Tom Howell’s Opieros

tom-howell-back-wearing-boater-and-family-membersAn early photo of Tom Howell (wearing a boater) and family members.

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Tom Howell and his wife Hilda September 1911.

In the nineteen-twenties there were Pierrot shows and concert parties at nearly every British seaside resort during the summer season from May to September. These shows had started in the late nineteenth century when a small troupe of male minstrels took up a pitch on the beach front, and the only payment they received after entertaining the gathered crowd was the money collected by a bottler, who went round the crowd to make a collection. These early minstrels were usually “blacked up” men in the style of the famous George Eliot, but by the turn of the century entertainers abandoned the practice of blacking up, were clad in Pierrot costumes and there were women included in some of the troupes of Pierrots.

By the twenties the Pierrots had given way to the seaside concert party, and some of these performers even wore evening dress rather than traditional Pierrot costume. Some entertained the holiday crowds on a pitch on the beach, while others frequented pier pavilions and theatres. Bigger seaside resorts, like Blackpool, offered a variety of entertainment with top performers from the Music Hall circuit and by the thirties this line-up included popular radio and screen personalities. At smaller resorts entertainment was more modest.

A concert party, usually run by a performing manager, would consist of a pianist, a comedian, a dancer, a soubrette and several straight singers. These performers were competent professionals who spent the colder months of the year at company, livery and Masonic dinners, in cabaret at large restaurants to the accompaniment of clattering plates and loud conversation, and, as Christmas approached, in provincial pantomimes. Most of them were unknown to the wider UK public, but became firm local favourites with holiday-makers who spent their week or fortnight’s annual holiday at the same resort, year after year. Straight singers would sing popular ballads and songs of the day and sometimes take part in skits with the comedian and other members of their party.

Professor Kenneth Morgan of Swansea contacted me recently to let me know that he had photographs of the Opieros Concert Party and individual photographs of Anita Edwards, the daughter of his great-grandmother’s sister, who had been a member of the Opieros in the nineteen-twenties. I was delighted to receive copies of these photographs, unfortunately, taken before Webster Booth joined the party in 1927, but Anita is featured in each one. It seems that she joined the Opieros in 1925 and remained with them until 1927.

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Anita Edwards

Tom Howell’s Opieros was different from the majority of concert parties for although he employed light entertainers, he combined his strong baritone voice with a good tenor, contralto and soprano to present scenes from the opera, hence the name of his group – Opieros – a hitherto unlikely combination of opera and pier. The group also appeared in municipal parks providing entertainment for those who had not ventured to the coast.

Like the leader of the Opieros, Tom Howell from Swansea, and tenor Lucas Bassett from Pontypridd, Anita Edwards was also Welsh, born in Llanelli on 14 November 1900. Anita Edwards was a soprano, who trained at the Royal Academy of Music with Dr Charles Phillips. While she was a student she won many prizes, including the Rutson Memorial Prize and the Westmoreland Prize. While at the Academy she sang the principal roles of Manon in Massenet’s “Manon” opposite Welsh tenor, Manuel Jones and Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

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Opieros Tom is in the centre, Anita Edwards(top right).

 In 1924 she sang at a concert on Mumbles Pier, which also featured Frank Mullings, one of the foremost tenors of the day, and Idris Daniels of Pencader,  a popular baritone. Critics praised Anita particularly for her fine singing of One Fine Day from Madame Butterfly by Puccini. On Christmas night 1925, while on holiday from her tour with the Opieros, she sang in a concert at the Llewellyn Hall, Swansea. This concert comprised selections from various oratorios and featured Frank Mullings and the distinguished Australian baritone, Harold Williams, who was considered to be one of the greatest exponents of Elijah in Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah.  During her time with the Opieros Concert Party, she sang soprano solos and featured in the various operatic ensembles presented by the Opieros.  So far we have not found out what Anita Edwards did after she left the Opieros. She married Lionel Beaumont in Wandsworth, Surrey in 1949, and died in Carmarthen in mid-1986.

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Webster Booth

Webster Booth had worked with Tom Howell’s brother, Henry (stage name, Henry Blain) in the D’Oyly Carte company from 1923 – 1927. When Henry heard that Webster was planning to leave D’Oyly Carte, fearing that he might remain in the chorus forever, waiting vainly to fill “dead men’s shoes”, he suggested that Webster should contact Tom, whose tenor had been taken ill. Tom employed Webster as a replacement and he remained with the Opieros until 1930, and also appeared in two Brixton pantomimes with Tom in 1927 and 1928.

Webster’s first appearance with the Opieros was in the Glasgow park pavilions where his salary in 1927 was £6.10s a week. Judging by notices in The Stage the party was very popular and the performers and their excellent accompanist, H Baynton-Power always received good notices. Peggy Rhodes, a promising contralto, was a member of the party for some time, as well as Walter Badham the humorist and Doris Godfrey, a child mimic.

Tom Howell died in the early nineteen-fifties. If anyone can tell me more about any members of the Opieros, please contact me.

Recently I heard from Tom Howell’s great-niece, Sarah Tongue, who was kind enough to send me family photos of the Howell family and give me some information about the family. Their surname was originally Howells, but the “s” was dropped later on. The siblings of Tom Howell were Henry Howell, born in 1895. He was a bass-baritone and sang with the D’Oyly Carte Company under the name of Henry Blain, David,  who died in action during World War One, Emlyn who emigrated to Australia, Jack, and their only sister Maud The youngest Howell sibling was her grandfather, William Howell. They had moved from Wales to Bournville in Birmingham where some members of the family worked at the Cadbury factory before World War One.

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Tom and sister Maud and others while they were working for Cadbury’s, Bournville.

Tom served in the Navy during the First World War. Unlike David, he survived the war and was able to continue his theatrical career when the war ended.

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An autographed photo of handsome David Howell who died in action in World War One.

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Tom Howell in the navy during World War 1

 1924-opieros-1924 

8 May 1924 – The Opieros. A capital entertainment is given this week at the Penarth Pier Pavilion by The Opieros; the vocal talent being remarkably good. A leading item of a fine programme is the Prison Scene from Faust, which is given with considerable ability by Agnes Hirst as Marguerite, Lucas Bassett as Faust and Tom Howell as Mephistopheles… Peggy Rhodes and Hylda Romney add to the evening’s enjoyment.

Webster Booth joined D’Oyly Carte Company in 1923, aged 21. He and Henry Blain are listed in this programme for the London season at the Princes Theatre in 1924.

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Extract from Duet by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler (1951)

Webster Booth wrote as follows:

One of my friends in the D’Oyly Carte Company was a baritone, Henry Blain, a Welshman, whose real name was Henry Howell. When I was looking round for a new opening in the spring of 1927, after returning from Canada, Henry said: “Why don’t you go and see my brother Tom? He wants a new tenor, I think.”

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Henry Blain (Howell) Henry Blain was born in 1895 in Wales as Henry Howell.Henry was a bass-baritone chorister with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company from May 1920 until June 1931.

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 During this time he played the smaller roles of Second Yeoman in The Yeomen of the Guard, Guron in Princess Ida, Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, and Luiz in The Gondoliers. He was married to Clarice, the D’Oyly Carte wardrobe mistress.

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Henry and his wife, Clarice

 He died in November 1955 at the early age of 60 and was buried in the Family Grave at Yardley Cemetery, Birmingham.

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Grand Smoking concert, 21 October 1926, the year before Webster joined the Opieros.

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Cannon Street Hotel. The Communist party was founded there in 1920. It was destroyed during the London blitz in World War Two.

Webster continued:

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Tom Howell.

Tom Howell was then running a concert party called the Opieros – because they sang excerpts from operas on piers, as well as giving a fine selection of the usual song-and-dance turns. I decided to follow Henry’s advice. Then, during our four weeks’ leave from the D’Oyly Carte Company, Tom Howell’s tenor went down with shingles and, knowing I was ready to move, Tom wired me from Glasgow, where his Company were playing the park pavilions. I took the first train North, got an engagement, and wired D’Oyly Carte asking for my release. This was granted, and I signed on with Tom at the substantially increased salary of £6.10s a week.

It was grand experience, and taught me a very great deal. Singing extracts from operas, and travelling each Sunday to seaside places, I learned how to hang stage curtains, make stages, work out intricate journeys by train, boat and lorry in some cases, how to pack unwielding stage props and curtains, and above all how to check the money in a “house” without counting the tickets! It matters, believe me! I very soon knew by glancing through the curtain peephole whether a “house” was below £20 or above £50. I was swept into the extraordinary camaraderie of the concert party, which is one of the nicest states on earth – but only if the troupe is well managed! I learned how to avoid causing professional jealousies, how to make the most of my turn without giving offence, how to hold a restive audience of casual holidaymakers worrying about the next boarding-house meal or whether little Tommy (left in charge of someone else) has yet met with a fatal accident.

That was a happy summer, a summer of sunshine and laughter, boy-and-girl light heartedness, a lot of swimming and strolling and fun. When it was over we came to London. I had most of my last week’s salary in my pockets, and nothing else in them except my hands! I had never heard then, of such things as Masonic banquets and Sunday League Concerts, and I was suddenly awfully worried about what to do next. Tom knew this, and took me to his home. Each evening he had such a booking he would take me along with him. Often, when he had sung his first group of songs, he would introduce “a new young singer who will sing a duet with me”.After a time, this resulted in my obtaining some winter bookings of my own, and so I was able to pay back what I owed and make my financial way. I don’t know what I should have done without Tom Howell’s kindness and generosity at that time.

1927-1930 – Tom Howell’s Opieros concert party. The concert party presented operatic excerpts at park pavilions and piers. Webster’s first appearance with them was in Glasgow in the summer of 1927.

By this time Webster Booth was living in Tom Howell’s former apartment, at 103A Streatham Hills, SW2, Streatham 7989. Tom Howell’s new address was: 1 Daysbrook Road, SW2. Telephone: Streatham 1380 .

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Tom (left) in back row, his wife Hilda with baby daughter Miffanwy and other family members

That winter he introduced me to Fred Melville, the famous “pantomime king” of the period, and somehow persuaded him to book the two of us in his pantomime at the Brixton Theatre, St George and the Dragon. I was to be King Arthur and Tom was Sir Mordred de Killingsbury, the villain of the piece. It was my first ventureinto the strange world of pantomime, and I loved it! The whole secret is that the players make a sort of party of it, in which the children (and their parents!) are guests who join in all the songs and play a great part in everything themselves. The show was a great success. I remember a banquet scene when, after a few very fiery words between us, Tom and I stepped out and sang (for no reason at all) the famous old duet Love and War. This always gained enormous applause, and is still remembered by a lot of Brixtonians.

30 December 1927 – The Stage. Saint George and the Dragon, The Brixton. On Monday, December 26 1927, Mr Frederick Melville presented here his twentieth annual pantomime, written and produced by him, the music composed and arranged by F. Gilmour Smith.

St George of England: Miss Vera Wright,

St Patrick of Ireland: Miss Eileen O’Brian,

St Andréw of Scotland: Miss Maggie Wallace,

St David of Wales: Mr Lloyd Morgan,

St Denis of France: Miss Marie Fontaine,

St Anthony of Italy: Miss Lily Wood,

St Michael of Russia: Miss Agnes Moon,

King Arthur of England: Mr Webster Booth,

Sir Mordred de Killingsbury: Mr Tom Howell,

Stephen Stuffingley: Mr C Harcourt Brooke,

Tricky Dicky: Mr Willie Atom,

Princess Guinevere: Miss Doris Ashton,

Fairy Starlight: Miss Hilda Goodman,

Mary Fairly: Miss Marjorie Holmes,

Demon Ignorance: Mr Fred Moule,

Dame Agatha Lumpkin: Mr Leslie Paget,

Jerry Lumpkin: Mr Larry Kemble.

There is a fine patriotic flavour, to say nothing of sundry allusions to the need for keeping old England healthy, both bodily and mentally, by sweeping out the germs of disease and distrust, all worked in the usual deft Melvillean fashion in this year’s Brixton pantomime. Choosing the unusual subject of St George and the Dragon, Mr Melville has written a story at once original and arresting.

Mr Webster Booth adds stateliness and a pleasing tenor voice, heard in England, Mighty England and Tired Hands, and with Sir Mordred, Tenor and Baritone, to the part of the King. Mr Tom Howell’s Sir Mordred is a sound piece of character work, though he finds small scope in the part for his powerful baritone.

Pantomime and Tom Howell’s kindness saw me through that winter, and then came another summer of concerts on the piers. We had a clever humourist in Walter Badham and a fine child mimic in Doris Godfrey. One of the best singers we had, for whom we all expected a great career, was Peggy Rhodes. St Anne’s, Sheerness, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Paignton, Broadstairs, Whitley Bay – I can shut my eyes today and see the sun on the rippling water, smell the dust in a dozen pier pavilions, hear the shuffle and chatter of the audience die away as the curtain swings up for our opening chorus, and recapture all the excitement, triumph and heartbreak, and taste for just a moment once again the lost elixir of youth.

