ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH

ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH
ALL MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS MY COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY IT FOR ANY PURPOSE WHATSOEVER WITHOUT OBTAINING MY PERMISSION! Webster Booth (tenor - 1902-1984) and Anne Ziegler (soprano - 1910-2003) were best known in Britain as duettists on the Variety circuit from 1940 to 1955. During that time they rose rapidly to fame and were frequently heard and seen on radio, records, television, film and stage. Besides this Variety Act, Webster Booth was one of the foremost tenors of his generation and continued to sing in numerous oratorios throughout his career on the Variety circuit. The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Yahoo group is for those who remember them from the days of their success in the UK and South Africa, and for others discovering them for the first time. In the group there is a discussion forum and access to rare recordings and photographs featuring them as duettists and soloists.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

MEMORIES OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH

Jean Collen (nee Campbell) student and friend of Anne and Webster, and Webster's  studio accompanist when Anne was away from the studio. Read Jean's memories of Anne and Webster's singing pupils below.

JEAN COLLEN FROM JOHANNESBURG WRITES:

Students of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

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

LUCILLE ACKERMAN (Soprano) I was in the middle of my lesson when Lucille and her family arrived for her audition. She had spent a year recuperating after an illness on the family farm near Piet Retief. During that year she had worked at improving her singing technique. Hendrik Sussann, the well known Afrikaans band leader and violinist, lived on a neighbouring farm. He featured her as a singer in his band’s broadcasts on the SABC. She was nineteen years old – a year older than me - and she had a remarkably mature and pleasing soprano. She was already a consummate performer, but needed lessons to improve her musicianship. She and I did several singing examinations at the same time.
During her studies with Anne and Webster she took the lead in an Afrikaans production of The Merry Widow in Kempton Park. She went on to make a number of Afrikaans recordings and formed a successful duet partnership with the broadcaster, Francois van Heynigen, who became her second husband.

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



DORIS BOULTON (soprano) Doris Boulton was originally from the Potteries district of England. Her husband worked at a pottery near Irené, on the outskirts of Pretoria. She had an exceptional voice and was also extremely musical - the two gifts do not always go together! She had broadcast extensively with the SABC, but with a change of management, her file was mysteriously lost and she was required to re-audition. This second audition was not favourable, despite her being a better singer than many who continued to give regular broadcasts.
She was singing Richard Strauss’s Serenade in an impossible key, and my attempt at sight-reading this makes me blush even forty-odd years on.
Doris and her husband gave Anne and Webster a white tiled table, inscribed with roses and a few bars of their signature tune, Only a Rose, on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary in 1963.
In 1966 Doris Boulton produced The Merry Widow in Irené and took the leading role of the widow in question, Hannah Glavari.
Doris remained friends with Anne and Webster and visited them a number of times in Penrhyn Bay. She returned to the UK some years ago and settled in Stone. I was sorry to hear from her daughter, Jan Bruns that Doris passed away in 2008.

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

ROSELLE DEAVALL (mezzo soprano) I first heard Roselle sing when she was fourteen years old. I was impressed at the maturity of her voice at such a young age. We discovered that we lived in the same suburb, and visited each other several times. I still have a reel-to-reel recording of her singing the incongruous The Mountains of Mourne complete with Irish accent.
She stopped having lessons for a few years, but took them up again after she left school. The last I heard of her was that she was singing with the Performing Arts Company of the Free State. (PACOFS).

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

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

MABEL FENNEY (soprano) Mabel met Anne and Webster first when she appeared with them in a production of Merrie England in East London, in the Eastern Cape. At the time she was preparing for further music diplomas, so she decided to come up to Johannesburg to have lessons with the Booths. In 1960 she came to Jeppe Girls’ High as a relief music teacher and gave a recital for the girls in the School Hall. She was instrumental in my decision to study with Anne and Webster. She won the University of South Africa Singing Bursary and studied at the Hochschule in Berlin for two years.
She met her second husband, Maurice Perkin while she was abroad and after her divorce and remarriage to Maurice, she lived and worked in England for a number of years before they came out to South Africa. During her time in England she sang the role of Susannah in a semi-professional production of The Marriage of Figaro. I met her again when she was living in Florida (South Africa) in 1976 and we became good friends. We sang duets together until she and her husband retired to the South Coast of Natal. In April 2009 Mabel celebrated her ninetieth birthday.

