The Texas Boys' Choir
On the Occasion of
The Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion
by George Bragg
Read by Kenneth Polito - August 1996
It has been a considerable time since I have seen some of you. You have grown into men, meaningful men who take the place of our group of persons who stood up for what was important and valuable during your years as students and more specifically, as choirboys.
Recently, I was reading my "Director's Diary." I would like to share with you some memorable moments from the past.
Carpenters and painters have been here, sent through the courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Walsh, to help put our home into a more enjoyable and liveable condition. Most of the staff's energies are being used now preparing for our 25th Anniversary Celebration which is scheduled for February 7, 1971.
Jerry Collup, as Special Projects Director, is busy locating former choirboys, and continuing to look for boychoirs in the Southwest.
Miriam Cunningham, as Liaison Director, is programming school visitations, and working with parents who need solutions to problems, while at the same time, preparing uniforms and costumes to make 1971 a year of the "new look" for the TBC.
Irene Westbrook, our Executive Maid, continues to put a sparkle in the place, while Kenneth Polito, former choirboy, as Librarian, has catalogued the Choir's forty filing drawers of music and hundreds of books. Last, but not least, Donald Collup, also a former choirboy, is studying piano with Dr. Isabel Scionti, and lending his aid wherever needed whether it be a rehearsal or teaching the choirboys.
The Texas Boys Choir has been the recipient of two magnanimous gifts in the past few years- a 125 acre tract of farmland from Mrs. J. Earl Selz of Denton; the second, our present home, to be dedicated on February 7th, a gift by Mr. and Mrs. F. Howard Walsh of Fort Worth. The third gift which came our way, three Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. Already they are referred to as our "Crown Jewels." We are given permission to make known the name of the donor, who, being a Dallas resident, completes the Trinity of participation for our area; Mrs. Selz of Denton, Mr. and Mrs. Walsh of Fort Worth and Mrs. Dorothy Cofer of Dallas. Faith, Understanding and Love are contained in each gift.
When you see them, be reminded to give thanks to God that he has blessed the Texas Boys Choir with "every good and perfect gift" - with fine boys, with great opportunities for accomplishment, and with such dedicated and loving people who all work for the Choir's ultimate realization of permanency.
Through the kindness of the MARY LARD CHARITABLE TRUST, the TEXAS BOYS CHOIR OF FORT WORTH has been given a gift of a portable pipe organ. The distinguished members of the MARY LARD CHARITABLE TRUST, who have each made such unique contributions through their lives to our Fort Worth community, are Mr. Bayard Friedman, Mrs. Harry B. Friedman, Mr. Leo Potishman and Mrs. R.S. Warren.
Mrs. Harry Friedman has had two grandsons in the TEXAS BOYS CHOIR, Harry and Danny Schiller, both of whom toured with us in the early and middle 1960's.
We learned from European masters. We had two who came to join our staff and to share in our work, Istvan Selenyi and Kalman Halasz. Mr. Selenyi continues at Trinity Valley School which we began in 1959. Kalman Halasz, who came to us in 1960, passed away on February 1st of this year.
We have had an incredible journey across America during the previous and current tour which has been a revelation in many ways.
We have seen the beauty and splendor of this nation - her continuing growth and prosperity - the shifting patterns of life in the 1970's. We have been repulsed to see the illness of neglect - the squalor of slums in some of the older cities - and found happiness in the hope of ordered rehabilitation by civic planning.
We have met America's people face to face, experienced the joy received in sharing, joined in extemporaneous socializing, and delighted in more formal moments with leaders in the land.
What we have seen is a spectrum of America, the kaleidoscopic panorama of lives, tastes, patterns, ideas, heritages, and values; individually remnants of the past- collectively, unfulfilled ingredients of America's greatness and unique future. On tour we meet a small part of America. Day by day we are struck by the "Herculean" task which must be accomplished before America realizes her ultimate potential and destiny.
What does stand forth - loud and clear - is that 200 years ago our forefathers founded something quite remarkable when they conceived a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" and found a way to bind diverse peoples and customs into a wholesome union of virtuous purpose, common cause, and consented government - and that we have kept it alive.
We have traveled about 20,000 miles, crossed 43 individual states, and have not encountered a single border guard nor station. What a unique, pointed, unreasonable kind of experience - to move across a land almost 4,000 miles wide without encountering a single physical barrier.
The only barriers that we crossed on tour were of the mind - from one consciousness to another - from one understanding to a finer, keener sense of what life is about - from a kind of provincial love to a kind of universality of loving this land of ours and our family of America - part of the larger family of Man.
A choirboy inevitably asks himself one question during his years as a budding young adult - "How can I make the world a better place in which to live?" He may find the answer immediately, or he may live through the experiences of early adulthood, only to become overwhelmed by the necessities and economics of living and the clichés of the social patterns surrounding him.
During these 26 years, I have seen many choirboys come through the ranks of The Texas Boys Choir, about 1500, thus far. I have watched former choirboys choosing the paths for their lives.
I suppose the most difficult task that a young man has to make, upon his emancipation from home, is the seeming necessity of making himself economically secure. For some, this is the crucial moment which sees them leave the ideals and dreams of youth in pursuit of the fleeting phantom of financial stability. Some never return to enjoy what Life is really all about - sharing with one another and adoring and loving God.
It has been said that of all the major religions of the world - some established five or six centuries apart - all have a common discovery, a common principle for motivated action -1 choose the Christian version, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Christ said it, also, in briefer form - "Love your neighbor as yourself."
How can you make the world a better place in which to live? First, get involved in it - not just in order to make a living - every educated man, if he be not a fool, can make a living - "consider the lilies of the field." Get involved in what is going on in this world. Care about it. Expend energies that "the greatest good for the greatest number" be the result of your efforts.
When I last saw you together, I began working with the boy choirs scattered about the nation. I spent time with the Pasadena Boys Choir, the California Boys Choir, and the Tulsa Boy Singers. Most of my work was done in preparation for their concert work. It was a slow, tedious work but it had its rewards. The work was beautiful and beneficial to everyone.
I worked with the Rome Boys Choir of Georgia. I had been wanting to spend some time with them for many years. At last, I wanted to spend time with them for a number of reasons, the main one being a means of influencing their repertoire. We successfully solved that one. And the last group that I shared about 8 years with was the Florida Singing Sons. They sang well. I was for a period of four years head of the Arkansas Boys Choir. We closed that with an appearance before the American Choral Directors Association. Then one month later, we went to the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. We sang the opening concert on the first night of the Olympics.
The next group with which I worked was The Boys Choir of Harlem. Here I stayed for twelve years. I was in New York City where we appeared with every major group in the City: the New York Philharmonic, the Ballet Theater, the Opera, the major music groups, the Musica Sacra, and churches of every description, plus concerts and tours, television shows and movies.
My health gave way two years ago when I came down with Parkinson's Disease I spent time with neuro-specialists and doctors seeking a cure. I have finally settled down to a normal routine, and I have been at a calm place for about two months Kenneth Polito has been my care giver and a good care giver he is.
Meanwhile, I have been writing my books that I have wanted to do for so many years. I have spent time on recordings, photographs, videos, and trying to get some of the material into usable form.
To the parents, staff and choirboys both present and past, I thank you for being my guiding light, my measure, my hope, my joy.
I have returned to where the Heart is.
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