19 January 1928 – Gallery First Nighters’ Club. Dinner to Mr Miles Malleson. The seating and eating capacity of the Comedy Restaurant was strained to its uttermost on Sunday evening, when that happy band of playgoers, the Gallery First-Nighters’ Club, had Mr Miles Malleson as their guest of honour at dinner… Mr Major, responding, paid a tribute to the artistes for the wonderful concert they had given them.

It was indeed a wonderful concert. The artistes included Miss Betty Chester, Miss Dora Maughan, Mr George Metaxa, Miss Dorrie Dene, Mr Ashmoor Burch, Misses Grace Ivell and Vivian Worth, Messrs Webster Booth and Tom Howell, Miss Winifred Howie, and Mr Algernon Moore, and Miss Elsa May, Miss Nora Drake was at the piano.

24 May 1928 – Cardiff – At Roath Park Pavilion Tom Howell presents his Opieros. The programme ranges from opera to modern burlesque. Webster Booth’s tenor numbers are very well rendered, and Doris Francis (soprano), Olive Turner, Dorothy Denny, Harry Williams, Tom Howell, and H Baynton-Power give enjoyable performances.

7 June 1928 – Tom Howell’s Opieros meet with their usual welcome at the Olympian Gardens, Rock Ferry, where their popularity increases with every visit. Doris Francis is a delightful singer of soprano songs, and Webster Booth’s tenor solos meet with appreciation. Harry Williams is a mirth-maker who never fails to keep his audience in merry mood. Olive Turner and Dorothy Denny are favourites, and their participation in the concerted sketches adds to the enjoyment. Tom Howell directs the programme with his usual skill.

30 August 1928 – The Opieros Tom Howell’s Opieros are at the Adelphi Gardens, Paignton. Good singing plays an unusually prominent part in the entertainment, and it is provided mainly by Tom Howell, a robust baritone, Doris Francis a soprano with a pure voice, and Webster Booth, a rich tenor. They score in excerpts from grand opera. Olive Turner gives some clever imitations and smart soubrette songs. Dorothy Denny wins much favour with her low comedy songs. Admirable phonofiddle playing and humorous contributions make Harry Williams popular. The Opieros owe a deal of their success to the talent of their pianist, H. Baynton-Power.

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Tom, Hilda and family (older). 

27 September 1928 – At the Summer Pavilion, Sheerness, Tom Howell is presenting his Opieros. This talented company attract large audiences and the show is well produced. The programmes include an excellent mixture of straight and comedy numbers, ranging from burlesque to grand opera. The high class vocal contributions by Tom Howell, Doris Francis and Webster Booth, all of whom are cultured singers, make a decided appeal to a delighted house. By way of contrast, Olive Turner entertains in several clever impersonations and sings a catchy song. Dorothy Denny is a comedienne of no mean ability, and has a style of her own. Harry Williams is the chief fun-maker of the party, and besides keeping everyone in a good humour with his patter and gags, he pleases the house as an instrumentalist, and coaxes melody from unlikely objects. H. Baynton-Power is a composer-pianist and artistically accompanies the performers and musically brightens the entertainment.

.20 December 1928 – Pantomime forecasts The Brixton. The Babes in the Wood, written by Frederick Melville. Principal boy, Vera Wright; principal girl, Teresa Watson; principal comedians, Tom Gumble and Jimmy Young; Fairy Queen, Gwen Stella, baritone Tom Howell; tenor Webster Booth. Specialities by Euphan Maclaren’s Operatic Dancers, Babette, Grar and Grar. Principal scenes: The Village, The Schoolroom, Ballet, Children’s Bedroom, Sherwood Forest, and Palace. Stage manager, Fred Moule. Produced by Frederick Melville on December 26, at 2pm, for run of about 7 weeks.

Webster continues:

The following Christmas we were booked again for Brixton, this time in Babes in the Wood. I was Will Scarlett and Tom was Little John. My big moment was in the wood scene when I entered in a blackout with a red glowing fire, and sang with heartrending passion Chloe. This always stopped the show, and an encore was demanded.

Broadcast – The Opieros

2ZY Manchester, 6 April 1929 19.50

Synopsis

TOM HOWELL’S CONCERT PARTY Relayed from the Central Pier, Blackpool

WALTER BADHAM (The popular Comedian)

  1. BAYNTON-POWER (Pianist and accompanist)

Doris GODFREY (Comedienne)OLIVE TURNER (Entertainer)

WEBSTER BOOTH (Tenor)

Doris FRANCIS (Soprano)

Tom HOWELL (Bass-Baritone)

 27 June 1929 – The Opieros At the Pergola Pavilion, Bexhill, are Tom Howell’s Opieros. Their entertainment is of high quality, and the programmes contain a series of operatic scenes, all well sung. Tom Howell is a melodious baritone, Webster Booth is a tenor of rare ability, and Doris Francis is a delightful soprano, and the work of these vocalists sets the high standard of the company’s serious work. Walter Badham is well known to Bexhill audiences, having formerly played a resident season there, and his Lancashire humour is more welcome than ever. Dorothy Denny is a piquant comedienne, and Doris Godfrey presents some kid numbers well. Jack Upson is at the piano. Will Tissington and Katharine Craig are the directors of the Pergola, and next week they will present their own Poppies for their seventeenth season.

5 September 1929 – The Opieros Tom Howell and his Opieros are fulfilling an engagement at the Adelphi Gardens, Paignton, this week. The company includes several artistes who have appeared with Mr Howell in previous years, and established themselves warm favourites. These are Doris Francis, a fine soprano; Webster Booth, who has a strong tenor of good quality; and Dorothy Denny, an excellent comedienne. Doris Godfrey gives clever child impressions and Walter Badham is a talented humorist. The piano is in charge of Jack Upson, who excels in syncopated music. Features of the programme include excerpts from grand opera, and duets by Webster Booth and Tom Howell, baritone.

19 September 1929 – The Opieros Tom Howell’s concert party, the Opieros, are playing to good houses this week at the Sheerness Pavilion. Webster Booth and Tom Howell combine pleasingly in tenor and baritone duets, and also score individually in vocal items. Doris Francis’ soprano solos are rendered with good effect and Doris Godfrey is a clever impersonator. In Dorothy Denny the party has a bright and popular comedienne. Jack Upson is the skilful accompanist. Walter Badham causes much amusement with his quaint and mirth-provoking numbers. The party also score in excerpts from opera, which make a strong appeal to the audiences.

I spent three summers with the Opieros, and enjoyed them enormously. I learned a good deal about stagecraft, touring and management. I was getting known to some extent in London and the provinces, and by this time I was making a fair amount of money from gramophone records.I had always had a great ambition to make them – somehow, in my early days, they seemed to me to be the mark of Fame with a capital letter.

Tom Howell introduced me to a director of Edison Bell Records, who arranged for me to make a test at their City Road studios. I was to ask for Mr Harry Hudson. Off I went, walking on air, met Mr Hudson and sang The English Rose from Merrie England. Out came Mr Hudson from the inside room. I wonder if he remembers what he told me!“I’m afraid your voice won’t record!” he said.

Now I had been inside a recording studio before, and I knew that through a small glass window was a room where the engineers put small round waxes on a turntable, and when a needle was lowered on to the wax it reproduced what went on in the studio. I felt sure no wax had been put on. I was young in the profession then. I do not know what anyone had against me, or had been told. I only knew that my voice had apparently not been tested.I walked out of the studio into the sordid squalor and noise of City Road, wondering furiously and miserable what it was all about. I had gone in such a short time before with such high and eager hope.

Shortly afterwards, Lawrence Wright (Horatio Nichols) wrote a song called My Inspiration is You. He told Tom that if I would sing it at the coming Sunday League Concert, he would come along and perhaps arrange a test session for me with the Columbia Graphophone Company. Chastened and uneasy this time, I awaited his arrival, and saw him drive up in an enormous white Rolls-Royce to the Empire Theatre, Croydon, where the concert was taking place. He stepped out, noticed me, and patted the car. He was wearing a magnificent fur coat.“All out of one song, me boy!” he said cheerfully.It was true – it had come from his Toy Town Parade. It sold over a million copies!

After three summers I left the Opieros and signed a contract to join Muriel George and Ernest Butcher in their concert party at the Central Pier, Blackpool. It was a change that cost me a pang, for Tom Howell had been very kind to me, and I had made some good friends in his Company. Tom is a Welshman from near Llanelli. He spent his early days in Cadbury’s at Bournville. He excelled in oratorio and Grand Opera, and had he stayed in Grand Opera he must have become a star. But, like me, he had to live by his voice, and Grand Opera needs some sort of independent income at first.

Tom became a Blackpool concert-party idol, and sang concerts in London and the provinces in the winter. He founded his Opieros Company in 1924, and it presented famous scenes from Faust, Bohème, Butterfly and the rest. Tom was a tough personality, and his voice was like steel. He was too generous to spot his enemies, who flocked round him when he had money or drink to dispense. He kept me in his home when I was more or less on my uppers, and he never begrudged a young singer advancement – indeed, he helped with absolute unselfishness in every way he could. I owe him a lot.I signed up with a fresh concert party because I was offered more money and a better place on the bill. Tom wished me the best of luck when I said good-bye. Webster Booth

In 1936 Tom spent a considerable time in hospital.

6 November 1936 – Tom Howell. Friends of Tom Howell, who was well known in concert and concert party circles, and has recently been appearing in musical plays in the West End, will be sorry to hear of his illness. He is a patient in Guy’s Hospital.

He was still in hospital at Christmas in 1937 when Hilda sent this charming Christmas card with a photograph of her and Tom with their lovely wire-haired fox terrier.

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 24 April 1952 – Tribute to Tom Howell. Our Great Yarmouth correspondent writes: The late Tom Howell was well remembered in Great Yarmouth, for it was at the Wellington Pavilion that he first presented his Opieros. They made their debut in June, 1922, playing a resident season, followed by a return in 1923. In the first company were Harold Wilde, Yarmouth-born Evelyn Ray, Lilian Rickard, Eric Howard, Violet Field, Donald Hatton, Charles Hayes and Tom Howell himself. The 1923 company had but two changes in its personnel, Peggy Rhodes and Kathleen Burchell replacing Miss Rickard and Miss Field…In subsequent seasons the Opieros were regular visitors to the Britannia Pavilion, which in those days was a popular venue for the leading touring concert parties.

Compiled by Jean Collen 20 February 2017

With thanks to Professor Kenneth Morgan and Sarah Tongue for sharing their photographs with me.

Extract from Duet by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler published in 1951, Stanley Paul.

My digitised copy of the book is available as a paperback and E-book at: Duet by Webster Booth and Anne Zieglerduet-cover2

RECORDING DISCUSSIONS

DUET Recently published
Paperback,
314 Pages 

Price: $12.50
Prints in 3-5 business days
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
RECORDING DISCUSSIONS
Top of Form

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
2010

Rehearsing for a broadcast with Sydney Jerome (1938)

AZ/WB RECORDINGS ON YOUTUBE

Most of the videos featuring Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth have been
uploaded by me. My channel is at http://www.youtube.com/duettists

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 Frederic 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: 

WEBSTER BOOTH: HOMING (DEL RIEGO)

 

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

NOVELLO MEDLEY


*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: 
MADAM BUTTERFLY: LOVE DUET


*Ralph Reader (Theatre director) 12 February 1944: 
BLESSTHIS HOUSE: BRAHE

*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
(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. 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

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

Recently acquired: Love Passes By and As I sit here

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 1942

JG282 Songs our boys sang/National savings sing-song/Sydney Burchall, Clarence Wright, Webster Booth

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)



 

Bibliography

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 clypit.com 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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ANNE ZIEGLER (22nd June 1910 – 13th October 2003)

On the occasion of the thirteenth anniversary of the death of Anne Ziegler (Tuesday 13 October 2003) I am posting a picture of her posing as Mrs Siddons in the famous Gainsborough painting. This photograph first appeared in The Star (Johannesburg) in 1962.

Hear Anne singing in Noel Coward Vocal Gems (1947)

 

 

Anne as principal boy in panto.

13 OCTOBER is the anniversary of the death of Anne Ziegler in Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, North Wales. It seems no time since I received the sad phone call from her friend, Sally Rayner to let me know that Anne had passed away. Anne had a bad fall in her home in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales on 8 August 2003 and spent the last few months of her life in  hospital. She died on 13 October, 2003, at the age of 93.

