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. Join The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook.

Saturday, December 14, 2013



A special podcast for the Christmas season featuring Anne and Webster, Harmony Choristers, Norman Allin, Dora Labbette, Rawicz and Landauer, Layton and Johnstone.

Listen to all my podcasts and recordings, and see selected YouTube videos related to Anne and Webster:

Listen to many of Webster and Anne's solo and duet recordings on my You Tube channel at:

Look at my books - both fiction and non-fiction - at:

 I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and everything of the best in 2014.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Recollections of Paddy O'Byrne who died on 3 December 2013

On 4 December 2013 I heard the sad news that Paddy O’Byrne had died the previous night, shortly before his eighty-second birthday. People on social media and on radio remembered the man and his broadcasting skills with great affection, just as I do myself.

The Voice of South Africa competition 

I first heard of Paddy during the Voice of South Africa competition organised by the SABC in 1961. My parents and I sat in the lounge at 21 Juno Street, Kensington, in front of our large valve radio with the green cat’s eye tuner, listening to the weekly competition with interest. Paddy won that competition, with Michael Todd second, and Dr Tony Venniker in third place. Paddy was Irish, Michael Todd English, and Dr Tony Venniker was South African!

Paddy’s father was a high court judge in Eire and Paddy himself had studied law and was working for an insurance company in the city, but when he won the competition he began his broadcasting career on the English service. Michael Todd became a newsreader with the SABC, while Dr Tony continued practising medicine but made frequent broadcasts in an excellent series called Medical File with fellow medics, Professors Harry Seftel and Peter Cleaton-Jones. Sadly, Dr Tony died of advanced prostate cancer in 1989, and Michael Todd also died many years ago.

Paddy O’Byrne was a fine broadcaster. He had a beautiful speaking voice, a beguiling personality and had a wide musical knowledge. He and his wife, Vicky, who had a charming singing voice, had appeared in a pantomime with the Hungarian/South African singer, Eve Boswell, before coming to South Africa.

Gilbert and Sullivan series presented by Webster Booth - 1962 

The first connection between Paddy and Webster Booth began in 1962. Webster was presenting a Gilbert and Sullivan series of programmes when the copyright on Gilbert’s words was lifted. Unfortunately he was taken very ill during that year and spent some time in the fever hospital in Braamfontein with a mysterious virus which gave him myocarditis and threatened his life. He was away from the singing studio and unable to record the Gilbert and Sullivan programmes for some time. It fell to Paddy O’Byrne to read Webster’s scripts for several of these programmes, and he made a very good job of this assignment.

 Sunday at Home - 1963 

In 1963 Paddy presented a series on the English Service called Sunday at Home. He visited the homes of different celebrities to interview them. On one particular Sunday, Anne and Webster entertained a young Paddy in their home at 121 Buckingham Avenue, Craighall Park. It was a charming, informal interview and I liked it so much that I ordered a tape of it from SABC Enterprises some years later.

 To the UK and back to South Africa 

 I went to the UK in 1966 for several years, and some time later Paddy and his family went to live in Croydon in the UK. During that time Paddy worked at the BBC as a broadcaster on Radio 2. The family returned to South Africa in 1980 when Paddy launched a new radio station, Channel 702, which initially had a licence to broadcast from the South African “homeland” of Bophuthatswana.

Shortly after the launch, Paddy returned to the SABC, succeeding Peter Broomfield and Ken Marshall in a weekday morning programme called Top of the Morning with Paddy O’Byrne. On this programme he chatted to listeners about a variety of topics which interested him, played a wide selection of music and the occasional request from listeners, and also interviewed guests. I particularly remember him interviewing John Robbie, the Irish rugby player, who is a long-established talk show host on what is now called Talk Radio 702, broadcasting from studios in Sandton.

