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.

Friday, January 13, 2017


DUET Recently published
Paperback, 314 Pages 

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Duet, the autobiography of famous British duettists, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, was originally published by Stanley Paul in 1951. Sixty-five years later I have digitised the book and made it available as a paperback, epub and pdf book. My sincere thanks to John Marwood who proofread the book most painstakingly for me. Webster and Anne tell the exciting story of their rise to fame, and their sensational romance. After Webster's divorce from Paddy Prior, his second wife, he and Anne married and became the most popular duettists of their day, earning them the deserved title of Sweethearts of Song.

The book is also available as an ebook at My Duettist's Bookstore

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Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were versatile singers so it is difficult to name just one duet or solo as an all-time favourite. Webster recorded far more solo recordings than he did duets with Anne, although he is largely remembered today because of the duets.

In Webster's case there are light songs with British Dance Bands led by Jack Hylton, Carroll Gibbons, Debroy Somers, Ray Noble, as the anonymous “with vocal refrain” with the accordion band of Carlos Santana (one of the many pseudonyms adopted by the equally versatile musician, Harry Bidgood), and the popular Fred Hartley's Quintet or Sextet. He also sang in medleys, sometimes on his own or with singers like Janet Lind, Garda Hall, Magda Neeld, Marjorie Stedeford, Stuart Robertson, Sam Costa, Olive Groves, and Nora Savage.

As his singing career progressed he began recording more serious songs, and arias from opera and oratorio. In operatic ensembles he was partnered with singers like Norman Walker, Dennis Noble, Joan Hammond, Joan Cross, Noel Eadie, Nancy Evans, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates. Conductors of these recordings included Warwick Braithwaite, Laurance Collingwood and Malcolm Sargent, and accompanists included Gerald Moore, Herbert Dawson (organ), and John Cockerill (harp).

The duets recordings were generally of musical comedy, operetta and popular songs of the day arranged as duets such as Dearest of all by Vernon Latham Sharp and Too tired to sleep by Alan Murray. There were also duet arrangements of instrumental pieces by Chopin and Liszt, and a charming duet of Mendelssohn's lied "On Wings of Song".

Which ones are my favourites ? Why does the God of Israel sleep? from the oratorio, Samson by Handel is one of my favourites. It illustrates Webster’s amazing vocal technique and dramatic power. He was a prolific recording solo artist and a highly regarded oratorio soloist.

Excerpt from an Australian newspaper - March 11 1950

Shortly after Webster began recording for HMV in 1929, critics in Gramophone magazine praised his voice but thought he should be singing songs more worthy of it. In April 1937, a critic wrote, “Gradually Webster Booth is finding his rightful place as a member of the solo quartet in our concert halls, when the choral masterpieces are given. Only the other day a severe critic of English singing singled out Mr Booth as one of the very few elect.

Most people remember Webster Booth  for the romantic duets he sang with Anne Ziegler on record, stage, screen and radio but several  derogatory comments have been made about his duet partnership with Anne, most people claiming that he would be better regarded as a serious singer today had he not formed the Variety Act with Anne in 1940.  Anne was the first to admit that she had a “ten-a-penny” soprano voice while his voice was in a different category from hers. She was aware that many people thought she had “brought.him down”.

They went into variety because it paid far better than more serious forms of entertainment and they had expensive family financial commitments. Within a very short time they became very popular with those who enjoyed hearing operetta and musical comedy duets sung by a very handsome and charming couple. Anne and Webster were a romantic pair and their variety act took the public's mind off the daily grind of war for an hour or two. While Anne’s voice might not have been in the same class as Webster’s, one cannot deny that they sang the duets musically and their voices complemented one another. 

Webster did not drop his oratorio singing and it was while he and Anne were singing in Variety and Harold Fielding concerts that he made some of his finest serious oratorio recordings. 
He was one of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s favourite tenors and was chosen by Sir Malcolm to sing at his sixtieth birthday celebration concert in 1955.

