The Human Dimension presents
A Time of Waking [1970; the film had its first public showing in Fort Worth, Texas in 1969]
written by Marshall Riggan
Featuring George Bragg
with the Texas Boys Choir
soloist Donald Collup
Narrated by Robert Hopkins
[film/VHS, 28 minutes]
[Narrator]: There is a corner of the day so still, you can almost hear this planet creaking on its axis. A magic time, when elves would be, if elves could be, and promise stands poised to swap dominion with dreams. A time of waking. Brittle, fleeting, pure, this gift, the dawn. Cradle of a crystal day to fill, or not fill, as we might wish.
[opening credits, with boychoir singing "Chase the slumber . . . Awake"]
[Narrator]: In the life of every boy there is a time when his future leaps before him like a symphony of Saturdays. The notes are frogs and peanut butter and fantasies of heroic deeds and small, smooth stones that feel good in the hand, and stuff like that. He wraps the days around him like a magician's cloak - warm and comfortable and mysterious.
And then one day, from the random phrases of his Saturday world, he begins to sense a certain order, rhythms other than the beat of his own heart. There is a moment, a few and fragile years, when he begins to discover the drama of lives other than his own. One day he will remember it as the discovery of the art of seeing the Universe in a leaf, a cloud, a stranger's eyes. His Saturday world grows too small to hold the things he feels and the things he doesn't understand. He looks around and discovers he is a part of a great adventure, far more mysterious and not nearly so comfortable as the cloak he wears. Beautiful, innocent, dangerous these years, for if Life, as some sonnet might say, is like a symphony, then it is the morning years - these waking years - that will determine whether that symphony be noise or eloquence.
[George Bragg]: I guess it's an experience that sort of happens once in a lifetime anyway, and it's hard to believe it ever occurred. Can you really believe you went, [unintelligible name]?
[Mr Bragg]: You didn't go! [laughter] Well, maybe someday you'll get to go there.
[Narrator]: You are witness to a dialogue which began some fifteen centuries ago, a tradition born before St Augustine, Mohammed, or Justinian. The dialogue you hear has echoed through the hush of the Imperial Chapel in Vienna, the cold stone of Westminster Abbey, the ancient shadows of St Mark's in Venice, in Canterbury, in Regensburg, in Florence, and even here, in a schoolhouse on the southern skirt of America. This is a boys' choir, the Texas Boys Choir. A group of Texas youngsters plucked from their Saturday world of bikes and treehouses and sandlots, and plunked in another, peopled by Stravinsky and Bach and Beethoven and Ives. A gaggle of kids as comfortable in St Mark's Cathedral [sic] as in the mesquite thicket. On Saturday they'll raise their voices in passionate, childish irrelevancy, and on Monday they'll sing the world's most honored classics in any of seven languages. The Texas Boys Choir - uniquely gifted, uniquely American. A huckleberry bunch of youngsters, recognized as one of the finest boy choirs in the world.
[Mr Bragg]: Now, in every concert there are three . . .
[Narrator]: And this is its founder and director, Mr George Bragg. One of a long line of gifted teacher-musicians who, since before the time of Pope Gregory, have helped fill the waking years of young boys with music and with meaning. It's a magic thing, the dialogue between this man and these boys. It's a thing as small as the relationship between a single boy and a man, as large as the conversation between all boys and the voice of reason and conscience.
[Mr Bragg]: . . . messages to the audience. Now, all three elements are important. Suppose we're recording, and our performance is technically perfect. Each word is accurately articulated and enunciated, and your voices are brilliant, and your tones are ringing in their proper place, and everything is technically superb. Now, is that all? Is that enough?
[The Boys]: No, sir.
[Mr Bragg]: Of course not. Whether it's a Bluegrass ballad, or Beethoven, there must be something else. And what do you suppose that it would be? When you hear Beethoven's sixth symphony, the Pastoral, what do you see? A glade? A brook? Maybe a storm. The shepherd playing his pipes. But you not only see these things, you feel them. You have a sense of place. And he wrote what he felt about a place that he loved. And performers must feel that same love and convey that feeling to the listener.
Now, this song we're going to sing is about a place. It's about America. It's a love song. But how can you sing a love song if you don't know the thing you love? As you sing you have to take a mental and an emotional trip through your native land. You've got to wiggle your toes in its earth and its history. You've got to feel America. OK, let's sing about it.