By this time I had been married for ten years and had two children. Anne and Webster returned to the UK in 1978 and, for a time, established a third career on stage and radio. Webster was not in the best of health and his voice was a shadow of what it had once been, so it was very sad that he had to get up on the stage and sing in public. The only news I had of them in 1983 was a comment from Paddy on his programme to say that he had heard that neither of them was very well and “needed looking after”. I wrote to Paddy asking for further news as I was worried that I had not heard from them for so long. No doubt he thought I was some loony fan for he did not reply to my letter! Later that year I had a letter from Anne telling me that Webster was very ill and was now in a nursing home in North Wales and unlikely to return home. He died on 21 June 1984.

I Bless the Day (De Jongh) 

Brian Morris

Paddy O'Byrne continued his regular morning programme on the English Service and I listened to it regularly. One day, he had a request from Brian Morris, a former student of Anne and Webster's. When I was Webster’s studio accompanist I had often played for Brian at his lessons. He had a very good baritone voice, reminiscent of Peter Dawson’s.

Brian asked for Webster’s recording of I Bless the Day by De Jongh. The SABC in Johannesburg had got rid of its collection of 78rpm records years before, so there were few of Anne and Webster's recordings in the SABC library at that time. I had the recording Brian had requested on a Canadian Rococo LP, and also I Leave My Heart in an English Garden by Harry Parr-Davies, which was on the flipside of the original 78rpm. I wrote to Paddy, offering to lend him my precious recordings so that he could play the song Brian had requested. This time he did get in touch with me. His daughter, Jane, who lived near us, collected the records and Paddy duly played Brian’s request and some other recordings from my LPs over several days.

 I was rather worried when Paddy didn’t return my records so eventually I phoned his home. Paddy was out, but I spoke to his wife, Vicky. She was charming and realised that I was concerned about my records and said she would make sure that he returned them very soon. Paddy called at our home unexpectedly one Saturday morning to return my records and was fascinated by the photographs of Anne and Webster which adorned my music room. I had a duplicate copy of the LP The Golden Age of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth and gave it to him so that he could play a wider selection if listeners requested one of Anne and Webster’s recordings. Because of Brian Morris’s request for I Bless the Day Paddy and his wife, Vicky, became personal friends of Brian and his wife, Denise. Someone contacted me on my blog a few years ago to tell me the sad news that Brian had died.

Paddy was writing articles about music and broadcasting, so after our initial meeting he often phoned me if he needed to verify information about Anne and Webster. He was always charming and friendly, and I enjoyed our chats together.

He continued as a broadcaster with the SABC, and in 1995 he did a combined afternoon programme with Vuyo Mbuli. I think this was the first time Vuyo had done any broadcasting. Sadly he died suddenly a few years ago, still only in his forties. By that time he was a top TV presenter and very popular with the South African public. Their musical taste differed widely, so it was often a case of hearing Thomas Hampson one minute, and Michael Jackson the next!

After Paddy retired from the SABC he joined the community radio station of 1485 Radio Today and was as popular with listeners as ever. Return to Ireland He and his family returned to their native Ireland towards the end of the last century. His beloved wife, Vicky, died some time ago, and in June this year Paddy came to South Africa to attend a Requiem Mass for her at the Catholic Church in Rosebank where they had worshipped while living here. He and Peter Lotis were guests on Clare Marshall’s programme Morning Star on 1485 Radio Today, which broadcasts from a beautiful plant nursery in Jan Smuts Avenue. It was good to hear his voice once again, although I could hear that he was not very well.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be sadly missed, but very fondly remembered by everyone who knew him and enjoyed listening to him on the radio.

Sunday, October 13, 2013



13 October 2013 

Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Anne Ziegler in Llandudno, North Wales. In remembrance of a dear friend and great performer I  am including one of the loveliest solo recordings she ever made - A Song in the Night by Loughborough.