Webster was a lyric tenor with excellent diction and a wide vocal range. Although his voice was light it filled the Albert Hall, a hall with a notoriously difficult acoustic for singers. He had a pleasing baritonal quality in the lower range of his voice and, in later years, fulfilled a long-held ambition to sing the baritone solos in a performance of Elijah in Knysna, South Africa.

If one listens to his recordings of Mozart operatic arias and the operatic duets with baritone, Dennis Noble  in Puccini’s La Bohème and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and the extracts from Bizet’s Carmen with Dennis Noble, Nancy Evans, Noel Eadie and the Sadlers Wells chorus, he more than held his own among the foremost operatic singers of the day. Perhaps he would not have managed heavier operatic roles on stage but he had a voice ideal for Mozart, Rossini, Gounod, and Handel.

At that time it was the convention to record everything in English on the HMV plum label, but I have a recording of him singing in an Italian which sounds quite acceptable to me, so I don’t think singing in a foreign language would have presented a problem to him. He was also a highly competent musician, so he would have had no difficulty learning an operatic role. As a young man he was keen to sing in opera, but opera did not pay as well as lighter forms of entertainment. In 1926 Sir Malcolm Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should leave opera alone. Webster’s older sister, Doris (known as Nellie) was very disappointed that he did not make a career in opera.

I have an LP called Famous British Tenors in my collection. Webster sings the rather obscure aria, O, Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda by Goring Thomas, while his peers are heard in more popular arias. Despite this he still sounds very much better than most of those who are spoken off in hallowed tones, while Webster is dismissed as a light-weight, a mere romantic duettist!

Webster managed to set the appropriate mood for each song he sang, whether it was a light ballad or a profound aria. One only has to contrast Total Eclipse from Handel’s Samson with Percy French’s Phil the Fluter’s Ball to see a complete change of mood. He certainly was a versatile singer, but far from being “A jack of all trades, master of none,” I suggest that he was a master in command of every song he sang.

Once Anne and Webster's recording contract with HMV was cancelled in 1951 they made a few recordings for Decca and gradually their 78s were deleted from the record catalogues. 

But in the late fifties several long playing records were issued, comprising their popular duet recordings. Love Duets from Theatreland was issued by EMI in the UK, while, in South Africa, a similar record, entitled Sweethearts of Song was issued, with sleeve notes by their friend, Leslie Green.

In 1959 they made an LP of their popular duets. The words had been translated into Afrikaans and, instead of the orchestral accompaniment on the 78s, there was organ and piano accompaniment by Jack Dowle and John Massey.  This record was entitled Net Maar 'n Roos (Only a Rose).

In 1963 they made Nursery School Sing-Along (No 2). This time Heinz Alexander was the accompanist and the Nazareth House Children's Chorus was conducted by my piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan. Webster thought highly of Mrs Sullivan's conducting and insisted that she conducted all the songs for the record.

A recording of Webster's was included in Famous British Tenors issued in 1972.  Webster sings the rather obscure aria, O, Vision Entrancing from Esmeralda by Goring Thomas, while his peers are heard in more popular arias. He was rather put out about this as he thought the powers-that-be might have chosen a more popular aria for his recording. Perhaps recording techniques had not been very advanced for some of the other tenors on the recording sound rather thin. Webster's recording sounds very much better than most of the other recordings by those who are spoken off in hallowed tones, while Webster is so often dismissed as a light-weight, a mere romantic duettist!

Meanwhile, a solo recording called simply Webster Booth was issued by Rococo, Canada in the late sixties. All the recordings had been taken from the collection of Scott Sheldon. Webster played me this record when I visited the Booth home in Knysna in 1973 and I was delighted to hear some songs I had not heard before. 

He told me that EMI would never issue an LP of his more serious work until he was dead, but in 1977, just such a recording was issued. He was very pleased that he was alive to see it, but was rather put out because it was recommended that the record should be filed under the historical section of the catalogue!

The Booths returned to England in 1978 and EMI issued two duet LPs in the late seventies and early eighties. Sweethearts in Song included the same recordings as those from the late fifties, while the other, Music for Romance was a more interesting collection of their lesser-known duets. 

Webster Booth died on Anne Ziegler's birthday, 21 June 1984 in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales. 