I am posting this beautiful photograph of Anne dressed in a rose-trimmed crinoline. During Anne’s singing career in the UK in the days of fame and glory during the forties and early fifties, Anne was noted for the beautiful crinolines she wore in the Variety act with her husband, the renowned British tenor, Webster Booth, and in stage and film performances. The gown in this photograph is an excellent example and the roses allude to Anne and Webster’s signature tune, Only a Rose from The Vagabond King. The couple starred in a revival of this Rudolf Friml musical at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1943.

While the generation who remembers Anne and Webster from those far-off days is growing smaller with the passing years, I hope new generations will discover them by listening to their recordings, many of which are available on CD. I have uploaded a number of rare 78 rpm recordings by Anne and Webster on YOU TUBE, and you may listen to these by clicking on the links to the right, or go directly to Duettist’s YouTube channel. Anne did not make many solo recordings, but Webster made recordings of oratorio, opera, ballads, musicals and art songs as well as medleys and duets with other singers as well as numerous duet recordings with Anne.

There is a group on Facebook dedicated to the lives, recordings, photos and careers of Anne and Webster. Many of their 78rpm recordings have been perfectly restored by Mike Taylor, the co-administrator of the group. We have 83 members at present and would welcome anyone who is interested in the couple. Click on the link below to join our group.

The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends

Jean Collen – 12th October 2016.

WEBSTER BOOTH – The thirty-second anniversary of his death – 21 January 1902 – 21 June 1984

Today is the thirty-second anniversary of the death of Leslie Webster Booth (21 January 1902 – 21 June 1984). Sadly missed, but always remembered. 

The song on the clyp is: 

Sylvia by Oley Speaks.

Extract from SWEETHEARTS OF SONG: A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH (JEAN COLLEN)

EARLY DAYS IN BIRMINGHAM AND LINCOLN

Leslie Webster Booth was born on 21 January 1902 in a three storey home above his father’s ladies hairdressing business at 157 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. He was the youngest son of Edwin Booth and his wife Sarah (née Webster) in a family of three sons and three daughters. Edwin was a hairdresser, who had served in the Royal Staffordshire Regiment as a Barber Surgeon. Sarah was from Chilvers Coton, Nuneaton, where her parents and later she and her sister, Hannah, had been handloom silk weavers. Her brother, William Thomas Webster was a partner in Foster and Webster, a successful gentlemen’s outfitters with branches throughout the Midlands. Sarah’s brother eventually left the firm, but it continues to this day under the name of Foster Brothers.

Leslie was the youngest of six children and his eldest sister, Doris, (known as Nellie), played as big a part in his upbringing as his mother. All three sisters doted on their young brother, who, from an early age, possessed a singing voice of outstanding quality. The family held musical evenings at home and delighted in their father’s robust rendition of The Veteran’s Song, while his mother and sisters were moved to tears when young Leslie sang the mournful ballad, Valé in his beautiful treble voice.

At nine years of age Leslie’s voice elevated him from St James’ Church choir in Edwardian Handsworth to the choir stalls of Lincoln Cathedral as a chorister under the direction of Dr George Bennett. Dr Bennett was a fine musician, but a stern taskmaster, who insisted that choristers sang with flat tongues: he was not averse to flattening an errant tongue with his ever-ready broken baton. Just as today’s Cathedral choristers are disciplined hard-working musicians of the highest order, so they were in the first decades of the twentieth century also. Christmas holidays for the choristers commenced only after they had completed the Christmas Eve services to Dr Bennett’s satisfaction.

Lincoln was a good training ground for young Leslie Booth. Although he did not make great progress on the piano and thus did not advance to learning the organ, an instrument he longed to play. The Willis organ at Lincoln Cathedral had been opened in 1898, eleven years before Leslie went to Lincoln, and is still considered as one of the finest organs in England. Leslie did, however, learn to sight-read vocal lines with ease. This ability stood him in good stead as a professional singer, especially at recording sessions.

When he went to HMV studios for a recording session he would be given six to eight songs to record at a time. These he would sight-read and record in one or two takes. After the session the songs would soon be forgotten: a different approach to recording from today’s pop singers who seem to spend months recording their new “album”! Years later, people often appeared before him clutching one of his old records, assuring him of their great attachment to the particular song, but he often had no recollection of making it in the first place.

After his voice broke at the age of thirteen, he returned to the family home in Birmingham to study accountancy at Aston Commercial School. He was set for the steady job of accountant like Uncle Jim, his father’s brother, but at fifteen, when his voice had settled, he began his vocal studies as a tenor with Dr Richard Wassall, the musical director at the Midland Institute in Birmingham. Leslie was an avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion football team and was goalie in the Aston Commercial School team. He was a promising enough goalie to be offered a place with the Aston Villa Colts, but this idea did not meet with his headmaster’s approval. Despite his accountancy studies, he secretly dreamed of the more glamorous callings of football and singing. Luckily for the world, singing eventually won.

With his great natural vocal gifts, his striking good looks and winning personality, performing came easily to him. He sang duets with Uncle Jim’s daughter, his cousin Lily Booth, a promising mezzo soprano, and soon he was also singing at concerts and oratorio performances all over the Midlands and Wales. By this time he was a tall, imposing young man, who realised that appearance and stage presence were nearly as important to a professional singer as an exceptional voice. Although he had perfect diction in song, he felt it necessary to take elocution lessons with the Shakespearian actor Sir Robert Atkins, the founder of the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park, to smooth the Brummy intonation from his speech.

His adult voice was a distinctive lyric tenor, with an exceptionally wide range and a baritonal quality on the lower notes. His diction was clear and lacked the idiosyncratic pronunciation and bleating quality of many of his contemporaries, which marked them as refined English singers, not quite able to compete with their more virile Italian and German counterparts. In my opinion, Heddle Nash and David Lloyd were the only two British tenors of Webster Booth’s generation who had comparable voices.

At twenty-one Leslie auditioned for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and was immediately accepted after a London audition. Although he had been doing well in accountancy, he abandoned his job with little regret to become a professional singer, making his debut with the company in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923. He stayed with the company for four years, but made no great advancement from the chorus and small parts. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way one could advance in the company was to wait to fill “dead men’s shoes”. Despite this observation, he was one of the few singers allowed to record individual songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire without the prior approval of the D’Oyly Carte family.

His recordings of Take a pair of sparkling eyes and A Wand’ring Minstrel under the baton of the gifted conductor Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD. He went with the D’Oyly Carte Company on a memorable and successful tour of Canada. Winifred Lawson, the principal soprano, heard him singing Your Tiny Hand is Frozen from La Bohème at the ship’s concert and was deeply impressed with the beauty of his voice. She was not surprised when he left the company soon after its return to England, to eventually become a deserved success in his own right.

In 1924 he had married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his headmaster at Aston Commercial School. Winifred borrowed £100 from a relative, with no intention of repaying it, and used the money to follow Leslie to London against her parents’ wishes, or possibly without their knowledge. They might have approved of the match had Leslie remained a respectable accountant like his elder brother, Norman, but they were against her taking up with a chorus boy in the D’Oyly Carte. Her family would have no more to do with her, annoyed at her, partly because of her defiance of their wishes and partly because she had borrowed such a large sum of money under false pretences from a member of the family. Because they disowned her they never knew that she and Leslie had married or that she gave birth to a son and imagined that she and Leslie were living together in sin.

Winifred and Leslie’s son, Keith was born the year after their marriage on 12 June 1925, and his birth was registered in Birmingham North. Leslie was on tour for fifty weeks of the year and Winifred, left alone with her small son, was estranged from her parents although living in the suburb of Moseley in the same city. After several years she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son. He had suspicions that all was not well at home when he came home from a tour with D’Oyly Carte to find Keith sitting by himself on the doorstep. Winifred had left her small son to his own devices while she went dancing.

Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he was singing, but despite his desperate attempts to trace her, he never found her, and eventually divorced her in 1931, citing Trevor Davey as co-respondent. Leslie was granted custody of Keith, who never saw his mother again after his sixth birthday.

After the stability of a regular – if small – salary from D’Oyly Carte, he was now a freelance performer with a small son to support and no regular money to his name. In the D’Oyly Carte Company he was known as Leslie W. Booth, but now he adopted his middle name, and became Webster Booth on stage, although his family and close friends continued to call him Leslie for the rest of his life.

During this precarious period of his life before he achieved fame and stability in the profession, Webster joined Tom Howell’s Opieros, a concert party with a difference, as some of its members sang operatic excerpts while others were comedians and light entertainers found in the usual concert party. Tom Howell was a baritone from Swansea and he and Webster often sang duets together in the shows. For several years Webster toured all over the country with the Opieros during the summer season, performing on piers and in municipal parks. H Baynton-Power was the Opieros’ excellent accompanist.

In winter Webster sang in cabaret at various large Lyons’ restaurants and cafés, at many Masonic concerts and staff dinners, often with the pianist Gladys Vernon as his accompanist. Gladys Vernon was to marry another well-known tenor, Walter Midgeley.

During the winter seasons of 1927 and 1928 he and Tom Howell appeared in Fred Melville pantomimes at Brixton. The first pantomime in 1927 was St George and the Dragon. St George was played by principal boy, Vera Wright, while Webster played King Arthur. 1928’s pantomime at the Brixton Theatre was a freely adapted version of Babes in the Wood. Once again Vera Wright played principal boy, this time in the role of Robin Hood.

Webster made his West End debut as the Duke of Buckingham in Rudolph Friml’s The Three Musketeers at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1930. The leading role of D’Artagnan was taken by Dennis King, an actor and singer Webster greatly admired for his great energy. Other distinguished cast members were Lilian Davies, Marie Ney, Adrienne Brune and Raymond Newell. Unfortunately Webster could only appear in this show for three months as he had already signed a contract for a Blackpool summer show for Ernest Butcher. Despite Sir Alfred Butt’s best efforts to get him released from this contract, Ernest Butcher would not budge. Webster’s part was taken over by the well-known Yorkshire tenor, Robert Naylor. When Webster set off sadly and reluctantly to fulfill his engagement on the Central Pier, Blackpool, his one consolation was that he could continue singing Queen of My Heart, one of the hits from The Three Musketeers with which he had scored such a success on the West End.

Webster met his second wife, Dorothy Annie Alice Prior (stage name Paddy Prior) in the early nineteen-thirties. He was singing One Alone at a Concert Artistes Association concert and happened to notice her sitting in the audience. Paddy Prior was born in Fulham in 1905, the daughter of Hubert Prior, an ironmonger, and his wife, Annie Jane (née Henderson). Paddy went on the professional stage while still in her teens. She was a light comedienne, dancer, and a soubrette with a charming mezzo soprano voice and appeared on television in its early days in The Ridgeway Revue with Philip Ridgeway and Hermione Gingold. By the time she met Webster she was a veteran of many concert parties, musicals and pantomimes, and always received good reviews for her work. Despite her talent she had periods of unemployment and placed occasional advertisements in The Stage, such as this one in April 1926, which read as follows:

In 1931 Webster divorced Winifred, citing her affair with Trevor Davey and on 10 October 1932 he married Paddy at Fulham Registry Office, where he had married Winifred Keey in 1924. Around the same time Winifred married James L. Haig at the Lambeth Registry Office. Webster and Paddy went to Newquay for their honeymoon.

Webster sang for several seasons in Papa Pinder’s Sunshine concert party at the Sunshine Theatre, Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.

In 1933 he and Paddy appeared together for the summer season in The Piccadilly Revels Concert Party at Scarborough. The following year, Webster managed to arrange for Paddy to obtain an engagement with him in the Sunshine show. Appearing on the same bill with them was Arthur Askey, and he and Webster became great friends. After hearing Webster sing To Anthea by J L Hatton at one of the shows, the Askeys decided to name their baby daughter Anthea…

See more in my bookstore at: JEAN COLLEN’S BOOKSTORE

 

Jean Collen

21 June 2016.

DUET by Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler

https://clyp.it/rbifk0dz/widget

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

db432-2016-03-18_103821

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

MABEL FENNEY (later PERKIN) née Greenwood

Mabel Fenney (1960) later Perkin, nee
 Greenwood
 
 
When I was in my final year at Jeppe High School for Girls in 1960, the permanent music mistress, Miss Diane Heller, went on long leave, and Mrs Mabel Fenney took her place for a term. Mabel was born Mabel Greenwood on Shakespeare’s birthday in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire in 1919. Her mother was a true contralto and had sung in several professional productions. The Greenwoods moved to East London in the Eastern Cape, South Africa when Mabel and her sister were children.
 
Mabel showed singing talent from an early age and did her initial singing diplomas in East London, trained by a gentleman she referred to as “Pop Lee”, and sang and acted in many local musicals, plays and recitals. Her favourite role was as Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard. She married fellow Lancastrian, Eric Fenney, and instead of pursuing a singing career, she helped him run his plumbing business in East London. 
 
