We’ve all met unforgettable people in our lives. Some were great in their fields. Some were just people we loved or who had a certain something that drew us to them. This is about one of the unforgettable people in my life.
George Bragg stood next to the grand piano at the front of the Ed Landreth Auditorium. I’d never even heard of this man or the Denton Civic Boy Choir until my mother suggested that I audition. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, but since we were there I wanted to do my best. In my family, failure was not an option. If I was there to audition, then I was there to be selected.
Fresh out of the fourth grade, I felt I was in the presence of great power and confidence. This man was accustomed to having every eye focused on him, everyone around him waiting to do his bidding. I have no idea what I sang for my audition or even whether he provided accompaniment or I sang a cappella. I only recall an overwhelming desire to please this man.
George Bragg was a 19 year-old student at the University of North Texas—called North Texas State Teachers’ College at that time—when he started the Denton Civic Boy Choir early in 1946. He had turned 28 and was entering his ninth season with the choir when I joined in the fall of 1954, but his presence was that of a much older and more experienced man.
George believed that prepubescent boys could learn to behave and follow instructions. If they did that, he would make them a part of something important. If they did not, he would weed them out quickly and send them packing.
One of the early lessons I learned was that he was serious about the business of leading a boys’ choir. From the moment we entered the rehearsal hall until we were dismissed, he expected our attention to be riveted upon him. He used to say if a meteor were to come flying through the window we were to continue watching him. We could check on it after practice was over.
In some ways, George Bragg was a martinet. He demanded absolute attention in practice or during a performance. Outside of practice, however, he had a great sense of humor and showed real affection for us as individuals.
His choir—and the Denton Civic Boy Choir was definitely his choir—brought a certain amount of fame and recognition to the city of Denton, Texas. It was developing a national reputation for excellence while I was in it.
My father helped arrange for the choir to move to Fort Worth during the spring of my last year as a member. As the Texas Boys’ Choir it developed a much broader base of recognition. A few years after my voice changed and I left the choir, George spread that national reputation across the pond with an extended tour in Europe.
One of George’s dreams was to start a school for choir members. He began to realize this dream shortly after the move to Fort Worth, but that’s a story for another time.
George Bragg never attained any degree of wealth, nor did he ever marry and have children—at least not his biological children. Through the years, however, he had thousands of kids—choirboys—whose lives he touched. He was more than just the man who directed the choir we sang in. He played an important part in our development and maturity, both as the director of the TBC for some 30 years and later as a consultant to other boy choirs around the country.
George Bragg passed on several years ago, but his memory is forever stamped on the minds—and character—of the many boys who sang for him through the years.
Ø Who are some of your unforgettable characters?
Ø How have some or all of these people affected your life?
If you liked this, feel free to comment and repost link on Facebook or Twitter.