23 March 2011 I heard today that Mabel Fenney Perkin (nee Greenwood) had died suddenly in Uvongo, Kwa-Zulu Natal on 6 March 2011, just over a month short of her ninety-second birthday. She will be sadly missed and ever remembered.

VALERIE FIGGINS (soprano) Valerie Figgins also attended Jeppe Girls’ High School, and she too was present at the Mabel Fenney recital. Valerie had a strong voice at an early age and studied with another teacher in Johannesburg before going to Anne and Webster for lessons. We were in the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal’s (PACT) production of Nabucco together in 1965.

ROBINETTE GORDON (soprano) Robin had a sweet soprano voice. When I first met her she was singing in the Johannesburg Operatic Society’s production of Show Boat, in which the great Maori bass, Inia Te Wiata was engaged to sing Ole Man River. She went on to sing in JODS productions of The Yeomen of the Guard, The Merry Widow and Guys and Dolls. She later joined PACT, where she sang in a number of operas. I was sorry to read of her death several years ago.

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


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


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


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


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


ROBIN LISTER (boy soprano) Robin had an exceptional soprano voice, more like a mature female soprano than the typical Ernest Lough boy soprano. He made several recordings which Anne and Webster supervised. Through the recordings he became well known and he appeared at a number of concerts until his voice broke. After his voice broke, Anne and Webster taught him to play the piano. He became an engineer and immigrated to Australia.
SELWYN LOTZOFF (boy soprano) I played for Selwyn at several eisteddfods and at the Amahl and the Night Visitors audition. I particularly remember him singing the Afrikaans song, Die Roos. He immigrated to America. He is pictured (left) with his wife.

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


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


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


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

In 1962 her mother won a substantial amount of money in the (then) Rhodesian Sweep. Ruth went to Cape Town University to study singing in 1964 and sadly died of a cerebral haemmorrhage at the end of her first term there. Her parents created an award in her name at Cape Town for the best first year soprano. She was nineteen years old when she died. I still miss her. I have never had a dearer friend.


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


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


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


OTHERS: Richard Darley, Elizabeth du Plessis (soprano),Jennifer Fieldgate, John Fletcher, Yvonne Marais (soprano), Joan Metson, Thea Mullins, Betsie Oosthuizen (soprano), Bill Perry (tenor), Piet van Zyl (bass).
I do not remember the full names of the following: Corrie, Dell, Erica, Ferdy, Frances and Henrietta (sisters who sang duets together), Gertie, Graham, Gretchen, Miss Greyvenstein, Hennie, Janet, Kathy, Leanore, Lorentzia, Louella, Louis, Marian, Myrtle, Marian, Myrtle, Nellie (a mezzo soprano who moved to the Free State), Reeka, Shirley, Winnie (a Scot who lived in Modderfontein and sang in the local operatic society).


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


SYLVIA WATSON (NEE REILLY) FROM NEW ZEALAND WRITES:

I have some information about the Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth Springs Operatic Society shows. The 1960 production of A Country Girl was held in the Springs Little Theatre, rather than the Civic Theatre which, I think, was only built in the late sixties or early seventies. John Wilcox and Corinne van Wyk were the leads and I was in the chorus.


The Desert Song was held in the same theatre in October-November 1961 ( I was in the chorus again for The Desert Song. Incidentally, during the interval a young man from the audience came to the stage door and asked if he could speak to me. We married in 1964 and we now live together in New Zealand. So I think we owe Anne and Webster a vote of thanks.