Mabel Fenney (centre) as Elsie Maynard, Jimmy Nicholas (Jack Point) Joy Huggett (extreme left) as Phoebe.
East London (South Africa) production of Yeomen of the Guard. Thanks to Julian Nicholas for this photograph.
 
The following year the society put on The Gondoliers and she was less than pleased to play the thankless role of Casilda in that production. She also broadcast for the SABC from their studios in Grahamstown.
 
When the Dramatic Society of East London invited Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler to star in the 1958 production of Merrie England, she and Eric stood surety for their salaries.  It was in this production where she first met them, playing their roles of Bessie Throckmorton and Sir Walter Raleigh. She played the part of Jill-All-Alone in the production. The following year the society put on Waltz Time, again with Anne and Webster in the leading roles, but, for some reason, she did not take part in this production. Instead she went to Johannesburg to have lessons with Anne and Webster in preparation for several advanced diploma singing examinations. By the time she arrived at Jeppe High School for Girls she had already won the University of South Africa’s overseas teaching bursary and was due to leave for Berlin to study at the Hochschule there for two years.
 
We schoolgirls looked on Mabel as a very glamorous figure in comparison with some of our staid academic teachers. She was lively and enthusiastic and took us on various outings to the opera. Most teachers had written off one of the naughtiest classes in the school as impossible to teach, but Mabel developed a good relationship with the girls in that class. She taught them to sing Brother James’ Air, which they performed creditably at the final assembly of the term, giving staff and pupils a pleasant surprise.
 
Towards the end of her term at Jeppe, Mabel gave a memorable recital in the school hall one afternoon. The event had not been widely publicised, so there were not many people present, but I was there with singing school friends, Margaret Plevin (née Masterton) and Valerie Vogt (née Figgins). We were impressed by her performance. The Booths had decided that she was a mezzo soprano rather than soprano, so she had sung a mezzo repertoire for her diploma exams. I will always remember her singing of the Habanera and Seguidilla from Carmen. At the end of one of the arias she threw a rose coquettishly to her schoolgirl audience. We were completely captivated. Someone asked me recently whether I went to study with Anne and Webster because of their duet singing, but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was entirely due to Mabel that decided me  to study singing with Anne and Webster and to make music my career.
 
The cast of Merrie England (1958) Anne and Webster (centre), Mabel Fenney (extreme left), Jimmy Nicholas and Pam Emslie (extreme right). 
 
 
 
In 1963 I sang my Trinity College Associate diploma, with Guy McGrath as examiner and Anne as my accompanist. It went well. After the exam, I went with Anne in her pale blue Anglia to Macey’s, a store in the city, where she bought a new carpet sweeper. On the way there she told me that she thought I was going to be another Mabel Fenney. I felt that she had paid me a great compliment in comparing me to Mabel. By this time Mabel had passed her final exam at the Hochschule, although her Professor had disagreed with the Booths’ assessment of her voice and made her revert to her original soprano.
 
She met her second husband, Maurice Perkin, originally from Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire while she was abroad, and after her divorce from Eric Fenney and remarriage to Maurice, she lived and worked in London for a number of years before returning to South Africa with Maurice. During her time there she sang the role of Susannah in a semi-professional production of The Marriage of Figaro.
 
I met her again when she was living in Florida (South Africa) in 1976 and we became good friends, visiting each other nearly every week. We also sang duets together at a number of concerts until she and Maurice retired to Uvongo on the South Coast of Natal in the early nineties.
 
We wrote regularly and I spent a happy holiday with them in Uvongo in the late 1990s. Mabel – or Maimie, as we called her – always said that she had so many interests other than singing and these had prevented her from having the driving ambition to establish herself as a professional singer. She read widely, loved animals, was a keen gardener and an authority on herbs, and took great interest in history. She and Maurice made frequent trips to the Kruger National Park, where she was as interested in the birds they spotted there as in the big five group of animals.
 
When Anne and Webster returned to the UK and did a series of programmes on the BBC called Only a Rose, they singled her out as one of their most talented and hard-working students.
 
Yesterday I was saddened to learn of her sudden death on 6 March 2011, just over a month short of her ninety-second birthday. She will be sadly missed, but ever remembered by me.
 
Jeannie C ©
24 March 2011
Reblogged: 25 April 2016.
 
 
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WEBSTER BOOTH’S ASSOCIATION WITH THE QUEEN’S HALL.

QUEENS HALL, LANGHAM PLACE
 
 
 
The Queen’s Hall had seventeen entrances in Langham Place, Riding House Street and Great Portland Street and originally seated 3000 people, although, after alterations in 1919, housed only 2,400. It was considered to have excellent acoustics. There was also the Queen’s Small Hall, seating 500 people. This hall opened in November 1893.
 
While Webster Booth always considered this hall to be his favourite as a singer, he was associated with it as early as 1935 when the unusual film written and composed by Friedrich Feher in which he appeared as a troubadour, was first shown in the Queen’s Hall. The film was called The Robber Symphony. Not only was Webster required to pull a piano through the snow in the Alps during the making of this film, but he also sang several songs written by Mr Feher, one in creditable Italian.
 
ROMANCE from THE ROBBER SYMPHONY (FRIEDRICH FEHER)
 
Webster Booth in The Robber Symphony with Magda Sonja
 
 
Webster sang many oratorio performances in the Queen’s Hall, including a Messiah, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham on 17 December 1938. It was at this performance that Australian, Joan Hammond sang the soprano solos in one of her first engagements in England. At that time Joan Hammond had a beautiful lyrical soprano voice, but after further training Webster was surprised to discover that her voice had become very much heavier when he recorded the duet from Madame Butterfly with her in 1943. In order to balance the duet, Miss Hammond had to stand quite a distance behind Webster during the recording, conducted by the (then) Dr Malcolm
Sargent. 

Australian Soprano, Joan Hammond.

Australian Soprano, Joan Hammond.

 
DUET FROM MADAME BUTTERFLY: JOAN HAMMOND, WEBSTER BOOTH
 
By the time this recording was made, the Queen’s Hall had been destroyed by an incendiary bomb. On the afternoon of 10 May 1941 Webster had sung the part of the Soul in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at the Queen’s Hall. The other soloists were contralto, Muriel Brunskill (the Angel)  and baritone, Ronald Stear (The Priest and Angel of Agony). The soloists, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society were conducted by Malcolm Sargent. 
Contralto, Muriel Brunskill

Contralto, Muriel Brunskill

 

Interior of Queen’s Hall
I have always regretted that no recording was ever made of Webster singing Gerontius, as he was notable in this role. When he immigrated to South Africa he sang in the first South African performance of The Dream of Gerontius in 1957, conducted by a very young Keith Jewell, who became the Cape Town City Organist. Keith Jewell accompanied Anne and Webster in (what was meant to be) their farewell concert in Somerset West, Cape Province in 1975..  
 

 

The day in 1941 had been pleasant and sunny, but only a few hours after this performance of  The Dream of Gerontius, the Queen’s Hall was destroyed by a German incendiary bomb. Webster Booth always considered the hall to be the finest concert hall in the
world for a singer. The Promenade Concerts had been held there, but after the destruction of this beautiful hall they transferred to the
Royal Albert Hall. Webster Booth said in his joint autobiography with Anne Ziegler, Duet (1951), that many singers were terrified to
sing in the Albert Hall after the warm acoustic of the Queen’s Hall, but although he adored the Albert Hall, the Queen’s Hall would always remain his favourite London Concert Hall.
 
Jean Collen Revised 23 April 2016 ©
 
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Welcome to “The Drawing Room”.

 

 Webster Booth, seated left, Peggy Haddon and Anna Bender (at piano), Gé Korsten and Jean Gluckman (singers), Kathleen Alister (harp) and studio audience.

 

Nearly fifty-four years ago, in April 1962, Webster Booth presented a short series of drawing room concerts on the English Service of the SABC before an invited studio audience. He and
Anne sang solos and duets in several programmes, and a number of guest
artistes took part. Webster also sang duets with bass, Graham Burns.
Among the guest artistes were Doris Brasch and Rita Roberts (sopranos)
Gert Potgieter and Gé Korsten (tenors), Graham Burns (bass) Jean
Gluckman (contralto), Kathleen Allister (harp), Maisie Flinck and Peggy
Haddon (pianos) and Walter Mony (violin). A trumpeter also appeared in
one of the programmes, but I do not remember his name after all this
time. The accompanist was Anna Bender, the official accompanist at the SABC.

 The idea was to create the atmosphere of a polite middle-class Victorian or Edwardian
drawing room concert, where singers and instrumentalists performed their
party pieces such as In a Monastery Garden, The Maiden’s Prayer, O Dry Those Tears and
the like. Sounds of polite conversation and laughter between the items,
with restrained applause for the musical offerings were required, so a
studio audience was invited to provide these “noises off”.

Shortly before this programme started, Webster wrote an article for the SABC Bulletin on
17 March 1962.

A Nostalgic Half-hour of Memories by Webster Booth

“Do you remember those Drawing-room concerts our Grandparents used to hold in the afternoons and evenings way back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s? There were of course, the Society At Homes. These were rather serious affairs, when artistes of repute were engaged. Such artistes as Ben Davis, Madame Patti, Charles Santley and even Madame Melba were paid huge sums of money to entertain the guests.

However, in this new series, to be called Drawing-Room, we want to concentrate on the homely atmosphere, with those lovely old ballads, such as Parted, Little Grey Home in the West, The Rosary, Tosti’s Goodbye, Friend o’ Mine, A Perfect Day, etc., together with those grand pianoforte solos which were all in the Star Folios, and without which no one was considered a pianist. Items like The Maiden’s Prayer, Destiny Waltz, In a Monastery Garden etc. Then the fiddle solos and fiddle obbligatos, vocal duets such as Watchman, What of the Night? Moonlight and Roses and Battle Eve. I so well remember my father, who was Barber-Surgeon to the Royal Staffordshire Regiment, dressing up in his red and gold uniform and singing The Veteran’s Song, and I would be induced to sing in my treble voice, songs like Valé and The Song of Hope, while my mother and sisters had a wonderful evening crying their eyes out. Those were the days when composers wrote songs for the voice, and singers learned to sing ballads. Believe me, those songs needed singing.  They had a story to tell, usually in three verses, all different tempos, portraying passion, joy and tears, and finishing up on a hefty top note.

We intend to invite a small studio audience to help to catch the atmosphere of the drawing-room, and to have well known South African artistes, both vocal and instrumental, to sing and play to us. This  programme will, I am sure, bring to the older listeners a glorious nostalgic half-hour of memories, and will let the younger generations realise there was real music in the home before the advent of the Cinema, Radio and the gramophone. Do tune in to the English programme at 8.30 pm on Wednesday evenings and join us in our Drawing-room. I shall be in charge of the entertainment and Miss Anna
Bender will be our Hostess at the pianoforte.”

For the first recording, Webster invited pupils and friends to form part of the Drawing Room in one of the smaller recording studios at Broadcasting House, Commissioner Street. I was very excited when he asked if I would like to attend the recording. My great friend and fellow pupil of Anne and Webster’s, Ruth Ormond, and I were there with our parents and we noticed Lucille Ackerman, another pupil,  accompanied by a large family contingent.

2011-08-13_205936AW

Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth (1963)

 

Anne and Webster looked particularly glamorous for the occasion. Anne was wearing a beautiful evening gown, a mink stole – not yet a politically incorrect item of dress  – her fair hair in a chignon, while Webster was in full evening dress, all set to act as compère for the evening and to sing some drawing room ballads into the bargain. The accompanist for the series was Anna Bender, the official accompanist for the SABC. Anne and Webster received their guests graciously. Anne told Ruth and me to save her a seat in the front row, where she sat between us and played her full part in chatting to us between the items on the programme to evoke the atmosphere of a drawing room at the beginning of the twentieth
century.

My dear friend, Ruth Ormond, 1963

Ruth Ormond and me (below).

Photo Album

 I’m afraid that this was not the atmosphere conveyed to those listening in to these broadcasts. The polite studio audience applauded vigorously, suggesting the city hall rather than a drawing room. Fifty-four years later I still remember Miss Rita Roberts (soprano) singing Christina’s Lament to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, Mr Walter Mony (violin), Miss Anna Bender (accompanist) and finally Webster himself, aged sixty and still in fine voice, singing The Kashmiri Song, The Sweetest flower that Blows, Parted, O Dry Those Tears and finally If You Had But Known with violin obbligato by the excellent Mr Mony, a French Canadian, who became a professor and head of the music department at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Ruth and I were entranced to have spent such a happy evening and to see and hear Webster singing only a few feet away from where we were sitting. As we were leaving I told Anne breathlessly that Webster’s singing was wonderful and she replied, “Yes, we’re both very proud of him, aren’t we, darling?” which made me feel rather naïve and childish although I was all of eighteen at the time.

