Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Frank Boggs Celebrates "71 Years of Song"

[Photo: Very early Frank, first artist with Word Records]
A once-in-a-lifetime event is more relaxed the second time around.  Seventy years after he first sang professionally, Frank Boggs brought in soloists and speakers from all over the country to help him remember his career.  A year later, a group of close friends and loyal locals came together more to appreciate and support what Frank calls "this kind of music" sadly missing from public and church life these days.

Songs were arranged in sets according to theme, such as "Heaven," "Jesus," and Spirituals.  Frank contributed anecdotes about when he met (reluctantly!) pop-Gospel star Andrae Crouch and prominent Anglican evangelical John Stott.

But mostly we had music.  Frank started us off with his rendition of Crouch's "Through it All," acting the words as if it were a dramatic soliloquy.  "I've been lots of places / I've seen lots of faces / There've been times I didn't know right from wrong...."

Now, I may have an insight into Frank's secret of success, as we share an appreciation of live musical theatre.  When I was a student of Frank's at Westminster in the 1970s, he encouraged me to explore musicals of Stephen Sondheim and the dramatic nuances of singers whose repertoire includes show music, Cleo Laine, Bobby Short, and Mabel Mercer.

When Frank conducts the Georgia Festival Chorus, a group he founded a couple decades ago, his gestures draw drama out of the group, 120+ singers rising and falling, giving dramatic emphasis. He punched the air on certain syllables of "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" to turn the chorus into a single personality, responding to the emotional highs and lows of the lyrics.  The number got a rare mid-concert standing ovation.

While pieces were conducted by his deputies David Scott, Michael Cromwell, and Ken Terrell, Frank was often singing the bass part from his seat on the side.

Though pianists Cathy Adams and David Carnes and organist Phillip Allen bring fine technique and a variety of colors to the music, the chorus is at its best when singing a cappella, as in the penultimate verse of "Jesus Paid it All."  The voices blend to produce a powerful sound, rich and warm.

Happy anniversary, Frank!  The Lord bless you and keep you adding to your legacy as you teach new generations to be sensitive to the words as well as the musical markings.

1 comment:

Ken Westerman said...

So nice to find this thread. It's been years since I was graced by Frank's presence or even his glorious sound on the telephone.