My husband Neville and I were in the Springs Operatic Society production of Carousel (1977)and my husband was also in their Guys and Dolls (1974) and Showboat (1975). These shows were all directed by Dennis Watson, my brother-in-law. It was lovely reading about all the shows you mentioned.
Sylvia Watson (April 2009)

Alan Marsh writes:
As a teenager in the 1940s I had saved my money to go and hear Webster Booth in Merrie England at the Adelphi Theatre in London. When the night arrived, and just before the performance, they announced that Webster was ill and Heddle Nash took his place. It was magnificent of course, but it was some years before I could have the thrill of hearing Webster Booth in person, but the years of pleasure that followed, before he died, leave wonderful memories of a great English tenor.


I might add that many years ago while I was on Vancouver Island, I went into a little bookshop and came across Anne and Webster’s delightful autobiography Duet, together with her autograph in the book. It not only made my day – but my year too! Percy Bickerdyke, the music editor of Evergreen, was doing an article on them some years ago and he was thrilled to borrow the book from me. It is one of my treasures.
Alan Marsh, July 2009

















Babs Wilson-Hill (Marie Thompson) top left




LINDA ANDERSON OF BIDFORD-ON-AVON WRITES:
MARIE GLADYS WILSON/THOMPSON (BABS WILSON-HILL)

Babs was born in Manchester on 12 September 1908, the second child of Gertrude and Harold Wilson. As a young child she lost her father during the First World War. She missed her father dearly as she had been very fond of him.


When Babs was in her early years she was living in Chandos Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy and went to Loreto Convent School. By this time she had been having piano lessons and had also become a very able dancer.


Babs remembers her Aunt May, only eight years older than herself, teaching her a few dances. This sparked off an interest which was later to become her career. She decided to take the subject more seriously and began lessons with the Haines School of Dancing, Whalley Range and later at Sheila Elliot's School of Dancing, Liverpool. Some of her early performances were in the theatre at the rear of Manchester's Midland Hotel.


During her dancing years Babs had been coached by Anna Ivanova who was with the Pavlova Company. Babs was later to become the Principal Ballerina in pantomime with Tom Arnold who produced performances throughout the country. She was in eight pantomimes altogether and was Principal Girl, Fairy, Witch, and Principal Dancer. She performed with and became a friend of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth and knew George Formby and his wife Beryl well.


George Formby was later to be responsible for Babs being sent to the Isle of Man during the Second World War. He saw her dressed in her WAAF's uniform and was most amused! He wanted Babs to be part of a team in Jurby, Isle of Man, where a theatre had been set up at the RAF base there. Babs asked that this was to be secondary to her work as an MT driver. She had been advised not to be part of ENSA and so this was a good compromise. When she arrived at the Isle of Man she had her own personal transport waiting to take her to Jurby and was treated as a VIP, much to her surprise! A trunk of her costumes was shipped over to the island. Babs always made her own costumes.


One of the shows she was involved with went to London for one night where she was introduced to a member of the Royal Family. Later in the war she was transferred to Ireland, Scotland and finally Stanmore, where at one time she was driving a 15cwt lorry and, as a Corporal, she was also driving a Staff Car. After coming out of the Services Babs went to live in Cobham Surrey. She had a very short, unsuccessful marriage and later moved back to Colwyn Bay.


Babs looks upon her move to Colwyn Bay as a successful one. She has had the advantage of both the sea, in which she was regular swimmer for many years, and the beautiful surrounding countryside. She is also surrounded by many very good friends. Over the years she has been very involved with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.


Her friendship with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth enabled her to spend many months with them in South Africa. When Anne and Webster were thinking that they would never be able to return to the UK, Babs bought a bungalow for them to live in which was near to her in North Wales. They remained in this home until they died.
Babs died on 28 September 2003.
Linda Anderson

Anne, tenor Allun Davies and Joan Tapper after a birthday lunch for Anne in North Wales, 1998. Read Allun's and Joan's memories of Anne below.