The Drawing Room series was recorded over a number of weeks and we attended another recording when Anne, in a sleeveless black evening dress, sang If No One Ever Marries Me, The Little Damozel and a Handel aria from the opera Xerses, He’ll Say That For My Love. Anne had sung the last song at her Wigmore Hall recital in 1933. Later in that programme she and Webster sang duets together: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes and The Second Minuet.

One evening Ruth and I were at a choir practice with the SABC choir and she decided that during our interval, we should go to the Drawing Room studio to say hello to Webster during the break in his recording session. The first programme was not quite finished so we slipped into the studio quietly and listened to Kathleen Alister playing two solos on her harp.

Webster came out of the studio after the recording and appeared delighted to see us and kissed us both in greeting. He asked what we were doing there, and then said, “Oh, of course, you’re working aren’t you? It’s a pity you can’t stay for the next recording to hear the wonderful trumpeter.”

We were both so excited at meeting Webster (not entirely unexpectedly) and being kissed into the bargain, that Ruth walked into the men’s cloakroom instead of the women’s, only to have him politely point her in the right direction. We were both blood red with embarrassment by the time we got back to our seats at our now rather tame choir practice.

I thought Drawing Room was a lovely programme, but the critics had their misgivings about it, saying that the atmosphere created was not quite right, so it was taken off the air after a relatively short time. I once made enquiries at the SABC as to whether any of the programmes existed in their archives, but apparently they had not been kept. I had recorded several programmes via a microphone on my newly-acquired reel-to-reel tape recorder. The sound quality of these recordings is not very good, but when I listen to them all these years later, I am transformed into an excited and optimistic teenager, back in that SABC studio with Ruth and Anne, completely entranced with the music of the Drawing Room.

Sadly, it has occurred to me that most of the people mentioned in this article are now dead and gone, but the memory of that happy time remains vividly in my mind.

Here are links to some of the songs Webster sang on that programme.

Click on the links to hear him.

Friend o’ Mine (Restored by Mike Taylor) https://clyp.it/2hupnyrm

Parted (Tosti) https://clyp.it/qriewsgs

O, Dry Those Tears (del Riego) https://clyp.it/llblyizd

The Sweetest Flower that Blows https://clyp.it/0iftdnlr

Jean Collen –  April 2016

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Paddy Prior – Webster Booth’s Second Wife.

 

Paddy Prior in Newquay

Paddy Prior at the Old Vicarage, Newquay after World War 2

Webster Booth married his second wife, Dorothy Annie Alice Prior (stage name Paddy Prior) on 10 October 1932 at the Fulham Registry Office. He had married Winifred Keey there eight years earlier but had divorced her in 1931 after she deserted him and their small son, Keith, several years before.

Marriage Henderson Prior

Marriage certificate of Hubert Edward Prior and Annie Jane Henderson on 25 October 1902.

Paddy Prior, was born in December 1904, the daughter of Fulham ironmonger, Hubert and his wife, Annie Henderson. Paddy began her professional stage career while still a teenager. She was a talented soubrette, comedienne and dancer, and possessed a pleasant mezzo soprano voice into the bargain.

Paddy’s parents lived at Disbrowe Road when they were first married.

Disbrowe Road

Disbrowe Road, Fulham (today)

Paddy’s birthplace in Fulham. Her baptism on 29 January 1905 at St Peter, Fulham.

Baptismal certificate.

Baptismal certificate – Dorothy Annie Alice Prior.

 

1911 Census

1911 census Paddy Prior

1911 census

George William Henderson was a relative of Annie Jane Prior (nee Henderson).

In 1924, at the age of nineteen, Paddy spent nearly a year as a member of the travelling Rogues concert party from April to January 1925. In various reviews Paddy was praised for her comedy talent and her speciality dancing with comedian Fred Roper. They were appearing at Leas Pavilion, Folkestone in January 1925, but by the 5 February Paddy had left the Rogues to join the Gamblers and Their Tipster concert party at the same venue. This party also toured extensively, so before she was twenty-one, Paddy had seen much of the country and gained valuable professional experience into the bargain.

Whitehall Court

Whitehall Court, Fulham

Whitehall Court, Fulham – Paddy’s home in the 1920s.

In November 1925 Paddy appeared at the Taunton Lyceum in Little Miss Muffet as Dolly Dimple. The pantomime toured various towns until early 1926.

Little Miss Muffet (1925)

Little Miss Muffet – Paddy played Little Dolly Dimple.

By April Paddy was out of work and obliged to put an advertisement in The Stage as follows:

8 April 1926 PADDY PRIOR, SOUBRETTE AND DANCER, VACANT: First class offers for CP, Revue, and Musical Comedy. PA 37 Arundel Mansions, Fulham SW6

By July Paddy was working again, this time with Leslie Fuller’s Whitby Pedlars, and a review pointed out that, “Paddy Prior is a charming and dainty soubrette, who uses her mezzo voice effectively.”

The pattern of Paddy’s stage career was set: concert party, after-dinner entertainment, pantomime and musical comedy. Towards the end of the twenties she was also on television at Daventry, first in De Courville’s Hour in 1929.

Albert de Courville.

Albert de Courville

then in the early thirties in Philip Ridgeway’s series entitled The Ridgeway Parade, which included Janet Lind, Dorothy Dampier and Hermione Gingold in the cast. She starred in the Cicely Courtneidge role on a Scottish tour of Lido Lady in 1929.

31 January 1929 – Advertisement in The Stage. PADDY PRIOR – Playing Lead LIDO LADY Co. This week, Theatre Royal, Inverness, next His Majesty’s, Aberdeen

Selection from LIDO LADY

Stage adverts

Stage adverts

Cast of Ridgeway ParadeDress Rehearsal

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 7 October 1931 21.15 (New Series. No. I) Sweep Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN
Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY
FRED CURTIS , BERTHA WILLMOTT, IRENE VERE, HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, SINCLAIR COLE, BERT MEREDITH, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, JACK HODGES, JOHN CHARLTON, PADDY PRIOR, ARTHUR JAY, WALLACE NORFORD. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA. PHILIP RIDGEWAY.

THE FIRST OF THE NEW SERIES OF RIDGEWAY PARADES – National Programme Daventry, 9 October 1931 20.00 SWEEP NIGHT – A song and dance show, written by Holt Marvell and Philip Ridgeway. Musical arrangements by Dorothy Hogben. Devised and produced by Philip Ridgeway. Fred Curtis, Bertha Wilmott, Irene Vere, Hermione Gingold, Gerald Osborne, Dorothy Dampier, Anna Day, Sinclair Cole, Bert Meredith, Douglas Pemberton, Lola Gordon, Beatrice Galleway, Jack Hodges, John Charlton, Paddy Prior, Arthur Jay, Wallace Norford, Dorothy Hogben and her Orchestra. Philip Ridgeway.

Singing, dancing, burlesque-and Mr. Ridgeway. The producer is the life and soul of his own shows. It is Philip Ridgeway who designed costumes for his Paraders to wear in the Studio, who makes his whole company dance furiously for a minute before the red light goes on in order that they should start their broadcast warmed up, who created and impersonated Joe Ramsbotham of Rawthenstall, of the unsteady Lancashire accent. These Parades, of which the present series is the third, are among the most generally popular light entertainments ever broadcast. They may lack the subtlety and satire of the revues of Gordon McConnel, John Watt, Denis Freeman; their aim is otherwise—broad humour, popular songs, vitality, rather than finesse. Many of the members of former Parade companies are taking part in the present series. Mr. Ridgeway’s musical director, Dorothy Hogben, is again in charge of the orchestra. Philip Ridgeway is well qualified to possess an acquaintance with the popular taste in entertainment. Still in his thirties, he has been connected with the theatre since he was a boy, as actor, author, producer and manager in turn. It is typical of his lively versatility that the two most widely acclaimed achievements of his career have been his introduction of Chekhov to London, at the Barnes Theatre, several years ago, and the invention last autumn of the Ridgeway Parades. Tonight he will be beside the microphone as usual, the inevitable flower in his buttonhole, waving his company on, a cross between Sir Henry Wood, Francois Descamps and Grock. So on with the show. We’re a lot of little songs to chase the blues, Dancing shoes to amuse. We’re the lightest and the brightest of revues, We’re the Ridgeway Parade.

The Ridgeway Parade – National Programme Daventry, 22 October 1931 20.00 (New Series-No. II) Sweetheart Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY. DOROTHY DAMPIER, HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, FRED CURTIS, SINCLAIR COLE, BERT MEREDITH, LOLA GORDON, JOHN CHARLTON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES , DORIS YORKE, ALEXANDER HENDERSON, WALLACE MORFORD, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA.  PHILIP RIDGEWAY

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 4 November 1931 20.30 (New Series-No. Ill) – Old Soldiers’ Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY. HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON, FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES, WALLACE MORFORD, DORIS YORKE, ALEXANDER HENDERSON, BEATRICE GALLEWAY.BL_0000381_19321224_010_0001

Ridgeway Parade2

Ridgeway Parade

The Ridgeway Parade— V Regional Programme London, 2 December 1931 20.00 (New Series) Typists’, Brunettes’, and Dukes’ Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP Ridgeway.  HERMIONEGINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON, FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, BEATRlCE GALLEWAY,  ALEXANDER HENDERSON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES, WALLACE MORFORD, DORIS YORKE. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA, PHILIP RIDGEWAY.

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 16 December 1931 20.00 (New Series-No. VI) HAPPY NIGHT. A SONG AND DANCE SHOW Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY.  HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON. FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, ALEXANDER HENDERSON , DORIS YORKE, WALLACE MORFORD, JACK HODGES, PADDY PRIOR, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, LOLA GORDON, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA. PHILIP RIDGEWAY

MURRAY ASHFORD’S ENTERTAINERS – Regional Programme Midland, 17 June 1932 18.30 From THE PAVILION, JEPHSON GARDENS, LEAMINGTON SPA. WINIFRED SCOTT-BAXTER (Soprano), EDWARD WARD, (Baritone), CLIFFORD WARREN (Entertainer), PADDY PRIOR (Soubrette), MARIE GROS (Comedienne), DOROTHY BRADSHAW (at the Piano), FRANK RYDON (Light Comedian), WILBY LUNN and CONNIE HART (Living Marionettes).

MANY interesting personalities are associated with Murray Ashford’s Entertainers. Paddy Prior is familiar to admirers of the Ridgeway Parade, Marie Gros is the niece of the late Marie Lloyd and sings many of her songs, while Edward Ward has appeared in several Drury Lane successes.

Webster Booth divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey, in 1931.

 

February 1931 – IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE PROBATE DIVORCE AND ADMIRALTY DIVISION (DIVORCE)

Between Leslie Webster Booth (Petitioner) and Winifred Dorothy Booth (Respondent) and Trevor Davey (Co-respondent)

TAKE NOTICE that a Petition has been filed in this Division endorsed with Notice to you to appear and answer the charges in the Petition of Leslie Webster Booth of 151 Biggin Hill, Upper Norwood, in the County of London, praying for a dissolution of marriage. In default of your so appearing, you will not be allowed to address the Court, and the Court will proceed and hear the said Petition proved and pronounce sentence. AND TAKE FURTHER NOTICE THAT for the purpose of the aforesaid within one month after the date of this Publication an appearance must be entered at the Divorce Registry, Somerset in respect thereof AND TAKE FURTHER NOTICE THAT House, Strand, London. W INDERWICK, Registrar, Solicitors for the Petitioner:-W H Speed & Co., 18 Sackville Street, London, W1

Like Webster, Paddy was a member of the Concert Artistes’ Association, and it was there that she first heard Webster sing. In an interview with W.S. Meadmore in Gramophone in November 1935, Webster described his meeting with Paddy. He was singing One Alone from The Desert Song when his attention was drawn to her seated in the audience, obviously enjoying his singing. They were introduced after the concert and married on 10 October 1932.  They spent their honeymoon in Newquay, Cornwall.

10 October 1932 – Marriage. Webster married Dorothy Annie Alice Prior on 10 October 1932 at Fulham Registry Office, the same registry office where he had married Winifred Keey in 1924.

While married to Dorothy (Paddy) Prior, the couple lived at 5 Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, NW11. They were listed separately in the telephone book as Webster Booth, tenor, Speedwell 6608; and Paddy Prior, soubrette-entertainer, Speedwell 6608

Although Webster was living with Anne at her flat in Lauderdale Mansions in 1937, Paddy and Webster remained listed in the telephone book at the same address until their divorce was made final in October 1938.