Anne in early 1960s.
My long association with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth began nearly fifty years ago on the 8 December 1960, when I went for an audition with Anne at their School of Singing and Stagecraft on the eighth floor of Polliacks Corner, 169 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg. I had recently turned 17 and had finished writing matriculation examinations at Jeppe High School for Girls. Webster Booth was in Port Elizabeth on the day of my audition as he was singing in Messiah at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival under the direction of Robert Selley.
      I knew Anne and Webster as singing teachers for several years, but at the beginning of 1963 they asked if I would like to act as Webster’s studio accompanist when Anne, who was accompanist as well as teacher, had other commitments. I did my Associate and Licentiate singing diplomas under their guidance and we remained friends until their deaths. Webster died on 21 June 1984, 26 years ago, while Anne lived on in the little bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, North Wales until her death on 13 October 2003.
     I was too young to have seen them performing at the height of their fame in the 1940s. Unless they were doing a radio programme when it was expected that they would reminiscence about their illustrious careers, they were surprisingly modest. Their autobiography Duet was published by Stanley Paul in the United Kingdom in 1951, five years before they immigrated to South Africa. Each wrote alternate chapters, culminating in a final one, written jointly. They lent me a copy and I collected a number of their solo and duet recordings over the years, but it was only after their deaths, when I was writing my book about my association with them, that I found out a great deal more about their achievements and realised how very popular they had been with the British public from the 1930s until they left for South Africa in 1956. 

Anne and Bonnie (1990s)

      Anne was born in Liverpool and was blessed with a charming light soprano voice and exceptional good looks. She arrived in London to make a career on the stage in 1934 and changed her name from Irené Frances Eastwood to Anne Ziegler when she made her West End debut in the octet of By Appointment with Maggie Teyte as the star. Unfortunately this musical play by Kennedy Russell was not a success and closed after three weeks, but Anne remained in London and managed to earn a rather stressful living singing in various Lyons restaurants and the Cumberland Hotel. By the end of the year she had been selected from two hundred sopranos to sing the part of Marguerite in a colour film, The Faust Fantasy, with Webster Booth in the role of Faust. 

     She soon became very popular on radio and was principal boy in pantomimes in Liverpool, Edinburgh and Golders Green in the thirties and appeared in the musical, Virginia at the Center Theatre, New York in 1937. In 1940 she and Webster formed a double act on the Variety Circuit in the UK. They presented an essentially romantic and glamorous image in their variety act, but they were also excellent musicians, and created a unique blend of voices. 

     Although in great demand with their double act, Webster continued to sing in oratorios on the concert platform. He was one of the finest British lyric tenors of the twentieth century, a fact often overlooked by today’s critics, because he could sing lighter music just as well as he sang the more serious tenor repertoire. 

     I was pleased to discover a number of up-and-coming young singers from the Royal Northern College of Music who won the Webster Booth or Anne Ziegler awards during their studies there. These awards were instituted several years after Webster’s death, thanks to their friend, Jean Buckley who worked hard to raise money for them. Anne was one of the judges at some of the earlier competitions. Unfortunately Webster’s award was discontinued after 2002 due to lack of sponsorship, but Anne’s award is still presented each year, although without sponsorship and donations this award will probably be discontinued soon.

I corresponded with them over the years and spent a happy holiday with Anne at her home in Penrhyn Bay in 1990. I last spoke to her on the telephone at the beginning of August 2003. A week later, she had a bad fall and remained in hospital until her death. I was surprised and pleased to receive a legacy in her will. It is hard to credit that, had she lived, she would have celebrated her hundredth birthday on 22 June 2010.  
     Anne and Webster were a wonderful couple, completely without side, who were kindness itself to me and to many others. They are ever remembered by those who, like me, knew and loved them. 


Join the group on Facebook:  The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Join: The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook.



 Jean Collen - Author
Follow her on Facebook at: JEAN COLLEN - AUTHOR

I began my singing studies with famous British duettists Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, when I was seventeen. Two years later they asked me to act as studio accompanist for Webster. I completed the ATCL and LTCL singing diplomas and remained friends with them until their deaths. I completed the LTCL in piano at Trinity College, London in 1968.
I hold a BA (Honours) (SA) majoring in History of Music, History and English. Since 2006 I have published several books about Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. I have reduced the price on my books - both E books and paperbacks - so they are all quite affordable. I am giving links to paperbacks here, but you can see the E books (which are considerably cheaper) on the site. Click on the links below for further information, previews and review of the books.

