Early life

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.

Jean Collen (1965)

 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 stagecraftTwo 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.


“A Scattered Garland: Gleanings from the lives of Webster Booth & Anne Ziegler” compiled by Jean Collen

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 Can’t Forget You by Jean Collen


Jean Collen today

The Song is Ended & Other Stories by Jean Collen

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.


Some years ago

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

Click to join booth-ziegler

Jean Collen: writer, editor and proof-reader

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.

My Pinterest Boards

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).                      

Errol Collen  

Writer, translator, editor, proofreader

Please get in touch with me about editing, proofreading, writing and translating services on the form below.

for a quotation.

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.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Fred Boring
    Oct 19, 2013 @ 04:13:40

    I’ve been listening to, and greatly enjoying, your series of programs via archive.org. Thank you for bringing back this great music.



  2. jean2371
    Oct 19, 2013 @ 10:47:10

    Hello Fred, Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you are enjoying my podcasts on archive.org I hope to add more soon.



  3. Andrew McDougall
    Jul 15, 2015 @ 10:16:26

    Hi there. I stumbled across your site and writings by accident and absolutely love the stories. I am particularly taken by your reminiscence of Kensington, and wondered if you would allow me to read out your story of growing up in the area on a show calledthe Canon Piper on Radio Today. This is a community radio station and my show relates to Kensington and its History. I am sure it would go down a treat. With that would you be up for being interviewed on my show? Hope tohear back from you. Best regards. Andrew McDougall



    • jean2371
      Jul 15, 2015 @ 10:21:27

      Hello Andrew, Thank you for your interesting comment. I often listen to shows on Radio Today and would be happy for you to read my story on “The Canon Piper”. I will write to you by email.



  4. Margaret van Heerden
    Nov 15, 2015 @ 14:56:28

    Hi Jean
    I read your article “Vanderbijl Park: Early Fifties” with great interest. My daughter stumbled upon your blog while doing research. I am the daughter of Mr AS Nel, the first headmaster of Hendrik van der Bijl Primary School and lived with my parents in Marconi Street, Van der Bijl Park from about 1948, when the school was built, to 1957, when my father resigned from his post.
    Would it be possible for you to send me your personal email address as there is interesting additional information as well as images regarding the school, the staff and my parents you might like to have.
    Best regards
    Margaret Nel



    • jean2371
      Nov 15, 2015 @ 18:35:34

      Hello Margaret, Thank you so much for your interesting comment. I remember you and your parents very well indeed. In fact, when we moved to Johannesburg and you were at Kingsmead College, you came to our flat in Kensington for the afternoon! I shall send you my email address and will be delighted to hear from you.



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Good Reads Book Reviews

The Moon And SixpenceThe Moon And Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently Strickland was based on the artist Paul Gauguin, but if this was the case, there is a very loose connection between the two for this in not a novel a clef. The book held my interest while the narrator had personal contact with Strickland and his wife. Almost from the beginning of the novel, before Charles Strickland had appeared, I thought him a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Admittedly his wife was not an imaginative woman and used her established position in society to cultivate the society of writers and artists although she appeared to be devoid of any artistic talent herself. She obviously regarded her "dull" husband as nothing more than a meal-ticket and she had never encouraged his artistic inclinations. It is only after he leaves her to her own devices that she manages to pull herself together, fend for herself and look after her children without being dependent on a man any longer.

The portrait of a completely self-centred, inarticulate Strickland, who does not care about the opinion of others was well-drawn but after the narrator is no longer in personal contact with Strickland and the rest of the story of Strickland's life is related to him by a third person the story is less satisfactory. I have to admit that I did not finish the last fifty pages of the book. Although I like Maugham's work, this was not my favourite Maugham novel.

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