artiste in Anne and Webster’s “farewell” concert in Somerset West in 1975.  

Webster adjudicated at the Scottish eisteddfod in November 1957. Astutely, he awarded the young Anne Hamblin 95 percent for her singing. She was to do well in her singing career in Johannesburg and is still remembered for her part in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in the nineteen-seventies. Webster sang regularly in various oratorios at the annual Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival, conducted by Robert Selley, and did Elijah at Pietermaritzburg for Barry Smith, director of music at Michaelhouse School in 1963 and The Creation for Ronald Charles, who took the position of  director of music for Michaelhouse in 1964.

Anne and Webster appeared frequently in various advertisements on screen and in the newspapers. Early in Anne’s career she had modelled for an advertisement for Craven A cigarettes. She had learnt a valuable lesson at this assignment when the photographer told her that the photograph would mean nothing unless she smiled at the camera with complete sincerity, despite her never having smoked a cigarette in her life. They had also endorsed Ronson cigarette lighters in the late nineteen-forties.

In late 1957 they were in an advert for Lloyd’s Adrenaline cream. According to the advertisement, this cream had given Webster relief to excruciating sciatic pain he had suffered on their fleeting visit to Calgary to appear in Merrie England. Apparently, Anne used the cream whenever she had an attack of fibrositis. Anne also endorsed Stork margarine, a hair preparation for middle-aged women and a floor polish. Webster appeared on film as a French boulevard roué in an ad for a product I have now forgotten, and they were featured in advertisements listening avidly to Lourenco Marques radio, and celebrating a special occasion with a glass of Skol beer. For this last ad Webster was obliged to grow a beard!

1961 Advertising Skol beer
Listening to LM Radio

1957 and 1958 were very busy years for the Booths in South Africa. In 1958, for example, they went from one production to another in as many months: Waltz Time in Springs; Merrie England in East London; Vagabond King in Durban; and Merrie England again in Johannesburg. Anne was also principal boy in pantomime in East London at the end of that year.

But 1959 was not quite as busy. They were asked to appear in East London again, this time in Waltz Time, and Anne was the Fairy Godmother in The Glass Slipper for Children’s Theatre towards the end of the year.

From then on they built up their teaching practice and began directing musicals for amateur societies in various parts of the country. In 1959 they did an interesting Sunday afternoon programme on Springbok Radio entitled Do You Remember? in which they told the story of their lives, based on their autobiography, Duet.

By the nineteen-sixties, they were no longer appearing regularly in musicals although Anne took the part of Mrs Squeezum in Lock Up Your Daughters, a restoration musical by Lionel Bart at the end of 1960. Her big song in the show was entitled When Does the Ravishing Begin? A very far cry from We’ll Gather Lilacs. In 1963, aged 61, Webster took over the role of Colonel Fairfax – the juvenile lead – in The Yeomen of the Guard for the Johannesburg Operatic Society at short notice. He had not been JODS’ original choice, but was asked to take over the part when the society decided that the singer in the role could not cope with it. In 1964 Webster and Anne appeared in a Cape Performing Art’s Board (CAPAB) production of Noel Coward’s Family Album, a one-act play in Tonight at 8.30. It could hardly be called a musical although there was some singing in it.

They appeared in a number of straight plays in the nineteen-sixties. Webster was the Prawn in The Amorous Prawn and took the small part of the Doctor in a very long and serious play called The Andersonville Trial in 1962. They played Mr and Mrs Fordyce in the comedy, Goodnight Mrs Puffin at the beginning of 1963 and, just before they left Johannesburg for Knysna, Webster was the Circus Barker in the Performing Art’s Company of the Transvaal’s (PACT’s) production of The Bartered Bride, while Anne played the wife of a circus performer in The Love Potion for the same company at the same time.

They remained in Johannesburg until the middle of 1967. Anne was suffering from hay fever, which grew acuter the longer she remained in Johannesburg. There were times, especially at night, when she could hardly breathe. Anne had a number of allergy tests done, but these did not pinpoint the exact cause of her hay fever. They decided to move to the coast in the hope that Anne’s hay fever would ease, and in the hope of a more peaceful life as they grew older.