SWEETHEARTS OF SONG: A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH Paperback, 176 Pages (6 Ratings) Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth List Price: £11.00 Price: £9.90 You Save: £1.10 ( 10% ) Ships in 3–5 business days
 The book gives a summary of Anne and Webster's rapid rise to fame, which is already well documented in their own autobiography entitled Duet (1951). The book's main focus is on their lives and careers from 1956 in South Africa and their "third" career when they returned home to the UK in 1978.


MARGARET A. PLEVIN - 3 September 2013 

What an awesome testament this book is to such a great couple. How touched they would have been if they could still have been here to read it. The testimonies and memories of friends of the couple I also found interesting and moving. I was always a great fan of Anne and Webster and this book gave me such insight into their lives and all they had achieved over the years and how many lives they had touched. Ms. Collen is to be highly commended for this excellent, insightful book. It deserves the highest rating." Yours sincerely Margaret A. Plevin

These reviews were originally posted on Lulu. For some reason they have been removed from Lulu but now appear on the Good Reads site at the following link: REVIEWS ON GOODREADS


A beautifully written account of the lives of these two great singing stars of yesteryear, by someone whose life was to become intermittently interwoven throughout a long and memorable forty year period. If like me, you adore these great Artistes, then you won't be able to put this book down! A true and sometimes 'sad' angle of British stardom and its pitfalls, yet a living sparkle emanates from every page. After reading this memoir, one is left with the feeling of nostalgia and also a feeling one has known this talented married couple. Personally told by a lady whose warm and generous heart has 'opened up' her fondest memories, and been kind enough to share them with us. When finished reading, you will be left with a conviction that these two remarkable names: WEBSTER BOOTH and ANNE ZIEGLER should never be forgotten. The book is simply 'unputdownable'.

Review by JOHAN GELDENHUYS, January 4, 2008 

This review is from: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (Paperback) This delightful book falls into the rare category of a personal memoir not about the person writing it but about two other people of talent. The upshot is two main characters brought to vivid life by the minutiae of everyday living recorded over an almost epic period of time (forty plus years) and a third character, the author, thrown into equally stark relief by her interactions with, and reflection on, them. A further factor of great importance highlighted in the book is the fact of migration, the two main characters as well as the author all being British-born and living in South Africa for a fair spell. The complex interplay of all of the above makes for a fascinating read not encountered often these days with its tales of ready-made solutions to spuriously complex problems or, in fact, fairly shallow neuroses. Overlying the innate complexity of the personal relationship of the three rounded characters referred to above is the many-splendoured realm of art in its guise of serious song taken to an even higher level of complexity in the spiritual sphere by the concurring of the author with Webster's opinion their, or at least his, best work was done in the field of oratorio. The shifting scenario, from the U K and the U S A to Johannesburg, Knysna, Somerset West, and finally back to the U K and, in particular Wales, makes for exciting reading in that the style reflects the differing emphases in great and loving detail. Following the aforegoing subtleties of shifting aspects of reality the set of memories of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, adduced at the back, add a final lustre to a loving and complex portrait of several lives in vital and vibrant interplay. All the foregoing aspects are made possible by a simple and direct prose style, which is one of the book's greatest attributes, somewhat along the stylistic pleasures of Gaius Julius Caesar describing the Gallic and Roman civil wars and Blaise Pascal analysing mathematical and social structures. A salient example, chapter 16 on the 1973 East London production of The Mikado, will suffice, representing the truly complex undercurrents between professional and amateur ardours about the same production in an almost offhand mode encapsulated in a simple style of stark statement pregnant with knowing innuendo.
Therefore, in summation, a marvellous book about a fascinating subject really intelligently written. Read it and dare to contradict the above views. Johan Geldenhuys.

