has guided choir 38 years
When Conrad Bratton accepted the position of choirmaster at Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene in 1973, he thought he'd be doing well if he surpassed the 17-year tenure of one of his predecessors.
"The man that preceded me served for 12 years ... the one before him 17 years," said Bratton, who also is parish administrator.
This year, Bratton
will celebrate 38 years of service to his
"I certainly didn't think I would be here for 38 years, but thought it would be good if I could serve longer than 17," he
Bratton, who was born in Dallas and raised in Texarkana, came to Abilene to attend Hardin-Simmons University, where he received a bachelor's degree in music in 1964, and a master's degree in music in 1967.
He taught at the former Mann Junior High School until he accepted the position at Heavenly Rest.
"Shortly after I accepted the position, someone recommended a book to me that told me to 'take a look at your members' ... six months from now, there will be different ones,' " he
has a great sense of humor, he
expects us to do our best, and makes us want to do our best.
What never ceases to amaze me is how he
can guide us through the six-week process of learning a piece of music - from sight-reading to performance.
It's very rewarding."
In addition to adult and student voice choirs, Bratton
directs the church's two handbell choirs.
The daunting task of controlling the movement of up to 90 bells keeps his
choir members on their toes.
The Heavenly Rest choirs have produced several major music productions in Bratton's
38-year tenure, including "Messiah" by Handel, "Gloria" by Poulenc, and Mozart's Requiem.
The choirs have given concerts all over Texas, in several states, and overseas at places including the Canterbury Cathedral
and Westminster Abbey in England; St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church
in Edinburgh, Scotland; and Christ Church
in Vienna, Austria.
"The choirs are happy - through concert programs both at Heavenly
Rest and on tour - to be an outreach for our church," Bratton
"I love being a part of this ministry, and I can truthfully say I have never had a day when I didn't love this job.
I love the people and I love our church; I feel very needed."
Mike Denny, one of Heavenly Rest's
longtime members, said Bratton
is known for being very dependable, and that often, if an answer is needed, the statement heard around the church is "ask Conrad
"In the 30 years I've known Conrad
, there's never been a time I can remember that he's not there making sure things are running smoothly," Denny said.
is what keeps our church ticking.
"Wes will do a great job with the choirs, and I'm sure I won't have any trouble staying busy," Bratton
has guided choir 38 years