HAROLD FIELDING CONCERTS[caption id="attachment_490" align="aligncenter" width="232"] Pianist Sir Clifford Curzon (My favourite pianist)[/caption] Isobel Baillie (soprano)
Impresario, Harold Fielding.
Impresario, Harold Fielding.
In the summer of 1941, when many London theatres were closed, Jack Hylton, the popular dance band leader put on a week’s series of orchestral concerts at the London Coliseum, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Despite constant bombing raids 20,000 people attended these concerts. Top ranking musicians of the day were soloists with the orchestra, including pianists Eileen Joyce, Moura Lympany, Clifford Curzon, violinist Albert Sammons, violist Lionel Tertis, and singers Isobel Baillie, Eva Turner and Webster Booth himself. Interestingly he sang The Prize Song from The Mastersingers and Lohengrin’s Narration in a Wagner programme. During the First World War German music had been shunned in Britain, but apparently this was not the case in the Second World War. Jack Hylton’s concert manager was the young former child-prodigy violinist, Harold Fielding. Harold Fielding's career as a concert violinist was cut short in his early twenties because he began suffering memory lapses and stage fright. It was at this Wagner concert where Webster met Harold Fielding for the first time.
Maryon Rawicz and Walter Landauer (duo pianists)
Mark Hambourg (pianist)
After this series of concerts ended Harold (aged 25) formed the National Philharmonic Orchestra, with Julian Clifford as conductor. The orchestra toured the country for several years. Although this venture did not make any money Harold was persistent in his endeavours to present good music to the British public. Because of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth's great popularity at that time, he signed them up as guest artistes with the orchestra, along with pianist Mark Hambourg for a four-week tour of Britain in November and December of 1943. They performed in large concert halls and theatres, such as the Belle Vue, Manchester, The Usher Hall in Edinburgh, and the Alhambra, Glasgow. With Mark Hambourg, Anne and Webster as guest artistes, the houses were always full. With this change in format Harold Fielding’s fortunes took a turn for the better. He decided to abandon orchestral concert tours in favour of vocal and instrumental ones. Anne and Webster, the duo pianists, Rawicz and Landauer who had been interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man earlier in the war, and violinist Albert Sandler, son of a poor Russian immigrant, often took part in these concert tours.
Albert Sandler (violin)
The following year, on 20 May 1944 Harold Fielding presented a concert at the Royal Albert Hall:
Anne and Webster were booked for another tour by Harold Fielding at the beginning of 1946, but Webster was taken ill during a concert in the Town Hall, Sheffield. Despite losing his voice he journeyed on to Edinburgh where the next concert was to take place, but still had no voice and felt worse than ever. A doctor diagnosed bad ‘flu and ordered him to bed immediately. Rather than stay in bed in an Edinburgh hotel by himself he decided to return to London, while Anne continued with the tour on her own. In their joint autobiography, Duet, Anne mentioned that nobody in Dundee or Glasgow asked for their money back because of Webster’s absence, but a minority of people in Newcastle demanded a refund.
Anne and Webster embarked on another concert tour for Harold Fielding from August to November of 1946, and this time Dublin was included in the concert itinerary. On Sunday, 13th October they sang in a celebrity concert at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in aid of the General Jewish Hospital, Shaarezedek, The Ever-Open Door, Jerusalem, under the patronage of the Lady Louis Mountbatten. This concert had a large number of acts, ranging from Cheerful Charlie Chester, Issy Bonn and Anne Shelton to pianist Harriet Cohen and Anne and Webster. Tickets ranged in price from £3.3s to 5s.
From 10 – 22 June 1946, Harold Fielding presented a series of six festival concerts at the Pavilion, Bournemouth and the Davis Theatre, Croydon. These concerts included conductors Dr Malcolm Sargent, Andre Kostelanetz with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Soloists were Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, Moura Lympany, Richard Tauber and the Russian pianist Poulshnoff.