At the beginning of 1967, they went on a coastal holiday. They thought Port St Johns in the (then) Transkei was very attractive but slightly too remote for them. The village of Knysna on the Garden Route was more to their taste. They bought a house in Paradise, Knysna and returned to Johannesburg to put their affairs in order and plan their move to the coast.

3 Knysna and Somerset West

It must have given them a sense of déjá vu to receive such a great welcome in Knysna. Anne’s hay fever vanished within a few weeks and she concluded that the dust from the mine dumps in Johannesburg had been the cause of it.

They were soon as busy as ever, with concerts, ranging from oratorio with the Knysna and District Choral Society, to variety concerts with local artistes, and pantomimes, in which Anne not only played the principal boy once again but wrote the scripts into the bargain. They started teaching in Knysna and trained several talented singers, in particular the soprano, Ena van der Vyver, who sang in many performances with them.

Anne was asked to produce several shows for the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society, and Webster produced The Mikado in East London in 1973. 

Mikado rehearsal East London 1973 Photo Pearl Harris

Anne’s life-long friend Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) visited them in Knysna from the UK, and Anne went to Portugal and the UK to spend a holiday with her and to appear in a British TV show at the same time. Anne and Webster were getting older and Anne, in particular, longed to return home to the UK.

In 1975 they moved to Somerset West, believing that the cost of living there was lower than in upmarket Knysna. They bought a cottage in Picardy Avenue with a beautiful view of the mountain, but despite being nearer to Cape Town they were not offered much radio work and did not find many singing students. Webster ran the Somerset West and District Choral Society and presented several oratorios, but he was not even paid for his work with this society.

In 1976 there was civil unrest in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Babs realised that Anne and Webster were keen to return to the UK, but could not afford to buy or rent accommodation there. She kindly offered to buy a property for them where they could live rent-free for the rest of their lives. The offer was too good to refuse. At the beginning of 1978 they returned to the UK and, to their surprise, soon embarked on their “third” career.

Jean Collen 9 July 2018.

MOVING TO SOUTH AFRICA

A great fuss was made of them when they came to settle in Johannesburg. They stayed for several months at Dawson’s Hotel in Johannesburg while they looked for a suitable place to live. They eventually found a pleasant flat at Waverley, just off Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North, where they lived until they bought their first house in Craighall Park several years later. They were lucky to obtain the services of Hilda, who hailed from the island of St Helena, to be their housekeeper. Hilda remained with them during their eleven years in Johannesburg.

1 Early days in Johannesburg

Anne and Webster had toured the Cape towards the end of 1955 with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra and returned to the UK so that Webster could fulfil oratorio engagements over Christmas.8 November 1955 - Rand Daily Mail.8 November 1955 8 November 19552

12 Dec 1955
The Booths arrive back in the UK from their South African tour on 12 December 1955.

Towards the end of January 1956, they were back in South Africa to appear in major cities in the Transvaal, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, and Pietermaritzburg, before doing a tour of the country districts of the Transvaal. In this second tour, they were accompanied by Arthur Tatler on the piano. There was even a notice in The Rand Daily Mail advising people of the time of their plane’s arrival at 5.50 pm on Saturday afternoon 28 January. 10 January 1956 2

They were entertained by the Mayor, Leslie Hurd, in the mayoral parlour. The Mayor spoke to the assembled gathering of local celebrities about the fact that he shared a Christian name with Webster.

The critics were rather severe in their judgement of their recital, viewing them as ballad singers rather than operatic singers, although both Dora Sowden from The Rand Daily Mail and Oliver Walker from The Star agreed that Anne and Webster knew how to charm their audiences. The writers of the “women’s’ pages” were much more enthusiastic about them. Amelia from the Women’s Journal in The Star gave a fulsome report of one of their concerts on 20 February 1956:

“When the two appeared in the City Hall on Thursday night the crowd was screaming to stamping stage with enthusiasm even though the artists had been most generous in their encores.

Miss Ziegler wore one of the lovely crinolines which she always chooses for stage appearances. This one had a black velvet bodice and a skirt of gold and black tissue brocade. With her diamond jewellery she was a scintillating figure under the lights.”

They had made up their minds to settle in the country and returned to the UK merely to sort out their affairs and make arrangements to have their belongings shipped to South Africa.  They travelled onboard the Pretoria Castle to Cape Town in July 1956. Before they went to Johannesburg they appeared in Spring Quartet in Cape Town under the direction of Leonard Schach.