A year or so later EMI issued The Golden Age of Webster Booth. 

At about the same time the LP entitled The Golden Age of Ballads and Parlour Songs, featuring Webster and some of his contemporaries was issued. Webster sang Tosti's Parted on this LP.

He was also featured in the Irving Berlin Centenary Celebration  by the great British dance bands, singing two songs in a Waltz Medley, with Ray Noble conducting the New Mayfair Orchestra.

By 1989 Webster's earlier recordings were coming out of their fifty-year copyright and solo and duet CD compilations were issued by EMI and independent companies during the nineties. Because these recordings were out of copyright, Anne did not receive any royalties from their sale.

Jeannie C

Rehearsing for a broadcast with Sydney Jerome (1938)

Most of the videos featuring Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth have been uploaded by me. My channel is at
I was interested to see the BBC4 archive on Desert Island Discs. Webster Booth was a castaway on 3 April 1953. Unfortunately this episode is not yet available as a podcast, but I am hoping that it might be added some time. Webster's choice of discs were, as follows:

Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Philharmonia Orchestra
Irving Berlin: You Can't Get A Man With A Gun (Annie get your gun), Ethel Merman

Franz Liszt: Liebesträum No. 3 in A flat major: vocal version sung by Tito Schipa


Charles N. Daniels: Chloe (Song of the Swamp):Spike Jones and His City Slickers

Frances Allitsen: The Lute Player, Harold Williams (baritone)

Gilbert and Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Malcolm Sargent

George Frideric Handel: Ombra mai fu (Largo) (from Xerxes): Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)London Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Malcolm Sargent
George Frederic Handel: Comfort ye my people (from Messiah) Webster Booth, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Luxury item: ivory pig

    The Tito Schipa recording of Liebestraum was the same arrangement as Webster himself had recorded. 
     Webster considered Australian baritone, Harold Williams to be one of the finest singers of the role of Elijah in Mendelssohn's oratorio of the same name.
     Kathleen Ferrier lived opposite the Booths in Frognal, Hampstead. Webster and Anne often visited her when she was confined to her bed due to illness. Webster had admired her voice greatly and had been looking forward to singing a Messiah with her as contralto soloist. Sadly she had to cancel this engagement due to ill health and she died less than seven months after this broadcast, on 8 October 1953. 

     At that time the copyright on Gilbert's words was still in place, so it would only have been possible to play the overture of The Yeomen of the Guard.

     The BBC website lists the soloist in Comfort ye/Ev'ry Valley as Walter Booth rather than Webster Booth!

       A number of the recordings Webster chose were conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Sargent was Webster's champion and chose him for many oratorio performances. In 1955, on the occasion of Sir Malcolm's sixtieth birthday, he personally requested that Webster should be the soloist at the concert to commemorate this event.

Castaways who chose recordings by Anne Ziegler and/or Webster Booth. Click on the Castaway's name to listen to the broadcast (if available)

David Croft (writer) 14 March 1993: When We are Married from The Belle of New York (Kerker)

Miriam Rothschild (Conservationist, biologist) 23 April 1989: 

Right Honourable Lord Denning (Master of the Rolls, Politician, Lawyer) 17 May 1980:  Roses of Picardy (Haydn Wood) With Fred Hartley and his Quintet

Rosina Harrison (Lady Astor's lady's maid, writer) 20 March 1976:  BLESS THIS HOUSE: BRAHE

Noel Streatfeild (Writer) 17 January 1976: The Faery Song from The Immortal Hour (Rutland ghton)

Percy Press (Punch and Judy man, puppeteer) 28 December 1974: 

BarryHumphries (Comedian) 24 November 1973: 

Bill Shankly (Manager Liverpool FC, athlete, football manager) 26 April 1965: 

Percy Merriman (Musician, Concert Performer, Roosters Concert Party) 17 August 1964: Roses of Picardy (Haydn Wood) With Fred Hartley and his Quintet

Lord George Sanger (Circus, circus proprietor) 22 December 1962: I’ll see you again  from Bitter Sweet (Noel Coward)
Ursula Bloom (Novelist, writer, journalist)
 14 November 1960: 