Affirmation, January 27, 2009 By Ian Harris (Czech Republic) 

This review is from: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (Paperback) I have read Johan Geldenhuys' superb review and find that I simply have no words to add to his. I certainly am not disagreeing with his verdict - to the contrary, I only wish I could have expressed my opinion of Jean Collen's memoir half as articulately! Jean writes in a direct and, at the same time, very expressive style. I found that I was not able to put this book down until I had read the final page. This, surely, is the only true judgement of any writer's craft.

 A SCATTERED GARLAND: GLEANINGS FROM THE LIVES OF WEBSTER BOOTH AND ANNE ZIEGLER By Jean Collen Paperback, 421 Pages.  List Price: £14.00 Price: £12.60 You Save: £1.40 ( 10% ) Ships in 3–5 business days

An updated and enlarged edition of A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler is a compilation taken from a wide variety of sources, interspersed with my own comments. Although the book is primarily an informal reference work, it clearly shows the progress of Anne and Webster’s careers. It also lists a variety of engagements of his second wife, Paddy Prior. The compilation covers Anne and Webster’s musical and theatrical ventures from Webster’s first professional engagement with D’Oyly Carte in the early nineteen-twenties to Anne’s final broadcast towards the end of the century. The book is over 400 pages in length and is liberally illustrated.

DO YOU REMEMBER ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH? By Pamela Davies and Jean Collen. Paperback, 171 Pages (2 Ratings)  List Price: £10.00 Price: £9.00 You Save: £1.00 ( 10% ) Ships in 3–5 business days

This book tells Pamela Davies' story of her keen admiration of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth in the forties and early fifties. Shortly after Anne and Webster returned to the UK from South Africa in 1978, Pamela began corresponding with Anne and became good friends with her. The book includes THE BODY OF WORK OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH, compiled and edited by Jean Collen. Jean has listed many of their engagements on stage, screen, radio and television from 1924 to 1994.

1 Person Reviewed This Product
By Jean Collen
Pamela Davies first heard Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth singing on the radio when she was a teenage evacuee in Devon in the early nineteen-forties. She became a staunch fan of the couple, attended as many of their performances as possible, collected press cuttings and made her own notes about the shows and concerts she saw. When Anne and Webster returned from South Africa in 1978 she wrote to them to welcome them home. Much to her surprise, not only did Anne reply to her letter, but began a regular correspondence with her. After Webster's death in 1984, Pam and her late husband, Walter took Anne out for lunch whenever they were in North Wales, and they became good friends. This is an interesting account of Pam's association with them over the years, first as a fan, and later as a friend. By no means is this an uncritical account by a starry-eyed fan, but tells of the couple's loss of popularity after the war, leading to their decision to settle in South Africa from 1956 to 1978. I can thoroughly recommend this fascinating and thoughtfully written book to those who are interested in the lives and careers of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.


Paperback, 248 Pages (2 Ratings) On Wings of Song Price: £11.00 Ships in 3–5 business days

 On Wings of Song is a combination of two books already published on Lulu:Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth by Jean Collen and Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? by Pamela Davies and Jean Collen. I have omitted The Body of Work which is published in Pamela Davies' original book.

 This miscellany is a memoir about the famous British duettists, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth by two people who knew them well. Jean Collen studied with them, acted as studio accompanist to Webster Booth in the sixties, and remained friends with them until their deaths.

 Pamela Davies was a teenage fan of the couple in the 1940s, and began corresponding with Anne Ziegler in the late 1970s when Anne and Webster returned to the UK, and became a good friend.


 Paperback, 101 Pages  List Price: £6.50 Price: £5.85 You Save: £0.65 ( 10% ) Ships in 3–5 business days

This is the third edition of this book. It is made up of articles and reviews about the recordings made by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler (1929 to the present). The discography section has been completely revised and updated and includes an almost complete discography of their solo and duet recordings and some of their surviving radio broadcasts.