Dawson's Hotel 1972
Dawson’s Hotel 1972. Thanks to Frans Erasmus for allowing me to use this photo

A great fuss was made of them when they came to settle in Johannesburg. They stayed for several months at Dawson’s Hotel in Johannesburg while they looked for a suitable place to live. They eventually found a pleasant flat at Waverley, just off Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North, where they lived until they bought their first house in Craighall Park several years later. They were lucky to obtain the services of Hilda, who hailed from the island of St Helena, to be their housekeeper. Hilda remained with them during their eleven years in Johannesburg.

Waverley, Highlands North
Anne and Webster in the Hillman Convertible outside their flat in Waverley, Highlands North (1956).

They had an engagement to star in A Night in Venice with the Johannesburg Operatic Society in November, and Webster was asked to sing the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at a Symphony concert. The work was presented as part of the Johannesburg Festival to celebrate Johannesburg’s seventieth birthday. Sir Malcolm Sargent, who had conducted Webster at several concerts in London the previous year, conducted the concert, while the other soloists were Webster’s old friend, Betsy de la Porte (contralto), whom he remembered from his early days singing at Masonic dinners, Frederick Dalberg (bass) and the young coloratura soprano, Mimi Coertse, who was beginning to make a name for herself  in Vienna.

1956 Night in Venice3
Anne and Webster in “A Night in Venice” for the Johannesburg Operatic Society”.

Rather incongruously Webster took the Tommy Handley part in a series of ITMA scripts acquired by Springbok Radio, the commercial station of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the SABC). This thirteen-week series was entitled Light up and Laugh, sponsored by Gold Flake Cigarettes, and produced by the Herrick-Merrill production house.

Although Anne had driven a car in her youth she had allowed her British driving licence to lapse after she married Webster. The Booths had two cars at their disposal in Johannesburg: a sea-green Zephyr and a pale blue Hillman convertible. Anne had to do a South African driving test and was taught by an Afrikaans ex-traffic policeman. On her first lesson he made her drive along Louis Botha Avenue, the main road from Pretoria through the suburbs into Johannesburg. There was a bus boycott on at the time. Thousands of people were walking along Louis Botha Avenue from the townships of Alexandra and Sophiatown to their work places in the city centre. Anne was very nervous, fearing that she might knock somebody down. Despite the adverse circumstances of her first driving lessons she soon passed her test and proved to be an excellent driver. She went on driving until shortly before her death in 2003.

In the first year or two after their arrival in South Africa they were fêted by everyone, invited to all the society parties and offered all kinds of engagements. Anne took her first non-singing part in Angels in Love, the story of Little Lord Fauntleroy and his mother, Dearest, played by Anne. They replayed their parts in A Night in Venice to Durban audiences. They even went to East London to sing at the city’s Hobby Exhibition, and were heard often on the radio. Not only did they do frequent broadcasts but their records were played constantly by other presenters, who marvelled that such a famous couple had chosen to settle in South Africa.

In 1957 they opened their School of Singing and Stagecraft at their studio on the eighth floor of Polliack’s Corner. They held a party to celebrate the opening of the studio and invited musical and society glitterati, who eagerly crammed into the studio for the occasion and were suitably impressed by the array of pictures of Anne and Webster, taken with internationally famous friends and colleagues, adorning one of the studio walls.

Polliack's Corner
Polliack’s Corner, Pritchard Street – the building to the right with balconies. The studio was on the eighth floor.

The original plan was that Webster would teach singing, while Anne would teach stagecraft, but in the end they both taught singing, and Anne acted as accompanist to the students. At first there were not many students as their fees per month were much higher than those of local singing teachers. Eventually they reduced the fees in order to attract more students. I began having singing lessons with them at the end of 1960 after I had finished school. The fee was £4-4-0 a month.

Anne Ziegler studio fees

In 1963 Anne told me that all the local Johannesburg celebrities and socialites who had tried to cultivate them when they first arrived in South Africa, soon left them alone once they realised that they were not as wealthy as they had imagined, and actually had to work for a living, and were not free to attend the races and other such “society” activities.