13 October 1932 – Wedding Bells. Paddy Prior and Webster Booth were married at the Fulham Register Office last Monday. A reception followed before the bride and bridegroom left for a honeymoon at Newquay, and several professional friends were in attendance to toast the happy couple.

One Alone

5 Crescent Court

5 Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, Golders Green

Paddy and Webster lived at Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, Golders Green during their marriage (pictured above).

May 1933 – Piccadilly Revels. Murray Ashford and Wilby Lunn’s Piccadilly Revels will open a fortnight’s engagement at the Pavilion, Bournemouth, next Monday, with a visit to the Argyle, Birkenhead, to follow. The company will start their long resident season at the Floral Hall, Scarborough, on Whit Saturday. The Western Brothers, Ena Broughton, Webster Booth, Paddy Prior, Vilet Stevens, Edgar Sawyer, Andrée Conti, Isolde, Alexis and Carlo, and the Euphan Maclaren Girls form the cast.

Piccadilly Revels, Scarborough 1933

1933 Piccadilly Revelsa

Piccadilly Revels scan0004

Piccadilly Revels. Webster is seated in middle row with Paddy to the left.

Paddy Prior (middle row left), Webster Booth (seated next to her)

In 1934 they were members of Powis Pinder’s Sunshine concert party at the Sunshine Theatre, Shanklin. Arthur Askey and Bernard Lee were also in this company.

Paddy Prior (extreme left) Webster Booth (standing behind Arthur Askey) Sunshine Concert Party, Shanklin 1934

Sunshine Shanklin 03

Sunshine, Shanklin.

At the end of 1934 Webster was chosen to play Faust in the film, The Faust Fantasy and Anne Ziegler was chosen to play Marguerite. Filming began in December and, according to Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography Duet, they fell in love almost at first sight. Paddy’s marriage to Webster was about to end before it had properly begun.

Filming Faust (1934/1935)

2014-12-23_232120

Webster and Anne meet during the filming of Faust

1935 – Fred Hartley’s wedding. Mrs Webster Booth (Paddy) is mentioned as being one of the wedding guests present.

https://clyp.it/ovf2ai2i Roses of Picardy. Click on the link and listen to Webster singing this song with Fred Hartley’s quintet.

Fred Hartley's wedding 1935Mention of Mrs Webster Booth as one of the guests at the wedding.

In May 1935 Webster and Paddy did an extensive broadcast from Daventry entitled A Musical Comedy Pot-Pourri. Harry Bidgood and Sydney Jerome accompanied them on two pianos and played several piano duets. Paddy and Webster sang several duets together.

Webster Booth and Paddy Prior Daventry broadcast

Webster Booth and Paddy Prior Daventry broadcast – May 1935

So this is love

So this is love – Paddy and Webster sang Just Suppose as their first duet.

Two of the duets which Webster and Paddy sang in the broadcast were: Fancy Me Meeting You (Hit the Deck by Yeomans) sung here by Binnie Hale. Click on the link to listen.

Who? (Sunny by Jerome Kern) sung here by Binnie Hale and Jack Buchanan. Click on the link to listen.


As Binnie Hale is the archetypal soubrette, I dare say that Paddy’s mezzo soprano voice was similar to Binnie’s.

In October of the same year Webster sang in an early broadcast with Anne Ziegler, several years before Paddy divorced him – the programme was called Musical Comedy Moments.

Broadcast from Daventry - Webster and Anne Ziegler

Broadcast from Daventry – Webster and Anne Ziegler

Webster and Paddy continued to work together for several years after his meeting with Anne. Their last  professional appearance was on 30 April 1936 when they performed together at the City Musical Union’s 84th Annual Dinner at the Holborn Restaurant. At the end of May they were guests at the wedding of their friends, Violet Stevens and Bryan Courage.

30 May 1936 Hastings and St Leonards pp

Special Concert in 1936

But in July 1937 Anne and Webster sailed for New York together, where Anne had been engaged to play in the musical, Virginia at the Center Theater. She had changed her name to Anne Booth for this production, after being advised that Americans disliked German-sounding names at that time also anticipating her eventual marriage to Webster. Webster returned to Southampton onboard the MV Georgic and gave his address as 74 Lauderdale Mansions, Maida Vale (Anne’s flat), although he was still listed in the telephone directory as living in Crescent Court, Golders Green, where he and Paddy had spent their short married life.

From the beginning of 1938 Anne and Webster began taking engagements together, while Paddy filed for divorce on 29 March 1938 “on the grounds of his adultery in April 1937, with Miss Irene Eastwood, otherwise Miss Anne Zeigler (sic), singer…”

29 March 1938 Decree nisi (1)

Decree nisi March 1938

In September 1938 before Webster’s divorce from Paddy had been finalised, Anne was featured on the cover of Radio Pictorial sporting an opulent diamond solitaire engagement ring:

Radio Pictorial

and on 7 October 1938 the absolute decree was granted to Paddy Prior against Webster Booth. Anne was named as the co-respondent in the divorce.

After the divorce Paddy moved to 14 Muswell Hill Road, sharing her new home with a young Welsh singer, Bettie Bucknelle, who had sung on the radio show, Band Waggon, which starred Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch. In January 1939 Bettie was featured in a show with Charlie Kunz and Denny Dennis.

Bettie Bucknelle

Bettie Bucknelle was singing with Denny Denis in a Charlie Kunz show on Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy in early 1939.

Bettie Bucknelle at Newquay

Bettie Bucknelle after World War 2

Anne and Webster were married on 5 November 1938 and went on to even greater success as romantic duettists on the variety stage during the war. I always felt very sorry for Paddy having to watch Anne and Webster obtaining great fame in the theatre while she never achieved great fame despite being a talented and hard working performer.

Witcock and Rutherford’s WEST-END VANITIES  – Regional Programme London, 21 December 1938 16.30 Helen Hill, Paddy Prior, Jean Forbes-Macintyre, Lucas Bassett, Bradley Harris, Derek Moreland, Frank Wilcock, Tubby Harold . Introduced by Harry S. Pepper.

Paddy Prior (2)

The Folkestone Bouquets. Paddy Prior, middle row (extreme right) 1939.

Bouquets' concert party Paddy Prior

ROUND THE CONCERT PARTIES, No. – Regional Programme London, 28 July 1939 20.30 A composite programme of excerpts from three concert parties –DAZZLE Presented by Eric Ross from Pierrot Land, Bognor Regis – Ida Williams, John Lovering, Barbara Wells, Fred Gibson, Eric Ross, Ted Andrews, The Dazzle Girls, Joan Pendleton, Violet Shute, Beryl Pryer and Phyllis Revell.

SUMMER FOLLIES Presented by Will Catlin, Devised and produced by Harry Bright from the Arcadia Theatre, Llandudno. Phil Strickland, The Carlyle Cousins, Terry and Doris Kendall, Ross Eaves, Marion Francis, Sydney Snape, Vera Kitchen, Leslie Moorhouse, Joan Cowley, The Mayfair Dancers,Wagstaff’s Zelo Orchestra.

1939 FOLKESTONE BOUQUETS Presented by Wilby Lunn from the Marine Gardens Pavilion, Folkestone. Betty Pugh Bruce Clark, Dorothy Bradshaw, Harold Stead, Paddy Prior, Stock Wynn, George Carden, The Mariajanos, Marguerite Lome, Eileen Lome, Hylda Burdon, Ruby Savage, Wilby Lunn and Connie Hart.  The programme presented by Harry S. Pepper

A show in 1941.

1941 show

23 August 1941 Hastings1jpg

Variety concert (1941)

Paddy continued with her theatrical career and when war broke out she joined ENSA. Here is a photograph of Paddy entertaining the troops during World War 2.

Paddy Prior (2)

Paddy entertaining the troops during World War 2

Signatures of Paddy and other members of ENSA after entertaining at

Clare Hall, South Mimms in 1943.ENSA Canadian Legion, Bolton Camp

Ensa signatures

ENSA signatures

7 November 1946 PPBB

bettie-bucknelle

So Deep is the Night, with Bettie Bucknelle’s photo on the cover

November 1946.

She and Bettie Bucknelle entertained British forces in the Middle East, and returned to England in 1946. In 1947 she did a summer season with the Oval Entertainers, Margate, where a reviewer described her as “a gay young lady with a sparkling sense of humour as fresh as Margate’s famous sea breezes.”.

1947 2012.04.16_22h35m44s_043

Bettie Bucnelle and Paddy Prior at Newquay

Bettie Bucknelle and Paddy Prior at the Old Vicarage, Newquay, Cornwall

Paddy Prior at the Old Vicarage, Newquay, Cornwall shortly after the war. She and Webster had spent their honeymoon in Newquay in October 1932.

On 22 April 1948 she and Bettie Bucknelle sailed for Australia, where they intended to make a new life. Paddy’s brother had settled there some time earlier. It must have been upsetting for Paddy to see Webster and Anne as established stars while, despite her considerable talent, she had not made a big and lasting name for herself.

Extract from passenger list to Australia.

Dorothy Prior Betty bucknell

Passenger list to Australia – April 1948. Bucknell and Booth

25-may-1948-paddy-bettie

A  newspaper photo regarding their arrival in Australia in 1948.

Later that year Anne and Webster made an extensive and triumphant concert tour of New Zealand and Australia. They heard that Paddy and Bettie had booked seats in the front row for one of their concerts in Sydney. Webster feared that they might be planning an unpleasant demonstration against them at this concert. He was asked whether he could recommend Paddy as understudy to Cicely Courtneidge in the play, Under the Counter, which meant she would have to leave for New Zealand to rehearse the understudy role. Paddy had played the lead in a Scottish tour of Lido Lady in the late twenties, the same role in which Cicely had starred in London a few years earlier. He had no hesitation in making this recommendation, so Paddy was not able to attend the concert as she had to go to New Zealand right away to begin understudy rehearsals.

There is evidence of Bettie Bucknelle singing in a number of broadcasts, including broadcasts with the famous band leader Jay Wilbur, but I could not find out anything about Paddy’s Australian theatrical career. In a 1949 electoral register, she is listed as a housewife!

20-february-1949-bettie-bucknelle

Shortly after Anne and Webster returned to the UK from South Africa in 1978, a letter arrived for Webster from Paddy who was still living in Australia. She said he would be welcome to visit her if he ever decided to go out there. Anne did not show this letter to Webster!

I was pleased to hear from Paddy’s niece, Beverley June McLachlan (née Prior) and her daughter, Paddy’s great-niece, Cheryl Willits recently. Paddy married Harold Bradshaw and the couple lived in Hobart, Tasmania where Paddy continued to entertain at their bowling club, singing and doing comedy skits. Cheryl mentioned that Paddy had sung on the radio with Ross Higgins,

Ross Higgins

Ross Higgins

the well-known Australian actor and entertainer who died at the age of 86 in October 2016. I am happy to know that Paddy’s subsequent life in Australia was a happy one.

Jean Collen

April, 2016.

Updated 20 January 2017

GARDA HALL – SOUTH AFRICAN SOPRANO (1900 – 1968)

 

 

                                                   GARDA HALL (1900 – 1968)

Today South African soprano, Garda Hall, is hardly remembered in South Africa where she was born, or in the United Kingdom where she lived for most of her life and had a distinguished career as a singer. The only reason why I know anything about Garda Hall at all is that Webster Booth mentioned that he had sung and recorded with her on several occasions.  Her descendant, Quentin Hall, who lives in Western Australia, has shared some of his extensive family research with me so I thought I would write a short article about his distinguished ancestor.

Garda Hall was born in Durban, Natal in 1900 in the middle of the South African War. Garda was given the unusual middle name of Colenso, presumably in commemoration of the Battle of Colenso in 1899. Her parents were George Ernest Hall (1869 – 1933), originally from Torquay, Devon, and Maude Kate Amy Breeds (1878 – September 1959). Quentin presumes that George and Maude married in South Africa rather than the UK and the Breeds surname suggests to me that Garda’s mother was a South African of Dutch origin, rather than British.

Garda moved from Durban to Pietermaritzburg when she was seven years of age and attended the private Girls’ Collegiate School there. Her father owned a bicycle shop in Pietermaritzburg called Hall’s –The Cycle Specialists and sold it to the Jowett family when the family settled in England. The cycling business remained Hall’s – The Cyclist Specialists until 1952 when Walter and his brother eventually changed the name of the business to Jowett Brothers.

HALL’S – THE CYCLE SPECIALISTS

JOWETT BROTHERS

Garda was not noted for her musical prowess at school. Apparently the music teacher told her that she was singing out of tune and asked her to leave the music class! It should be pointed out that some children who sing out of tune begin to sing in tune as they mature. Despite being good enough to be accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in 1920 and doing well there, several critics remarked on occasional lapses of intonation when she became a professional singer.

In 1920, she boarded the Norman Castle in Durban with her mother, who was 41 at the time.