JUST THE ECHO OF A SIGH - A novel by JEAN COLLEN Paperback, 171 Pages (3 Ratings)  List Price: £9.00 Price: £8.10 You Save: £0.90 ( 10% ) Ships in 3–5 business days.

This novel has strong leanings to a Roman à clef (a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction). It was written during November 2011 for NaNoWriMo, and traces the life and career of singing luminary, Malcolm Craig. He is a brilliant tenor and has great success in his professional career, but his private life is far from tranquil. The book traces the course of his life, his career and his relationships from the 1920s to the beginning of World War Two.


By Karen Barnard
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was mesmerized from the very beginning. The characters are very real and Malcolm Craig is portrayed as an intriguing man although he causes so much heartache in such a short time. Set in the romantic 20's and 30's will no doubt bring back very fond memories to some, and interesting insight to others. Awaiting the follow-up story eagerly.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000).Actor BORN here: 155 Lauderdale Mansions,Maida Vale.

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler lived at 78 Lauderdale Mansions from 1937 onwards. They moved to a bigger flat in the same building until they bought their home at 98 Torrington Parade, Friern Barnet in 1941.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth - Episode 2. I shall be broadcasting this series periodically on Podomatic. I hope you enjoy the broadcast and that you will let me know what you think of it.

A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth - Episode 1. I hope you enjoy the broadcast and that you will let me know what you think of it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

MORNING STAR on Radio Today (28 APRIL 2013)

Morning Star broadcast with Clare Marshall, talking to Jean Collen about Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler on Radio Today Johannesburg 1485 

Sunday, January 20, 2013



21 January 2013 is the hundred and eleventh anniversary of the birth of Webster Booth at 157 Soho Road, Handsworth, Staffordshire. To mark the occasion I have included a video featuring reminiscences of Anne and Webster, recorded towards the end of the 1970s.


21 June 2012 was the twenty-eighth anniversary of the death of Webster Booth in Llandudno Hospital, North Wales. The following day was the hundred and second anniversary of the birth of Anne Ziegler, born Irene Frances Eastwood in Liverpool in 1910, who died nearly nine years ago. I knew Webster for twenty-four years, so he has been dead for four years longer than I knew him. I remained friends with Anne for forty-three years until her death in October 2003. They certainly made a very strong impression on me as a young seventeen year-old just out of school. In the usual course of events I would never have met them except as one of the crowd waiting at the stage door to catch a glimpse of them as they left the theatre or a concert hall after yet another triumphant performance. In fact, I had met them briefly six months earlier in June 1960 when they had sung in the Methodist Church Hall in Roberts Avenue, Kensington, Johannesburg where they had been the star attraction at a variety concert, held to raise funds for the church. This time there were no eager crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of this glamorous couple as they left at the interval after they had sung. I was the only one waiting with my autograph book to ask for their autographs, which they graciously signed in the vestry of the church.

August 1955
Webster Booth was one of Britain's finest tenors of his generation and only five years before I met him he was still singing at the Royal Albert Hall under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent, who had nurtured his more serious singing career since he had selected him to sing the tenor solos in the Good Friday performance of Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall in 1936.

After the war musical tastes in Britain altered. Danny Kaye and other American acts were top of the bill at the London Palladium now, and, with the advent of rock 'n roll, Anne and Webster's refined act was on the wane.  To make matters worse, an unfortunate incident related to the Inland Revenue in the UK led to the Booths leaving England and settling in Johannesburg in 1956. They went to live in South Africa in 1956.

Despite their hard work over the years and the fame they had achieved, their circumstances were much reduced by the time they arrived in South Africa. At that time there were not many professional theatrical companies and even if they commanded top South African fees, these must have been far less than they had received for their work in Britain. They did a fair amount of performing and broadcasting in South Africa, but found it necessary to start a school of singing and stagecraft on the eighth floor of Polliack's Corner in Pritchard Street, Johannesburg to supplement their dwindling income. 

Anne gave me this card when I attended my audition with her.