ALLUN DAVIES OF NEATH, WEST GLAMORGAN WRITES:
I am a professional singer (tenor) and singing tutor. I first heard Anne and Webster through my Dad’s collection of 78s. My Dad loved great singers like Richard Tauber, Richard Crooks, Deanna Durban Grace Moore, Nelson Eddie and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Hammond, and of course, Anne and Webster. Dad had a great voice and Mum was a pianist so I was off to a great start myself.
Sadly, Webster died before I had a chance to meet him. I first met Anne at Theatr Clwyd, North Wales on 12 April 1987. I was appearing there in one of our touring concerts of Music for All. We were delighted to hear that Anne Ziegler was going to be in the audience that night, so my friend, Joan Tapper brought one of her lovely red roses from her garden for me to present to Anne that evening.
After the first half it was confirmed that Anne was in the audience. We were all thrilled, and in the second half I made an announcement that we had the presence of a great first lady of the theatre, films, radio and televion in the audience – “Anne Ziegler”. There was an outburst of excited applause, and the spotlight focussed on Anne. I invited her on to the stage and presented Joan’s rose to her, and then sang Only a Rose to her while holding her hand. She was so gracious and had a really lovely smile on her face when I finished singing the song.
The audience gave us a standing ovation as I led Anne to the front of the stage. She turned to me and said, “My dear, if I had known you were going to sing Only a Rose I would have sung it with you.”
What a lost opportunity for me, to have sung with a legend like Anne Ziegler. I had a photograph taken with Anne back stage after the show. This was the start of my long friendship with Anne, with my dear friend, Joan Tapper. I travelled up to Mold, North Wales year after year in the summer to stay with Joan, and we would go to see Anne and take her out for her birthday. I also phoned her from time to time. Joan never missed a week talking to Anne on the phone. Joan is a very special person – so caring and a true friend.


Apart from doing concerts I also presented my own radio programme on Swansea Sound called Great Voices My radio programme consisted of me playing records of great singers and ran for four years. I closed my programme every week with Anne and Webster’s recording of Now is the Hour. Every time I saw Anne she enjoyed our conversations about singers, the Theatre etc., and we had so many laughs. She had a great sense of humour like Joan. I miss her very much.
Allun Davies


JOAN TAPPER FROM MOLD, NORTH WALES WRITES:


Living on a farm in rural North Wales in the thirties and forties with only a wireless for entertainment, I remember hearing two of the most glorious voices I had ever heard. Looking in the Radio Times I saw that they were Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. From then on, I never missed a programme, revelling in the beauty of those God-given voices. Then, it suddenly came to an end, as if they had disappeared into thin air. 


The years passed on, and in the late nineteen-seventies I was watching the Welsh National Eisteddfod in South Wales on the television, and out of the blue a voice on the stage gave a welcome to Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, who had just returned from South Africa to live in North Wales. I was so shocked to hear their names that my head nearly popped through the screen. For the first time I saw them in person and I was so excited. On a snowy February Sunday afternoon, they visited our local Theatr Clwyd to sing and give their life story. 


I made a tray of my Welsh toffee, tied with a pink ribbon and flower, and took a copy of their song Tomorrow from Sweet Yesterday accompanied by a letter introducing myself! I asked the pianist if he would give them to Anne and Webster and if they would kindly autograph the song. That snowy Sunday afternoon was the beginning of a lovely friendship. Webster loved my jams and chutneys, and whenever I sent them a parcel of homemade goodies and garden vegetables, Anne used to say he was like a child in a brantub. Sadly, Webster died in 1984 and Anne devoted her life to her little Yorkshire terrier, Bonnie. 


She valued my friendship very much, with both of us having musical interests, and looked forward to our regular Sunday morning chats and many laughs. My friend Allun Davies, a singing teacher from Neath, South Wales, stayed with me every year on holiday, and we took Anne out for lunch with several of her fans. As she grew older, she just wanted Allun and I to take her out on our own. She loved chatting about the great singers gone by, and loved Allun as he made her laugh so much. 


We visited Anne on 2 August 2003 and took her a box of goodies. She was very frail and not able to come out with us, but we made her laugh and she enjoyed herself. We told her not to come to the door with us as she was rather unsteady. When we got to the car she was in the window, net curtains pushed back, a beaming smile on her face and blowing kisses to us. Allun and I sat in the car, looked at each other and both of us felt this was her curtain call. 


