DUET by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler

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Click on the above link to hear a recording of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler singing one of their most popular duets, Will You Remember? (Sigmund Romberg)
I have digitised Duet, the autobiography of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, published by Stanley Paul in 1951. It is available as a paperback and an epub book at: My Lulu bookstore

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The introduction to the book reads as follows:

England’s most popular duettists, who have sung in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and America, and are loved by millions of radio fans, have written their love-story together.

The provincial choirboy and the little Liverpool pianist have come a long way. Webster Booth ran away from an accountant’s stool to tour England at £4 a week and sing on the piers. Anne Ziegler’s father was ruined on the cotton market, so she sang in restaurant cabaret. They met playing the lovers in “Faust” – and fell in love. But he was married already.

Concert-party struggles, pantomime rivalries, fun and peril in early films, adventures at Savoy Hill and parts in stage “flops” were followed by great successes. She was hailed as “Radio’s Nightingale”, and as a leading lady in New York and London, a film star and BBC favourite. He sang at the Albert Hall and Covent Garden, starred in the West End and on films and radio. They went half round the world together, singing.

There are two-fisted criticisms and fascinating glimpses behind the scenes in film-land, stage-land and the mad and magic world of music. The authors laugh at themselves, each other and the world as they take you with them – this boy and girl who made good in one of real life’s most moving romances.

The links are as follows:

Paperback:

DUET by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler

 

E-book (Epub)

DUET by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler.

John Marwood, a member of The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends group on Facebook wrote the following interesting review of the book:

I’ve just read Duet, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth’s autobiography, published by Stanley Paul & Co. in 1951.

My plan was to read it over several days, but once I’d started, I could not put it down.

In the opening chapter Webster says that ‘Someone must begin even a duet. The die is cast and I am the victim – though, no doubt, the ladies will have the last word!’

The first chapter and all subsequent odd numbers are simply headed ’Webster’; and all the even ones are headed ‘Anne’.

The last chapter of the 25 is headed ‘Webster and Anne’; and so the autobiography ends neatly with a joint effort – a duet.

The remark by Webster about ladies sets the tone. It is light, witty and amusing. There is no chapter without entertaining anecdotes.

Apparently the book was ghost-written by the late Frank S. Stuart [Frank Stanley Stuart]. Frank was adept at presenting amusing tales that were based on factual events. Mention is made of precise events in diaries, so I imagine both characters lent their diaries to the writer and spent many hours relating tales, adventures and anecdotes about the past. The two personae sound entirely plausible.

I was surprised by the strong anti-war remarks in the book; and it seems the ghost-writer was a pacifist. Apparently Webster and Anne were not happy with these remarks, and it seems surprising that the publisher allowed them to remain. Only 6 years after the end of the terrible world conflagration many readers must have felt uncomfortable about some of these remarks.

The book was published 5 years before the couple left for South Africa. It is pity we never get to hear them speaking about their years there, but perhaps 1951 was when they were at the peak of their fame. We read of the couple’s delight to be told that Queen Mary had herself picked out their act as a favourite one which she wished to hear at a Gala Variety to mark her eightieth birthday. We read of other encounters with the royal family.

It is a tale of fun and glamour, tails and crinolines, a most entertaining story – a must-read for everyone who remembers the couple, or for anyone who has just discovered them recently.

John Marwood

I might add that John Marwood proofread the digitised copy most meticulously. I am very grateful to him for his help.

Here is a short review of the book, published in The Age, an Australian newspaper, on 16 February 1952.

16 February 1952 - The New Age

Review of “Duet” (1952)

Review by Fiona Compton: 

By Fiona Compton
May 31, 2016
I read this book many years ago and am delighted that it has been digitised and once again available to those who are interested in reading about the illustrious careers of tenor Webster Booth and soprano Anne Ziegler. Although the book was written by a ghost-writer, the tone of the alternate chapters written in turn by Anne and Webster captures the personalities of both writers – Webster’s writing is more measured and thoughtful than Anne’s enthusiastic, spontaneous writing. Webster Booth had one of the finest British tenor voices of the twentieth century and had a distinguished career in oratorio and recording in his own right. Anne Ziegler had a pleasant light soprano voice and a charming personality, but she was never in the same vocal class as her husband. This book is entitled “Duet”, so the emphasis of the book is on the work the couple did together as duettists on the concert and variety stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I would have liked to have heard more about Webster’s distinguished solo singing career. No doubt this book was responsible for giving people the idea that Webster was merely a romantic duettist in partnership with his wife, doing nothing more than singing light songs together with her. Despite this reservation, the book moves at lightning pace and is most enjoyable. I recommend it highly.

 

 

Jean Collen

5 May 2016.

 

 

 

DuetDuet by Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were my singing teachers in Johannesburg. While I was studying with them I acted as Webster’s studio accompanist when Anne (who usually played the piano for students) had other engagements. We became good friends, a friendship which lasted until they died – Webster in 1984, and Anne in 2003.

I first read “Duet” when Webster brought it into the studio and gave it to me to read. I was fascinated by the lively story of their rise to fame, their romance which was fraught with difficulties because Webster was married to Paddy Prior already, and their popularity as duettists during the forties and early fifties.

This book was written when they were at the height of their fame, some years before they had income tax difficulties and eventually moved to South Africa in 1956. Perhaps it was as well that the book ended before they experienced any hardship.

I have always tried to keep Anne and Webster’s singing and illustrious careers before the public. I am sure that anyone who reads their autobiography will get a good idea of their charming personalities from reading this fascinating book. Several people who have read it recently, have described it as “unputdownable”. I hope whoever reads this review and is tempted to read the book will share that opinion of it!

View all my reviews

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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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