Dr W.E Shewell-Cooper (Horticulturalist) 10 April 1965: Passing by (Purcell)

*Dennis Noble (Baritone) 19 November 1956: The Long Day Closes (Sullivan) by Tommy Handley Memorial choir, which included Webster Booth

*R.C. Sherriff (Playwright and writer) 23 August 1955: Miserere from Il Trovatore (Verdi) with Joan Cross, Webster Booth

*Fred Perry (Tennis player, athlete) 8 July 1952: WEBSTER BOOTH: THE LOST CHORD

*Leslie Henson (Comedy actor) 18 July 1951: Olive Gilbert, Peter Graves, Webster Booth, Helen Hill

*Anona Winn (actress and singer) 4 April 1951:MADAM BUTTERFLY: LOVE DUET

There was a break in broadcasting Desert Island Discs between 1946 and 1951

*Signalman Henry Wheeler (soldier, navy signalman) 24 November 1945: If You Were the Only Girl in the World

*Joan Edgar (Light Programme announcer) 1 September 1945: 

*Ralph Reader (Theatre director) 12 February 1944: 
*Alan Dent (Drama critic) 8 January 1944:WEBSTER BOOTH: WHERE E'RE YOU WALK (HANDEL)
Barrington Dalby (Boxing referee, Athlete) 20 August 1942: WEBSTER BOOTH: THE ENGLISH ROSE (GERMAN) 

*Nathaniel Gubbins
Nathaniel Gubbins
(Norman Gubbins)
by Howard Coster
half-plate film negative, 1940
NPG x19712
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Nathaniel Gubbins (Humorous writer) 6 August 1942: The Faery Song from The Immortal Hour by Rutland Boughton

*Beatrice Lillie(Actress and revue star) 9 July 1942: The Lord's Prayer (Malotte)
*Arthur Askey (Comedian) 2 April 1942: Serenade (Schubert)

*Pat Kirkwood (Actress) 

26 February 1942: Serenade (Schubert)

*Desert Island Discs marked with an asterisk do not have podcasts available in the BBC4 Archives search. 

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Recordings not in my collection
Someone asked me the other day how many Booth-Ziegler recordings I had in my collection. Rather than count them up, I compiled a list of those which are not in my collection. If anyone has any of these recordings, I would be delighted to receive an MP3 of it and will gladly send them an MP3 of one of mine in exchange. 

Decca F9921 Sanctuary of the Heart/Ketelby; He Bought My Heart At Calvary/Hamblen with choir of St Stephen’s Church Dulwich, Fela Sowande (organ) June 1952

Test recording Serenata, Macushla Reginald Paul, C Studio, Small Queens Hall, London, 20 November 1929

(B8360 As I Sit Here/Sanderson; Love Passes By/Victor
Schertzinger, September 1935) Just today this recording has been found by Mike Taylor so I can cross it off my list!)

Love Passes By
B8476 I’m all alone/May; I’ll wait for you/ Feiner, September 1936

B9030 When You Wish Upon a Star/Pinocchio/ Harline;
Rosita/Kennedy/Carr, 1939

B9271 Will You Go with Me?/Brandon-Park/Murray,Gerald Moore

B9502 All Soul’s Day/ Richard Strauss; Memory Island/ Harrison/ Gerald Moore, September 1946

C2814 Neapolitan Nights, Light Opera Company with Webster Booth

C2827 Memories of Tosti/La Scala Singers with Webster Booth

Ave Maria/Schubert, Ernest Lush (unpublished) - Also recorded on 11 August 1939

Here Comes the Bride Selection/Schwartz/Light Opera Company with Alice Moxon, Stuart Robertson, Webster Booth, George Baker/Ray Noble/Studio C, Small Queens Hall, London/Cc18897-4, 25 March 1930 (Number unknown)

Collen, J.  (Compiler) Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler: Excerpts from Gramophone and Discography MY LULU STOREFRONT
Plomley, R (with Derek Drescher) Desert Island Lists, Hutchinson, 1984

Most of the recordings on were restored by Mike Taylor.

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

Jean Collen

Updated: 16 January 2017.

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