Jean Collen 7 July 2018

WILLIAM PARSONS – BARITONE

Several years ago I heard from Maria Ray, the niece of the eminent baritone, William Parsons. I was interested to find out that he had appeared with Webster in various oratorios.

Photo of William Parsons, courtesy of Maria Ray.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

References to William Parsons in my book, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, compiled by Jean Collen

17 January 1935 – Queen’s Hall, London. Royal Philharmonic Concert: Choral Symphony (Beethoven) Janet Hamilton-Smith, Margaret  McArthur, Webster Booth, William Parsons and the BBC Chorus, conducted by Felix Weingartner. Felix Weingartner by Hilda Wienerb

The Ninth Symphony (Beethoven) – The second part of the season will declare itself open on Thursday when symphony concerts are resumed at the Queen’s Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Society will give a performance of the Ninth Symphony, conducted by Dr Weingartner. The soloists at the Philharmonic concert are Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons; Dr Weingartner will conduct the BBC chorus and will preface the Ninth Symphony with Beethoven’s first.

The Times – Royal Philharmonic Society The Ninth Symphony. To hear the First and the Ninth Symphonies in one programme is an inspiration. If one man’s mind could increase its span in 25 years to the extent shown by a comparison of the two finales, then no one need despair. The resemblance in kind is as striking as the difference in degree, in spite of the fact that Beethoven employed a chorus in the late work and used but a modest Mozartian orchestra in the early. In No. I the violins grope, only much more briefly, for their theme just as the violoncellos do more searchingly in No. 9. And whereas a little scholarly ingenuity might demonstrate that the symphonic movement of No. 1 is directly descended from the ensemble of Italian Opera Buffa, we have it on Wagner’s authority that the choral variations of No. 9 lead back into music-drama. But it is more fitting now to abandon these speculations and to pay tribute to a very great, though not perhaps a flawless, performance of the two symphonies at Queen’s Hall last night under Dr. Weingartner. 

The flaws need not be specified beyond questioning the orchestral balance – the choir was conspicuously good in this respect: thus the drummer, using a hand stick, gave an admirably crisp rhythm, but too prominent a sound, while in the slow movement the horns seemed unduly retiring. Dr. Weingartner’s tempo for the trio of the scherzo did not seem too quick but was actually slightly out of proportion to the rest of the movement. But by a similar discrepancy in the choral movement he ingeniously made it possible for the choir to sing all their notes – and sing them they did – so giving the impression of speed without hurry. Another pleasing subtlety of tempo was to be observed in the Minuet of the first symphony, when at the reprise there was just the slightest increase in tension.

The soloists had the great merit of making a quartet, though Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith must be singled out for a special word of praise because she had the right kind of tone, at once clear and rich, and so used her soprano voice that every note told without effort: Mr. Webster Booth, the tenor, and Miss Margaret McArthur equally proved their ability to brush aside all the difficulties of Beethoven’s vocal writing. Mr. William Parsons only just failed to do so in the opening recitative, which if not technically is dramatically exacting – elsewhere he was admirable. The B.B.C. Chorus, fresh from a performance of the same work at the Promenades last week, were worthy of all praise. It was therefore a singularly homogenous and inspiring performance. And the mighty oak looked all the nobler for having the acorn side by side with it.

19 January 1935 – Western Morning News. Royal Philharmonic Concert – the Ninth Symphony. The orchestral playing left nothing to be desired and the choral singing was first class. The BBC Chorus having sung the work under Sir Henry Wood last week was well primed. The quartet consisted of Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr William Parsons – a young team whose names are not very familiar to us, but whose engagement was well justified. The enthusiasm at the end was tremendous, and Dr Weingartner was presented with a laurel wreath.

February 1935 – Musical Times. Royal Philharmonic Society. The concert that reopened the season on January 17 was almost a great one, but not quite, because Doctor Weingartner and the orchestra were not on ideally intimate terms in Beethoven’s first and ninth symphonies. (Unless memory is at sea this was the first time that the London Philharmonic Orchestra as a whole had played either of these works). What Weingartner did to the symphonies was, however, great interpretation. He rose to consummate mastery in the choral movement, which he made one and inevitable.

