Above: Chorus founder and director Frank Boggs talks about music in the living room of his Buckhead apartment; photo by Joe Earle
Frank Boggs has been around church music all his life.
He remembers tagging along to choir practice with his mother and father at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Tex., back when he was too little to be left at home. “I’d go with them and I’d listen to them sing and then I’d curl up in the pew and go to sleep,” he recalled. “Music was just kind of there my whole life.”
And Boggs has lived quite a lifetime in music.
He’s organized and built choirs, taught music and recorded two dozen albums. He’s appeared on radio and TV, performed around the U.S. and abroad, and sung in concerts, at religious revival meetings and during church services.
He even co-wrote the fight song played to cheer the Baylor University Bears, the football team at his alma mater. The song he and his roommate wrote while they were students at Baylor back in the 1940s replaced an earlier fight song written by Fred and Tom Waring of big band fame. Boggs thought that song was too hard to sing. Now, “every time they score a touchdown, they play our song,” he said with a smile.
“Music is my life,” he said during a recent chat in his 21st-story apartment in Lenbrook, a Buckhead high rise. “I love to make beautiful music, and teaching people to love beautiful music.”
At age 90, he’s still at it.
He leads the Georgia Festival Chorus, a singing group he has directed since its founding more than three decades ago. The chorus performs concerts in the spring and fall and is scheduled to perform Nov. 19, Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.
“Through the years—this is our 31st year—we have built a very loyal audience,” Bogg said. “They turn out to hear us.”
David Scott, associate director of the chorus, said Boggs has been “tremendously important” to the group’s success. “He’s been a great advocate for the music,” Scott said. “He knows what he wants. …His choice of material is very good. He’s fun to work with. …He’s a nice guy to get to know.”
That matters. “These things are very personality driven,” Scott said. “People vote with their feet. If you don’t have integrity, if you don’t have a pleasant personality, people don’t come back. …Personality is the most important aspect of it.”
At the same time, Boggs is a natural showman, Scott said. “In performance, a natural showman will be at ease,” Scott said. “Frank has a way—in a performance he speaks to the crowd naturally. Most folks, if you start putting them in front of a crowd of 100 or 1,000 or 2,000 people, they get stressed. But Frank is very comfortable.”
Boggs took over the festival chorus about the time he retired from teaching music at The Westminster Schools. He taught there for 23 years. A friend, a minster at a Cobb County church, told Boggs that he’d be miserable without a choir to direct. Boggs thought there might be something to that, so he put an ad in a Marietta newspaper soliciting singers. The Cobb Festival Chorus started with 18 members.
Their first performance, Boggs said, was of Handel’s “Messiah,” a piece usually associated with much larger groups. “When people heard what we did that first year, I started auditioning more singers.” Now, there are 111 singers with the festival chorus, he said. “Over the years, we’ve built a wonderful choir,” he said.
He’s used to building choirs. When he started teaching at Westminster, he said, the choir was composed of just 18 girls and three boys. “It was the most pitiful thing I’d ever heard,” he recalled. “I came home and told [my wife] I may have made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Instead of giving up, he set to work. He started going to football practices to recruit singers. He told the boys they could meet girls by singing. “I said, ‘I guarantee you, if you join choir, I’m going to get every good-looking girl at Westminster to join the choir.’” Once the football players signed up, he said, girl singers followed and the choir grew.
Boggs comfortably recalls other successful ventures he’s played a part in. When he was a student at Baylor, he organized the music for a series of student-led tent revivals. They started out small, but eventually attracted hundreds of people from surrounding communities. “This thing just took off,” he said. “The Holy Spirit just blessed us. A thousand people would be spread out on the grass. …Instead of going for one week like we planned, it went for three weeks.”
These days, Boggs is sorting through his old recordings to make CDs of his music to give to his grandchildren. He’s pulled songs from albums with titles such as “In God We Trust” and “Yes, God Is Real.” One recent morning, he put a CD into a boombox and listened to his younger self singing. He leaned his head back and gazed into the distance.
What’s his favorite song? That changes, he said. He thought a moment and then said a song called “The Majesty and Glory of His Name” was one of his favorites for the choir. “Every time we sing it,” he said, “something magical happens.”
Upcoming Georgia Festival Chorus performances
2017 Fall Concerts
- Sunday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.—“Carols by Candlelight Concert,” McEachern Methodist Church, 4075 Macland Rd., Powder Springs 30127
- Thursday, Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.—Christmas Concert at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, 955 Johnson Ferry Rd., Marietta 30068
- Tuesday Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m.—Lenbrook, 3747 Peachtree Rd., Atlanta 30319
2018 Spring Concerts
- Sunday, Mar. 11, 6 p.m.—Grace Life Church, 1083 Allgood Rd., Marietta 30062
- Sunday, Mar. 18, 6 p.m.—Holy Cross Anglican Church, 3836 Oak Grove Rd., Loganville 30052
- Sunday, Apr. 8, 6 p.m.—Smyrna First Baptist Church, 1275 Church St., Smyrna 30080
- Sunday, Apr. 15, 4 p.m.—Hillside United Methodist Church, 4474 Towne Lake Pkwy., Woodstock 30189
- Sunday, Apr. 22, 6 p.m.—Kennesaw United Methodist Church, 1801 Ben King Rd., Kennesaw 30144
- Sunday Apr. 29, 6 p.m.—Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, 995 Johnson Ferry Rd., Marietta 30068
Source: Georgia Festival Chorus