She passed away in October 2003. A friend took me to the service at Colwyn Bay Crematorium and I took Fragrant Cloud, her favourite rose, from my garden and Sally Rayner placed it on her coffin. With sad eyes I could hear them singing that lovely Maori song Now is the Hour. as the curtains drew slowly round the coffin. As well as possessing glorious voices, they were such a charming, lovable couple, and I feel very honoured to have met them and formed such a cherished friendship, never to be forgotten.
Joan Tapper
Anne and Dudley Holmes in Anne and Websters' Knysna garden in the late sixties. Read Dudley's memory below.



DUDLEY HOLMES FROM KIMBERLEY WRITES:


I remember well the first time I met Anne. The Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth School of Singing and Stagecraft was in Polliack’s Building in Johannesburg and I had made a good few attempts to get myself into the lift and up to their floor before I finally made it one Friday afternoon. The door was opened in answer to my knock by a stunningly beautiful blonde in a blue and white striped shirt-waister dress. Anne!


I said, “It’s taken me nearly six months to get myself this far, and if you don’t let me in I’ll never come back!”


She laughed a little nervously and explained that, “Mr Booth is away doing oratorio in Grahamstown,” but would be back for a 12.30 appointment the following day. “Please come tomorrow,” she said – and I was smitten.


Facing the imposing Tenor, dressed in a dove-grey three piece suit, complete with monocle in top pocket, was an experience. Anne played a few scales to determine into which vocal range I might fall.


“I think he’s a bass, Boo,” she said.


Muttering, he pushed a Bass Album across the piano at me and said, “Page through and find something you know.” I found Drink to me only.


His questions all got negative answers.


“Have you sung before?”


“Not even in a choir?’


“Do you read music?”


“Why do you want to sing now?”


“I just know I want to sing!” seemed to be a reasonably acceptable answer, and we started lessons, once a week, at 12.30 on a Saturday.


The first few months weren’t easy. Mr Booth would stand toe to toe with me and, in a very loud voice, say, “Put your tongue flat… Support, support… Breathe…” Anne was very quiet; she just played the scales and accompaniments while I struggled on.


One Saturday I arrived for a lesson and he, The Ogre, was away again. Anne and I had a really enjoyable lesson and I felt that my voice had found its wings. Anne sat me on the floor at her feet for “chat time”.


“Does Mr Booth upset you?”
“Yes, he does,” I answered.


“If I arrange for him to be elsewhere during your lessons for a few weeks, do you promise you’ll work hard and we’ll put together a programme to sing for him when you are ready?”


“I’ll try,” I said – and we did.


Anne must have given him a good talking to, telling him he was terrifying the poor child - I was a very young twenty - and his approach to me changed. Lessons became wonderful fun and the work began in earnest. Their teaching methods were very natural, and diction was all important.


“If the audience can’t hear the words, you might as well go home!”


Our association turned into friendship and we spent a lot of time together at their beautiful home. We had progressed from “Mr Booth” to “Dad”. How it came about, I can’t remember, but over all the years of our friendship he never signed a letter or card with anything other than, “Yours, Dad”.


Dad enjoyed playing his, and their, 78s for me. As a result I was able to tape eight or nine hours of recordings from their private collection. Many years later these have been put onto CD and listening brings back many happy memories.


When they felt I was ready to be cast before an unsuspecting public, I auditioned for a musical, New Moon in Springs, with Anne as producer. I played a small part, singing a dreadful song (so bad it had been cut from the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddie movie version!!) and that was my first singing experience on stage. Fortunately things did improve after that!


Anne had a wonderful sense of humour and a very infectious laugh. When Dad’s LP record Webster BoothArias by Handel Mozart, Verdi and Puccini and popular songs was issued in 1977, he was really cross because in the top corner of the cover was printed “File under CLASSICAL:Historical”. The more he muttered about, “makes me sound a hundred,” and “I’m not dead yet,” the more Anne and I laughed. He was really immensely proud of the LP and eventually laughed too.