[accompanist enters, and the Choir sings, "This Land is Your Land"]
[Narrator, as Choir continues to sing, and images corresponding to the narration are seen]: Many of us go through life without belonging to anything but the symbols of our desires. We look, but we do not feel. We occupy, but we do not belong. To learn to feel is an opportunity found only in the waking years. It may never come again. To begin to feel a harmony with one's environment, suddenly to find that you belong to that particular patch of earth on which you stand, and it to you, to feel America for the first time, is an adventure beyond compare. To find a redwood forest shrouded in mist, and know it stood before you were, and will be standing when you are gone, and to think about that for awhile. To see history carved in a mountain, and to think about that for awhile. To see grain fields bending in the wind, and rivers digging canyons, and mountains growing old, and to think about that for awhile.
But there is more to the waking years. What about one's place in time?
[Mr Bragg]: No-one really invented musical instruments. They just evolved. The great-grandfather of this instrument [he is holding a lute] was the hunter's bow, and from that evolved the lyre that King David of the Bible played. The lute was already two thousand years old when Nero "fiddled while Rome burned". And although music is an alive and dynamic thing, its function as a sort of mirror for the human spirit has been constant through the ages. If you want to know what someone a long time ago did or said, you can read a history book. And if you want to know what they thought, you read their literature. But if you want to know what they felt, then listen to their music. And as you listen - as you travel on the wings of music to other times and other places - you will find that the ancient dreams, and fears, and hopes, and joys of men are not distant and not forgotten, but alive. Alive in what Longfellow called that timeless, "universal language of mankind". [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). "Ancient Spanish Ballads", from The Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume I: Outre Mer. Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Company/Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1880, p.197]
[Narrator]: The time of our lives is merely a winking of history's eye. [A clock ticks while images of the Choir visiting historic places are shown.] Where do we belong in time? It is in the waking years that the young boy discovers he is a part of a great continuum, where only the ticking of the clock separates him from a million million lives essentially the same as his own. [The clock continues ticking over more images of the Choir visiting historic places.] He walks the same stone others have walked, and the stone is as hard as it always was. The air feels warm. The same wind blows, and a tight string, struck, sings the same sound it has always sung. Only the clock builds walls.
The family of man has walked its way through endless passages of light and shadow, and across pastures of stone. And incredibly, it's the stone, not the feet of man, that is worn away. The human family endures. And suddenly, in the waking years, the young boy discovers he is a part of that endurance.
[Donald Collup, boy soprano, sings "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" with the Choir joining on the repeat of the refrain.]
[Narrator]: And just when it seems that perhaps for much of the world God has blown out the sun and walked away, the boy discovers an awareness of a certain triumph in human history, that at certain times, in certain places, the human spirit soars.
[The Choir sings "Follow the Drinking Gourd"]
[Narrator]: At certain times, in certain places, the human spirit soars. And one of those times, and one of those places, is the human experience called "America".
[The Choir continues singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd"]
[Narrator]: The boy comes to realize that Americans did not create America - the world created America. They brought their dreams from the old world and created a new world around them. They built something unique on earth. From all over the world they came to this new land where individual man was free to rise to the limits of his abilities. And so the boy discovers, in the waking years, that he is a part of the dream of all men, and so to protect and cherish this idea we call "America" is not a selfish thing, nor should it be. It is a trust he shares with all men, everywhere, who would be free.
[Mr Bragg, at the piano, speaking to the choir]: I'm going to play a chord. [He does so, F# major.] Sounds good, doesn't it? It's harmonic, pleasing, and even comfortable. But to a man from, say, India [he picks up a sitar] it might not sound so good at all. Now, listen to a chord on this sitar. [The boys laugh nervously when they hear the chord] Sounds dissonant, doesn't it? Not harmonic at all, and that's because the Indian scale includes six or seven steps per octave, of extremely fine gradation. [Mr Bragg plays several individual notes, while the boys continue to giggle.] Without them, the Hindus say that melody is like a moonless night. Two sounds heard by ears of identical structure, but one is pleasing and the other is not. And why is this so? It's because of a thing called history. Everything we do and think, everything we are, our concept of beauty, is a product of history. If we are to understand ourselves, we must try to understand our history.
[Images of British soldiers on parade are accompanied by sounds of fife and drum.]