This tour culminated in another concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 1 December. After a short break over Christmas the tour continued in 1947. This was the contract which Webster signed for dates in February 1947. Julius Darewski was their agent at the time:
In this contract, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler agreed to appear for Harold Fielding's management at :
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Wednesday, February 4 at 7.30pm
Caird Hall, Dundee, Thursday, February 5 at 7.30pm
Kelvingrove Hall, Glasgow, Friday, February 6 evening
City Hall, Newcastle, Saturday, February 7 evening
City Hall, Sheffield, Wednesday February 18 evening
Town Hall, Huddersfield, Wednesday February 25 evening
The Management agrees to pay and the Artists agree to accept a fee for the above engagements of £90.0.0 per concert plus expenses of £120.0.0 for the three Scotch dates and £20.0.0 per concert for the other three dates.
The Artists agree to perform the group of not less than thirty minutes at each concert. Programme items to be mutually agreed with the Management.
It is understood and agreed that the Artists will not appear in these locations before the dates of the concerts herein contracted or in any adjoining town(s) within a radius of ten miles, or allow their names to be advertised for any subsequent appearance(s) in the towns concerned until they have performed the above concerts.
The Artists undertake to provide the services of their accompanist, Charles Forwood, without extra charge.
The Management undertakes to forward a copy of the running order in connection with these concerts for the approval of the Artists. If the Artists wish to request any alteration thereto, they undertake to do so within twenty-four hours after receipt of the said running order.
It is understood and agreed that the Management will provide three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Dundee and return covering the three Scotch dates and Newcastle, together with three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Sheffield and return, and three first-class tickets from London, or nearest point, to Huddersfield and return.
The fees for these engagements will be paid on the Friday following each concert.
Webster Booth (signed)
Apart from radio and variety work, it seemed as though the majority of engagements undertaken by Anne and Webster were for Harold Fielding at that time. They were due to go on an extended tour to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, but they managed to fit in a final Fielding concert at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh with the South African pianist Lionel Bowman and Australian bass baritone, Peter Dawson, who had returned to Britain from Australia after the war.
They returned from their successful tour on their tenth wedding anniversary, 5 November 1948, and in December they were once again singing for Harold Fielding in Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
In 1950 Anne and Webster appeared at various places in a series of Sunday concerts for Harold Fielding. Towards the end of the year Reginald Tate Bickerstaffe, who had been Harold Fielding’s manager and was fondly known as Bicky, died. The funeral was held at Golders Green. Many artistes who had sung in many of Harold Fielding’s concerts attended the funeral, including Rawicz and Landauer, Anne and Webster, Julius Darewski (Anne and Webster’s agent), BC Hilliam (Flotsam, the surviving partner of the duo, Flotsam and Jetsam), Percy Kahn, a composer who had been accompanist to Richard Tauber who had sadly died of lung cancer early in 1948, soprano Gwen Catley and pianist, Lionel Bowman.
1951 was Festival of Britain year during which time Harold Fielding presented a series of celebrity concerts, called Music for the Millions. These concerts were held all over the country and were broadcast from July to September. On the bill for the first concert from Eastbourne were the Kordites, Max Wall and Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. By the fifties Harold was extending the artistes he used from musical performers to comedians and variety turns and many of his concerts were broadcast. In 1952 he presented Harold Fielding’s Festival of British Radio, starring Anne and Webster and others.
While Anne and Webster still appeared occasionally for Harold Fielding in the fifties, they were no longer constantly working for him. Harold Fielding, in turn, employed many more artists in the fifties than he had done in the forties. Richard Tauber and Albert Sandler had died. Webster was singing in a number of more serious concerts, often with Sir Malcolm Sargent as conductor, and he and Anne went on an extended tour of Vivian Ellis’s musical play And So to Bed with Leslie Henson. They became joint presidents of the Concert Artistes Association in 1953 and remained in this position for several years. Anne returned to playing principal boys in Cinderella at Streatham Hill in 1953 and as Dick Whittington at the King’s Hammersmith in 1954.
Bibliography Booth, W, Ziegler, A, Duet, Stanley Paul, London, 1951 Collen, J, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the Lives of Webster Booth & Anne Ziegler, DUETTIST'S STORE FRONT ON LULU, 2008
Updated May 2017