My name is Jean Collen (nee Campbell). I was born in Glasgow towards the end of the Second World War, an only child of elderly parents. We flitted periodically between the UK and South Africa on Union Castle liners, so my childhood was rather unsettled.
I went to ten different schools, always the new girl with the odd accent, always trying to make transitory new friends and catch up with different syllabi and different subjects. If there were international schools in those days, my parents did not know about them, or possibly could not afford the fees! Despite these difficulties, I matriculated in Johannesburg, four months after my seventeenth birthday.
Despite being quiet and reserved, I showed unexpected talent for acting, singing and mimicry, and I had studied music from an early age.
Musical studies and career
After I left school at the age of seventeen, there was a settled period in Johannesburg when I studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, the English duettists. They had immigrated to South Africa in 1956, and opened a studio of singing and stagecraft. Two years later they asked me to act as studio accompanist for Webster, when Anne – who usually accompanied the students – had other commitments. I completed the ATCL and LTCL singing diplomas with Anne and Webster and remained friends with them until their deaths.They were a profound influence in my life, even after they returned to the UK to live in North Wales in 1978.
I went to London at the end of 1965 to do my piano Licentiate at Trinity College of Music. While in the UK I taught music and drama, sang in the Bach Choir in St Albans and appeared in a number of shows. After some years, I returned to South Africa, met my future husband, Errol, a translator and editor, and have remained here ever since, with occasional trips back to my homeland. I have been married for over forty years. I am the mother of a grown-up son and a married daughter, and am grandmother to two young boys.
I appeared in concerts, musicals and operas in South Africa and taught singing and piano for many years. After I married, I completed a BA (Honours) degree at UNISA, majoring in History, History of Music (with distinction) and English. I recently retired as musical director at a local Anglican Church after thirteen years.
Webster died in 1984 and Anne and I were still friends, forty-three years after I first went to their studio. She died on 13 October 2003, aged 93. They published a joint autobiography, Duet in 1951 and after Anne’s death I wrote a biography, detailing their lives from 1951 to the present, entitled Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth. It is mainly people older than myself who remember them in their hey-day before and after the Second World War.
After the publication of this book in 2006, I wrote further books about Anne and Webster, polished my novel, I Can’t Forget You, which had remained in a drawer since the late 1970’s, and published it a volume of short stories, entitled The Song is Ended & Other Stories.
I had thoughts of writing a Roman à clef for several years and took the opportunity to turn these thoughts into a novel during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) of November 2011. The synopsis is as follows:
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 great tenor and has success in his career, but his private life is far from tranquil. The book returns to earlier days and traces the course of his life from the 1920s to the beginning of World War Two. It is the first novel in a series about Malcolm Craig’s life.
I managed to complete the first part of what I hope will be an ongoing series of novels about tenor, Malcolm Craig and published it on Lulu recently. The title of this novel is Just the Echo of a Sigh. I intend to work on further volumes of this series in the coming months.
I have done my best to promote the names and voices of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth on the internet. Read more about the lives and careers of Anne and Webster on my blog:
Look and listen to my uploaded videos featuring Anne and Webster on my Duettists Channel at
I run the WEBSTER BOOTH-ANNE ZIEGLER YAHOO GROUP at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/booth-ziegler
Click to join booth-ziegler
I retired from my position as Musical Director at St Andrew’s Church, Kensington in 2005 and recently retired from teaching singing and piano, which gave me more time to concentrate on writing, proofreading and editing.
Have a look at my boards on Pinterest. You might like to create Pinterest boards too. You can save all your favourite photos from the Web there. I have included categories of special interest to me.
I live in Johannesburg with my husband, Errol Collen, a writer, translator (English/Afrikaans), editor and proof-reader who holds an MA degree (cum laude) in linguistics from UNISA (1980).
Please get in touch with me about editing, proofreading, writing and translating services on the form below.
This blog advertises books I have written and published on http://www.lulu.com/duettists If you live in South Africa I can supply these books in ring-binding at cheaper postage.
I am a musician, writer and retired teacher of classical singing, living in South Africa. My qualifications are as follows:
BA (Hons) (SA) History, BA (SA), History, English, History of Music (with distinction), LTCL (Singing), LTCL (Piano)
I undertake writing, editing and proofreading services at reasonable prices. I specialise in proofreading music texts. Please contact me for a free quotation.