Anne and Dad’s decision to move down to Knysna was a shock and a loss for their pupils. They suggested that I move to Francis Russell to carry on with lessons, as his teaching methods were similar, and Francis was able to help me prepare for concerts that Anne and Dad gave in Knysna in conjunction with the Knysna Choral Society. The Elijah and Messiah excerpts concerts were very well supported and gave me my first chance at oratorio performances. They had a wonderful soprano pupil, *Ena van der Vyver – beautiful voice – I wonder where she is now.


Staying with them in Knysna was always a pleasure. Dad did all the cooking. Anne hated kitchens, but she and I would do the dishes after meals.


From Knysna they moved to Somerset West to a home with a wonderful view of the Helderberg. Anne loved the colour changes at sunset and we watched every evening. They were both missing “Home” at this stage, and when they told me they were returning to the UK to retire I felt I had to accept their decision.
Anne loved writing and receiving letters and we corresponded right up until a few years ago when she stopped writing and we then spoke on the phone every few weeks. I stayed with her twice in her bungalow after Dad died. She missed him so much.


I was also able to see her in hospital three times in two days when I visited Wales in September 2003, just a few weeks before she died. She had fallen badly and was bandaged from ankle to hip, as well as on her arm, having had skin grafts done. Even at ninety-three, she was still so beautiful, with lovely skin and her trademark cerise pink “lippie”. She was very positive that she would soon be well enough to go to “a nice place where I will be cared for”. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.


Our friendship lasted forty-three years and I can look back on happy times spent together, and through it all I hear Anne’s wonderful laugh.


Dudley Holmes

Anne and Jean Buckley in the 1990s on their way to the twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.





















JEAN BUCKLEY FROM RHOS ON SEA, CONWY WRITES:


During the Second World War radio programmes brightened everyones lives and it was always a great pleasure to listen to Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. At the time they were at the height of their career, featuring in many musical programmes and their records were played daily.


I had seen their stage performances in The Vagabond King, Sweet Yesterday and And So To Bed and met them often at the radio recordings of Variety Bandbox. We became good friends.


At Christmas time Anne would play Principal Boy in Pantomime, while Webster would take the tenor role in The Messiah with orchestras up and down the country. His superb tenor voice was at best singing in Oratorio or operatic arias. I remember him singing with the Hallé Orchestra at the then newly opened Free Trade Hall in Manchester, after the previous hall had been demolished in the blitz. It was an evening to remember.


They successfully toured Britain with a variety act which included their popular duets. They were always beautifully dressed: Anne in her marvellous crinolines and Webster in full evening dress. It made a very glamorous act.


When they went back to the UK after many years in South Africa they returned to the stage for a short while and Anne taught singing at their home in North Wales.


After Webster Booth died a yearly award for young singers was given in his memory at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Later on another award for outstanding merit was given in Annes name. Donations from fans helped to fund these awards, and for many years Esso Petroleum sponsored the event. Their many recordings will make sure they are never forgotten!

Jean Buckley

Ena Geldenhuys
(formerly van der
Vyver) and Anne
Ziegler in a
Knysna pantomime
in the lates 1960s.
Read Ena's memory
below.


ENA GELDENHUYS (formerly van der Vyver) OF STRAND, WESTERN CAPE, WRITES:


At the age of fifteen, I sang in the Knysna Eisteddfod. Without any previous singing training, I won the open section against trained singers like Maria Stander (whom Anne and Webster also knew) and received a gold medal. I also won the gold medal in my age group (15-18 year olds). This was without any training. (So naive!)


My family gave me no further encouragement. I actually didn’t realise I had something that could be developed, probably because I never was one to let such things go to my head (and even today, I’m still like that).


When Anne and Webster came to Knysna our paths crossed. That was fantastic! At the choral society, I got to know them both as true friends who took an interest in me and my voice. I made use of this opportunity, and so had the chance to achieve something after all. During my time with them, I became, like Dudley Holmes, a child in their home. I will always remember Anne’s laugh. And I will never forget the late Sunday afternoons. Dad would pour the whisky, and I would sit on the carpet with Squillie and Lemon.