At first they asked far higher fees for lessons than reputable local singing teachers, but few could afford to pay such high fees, so they eventually reduced their fees to an amount closer to the fees local teachers charged.  Because of this my parents could afford to send me to the Booths for singing lessons after I left school. Webster was away in Port Elizabeth singing at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival under the baton of Robert Selley at the time of my audition, so I met Anne by herself on my first visit to their airy studio, which contained a beautiful Chappell grand piano,  a set of shelves against the wall which contained all their sheet music, and a full length mirror so that students could watch themselves as they sang. There was a glass pane behind the studio couch,  filled with photographs of Anne and Webster in various roles and in the company of famous and illustrious people who had been their friends and colleagues in Britain.

During their twenty-two years in South Africa they starred and directed many musicals all over the country as well as teaching "singing and stagecraft" at their Johannesburg studio, where I was privileged to have lessons with them and act as Webster's studio accompanist when Anne was away. 
The corner of Eloff and Pritchard Streets, Johannesburg. Anne and Webster's studio was on the eighth floor of the building on the left.


 Little did I know that this first meeting with Anne would result in an association with the couple, first as a student, a few years later as Webster's studio accompanist, and in a friendship which lasted until Webster's death in 1984 and Anne's in 2003. We had our ups and downs over the years, but I will never regret knowing them and having the course of my life changed because of my friendship with them. As long as I am alive they will never be forgotten.    

Anne Ziegler on sheet music cover (1936)

Anne Ziegler as Mrs Siddons in the famous Gainsborough painting. This photograph first appeared in The Star (Johannesburg) in 1962.

During Anne's singing career in the UK in the days of fame and glory during the forties and early fifties, Anne was noted for the beautiful crinolines she wore in the Variety act with her husband, the renowned British tenor, Webster Booth, and in stage and film performances. The gown in this photograph is an excellent example and the roses allude to Anne and Webster's signature tune, Only a Rose from The Vagabond King. The couple starred in a revival of this Rudolf Friml musical at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1943.

22 June 2010 was the hundredth anniversary of Anne's birth. Here is a photograph of a painting of Anne's great grandmother, Mary Fish (born 1796) in Parbold, Lancashire. I received it from Anne's first cousin (once removed) Catherine. 

While the generation who remembers Anne and Webster from those far-off days is growing smaller with the passing years, I hope new generations will discover them by listening to their recordings, many of which are available on CD. I have uploaded a number of rare 78 rpm recordings by Anne and Webster on YOU TUBE, and you may listen to these by clicking on the links to the right, or go directly to Anne did not make many solo recordings, but Webster made recordings of oratorio, opera, ballads, musicals and art songs as well as medleys and duets with other singers as well as numerous duet recordings with Anne.Down in the Forest by Landon Ronald, taken from a live broadcast in the 1940s.

Anne Ziegler as a young woman.

My heart will never sing again/Queen of June

I was pleased that one of the WB-AZ Yahoo Group members discovered this rare shortwave broadcast of Webster Booth singing a song I have not heard before entitled, Wonderful Moment:


Despite their great fame in Britain in the forties and fifties, Anne and Webster are largely disregarded by the public today, possibly because they spent 22 years in South Africa before returning to the UK in 1978. People who appreciate them most today are those who listen/look at the videos I have posted on You Tube.

The links to my sites are as follows:

Instead of writing something new about Webster I am reproducing a short extract from my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth, which illustrates how kind and unassuming he was, despite being one of the greatest tenors Britain has ever known. The incident takes place in April 1963 when Anne had gone on a fortnight’s trip with broadcaster Leslie Green and I, aged 19, was accompanying for Webster’s students in their studio in central Johannesburg for the first time.

On Monday we spent a lovely lunchtime, chatting about Webster’s life in the theatre in Britain. I was getting to know him very well. He was older than my own father, but I felt completely at home with him and loved him for his gentle nature, his good humour, kindness, and complete lack of side.