NORMAN CASTLE

They arrived in Southampton on 9 August 1920 and Garda began her vocal studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London at the beginning of the new term in September, taking lessons with the renowned singing teacher, Frederick King who trained many notable singers including Norman Allin, Miriam Licette, Carmen Hill and Robert Radford. T. Arnold Fulton, the Scottish organist and choral director of the London Select Choir and the choir at St Columba’s Church in London where he was organist and choir master, acted as studio accompanist to Frederic King at the Royal Academy. Some years later Arnold Fulton moved to South Africa and taught singing based on the methods he had learnt from Frederic King.

Garda obtained the diplomas of ARAM and LRAM. Interestingly, she apparently trained as a mezzo soprano at the Academy, yet sang as a lyric soprano during her subsequent career as a singer. She was awarded the Gilbert Betjemann Gold Medal at the Academy for operatic singing in 1923.

GILBERT R. BETJEMANN PRIZE WINNERS. Garda Hall (1923)

Not long after she graduated, she sang at the first Grand Ballad Concert of the season at the Guildhall, Plymouth on 29 September 1923, and in 1925 she made a triumphant return to Pietermaritzburg and Durban and gave several successful recitals while she was there. The closing item which she sang at the Pietermaritzburg concert was Poor Wand’ring One from The Pirates of Penzance. I wonder what her disapproving music mistress at ;the Collegiate School thought about this! If she had left South Africa as a second-rate, sometimes out of tune mezzo, she had returned to the country of her birth as an engaging lyric soprano. At the time of her trip her parents were living in Winkelspruit on the South Coast of Natal, but by 1930 the whole family moved to 137 King Henry’s Road, South Hampstead, the address where Garda remained until her death in 1968.

Towards the end of that year Garda sang in Burnley in aid of the Police Convalescent fund. Two of her fellow artistes were distinguished singers of the day – Muriel Brunskill (contralto) and Tudor Davies (tenor). At a concert the following year, the critic remarked on her clean-cut articulation (in English and French) and her ability to sing a comfortable high E. However, he disapproved of “an almost continuous vibrato which adversely affected her intonation”. He suggested that she should work on her breathing to correct this fault – shades of that music mistress in Pietermaritzburg!

1926 was an auspicious year for Garda as she began recording for His Master’s Voice (HMV). One of her notable recordings was the Mozart Requiem with  the Philharmonic Choir and orchestra, conducted by Charles Kennedy Scott on 6 July at the Queen’s Hall.Other singers on the recording were Nellie Walker, Sydney Coltham and Edward Halland. She was also bridesmaid at the wedding of baritone Roy Henderson and Bertha Smyth in March. The couple had met when studying at the Royal Academy, presumably at the same time as Garda herself.

CHERRY RIPE (Arr. Lehmann)

SOFT FOOTED SNOW (Sigurd Lee)

 

DOWN IN THE FOREST (Landon Ronald)

During the twenties, Garda was making a name for herself as a popular concert singer, recording artiste and broadcaster, although critics were still concerned about her violent vibrato and doubtful intonation as opposed to her vocal good points of agility and wide range. She was singing with the finest singers of the day, as can be seen in this article of 1928:

Eminent singers (1928)

Advertisement for Bath Pump Room.

An Orchestral Concert – 5GB Daventry (Experimental), 15 January 1929 16.00(From Birmingham) THE BIRMINGHAM STUDIO ORCHESTRA – Conducted by FRANK CANTELL.GARDA HALL (Soprano).

A BRASS BAND CONCERT – 2LO London, 25 May 1929 15.30 S.B. from Newcastle. Artists from the London Studio: GARDA HALL (Soprano), WATCYN WATCYNS (Baritone). The MARSDEN COLLIERY BAND Conducted by JACK BODDICE.

Famous Northern Resorts – 2ZY Manchester, 18 September 1929 20.00Scarborough – The SPA ORCHESTRA Conducted by ALICK MACLEAN.(Leader, PACK BEARD) Accompanist, S. HANLON DEAN Relayed from the Spa S.B. from Hull.GARDA HALL (Soprano)

On 6 March 1930 Webster Booth was establishing himself on record, radio, as the Duke of Buckingham in the West End production of The Three Musketeers, and as a tenor soloist in oratorio, but he was still entertaining at dinners and benefit concerts, such as one at the Finsbury Town Hall for the Clerkenwell Benevolent Society, where South African soprano, Garda Hall was one of the other entertainers. Charles Forwood, who was to become the permanent accompanist of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth when they went on the variety stage in 1940, accompanied at this concert.

OLD FINSBURY TOWN HALL

The Wireless Military Band – National Programme Daventry, 22 April 1930 19.45 Conducted by B. WALTON O’DONNELL, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

An Orchestral Concert – Regional Programme London, 24 November 1930 20.35 A Cowen Programme – THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS. GARDA HALL (Soprano) and Orchestra Aria, Bloom on, bloom on, my Roses(The Rose Maiden) The Swallows, Cradle Song, A Birthday.

A newspaper cutting on 20 March 1930 reads as follows: The Clerkenwell Benevolent Society benefited to a considerable extent as a result of a concert at the Finsbury Town Hall on March 6. There was a generous provision of talent, among those to please a large and enthusiastic audience being Garda Hall, Doris Smerdon, Gladys Limage, Doris Godfrey, Hilda Gladney Woolf, Maidie Hebditch, Webster Booth, Ashmoor Burch, Charles Hayes, Fred Wildon and Lloyd Shakespeare, with Charles Forwood as accompanist. It is interesting that some of these names are still remembered today, while others are completely unknown.

Later  in that year, Garda returned to South Africa and her parents came to England on board the Gloucester Castle to make their home with her. For a short time they lived at 142 King Henry’s Drive, Hampstead, but later moved to 137 King Henry’s Drive, where she remained until her death in 1968.

THE HALL HOUSE IN HAMPSTEAD.

THE BAND OF H.M. ROYAL AIR FORCE Regional Programme London, 2 January 1931 21.00 (By permission of tho AIR COUNCIL) Conducted by Flight Lieut . J. H. AMERS, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

An Orchestral Concert – National Programme London, 31 January 1931 19.30 GARDA HALL (Soprano), DALE SMITH (Baritone), THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA
Conducted by PERCY PITT

A Concert 5WA Cardiff, 20 March 1931 19.45 Relayed from THE Public HALL, BRITON FERRY. GARDA HALL (Soprano), JOHN MOREL (Baritone) BRITON FERRY I.L.P. MALE VOICE PARTY,Conducted by D. L. MORGAN. NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES (Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru) (Leader, LOUIS LEVITUS) Conducted by WARWICK BRAITHWAITE

The Gershom Parkington Quintet Regional Programme London, 1 May 1931 20.00 GARDA HALL (Soprano), HARRY ISAACS (Pianoforte).

The Children’s Hour – Regional Programme Midland, 7 October 1931 17.15 Songs by GARDA HALL (Soprano), WILLIAM JONES and his Banjo, A Tale of Spain and the Rolling Main, by ROBERT ASCROFT.

 

In March 1932 Garda took part in a broadcast of popular opera with another South African singer who had made a career in the UK, the contralto Betsy de la Porte. In the same year she sang in a concert devoted to Viennese music at the Pump Room in Bath. The conductor was Edward Dunn, and baritone George Baker, Webster’s great friend and mentor, was the other soloist. Several years later, Garda suggested to Edward Dunn that he should apply for the position of musical director of Durban Opera. He was chosen from 200 candidates and remained in South Africa for the rest of his life. The last I heard of him was when he was conducting the Johannesburg Philharmonic Society and giving lectures on musical appreciation in the sixties.

In May 1932 Garda made a 12 inch recording of Musical Comedy Gems (1) and Musical Comedy Gems (2) with George Baker (C2412) of songs from The Chocolate Soldier, The Desert Song, Rose Marie and The Merry Widow.

                                                George Baker and Garda Hall

GEORGE BAKER (BARITONE) AND GARDA HALL

The B.B.C. Orchestra Regional Programme London, 22 July 1932 20.00(SECTION E) Led by MARIE WILSON, Conducted by B. WALTON O’DONNELL.GARDA HALL (Soprano).

Suitable Songs – Regional Programme London, 6 August 1932 21.15 (Part VII). Arranged and Produced by GORDON MCCONNEL. GARDA HALL, PARRY JONES, FOSTER RICHARDSON.  EDGAR LANE (Compere) WALTER RANDALL (Pianist) THE REVUE CHORUS and The B.B.C. THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, S. Kneale Kelley. Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS

Popular Opera-II National Programme Daventry, 28 December 1932 20.00 Scenes from Verdi, Humperdinck and Flotow. Produced by GORDON MCCONNEL.

Garda Hall (Soprano), Betsy de la Porte (Contralto), Jan Van Der Gucht (Tenor), Stuart Robertson (Baritone), Franklyn Kelsey (Bass), Mary Hamlin (Soprano), Gladys Winmill (Contralto), Doris Owens (Contralto), Rosalind Rowsell (Soprano) , Stanley Riley (Bass), Bradbridge White (Tenor), Victor Utting (Bass). Narrator, Ivan Samson. The Wireless Chorus (Section B) – Chorus-Master, Cyril Dalmaine. B.B.C. Orchestra (Section D) – Led by Marie Wilson. Conducted by Stanford Robinson

Victorian Ballads – Regional Programme London, 16 March 1933 19.30 withGARDA HALL (Soprano) and LEONARD GOWINGS (Tenor) accompanied by THE LESLIE BRIDGEWATER QUINTET.

THE B.B.C. THEATRE ORCHESTRA Regional Programme London, 15 May 1933 21.00 Leader, MONTAGUE BREARLEY. Conductor – STANFORD ROBINSON, GARDA HALL (Soprano)

On 22 May 1933, Frederic King, Garda’s singing teacher at the academy, died at the age of 80, and on 1 October of the same year, Webster was on the same bill as Garda Hall at the Palladium. Other performers on that bill were Debroy Somers and his band, Leonard Henry (compère), Raie da Costa (the brilliant South African pianist who died at an early age) and Stainless Stephen. Webster had also been booked to sing at the National Sunday League concerts at the Finsbury Park Empire, and the same artistes as those at the Palladium were due to perform at the Lewisham Town Hall later in October.

Raie da Costa plays in 1933.

A Popular Concert – Regional Programme Midland, 27 January 1934 19.15 Relayed from The Central Hall, Walsall. GARDA HALL (soprano), HENRY CUMMINGS (baritone), MARGOT MACGIBBON, (violin) FREDERICK JACKSON (piano)

Garda Hall and Trefor Jones to sing in "Creation".

Garda Hall and Trefor Jones sing in “The Creation” at the Caird Hall, Dundee with the Dundee Amateur Choral Union. Article: 3 January 1934.

A Part of THE CREATION – Regional Programme Scotland, 7 February 1934 20.45 (Haydn) THE DUNDEE AMATEUR CHORAL UNION GARDA HALL (soprano), TREFOR JONES (tenor), JOSEPH FARRINGTON (bass) THE SCOTTISH ORCHESTRA Conducted by CHARLES M. COWE. At the Pianoforte, M. MARSHALL BIRD. Relayed from The Caird Hall, Dundee

On 15 March 1934 Garda Hall sang in Torquay with the Municipal Orchestra there and the short newspaper article announcing the date pointed out that her father had been a Torquay man. She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.

THE TORQUAY MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA National Programme Daventry, 27 March 1934 15.00 Conductor, ERNEST W. GOSS. GARDA HALL (soprano). Relayed from The Pavilion, Torquay (West Regional Programme)

Songs of Sir Frederic Cowen – National Programme Daventry, 2 April 1934 19.30 sung by GARDA HALL (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS (baritone) Accompanied by THE COMPOSER. GARDA HALL Songs about roses :Deep in a Beauteous Garden, The Sweetest Rose of all, Day Dreams, The Roses of Sadi, Blue Skies and Roses. HAROLD WILLIAMS Poems by Sir Walter Scott :Anna Marie, The Bonny Owl Border Ballad

THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 29 May 1934 21.20(Section C) – Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by JOHN ANSELL. GARDA HALL (soprano).

LESLIE JEFFRIES and THE GRAND HOTEL, EASTBOURNE, ORCHESTRA. National Programme Daventry, 2 September 1934 21.05 GARDA HALL(soprano) Relayed from The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne.