When I was in London, Anne and Webster also gave me the opportunity to visit the BBC, where I met the affable Eric Robinson.


Back in Knysna, Anne and Webster took me into their capable hands and gave me a thorough training. From them I learned to develop full self-confidence in everything I did. My stage performances and rapport with audiences improved.


It was a great honour for me to share the stage with Anne and Webster, as a soloist as well as a duettist with each of them. Words can’t describe how honoured I was to achieve that in my life. At the same time, I was very disappointed that I went through their hands so late in my life. Because, in addition to my voice training, another world opened up to me.


I played important roles in their pantomimes, such as second principal boy in Cinderella, in Trial by Jury, as a soloist in choral performances and other productions, too numerous to mention.


But in all the beautiful and happy days on the stage with Anne and Webster, there was spitefulness too. It was something I found very difficult to accept, but Dad coped with it in a completely different way from Anne and always prepared me for such things. I will always remain grateful to them for that. We, all three of us, simply came out stronger on the other side. I could see them, as professionals, rising above people who would never reach that level.
After my retirement, I was in a position to join a big choir, The Tygerberg City Choir in Belville, under the direction of a most competent choir leader and coach, Edward Atkinson.


The auditions had been going on for a week when the day of my audition arrived. The atmosphere was very tense. My time came nearer, but I walked in very calmly, and Edward was very friendly. He could see I was calm and full of self-confidence. I could answer all his questions clearly: Yes, especially my training and background with Anne and Webster. I could see that Edward was very satisfied.


Before I left, he told me that I had been accepted and that he would use me. I was, of course, told not to say anything, because the results would only be made known the following week. Believe me, to keep this from all the others who were still waiting to go through it all was difficult. I found the choral singing with big orchestras fantastic.


As far as the learning was concerned, to my surprise I surpassed myself. After two years, I had to resign from the choir because of the circumstances here in the Cape. It had become very dangerous to drive to the rehearsals alone at night. Car hijackings, abductions, etc. were rife, and I had to make a choice. My husband, Pieter, was also struck down with cancer, and I had to make a decision. I am glad that I was able to be part of such a large and wonderful choir under the direction of such a gifted coach. Both Edward and my husband have since died.


Nowadays I sing in the Cantando Choir here in the Strand. It’s not a big choir, but the spirit between us is very good, and there are some lovely voices. (At the end of March 2007, I was appointed as the choir soloist!)


I always try to keep up Anne and Webster’s good name with my performances, as a good advertisement for their part in my life and in my singing – and a positive outlook on life and in everything I tackle. Today I can look the world proudly in the eye, because of the part they played in my life!


After so many years, I still shed a solitary tear when I think back on them with respect.


Thank you for this opportunity to honour them. They transformed my simple life into a fantastic experience.


Ena Geldenhuys 2007 Alys Tayler took second lead in Anne Ziegler's production of Lady Audley's Secret in Port Elizabeth, 1971. Here she is with Ted Mayhew. Read her memory of the Booths below.

ALYS TAYLER FROM TE PUKE, NEW ZEALAND WRITES:

When our family made their annual trip from Port Elizabeth to my parents on Leisure Isle, Knysna, over the Christmas holidays, my mother very kindly paid for me to have three singing lessons with Anne. Despite being quite famous overseas and in South Africa, both Anne and Webster were gracious and friendly. She called him “Boo” which I thought was short for Booth.


I learned a lot of unusual singing techniques from Anne, notably how to produce upper register high notes on uncomfortable vowels, e.g. “sea” incorporating the “oo” sound and to go very lightly on the sibilants like “s” and “c” at the end of a word – and everything worked! Although it was over 30 years ago I remember most of what I was taught.


They produced a pantomime in Knysna with Anne playing principal boy but as she was also producer, musical director and lighting technician, her health and her glorious voice suffered.