            Tuesday was a red-letter day.

            After Dudley Holmes’ lesson, Webster announced, “Jean and I are going to blow the family savings today. I’m taking her to Dawson’s.”

            Dudley said, “I wish I was coming with you. I have to go back to the office on an apple.”

            Webster and I walked round the corner to Dawson’s, which was one of the top Johannesburg hotels in those days, with only the Carlton and the Langham ahead of it. He seemed oblivious to the curious glances of the lunchtime throng doing double takes when they recognised his famous face. We were ushered into the dining room on the first floor as though we were royalty. The head waiter hovered around Webster and we were shown to the best table at the window.

            Webster was at home in this setting, after all the grand hotels of Europe and Britain he had known. I, on the other hand, in a bottle green velvet dress, felt gauche and young, as indeed I was. He ordered grilled trout and I had a fish dish also. He had a gin beforehand, and was disappointed when I refused anything alcoholic. At that stage of my life, the only time I ever had anything to drink was when my father poured me a thimbleful of sherry on special occasions. Over coffee, we had petits fours and he insisted I should eat as many as I wanted. I found out later that they were soaked in brandy, so I did not go entirely without alcohol that day.

            We sauntered back to the studio on a sunny afternoon. There was only one pupil due, so Webster fell asleep on the couch, while I sat in a chair a fair distance away reading Duet, their autobiography, which he had brought in for me to read the week before.

            When he woke up, he put on one of the reel-to-reel tapes of his sacred and oratorio recordings: How Lovely Art Thy Dwellings, The Lost Chord, Abide With Me, Sound an Alarm. I listened entranced and sometimes near to tears. He told me that when Lost Chord was recorded in the Kingsway Hall early in the war, the All Clear sounded just as he was singing the last phrase “The Grand Amen”. They had to record it again so that the sirens could not be heard on the recording.

            After Winnie, the only pupil for the afternoon, he drove me home 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.

            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. My father looked suitably alarmed at the thought of his innocent teenage daughter being plied with alcohol.

Shandy, sitting on the stoep of our Juno Street house (1963)
            Webster talked to my parents about Britain, and the artistes they had all known during the war, like Max Miller and Tommy Handley. He looked so at home in our sitting room, in a chair before the coal fire, smoking and drinking whisky, with Shandy on his lap.

            When he was about to go home, and was standing on our stoep (balcony), which was enclosed with an indigo bougainvillea creeper, my mother said, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” and he looked at me affectionately and replied, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me”.

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

He made nearly a thousand recordings with HMV from 1929 until 1951. These recordings included ballads, musical comedy, oratorio and opera, not to mention the many duets he made with his wife and duettist partner, Anne Ziegler. He was also a regular broadcaster for the BBC and the European radio stations such as Luxembourg, Radio Normandy and Radio Eirann before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Webster Booth and Lilian Davies in "The Three Musketeers" at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1930.
He began his career in the chorus of the D'Oyly Carte Opera (1923 to 1927) and made his West End debut as the Duke of Buckingham in the 1930 production of The Three Musketeers, which starred the dynamic Dennis King as D'Artagnon. Other musical roles included Juan in Kurt Weill's A Kingdom for a Cow (1935).  

As Francois Villon in "The Vagabond King" (1943)
With his wife, Anne Ziegler he appeared as Villon in The Vagabond King (1943) with Anne as Katherine, Sweet Yesterday (score by Kenneth Leslie Smith, 1945), and as Charles II in And So to Bed (early 1950's), score by Vivian Ellis. He and Anne also appeared in innumerable productions of Merrie England (Edward German).

"And So to Bed" (1953)  Anne Ziegler in South Africa (1960s)
When they returned to the UK in 1978 they did a number of radio and TV broadcasts and travelled the country reminiscing about their illustrious careers during the nineteen-thirties and forties. Webster died in Llandudno Hospital, North Wales, the day before Anne's seventy-fourth birthday, 21st June 1984.

Jeannie C  June 2012.