Saturday, June 28, 2008

More About the Fayre Four

Through the article I wrote on the Fayre Four Sisters (posted at, I was fortunate to receive an email from Peter Brown, whose uncle, Sydney, married Tina Webb, the leader/arranger for the great vaudeville concertina group, The Fayre Four Sisters. I'm pleased to post some of Peter's memories here along with a wonderful image--he thinks its the first taken of the full group--from around 1912.
PHOTO: L to r: Sylvia, Inga, Tina, Lillian. Here you see the 2 one-string fiddles that they incorporated in their act.

Here's a part of Peter's email:
This is the 'history' of the group as I recall from talking with Tina & her sisters:

- They first went on the stage in 1912 & were soon a sensation for their beauty & their talent &and the fact that they were 'unusual' being a quartet of 4 young women.

-- they became big stars at the London Palladium & were 'top of the bill' there for many years, I believe into the 1930's.

- the 4 of them went on musical tours throughout the world. The only place that their father forbid them to visit was Russia. He often performed in the Russian State Circus & considered the Country to be 'unsafe' for 4 beautiful spinsters! They were in Vienna when the Russian Revolution took place & told me harrowing stories of meeting bourgeois families fleeing into Europe and exchanging gold, silver & jewellery for food & shelter.

- their musical act involved every sort of concertina, accordions, 2 one-string fiddles & the piano. Their repertoire was mainly popular classical music, but latterly they were involved in big musical shows (Rogers & Hammerstein, Gershuin, etc...) Tina was the one who arranged their music. Lillian looked after their accounts & living expenses,& Inga took charge of bookings & overseas travel, & Sylvia took care of their wardrobe & was responsible for the making of their fabulous costumes.

- Tina was widowed in 1976 (I think!) . Shortly after this Sylvia suffered a stroke whilst on a visit to her, & died in Conwy Hospital. Inga was left alone in the Lambeth house & decided to sell up & move to live with Tina. Tina, Inga & Lillian lived into their 90's. They were indeed secretive about their ages! Inga was the eldest & died well into her 90's.

- Tina's musical ability & memory was extraordinary. Though suffering badly from arthritis in her hands, at 92 she would sit down at the piano & play any of the great piano concertos without any musical score in front of her! Amazing!

- Tina continued to play the piano for the two operatic societies' rehearsals until a dreadful accident when she was 92 yrs old. She was on the stage during a rehearsal, & afterwards, blinded by the footlights, she stepped off the stage onto the steps -- but they had been moved to the other end of the stage. She was lucky not to have been killed, but sustained a bad fracture to one of her ankles. She was a stoic & refused to seek medical attention. I found her in a bad state shortly after & insisted that she went to hospital. She went down-hill rapidly from then and went to live in a rest home where she died after a few months there.

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