The BBC Chorus, either inspiring or inspired by the conductor, or more probably both, sang with surpassing brilliance. In the solo quartet Mr William Parsons was joined by three less-known singers on the principle, no doubt, that the great ones are wasted on such music and so short a duty. Miss Janet Hamilton-Smith, Miss Margaret McArthur, and Mr Webster Booth demonstrated that the less-known are also less likely to reduce Beethoven to farce by an ensemble of wobbles.

23 November 1936 – Leeds – Week of Choral Concerts. The week will be a full one from the point of view of choral concerts. Tomorrow Bach’s Mass in B minor will be sung by Leeds Philharmonic Society with Elsie Suddaby, Astra Desmond, Steuart Wilson and
William Parsons for principals, Sir Edward Bairstow conducting. On Wednesday, Bradford Old Choral Society, conducted by Mr Wilfred Knight, will sing Handel’s Acis
and Galatea, and Elgar’s Banner of St George in a miscellaneous programme shared by Olive Groves, Webster Booth and Bernard Ross…

15 December 1936 – Messiah, Albert Hall, Nottingham.
Nottingham Harmonic Society, Lilian Stiles-Allen (soprano), Mary Jarred (contralto), Webster Booth (tenor), William Parsons (bass) conducted by Leslie Heward.

December 1936 Messiah

Memories of Hiawatha at the Royal Albert Hall.

22 December 1941 – Yorkshire Post Eastbrook Hall was again filled to capacity on Saturday, when the Bradford Festival Choral Society, assisted by the Northern Philharmonic Orchestra, gave its  annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Two changes had been made in the artists since the names were first announced. Perhaps the most important was the change in conductor, Mr Roy Henderson taking the place of Dr Malcolm Sargent, who was conducting the Royal Choral Society in London.

Mr Henderson, who was making his first appearance in Bradford as conductor, created a distinctly favourable impression. Obviously full of energy and enthusiasm himself, he showed that he was able to convey his feelings to the members of the chorus, who responded nobly to his many exacting demands. All the choral numbers were excellently sung, some fine climaxes being achieved. The rehearsals evidently bore fruit, for the singers were replicas of the conductor, singing with intelligence, while the diction throughout was exceptionally good.

Occasionally, Mr Henderson appeared to allow enthusiasm to get the better of him and at such times the speeds tended to be quicker than those to which we are accustomed, but audience as well as singers enjoyed the thrill of it all.

The four solo artists reached a consistently high level. Miss Joan Cross used her flexible voice exceedingly well in Rejoice Greatly, while her legato singing in Come Unto Him was very effective. Miss Muriel Gale’s rich full-toned voice was heard to great advantage especially in O, Thou That Tellest and He Shall Feed His Flock. Mr Walter Widdop, (who took the place of Mr Webster Booth) proved to be a great favourite. His opening solos were somewhat marred because Mr Henderson did not make the accompaniments flexible enough; but the latter items were very enjoyable. Mr William Parsons, who had the assistance of Mr John Paley in The Trumpet Shall Soundshowed his dramatic power, especially in The People that Walked in Darkness.

Mr H.S. Hurst was at the organ, of which instrument much more frequent use might have been made for its tone to act as a contrast to that of the orchestra.

30 December 1939, Plymouth Guildhall 

30 December 1939

18 August 1941 Dartington Hall Acis and Galatea

18 August 1941 Acis and Galatea Parsons Dartington Hall

7 December 1943 – Yorkshire Post – Huddersfield Choral Society.

Huddersfield Choral Society are to perform Handel’s Messiah at Blackpool Opera House on January 2. Dr Malcolm Sargent will conduct the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the principals will include Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons.
Anne Ziegler was the soprano soloist on this occasion.

2 January 1944 – Messiah. 2.30pm New Opera House, Blackpool. Festival performance in aid of the Mayor’s Services Welfare Fund. Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth, William Parsons, with Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Ena Baga at the organ) conducted by Dr Malcolm Sargent

4 January 1944 – Yorkshire Post Huddersfield Choir at Blackpool Two hundred and forty members of the Huddersfield Choral Society visited Blackpool on Sunday to give what proved to be a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah. An audience of more than 3,000 which packed the New Opera House in the Winter Gardens showed great enthusiasm at the close and gave the choir, the Liverpool  Philharmonic Orchestra, the principals, Anne Ziegler, Mary Jarred, Webster Booth and William Parsons and the conductor, Dr Malcolm Sargent, an ovation. The choir were in best voice and under Dr Sargent’s inspiring leadership provided a most artistic performance.