[Narrator]: America did not spring forth full-grown upon the earth. The ideas that sustain her grew from the minds of men who walked the old world. Her institutions are refinements of institutions which existed long before the Pilgrims sailed. In her art, and her music, and her architecture can be found influences of the art and music and architecture of worlds existing before ours was born. America is a triumphant chord, a harmony of people and ideas and works old in themselves, but new, and unique and vital each time that chord is played. To the young boy who would become a whole man, an understanding of the mystery of human harmony begins to take shape during the waking years. And with this understanding comes tolerance. Subtly at first, it becomes evident that harmony is a product of difference, not similarities. If all the notes of the chord are the same, there can be no harmony at all. For a choirboy, music can be a catalyst to his understanding of the world in which he lives. It takes him by the hand and leads him through history, and by walking down its narrow, winding streets he begins to find the avenues that lead to an understanding of himself.
But history is history, and now is now. So move over for awhile, you old and sleepy cities. Make way for young America.
[The Choir is heard singing "Erie Canal" while images of the choirboys in gondolas on Venice's canals are seen! As the boats navigate the "streets" of Venice, the lyric "Low bridge, everybody down . . . we're comin' to a town" is heard.]
[Narrator]: A sense of place, a sense of continuum, and one's place in time. A sense of sharing in the human adventure. A sense of human harmony. These are the treasures to be found in the waking years. But they are things of earth. What about the treasures that transcend this tiny planet of ours?
[Mr Bragg, to the Choir]: . . . Gabrieli's music. Well, now we're going to consider the nature of serious music, and most likely the place of serious music in worship. So, lend me your mind's eye. Music, like art and architecture, is often a kind of prayer, a glorification, an expression of man's love of God. Gabrieli's music, I think, is a beautiful and special kind of prayer. His music may be called "religious", but it is shorn of all false piety. It's exuberant in its praise, and therefore you must be exuberant. You must glorify. You must feel God moving through the world as Gabrieli did.
[Narrator]: When and where does the Saturday child find God? No-one can presume to say. Perhaps it's suddenly, as he chases an afternoon through a field, or more slowly, as he reaches within the still and silver darkness of himself for the riddle of things he doesn't know for sure. But bring to the child a poet, a Christopher Wren, a Bach, a Michelangelo, a Mozart, and God will be very, very near.
[Donald Collup, boy soprano, is seen singing Mozart's Alleluia! (from Exsultate, Jubilate, K.165), with orchestral accompaniment.]
[Narrator]: A boy sings. A beautiful thing. [Master Collup continues the Mozart.] This choirboy is the steward of an incomparable gift. With his mind and voice, he can create for us beauty. He can lead us out of ourselves and take us along on an adventure of the spirit. [More Mozart.] He has a gift, and now he shares it. Perhaps - just perhaps - this is what life is all about. To take our gifts, and spend them and share them with wisdom, grace, and joy. [The Mozart Alleluia! concludes, with Master Collup choosing the alternative lower notes for the final cadence.]
[An unidentified woman, apparently backstage at a concert venue, is seen apparently sewing, with choirboys milling around, and she says, benevolently patronizing the boys, gently mocking their seriousness]: Oh, an emergency . . .
[Narrator]: One day, the Saturday world will end, all the rehearsal a thing of the past, the performance itself a heartbeat away. But if men like this [image onscreen of Mr Bragg with choirboys] help boys like these know the difference between eloquence and noise, looking and seeing, occupying and belonging, touching and feeling, then the waking years may reach out to encompass a lifetime, and the coming American Renaissance may have already begun.
[We see the Choir in a concert performance of a work by Gabrieli, with orchestra and organ as the end credits roll.]
[End credits]: A Time of Waking
Produced in association with The Walsh Foundation, Fort Worth, Texas
W. Truett Myers
Don Barnett, Ron Scott, Kalman Halasz, Bob Rogers
"The Glory of Gabrieli"
"This Land is Your Land"
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, "Exploring Music"
A cooperative program presentation of
The Radio-Television Commission
of the Southern Baptist Convention
Paul M. Stevens, Director
[NOTE: The source from which this transcript was made was a 16mm-film-to-tape transfer held in a library; the version found on the Web differs only in this final "title", which says, "A presentation of the International Communications Center, Fort Worth, Texas, Paul M. Stevens, Director"; the following copyright line is the same in both versions]
copyright MCMLXX by the Southern Baptist Convention Radio and Television Commission
All Rights Reserved
[end of transcript]
from: www.boychoirs.org/texas/waking.html: "A Time of Waking" received the Bronze Award in 1970 from the International Film and TV Festival and in 1971 it received the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.