She sang an aria from Die Fledermaus at the Queen’s Hall on the last night of the Promenade concerts on 6 October 1934, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.
Promenade Concert – National Programme Daventry, 6 October 1934 20.00 Last concert of the season – Relayed from The Queen’s Hall, London (Sole Lessees, Messrs. Chappell and Co., Ltd.).GARDA HALL (soprano), ROBERT EASTON (bass), EILEEN JOYCE (pianoforte), THE B.B.C SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by Sir HENRY WOOD

THE BOURNEMOUTH MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 18 November 1934 21.00 Conductor, RICHARD AUSTIN. GARDA HALL (soprano). Relayed from The Pavilion, Bournemouth

THE B.B.C. ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 24 December 1934 22.00 (Section E) Led by MARIE WILSON. Conducted by JULIAN CLIFFORD. GARDA HALL (soprano)

THE LONDON PALLADIUM ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 26 May 1935 18.45  Conductor, RICHARD CREAN, GARDA HALL (soprano).

A Variety of Music – Regional Programme Northern, 1 August 1935 21.00 with JACK LORIMER, RONALD HILL, Clive ERARD, DORIS HARE, ALBERT RICHARDSON, G. KITCHENER, RAY WALLACE, STANLEY BROWN, GARDA HALL, JOHN TURNER, BERT MEREDITH, FREDDIE GARDNER AND HIS RHYTHM  FIVE. THE RHYTHM BROTHERS. THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK. Compere, BRYAN MICHIE.(From Regional)

Songs From The Shows (No. 38) – Regional Programme London, 15 October 1935 21.00 Contrasting Composers-2 – SIDNEY JONES and COLE PORTER. BETTY BOLTON, GARDA HALL, REGINALD PURDELL, JANET LIND, C. DENIER WARREN, ROBERT GEDDES, THE THREE GINX. THE BBC VARIETY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS. Conducted by STANFORD ROBINSON. At the pianos, HARRY S. PEPPER and DORIS ARNOLD. Compere, JOHN WATT.

Songs of the Seasons – Regional Programme London, 3 November 1935 17.30 By Frederic H. Cowen. GARDA HALL (soprano), JOYCE NEWTON (soprano), HAROLD WILLIAMS baritone). JOYCE NEWTON – Autumn : To a Flower. GARDA HALL – Winter : Snowflakes. JOYCE NEWTON  – Winter : The Snowstorm. HAROLD WILLIAMS – Christmas Time: The Wassailer’s Song. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON Spring : Duets To Daffodils, Violets, GARDA HALL – Spring : The Swallows . HAROLD* WILLIAMS – Summer : Anna Marie. JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Summer’s here. GARDA HALL AND JOYCE NEWTON – Summer : Duet Birds.

On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.

THE LESLIE BRIDGEWATER HARP QUINTET – National Programme Daventry, 8 December 1935 14.15 GARDA HALL (soprano).

Pleasure Gardens – National Programme Daventry, 15 May 1936 20.00 A Picture in Words and Music of London’s Old Pleasure Gardens at Vauxhall. Devised by JOHN F. RUSSELL and HOLT MARVELL. Music selected and arranged by ALFRED REYNOLDS. GARDA HALL (soprano), JAN VAN DER GUCHT (tenor), MORGAN DAVIES (baritone) A Section of THE BBC MEN’S CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA Leader, Montague Brearley ,Conducted by MARK H. LUBBOCK

THE BBC ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 3 June 1936 21.30(Section C) -Led by MARIE WILSON, Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS. GARDA HALL (soprano) New Songs for Old Regional Programme London, 17 August 1936 20.00 Part 5. A Programme arranged and produced by GORDON MCCONNEL. VERA LENNOX, DENIS O’NEIL, GEORGE BAKER, GARDA HALL. Compere, CYRIL NASH . THE BBC REVUE CHORUS and THE BBC VARIETY ORCHESTRA. Conducted by CHARLES SHADWELL .

On 5 December 1935, Garda Hall, Webster and George Baker sang in a concert version of Gounod’s Faust and the Beggar’s Opera at the Playhouse, Galashiels on the Scottish Borders. The Galashiels Choral Society (concert master: Robert Barrow) and orchestra were conducted by Herbert More.Webster Booth at the height of his fame.

In 1936 Webster sang with Garda again on 16 September at a Shrewsbury Carnival Concert. Other performers were Ronald Gourley (entertainer) and theAlfredo Campoli Trio

Shrewsbury Carnival Concert – Regional Programme Midland, 6 September 1936 21.00 from the Granada Theatre, Shrewsbury. GARDA HALL (soprano), WEBSTER BOOTH (tenor), RONALD GOURLEY (entertainer) THE ALFREDO CAMPOLI TRIO 

Alfredo Campoli (2)

Violinist Alfredo Campoli

Child singer Ann Stephens with whistling by Ronald Gourley

Ann Stephens

Ann Stephens

I have been reading B.C. Hilliam’s autobiography Flotsam’s Follies (Flotsam of Flotsam and Jetsam) and discovered that Garda Hall sang in his song cycle, Autumn’s Orchestra. It was performed at the Queen’s Hall, with Garda Hall, Gladys Ripley, Heddle Nash, and Malcolm McEachern as vocalists and Albert Sandler as violinist.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam's follies

MARIE BURKE in Comic Opera VII – Regional Programme London, 18 September 1936 21.20 Songs and Scenas from three famous Comic Operas, Arranged and Produced by GORDON McCONNEL. 1 The Emerald Isle – Lyrics by Basil Hood, Music by Arthur Sullivan and Edward German. Veronique – English Lyrics by Lilian Eldee, (with alterations and additions by Percy Greenbank ), Music by Andre Messager  3. The Grand Duchess – English Lyrics by Adrian Ross, Music by Offenbach. DICK FRANCIS, GARDA HALL,JAN VAN DER GUCHT, MICHAEL COLE, BERNARD ANSELL and MARIE BURKE. THE BBC REVUE CHORUS and THE BBC THEATRE ORCHESTRA. Conducted by ALFRED REYNOLDS.

THE BBC ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 17 October 1936 20.15 (Section C) Led by LAURANCE TURNER, Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS,GARDA HALL (soprano)

THE WORTHING MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA – Regional Programme London, 22 November 1936 21.05 Leader, HARRY Lipman, Conductor, HERBERT LODGE,GARDA HALL (soprano)ARTHUR WAYNE (pianoforte) from the Town Hall, Worthing.

THE BBC ORCHESTRA –National Programme Daventry, 19 January 1937 18.25(Section E)  – Led by Laurance Turner, Conducted by Joseph Lewis, Garda Hall(soprano)

ALBERT SANDLER and THE PARK LANE HOTEL ORCHESTRA – National Programme Daventry, 14 March 1937 21.35 Garda Hall (soprano) from the Park Lane Hotel. At the pianoforte J. A. BYFIELD

SONGS FROM THE SHOWS No. 45 – Regional Programme London, 1 May 1937 18.00 Film Songs, No. 11. Garda Hall, Brian Lawrance, Evie Hayes, Sam Costa, The Three Ginx. The BBC Variety Orchestra and BBC Chorus – Conducted by Charles Shadwell. At the Pianos: Harry S. Pepper and Doris Arnold. Music arranged by Doris Arnold and orchestrated by Wally Wallond . Compered and produced by John Watt.

THE BOURNEMOUTH MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA Regional Programme Wales, 2 May 1937 21.05Leader, Harold Fairhurst .Conductor, Richard Austin. Garda Hall (soprano) from the Pavilion, Bournemouth.

PASTORAL – National Programme Daventry, 8 July 1937 22.20 A Programme in Praise of Quiet Things. Music by Alan Paul. Verse and Prose selected by Ann Baker. Presented by William MacLurg. Garda Hall (soprano), Jean Pougnet (violin), David Martin (violin), William Primrose (viola) Anthony Pini (violoncello), Alan Paul (pianoforte)GARDA HALL AND QUINTET: Quiet The Lambs, Blessed Care, All my Treasures.

Pastoral is a programme of verse, prose, and music upon the themes of quiet and the countryside. The music throughout has been written by Alan Paul who will himself be at the piano for the first programme ever given of his own serious music.

Paul was born in Glasgow and was a student at the Glasgow Athenaeum, now called the Scottish Academy of Music, from 1917 to 1921, when he came to London to join the Royal College of Music. In his first year there he had to make some money to

help with his fees and left the college for four months to go on tour with Polly (sequel to The Beggar’s Opera). About a year ago he joined the BBC.

In May 1937 Theatreland at Coronation Time was released featuring Stuart Robertson, Garda Hall, Webster Booth and Sam Costa. The critic in Gramophone remarked, “Mr Booth sings gloriously, Mr Robertson defiantly, Miss Hall charmingly, while Mr Costa contributes a fleeting reminiscence of a more sophisticated and yet oh so simple entertainment.” The 12”78rpm, HMV C2903 cost 4/-. Click on the above link to hear the recording which has been restored by Mike Taylor.

MURDER IN THE EMBASSY – Regional Programme London, 4 August 1937 21.00  A Melodrama by Francis Durbridge with Incidental Music by Augustus Franzel. Ann Codrington, Ruth Beresford. A Gypsy Orchestra, conducted by Augustus Franzel, and The BBC Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Mark H. Lubbock. Production by Archie Campbell. Captain Michael Rostard, of the Westonian army, nephew of General Rostard: Jack Melford. Sir Charles Fanshaw, of the Foreign Office.: Norman Shelley
Benson, Sir Charles’s valet: Ernest Sefton
*Madame Vaskaya, a famous continental soprano: Garda Hall
Countess Elsa Sieler, daughter of Count Sieler: Jane Carr
General Rostard, Prime Minister and virtual dictator of Westonia: Henry Victor
Mr Hiram E Miller, of Detroit: Fred Duprez
Baron Von Klemm, the Westonian Ambassador.: Boris Ranevsky
Paul Vendorest, a servant at the Westonian Embassy.: .Paul Vernon
A Singer: Morgan Davies
Inspector Davis, of Scotland Yard: Edwin Ellis
Count Sieler, Dictator of Falkenstein: Ernest Sefton
Announcer: Barry Ferguson

  There is an entry for Garda Hall in Who’s Who in Music (1937): Hall, Garda ARAM, LRAM. Born Durban, educated at Royal Academy of Music. Betjemann Gold Medalist. Singing, Chamber music, oratorio, operatic. Recreation: gardening. Address: 137 King Henry’s Road NW3. Telephone: Primrose 4436

GEORGIAN MELODIES – National Programme Daventry, 6 February 1938 21.05  A Musical Sequence selected and arranged by Gwen Williams and Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Roy Henderson (baritone), An Octet from the BBC Chorus, The BBC Theatre Orchestra. Leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson .

HALL, Garda - The Evening Telegraph and Post (Dundee, Scotland), Thur, Feb 24, 1938; pg. 6

Braza (violinist), John Turner (tenor) Garda Hall (soprano), Will Kings (entertainer). Dundee police concert. Evening Telegraph and Post, Dundee (February 1938)

Reverie (No. 6) – National Programme Daventry, 25 June 1938 22.15 – The BBC Theatre Orchestra, leader, Tate Gilder, Conductor, Stanford Robinson. Garda Hall (soprano), Freda Townson (mezzo-soprano) O would that my love?/The Harvest Field (Mendelssohn) Dôme épais (Lakmé) (Delibes) Already, shades of night/ Alas my chosen swain(The Queen of Spades)

MUSIC BY ERIC COATES – Regional Programme London, 9 June 1939 18.00 BBC Orchestra (Section E) Led by Laurance Turner, Conducted by the composer. GARDA HALL AND ORCHESTRA The Mill o’ Dreams, Back o’ the Moon, Dream o’ Nights, The Man in the Moon, Bluebells.Homeward to you, Your Name, Music of the Night.

C.E.M.A. CONCERT- BBC Home Service Basic, 3 October 1940 13.15  Organised in collaboration with a Miners’ Welfare Institute  Somewhere in the Midlands. Garda Hall (soprano), Dale Smith (baritone), Samuel Kutcher (violin), Accompanist, Harry Isaacs .

Garda continued singing during the war, often at CEMA concerts and in oratorio. She sang Messiah at the Albert Hall, Nottingham in December 1940.

MESSIAH IN NOTTINGHAM

27 March 1942

MESSIAH AT BRIGHTON

22 January 1943

CEMA CONCERT

The final cutting about Garda Hall appeared on 5 January 1945.

Sunday concert

I could find nothing more about her, apart from her entry in the Musicians Who’s Who in 1949, which was much the same as the 1937 entry. In 1945 she was 45 years of age so I cannot believe that she retired from singing at such an early age. Perhaps she taught singing after she retired from the concert platform, although there is no proof of this.  Her mother died in the late 1950s and she herself died on 7 June 1968. She did not marry. If anyone has further information about Garda Hall, I would be very glad to hear from you.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince – two busy months in the life of Pietermaritzburg Bill Bizley

British Newspaper archive

Quentin Hall of Western Australia for genealogical research on his relative, Garda Hall

Jean Collen

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5 August 2014

Updated:  9 April, 2016.

 

 

 

 

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