Saturday, June 30, 2012


Jean, St Hugh's Choir, Lincoln 1990

Jean & music group, Wheathamstead, playing for the Queen Motherat opening of  school 1967

Jean and Peggy, St Albans, 1968

Jean, Durban 1969

Jean 2000

Princess Ida, St Albans, 1967
Jean, Neil and June Evans, Mikado, East London, 1973
Jean 1965
Jean 1992

Jean 1969
Jean, Mikado, East London 1973
Canford 1967. Art of Song course with Derek Hammond-Stroud



 During the 1950s I was a radio sound engineer for the BBC and frequently had the pleasure of working with Anne Ziegler  and Webster Booth. 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


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.



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Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

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Jean Collen began her singing studies with the famous British duettists Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, in Johannesburg, when she was 17. Two years later they asked her to act as Webster's studio accompanist when Anne - who accompanied their students - had other commitments. This was the beginning of a close friendship which lasted until their deaths. 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.



A theatrical garden party had been organised for early October at the old Rand Show Grounds at Milner Park. Anne had asked whether Ruth, Lucille and I would like to help out at it and naturally we all agreed. I wore a new dress and a large white hat decorated with a rose for the occasion. I met Lucille at the entrance to the Show Grounds and we soon found Ruth. We all looked quite glamorous and grownup. We walked round the various stalls spotting illustrious local theatrical personalities.
            We stopped for a drink in the tea room and heard the New Zealand bass, Inia te Wiata, who had come out to sing in Show Boat for JODS, say to his companion, “I want to meet my old friend, Webster Booth. Has he arrived yet?”
            Anne and Webster were late but when they arrived we heard them long before we saw them. Uncharacteristically they were having a blazing row. They stopped quarrelling abruptly when they noticed us, but I could sense the tension between them. Webster greeted us cheerfully enough but Anne was so upset that she ignored us completely. She was in a thunderously bad mood.
            “You three girls look quite gorgeous,” Webster remarked in a completely different tone of voice to the one he had been using to Anne a few minutes earlier. He put his arms around Ruth and me, which hardly served to lighten Anne's mood.
            They were due to have strawberries and cream with fellow celebrities but Webster said, “We’ve got loads of time. We can have a good look around first.”
            Anne still said nothing. Suddenly she marched off furiously, leaving Webster with no alternative but to hurry to catch up with her. Lucille wanted to follow them, but Ruth had other ideas.
            “We'll leave them alone all afternoon. We don't need them to enjoy ourselves,” she said.
            Now that I am years older I know that Anne did not intend to hurt us, but obviously had worries of her own. Lucille was going on holiday that day so she had to leave early. Ruth and I walked with her to the exit of the Show Grounds. We noticed Anne and Webster with the strawberry and cream brigade trying to put a good face on it after their earlier quarrel. Webster waved and beckoned to us, but Ruth instructed us to wave cheerfully and continue briskly on our way.
            Ruth had recently passed her driving test so she drove me home in her tiny bubble car. She stayed for tea with my parents, and we hatched a plot to say that we had met two old boyfriends in the dancing pavilion and had a great time twisting the afternoon away. We heard later that Anne and Webster went to Leslie Green's house for an impromptu party with Inia Te Wiata and his wife. We never did find out why they had been quarrelling so bitterly.
            Anne and Webster were making a recording of Nursery School Sing-Along with the Nazareth House Children’s Choir, trained and conducted by Sylvia Sullivan. Mrs Sullivan told me that Webster always insisted that she should conduct everything as she was very good at keeping everyone in time. The children of Nazareth House had been allowed to listen to his Great Voices programme on Saturday evening. Webster had told her he was very proud of me. I was singing with the Sylvia Sullivan Choristers, and Webster and Anne lent us their own arrangement of Carl Böhm’s Still as the Night to copy for the choristers to sing.
            That same week Webster phoned to ask whether I'd play for him again. Anne had a sore arm and was going to have traction every day that week.
            On Thursday, I started playing for Webster again and he was as charming as always. Linda Walters, an attractive girl from Vereeniging, had her lesson and he told us an anecdote about an event which happened, “long before you two were ever thought of”.
            On Friday, despite her week in traction, Anne was making the effort to attend the opening night of Show Boat. Webster had to go straight home that evening to fetch Anne for the theatre, so, to my disappointment, the last pupil of the day gave me a lift home rather than Webster.
            Ruth had tickets for the forthcoming recital by the distinguished soprano Maria Stader and she had asked the Booths to accompany her to the concert. On Saturday morning, Webster came into the studio feeling tired after his hectic night at Show Boat. He grumbled about having to go to the Maria Stader concert that evening with Ruth and Anne when he would have preferred to have had an early night.
            He drove me home at lunchtime in his blue Hillman Minx convertible. It was a lovely warm day so he put the roof down. He said sombrely that it would be better if I could go to the concert in his place. But then he added, “It would break Ruth's heart if I didn't go.” Without being bigheaded he was perfectly aware of the power and influence he exerted over us lesser mortals.
            Just as we were passing the Kensington Sanatorium he said, “It’s such a lovely day. Let's just keep on driving all the way to Durban”. Lovely impossible idea.
            Instead of driving to Durban, he dutifully took me home, and he and Anne went to the concert with Ruth that night as planned. I heard all about the concert on Sunday when Ruth and I went to the SABC to a studio recital given by Shura Cherkassky, the world-renowned pianist. I remember his brilliant performance of the Mozart sonata in B flat, which was in my own repertoire, and Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
            Of the students at that time I particularly remember Colleen McMenamin singing Our Language of Love from Irma la Douce, the current hit show at the Brooke Theatre in De Villiers Street, and Innes Kennersley, singing old ballads like Nirvana, Tosti's Goodbye and the more rousing The Road to Mandalay.
            Webster teased me when Innes sang Goodbye. “Do you want to borrow my handkerchief, darling? This is a very sad song.”
            In November 1963, Anne and Webster celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary with a big party. Anne arrived unexpectedly at our house with Hilda, to show me their new puppy, a sweet little Cairn terrier, whom they had just collected from the breeder in Highland Road. Anne named the puppy Silva in memory of the Silver Wedding. She was a dear little pup and lived to the ripe old (dog) age of fourteen.
            Next day Webster phoned to tell me that Anne had developed ’flu, so he was coming in to the studio on his own that afternoon. I offered to play for him but he was all concern about my diploma paper work the following day. I persuaded him that I should enjoy playing and it wouldn’t affect my exam if I stopped studying for a few hours.
He arrived with a box of glacé fruits to wish me well for the exam. During my lesson that day, I sang Always by Kenneth Leslie-Smith from The Puritan Lullaby, the song he had made famous on radio in the original broadcast of The Puritan Lullaby in the nineteen-thirties.
Next day after the first exam I went up to the studio. I heard him say to pupils Frances and Henrietta as I unlocked the door, “I hope it’s Jeannie.”
            He told me to sit down and went off to make me coffee after my ordeal, while I talked to the sisters who were singing duets together. After they left, he said that it had been a very heavy morning without me there to accompany for him.
            I played for him on Monday, and during some free time we went through the baritone part of Fauré’s Requiem, which he was to sing the following night. I was sorry not be able to attend this performance, but at least I had a preview of his part of it.
            “I think I’ll do, don’t you?” he said complacently.
            On Thursday, Anne told me how well he had sung the Fauré, but then, even at his age, he always sang well.
            By this time Ruth was on holiday, waiting for her matric results, so we often went out together, and sometimes she would come up to the studio for a harmony lesson from me, so that she would be up to standard when she started her course at Cape Town. She was planning to do a music degree, and vowed that if she could not make it as a serious singer she would come back to Johannesburg and take up pop singing. She whistled beautifully and did great imitations of Miriam Makeba’s Where Did It Go, That Sweet Young Love of Mine? and Eartha Kitt, complete with growl, singing Let’s Do It!
            Two days before Christmas I went for my usual lesson. Webster came into the kitchen and handed me a little box. He made me promise to put it away at once and not open it until Christmas day. Needless to say curiosity got the better of me. I opened the box on the crowded bus on the way home. It contained a most beautiful pair of garnet earrings. I was thrilled and longed to wear them immediately, but they were for pierced ears, so of course I decided that I would have my ears pierced as soon as possible.
            Ear piercing was not as common in those days as it is now. Despite objections from my parents, and even Ruth, I had my ears pierced in Dr Davis’ surgery at the top of the hill in Roberts Avenue. I had to wear sleepers for six weeks until my ears healed and I could at last wear the lovely gift. Sadly, I lost one of the droplets not long afterwards, so I wore the other droplet on a chain round my neck and the top stones as earrings.
            The garnet droplet is still on its chain round my neck, and I wear the earrings on special occasions. Over forty years later I can still remember what it was like to be young and exuberant enough to dance down Eloff Street as though my feet had sprouted wings.