After the performance, the Mayor of Blackpool (Councillor J. Parkinson) and Dr Sargent warmly supported a suggestion voiced by Mr Frank Netherwood, the president of the Society that the success of the society’s first appearance in Blackpool should lead to further visits.

29 October 1947 Albert Herring (Britten)

29 October 1947 Albert Herring WP

 

Here are William Parsons and Thea Phillips singing “Waltzes from Vienna”.

Dinner with Webster and my parents at Juno Street, Kensington (1963)

21 Juno Street, Kensington as it is today.

I invited Webster to dinner with my parents during those two halcyon weeks when I was playing for him. As we sat
chatting in his car in front of my house in Juno Street, Kensington after he had driven me home one evening, I asked him, rather nervously, whether he would like to come to dinner with us one night the following week. I had not imagined that he would agree as he was probably quite tired after spending the day teaching in the studio in the city but to my great surprise he seemed delighted at the idea and agreed to dine with us on the following Tuesday, as we finished fairly early at the studio on that day.

As you will have read in a previous post, we had a memorable lunch at Dawson’s Hotel earlier that day. After he had taught Winnie, the only pupil who arrived for her lesson that afternoon, he drove me home in the Hillman and stayed to dinner with my parents. He took an immediate fancy to our dog, Shandy, whom he christened “my girlfriend,” and kept her on his knee for the rest of the evening.

Webster and Shandy – My girlfriend

My father offered him a whisky, and he informed us that whisky had never done him any harm so far. He teased me because I had refused a drink at lunchtime when we dined at Dawson’s Hotel. My father looked suitably alarmed at the thought of his innocent teenage daughter being plied with alcohol. No doubt he was relieved that I had turned down the offer.

My parents – David and Margaret Campbell.

 

 

 

 

 

Webster and me

Webster talked to my parents about Britain, and all the artists he and Anne had known and worked with during the war, people like Max Miller and Tommy Handley and many others. He looked so at home in our sitting room, smoking and drinking whisky, with Shandy on his lap. Who would have thought that he was a famous tenor with a world-beating voice?  I didn’t know nearly as much about his illustrious career then as I do now, years after his death. Neither he nor Anne ever boasted about their achievements as so many lesser people do.

When he was about to go home and was standing on our balcony, which was enclosed with an indigo bougainvillea creeper in those days, my mother said, “Thank you for looking after Jean.” He regarded me fondly and replied, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me”. My heart was bursting with happiness to think of the perfect day I had spent with him.

Although I can remember that lovely day, fifty-five years ago, as though it were yesterday, it still saddens me to think that Dawson’s is no longer the plush hotel it once was, while my mother, father, Shandy, and Webster himself are all long dead and gone.

The next few days passed all too quickly and soon Anne was phoning the studio to say she had returned from her holiday with Leslie Green, the radio announcer. She had sent me a card from Fish Hoek and Webster had pretended to be cross because she had not yet written to him at that juncture.

Card from Anne.

On the last night of my accompanying stint, Webster drove me home, and said quite pensively, “I shall miss my Sylvia Pass next week,” referring to the route he took from Juno Street to his home in Buckingham Avenue, Craighall Park.

”I have enjoyed having you play for me, darling,” he added.

”So have I,” I replied fervently.

”We’ll see you on Tuesday at your lesson, dear,” he said.

The following day my great friend Ruth Ormond phoned to say that Webster had raved about me at her lesson that Saturday morning. He said I was a very good accompanist and the whole experience of playing for him had boosted my ego. I was a lovely girl and he had so enjoyed having dinner at my home and meeting my parents. Ruth had the impression that Anne was slightly put out by his unstinted enthusiasm.

“He seems very much taken with you,” said Ruth.

That afternoon I phoned Anne to welcome her home and we chatted for an hour about her trip, and how they had always dreamed of owning a smallholding in England, but they would never be able to afford one now. And so ended two wonderful weeks. I had enjoyed playing for the pupils, had acquitted myself creditably and had got to know Webster very well indeed. I thought that I  would probably not be accompanying for Webster again. But luckily that was not the case. I went on accompanying for Webster in the studio for some time to come.

Jean Collen 15 May 2018.