Shortly before Christmas they put on a concert wherein Webster rehearsed and conducted items from the Messiah, singing with the massed choir, then turned around to render the tenor solos. The last item of the concert was community singing and the first song that Webster announced was: “It’s the wrong way to tickle Mary”. Stunned silence at first, then gales of laughter! Yes, you guessed it – It’s a long way to Tipperary.
The musical Lady Audley’s Secret was the first show produced by Anne for PEMADS in Port Elizabeth in 1971 and I was so happy to be given the part of Alicia, the second lead. The actress playing the part of Lady Audley was Elizabeth Shires who later took the lead in Oklahoma.


It was a period show and Liz and I had to wear full crinolines. When I was rushing along a narrow passage from the dressing room up the stairs to the stage, I nearly knocked Anne over with my big dress. She was not at all amused! What did impress her was when I was centre stage on a chair, crying my eyes out and singing "Sorry her lot..." I pulled out a little hankie, wiped my eyes - and wrung it out! Much laughter.


A couple of years later Anne and Webster were commissioned to produce another pantomime in the Opera House, Port Elizabeth and this time I had a part in the chorus. A vivid memory of rehearsals in the PEMADS theatre was Webster completely losing his temper with Peter, the publicity agent. Peter had designed the front page of the programme and the flyers with Webster’s name (as musical director) underneath Anne’s as producer – in smaller letters!! How he raged at Peter for that, in front of the entire cast. And Anne gave her husband her full support – as she did throughout their marriage.


What a privilege to have known such a wonderful, talented couple.


Alys Tayler


BRIAN WILLEY WRITES
:

During the 1950s I was a radio sound engineer for the BBC and frequently had the pleasure of working with AZ and WB. The weekly programmes were recorded in a temporary studio the BBC were using - the Criterion Ballroom. Its entrance was on the left-hand side of Lower Regent Street just down from Piccadilly Circus, London.
On those occasions they were accompanied by the BBC Revue Orchestra conducted by Frank Cantell. The recording sessions were about three hours long and always a great delight. They were a most charming couple and totally professional in their work.
Years later I became a producer and responsible for the Public Concert engagements of the BBC Concert Orchestra. I can't recall the exact date, but somewhere around 1980, I had arranged a concert in the Astra Cinema in Llandudno, North Wales and, much to my surprise, discovered that Anne Ziegler lived nearby.


Well I just had to invite her to appear in the show and she was delighted to have been remembered. (However could I forget!) On the night of the transmission she walked on to the stage looking as elegant and beautiful as ever and sang Ivor Novello's 'We'll Gather Lilacs' . What memories that brought back to the audience - and me. I can remember having quite moist eyes during the performance - and what an ovation she got. There were screams of "Encore" for more, but that was more than enough for her. She took many bows and left the stage to a continuing tumult of cheers and applause. What a night that was. She lived to the great age of 93 - dying in October 2003 - and I sincerely hope that her final years were comfortable.

Brian Willey


Anne and Webster, 1940s Posted by Hello

TREVOR LUCKCUCK, WEBSTER BOOTH'S COUSIN (ONCE REMOVED) FROM SOLIHULL WRITES:

Webster Booth was my mother's cousin, and as a result I met him many times. The family called him by his first name, Leslie. My grandfather and Leslie's father were brothers. Leslie's father was called Edwin. My mother’s maiden name was Booth, while Leslie's mother's maiden name was Webster. My mother and he appeared together at concerts in Birmingham and the Midlands before he joined D'Oyly Carte as a professional.


Leslie’s father owned a ladies’ hairdressers in Soho Road, Handsworth. His son - Leslie's brother - was also in the business, and the family lived on the premises. Leslie's father died just after the interval at their concert in Birmingham Town Hall in October 1949. They were not told of his death until after the concert had finished. He and Anne Ziegler published Duet in 1951 and gave me the first signed copy of it. Anne Ziegler hailed from Liverpool and was born Irene Eastwood. The last time I saw Leslie was at Solihull Library Theatre in the early 1980s when he and Anne gave a talk about their career.


Trevor Luckcuck