Jean Collen ©

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  • By Arrival:02-Jul-2009

    "A SPARKLING INSIGHT TO TWO GREAT SINGING STARS" 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'.
    By Johan Geldenhuys
    ""Sweethearts of Song: A Personal memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth"" 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.

    By Ian Harris (Czech Republic)
    Amazon Verified Purchase

    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!

    Four years ago, I received a lovely letter about the book from a gentleman in Ireland. I share it with you on the fourteenth anniversary of Anne's death.He had recently read my book. He attached various photos of Penrhyn Bay, North Wales which he had taken during his trip. 

  • Part of his note reads as follows:
  • "All thanks to you, I spent a really moving day rambling the highways and byways of Penrhyn Bay. To be standing outside Anne and Webster’s house was an extraordinary feeling and for me a real privilege. Looking at the house, and then walking on the beach, all the time internally hearing their wonderful music, and feeling a real sense of gratitude to them both for all the joy they brought to countless millions over the years with their unique gifts, their unique talents. And yes, as I looked out on Penrhyn Bay, and then further East to Rhos on Sea, Colwyn Bay, Llanddulas and Abergele, I would see in my mind's eye, the beautiful Anne in her youth, as well as her undoubted beauty in her later years. It is, as you well know, a spectacular landscape: Snowdonia to the South, the Ormes to the West, and to the North the Irish Sea stretching as far as the eye can see-----all quite something, and a beautiful and moving backdrop to remember both Anne and Webster. 
So once again, many thanks, not only for your wonderful book but also for a memorable windswept day in Penrhyn Bay."

It was good to know that my book had given him pleasure and had motivated him to pay a visit to Webster and Anne's final home.

5 June 2019. I was very pleased to receive this kind comment about the book from George Anderton, my Facebook friend and member of The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook:

Hi Jean. Just to let you know that I have finished reading your book and enjoyed it immensely. You certainly had a close relationship with Anne and Webster and it must have been a very exciting time for you. One little snippet = Now I know where Vernon Midgley got his Christian name from. It was his mother's surname.
Jean Collen 5 June 2019