Growing up in South Carolina, even while being taught about my home state, I developed a special reverence for Virginia and its place in the nation’s history. It’s known, of course, as the birthplace of our first President … then Jefferson … continuing through to Woodrow Wilson. I’ll never be able to brag about my personal knowledge of history, but I know enough to realize that Virginia has a special heritage. Amazingly — earlier this year — I was honored to be invited to write a tribute in song to the state.
The person who reached out to me was award-winning professor and author Dr. James I. (“Bud”) Robertson, Jr. With his wife Betty, he has been on a six-year mission to find a fitting anthem for the state they so deeply love. Virginia has gone for many years without an anthem of its own. In 1940 “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” — composed as “Virginny” by James A. Bland (1854-1911,) an African-American minstrel — was designated the official state song. In 1997 it was retired from official use because its lyrics were considered offensive by many Virginians. (Understandably so!) Dr. Robertson’s quest for a new anthem began in 2008, when he conferred with key members of the Virginia legislature about pursuing the creation of a new state song to the melody of “Shenandoah.” The idea was enthusiastically received. Since then, according to Dr. Robertson, he has been an avid one-man committee in trying to get a worthy song produced. Thanks to the recommendation of my professional “song plugger” in Nashville – Chris Keaton (a native Virginian, himself) – I was introduced to Dr. Robertson. Chris is not only one of the finest professionals in his field, but a wonderful friend, as well. I quickly turned to one of my songwriting partners, Jim Papoulis, who can quite legitimately be called a global leader in choral music – in both composing and conducting. Together – with Lead Vocals by Sophia Miller – we created a tribute to the state, entitled, “Our Great Virginia.”
If you know someone who lives in Virginia – or loves it – I hope you’ll let them know that there’s now a new musical tribute to a place they care about. Here’s the complete Press Release, if you’d like to review it. Media coverage:
OUR GREAT VIRGINIA
You’ll always be
our great Virginia.
You’re the birthplace of the nation.
was changed forever.
Today, your glory stays,
as we build tomorrow
I fill with pride
at all you give us –
rolling hills, majestic mountains,
from the Shenandoah
to the Atlantic
rivers wide and forests tall,
all in one Virginia
For each of us
here in Virginia …
from farm to city dweller …
all of us, we stand together.
We’re yours, we all are yours –
across our great Virginia
You’ll always be our great Virginia
Based on “Oh Shenandoah”, American folk song dating back to at least the early 1800’s. Arrangement: Jim Papoulis. Lyrics: Mike Greenly Vocal: Sophia Miller Choir: Fairfax Choral Society Concert Choir Director: Patrick F. Vaughn
Mother’s Day is approaching … and although my mother has been gone for more than three years, I’m glad to be part of a musical tribute this year to single moms across the country.
I grew up, as did one of my songwriting partners, Paul Guzzone, with a mom and a dad. I was “different” from my peers in my own particular ways.
I had skipped a grade, so I was younger. I was not athletic, so I was a geek. And I was Jewish in a Southern Baptist town, with swastikas carved into my locker and taunts like, “Who did you cheat today?”
But I did have two committed parents, steadily part of my life. A third songwriting partner – Jake Stigers – didn’t have that equal footing when he grew up in Boise, Idaho. His mother, Margaret, raised him by herself, along with his older brother, Curtis.
The beauty of collaboration in songwriting – as the corporate clients for whom I write speeches, often cite is true in business – is how a team can produce results beyond what any individual could have done.
On my own, I would never have thought to write a song called, “Single Mom”. But Jake, Paul and I built on Jake’s true-life history and together we created a song in several versions: a first person version sung by Jake, himself … and a third person version.
Link to video with Jake singing third person lyrics
TODAY: She’s Lisa Kimball, but she was known as Lisa Carlson. Without her help, I would never have gotten credentialed to cover the Democratic and Republican Conventions in 1984 — becoming, with Sherwin Levinson and Diane Worthington the first journalists in history to do so interactively, online. Without Lisa’s help, I would never had a Congressman endorsing the book I wrote online as a series of interviews and later published in hard-copy (“CHRONICLE: The Human Side of AIDS”.) More important, without Lisa’s magnetism, charisma, energy and savvy, I — and many others — would surely not have become as immersed so enthusiastically and productively in the creation of “social media” way back when.
SHE helped create today’s communications, as a true “online pioneer.” I’ll always be grateful to her, and I’ll always love her. – Mike
Looking back, I think I was always a networker at heart. I was the kid who wrote the neighborhood newsletter on a manual typewriter with some carbon paper. My friends and I always had little clubs and societies, organized to do something or other in the community.
Later, as I began to work, I created brown bag lunch groups and book discussions and learning communities by various names. I was introduced to the Internet by the late Frank Burns, a visionary who discovered the power of computer conferencing in the late ’70s while supporting a think tank called Delta Force in the US Army.
I am honored to announce that, for the second year in a row, a choral song I wrote with composer Jim Papoulis, We Can Plant a Forest, was judged a Finalist in a songwriting competition with very worthy goals.
It’s the “Eco Arts Awards” – http://www.ecoartsawards.com – a group of volunteers, dedicated to raising global awareness of our responsibilities — and opportunities — for the ecology of our planet.
I make my living not as a songwriter … but as a speechwriter, scriptwriter, presentation coach, and creative director. Having been a corporate officer (VP, Marketing & Communications – Avon Products, Inc.) I know what life is like on an executive’s side of a desk. I like using my skill with words to help someone else’s career shine more brightly in the spotlight.
If you know someone who needs an “Ace” speechwriter – I’m your guy!
Meanwhile, I get pleasure from writing songs and knowing that the public enjoys then. In this case, Jim’s and my song benefits Trees for the Future – http://www.treesforthefuture.org. We have caused some 30,000 new trees to be planted on earth — a tiny fraction of the need. We’ll cause another 10,000 trees to be planted this year.
“We Can Plant a Forest” is now being performed by young choristers around the world. May it help to motivate listeners to be more conscious of supporting our planet’s environment. The reaction from kids has been tremendously enthusiastic.
If you’d like to know what “We Can Plant a Forest” sounds like, here’s the iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/we-can-plant-forest-feat./id424921826
I remember thinking it “novel”, those decades ago, when I saw religious leaders beginning to use the same computer technology I was using in vastly different ways. But that was one more example that Alvin Toffler was right when he wrote in “The Third Wave” that the Information Age would change all our lives in ways we couldn’t yet even begin to foresee. Houston Hodges was one of the people I saw leading the way in discovering how computers could enhance spirituality for those he led. I’m very happy to have his remembrance to this growing collection. – Mike
My first experience of being “online” came in 1985, during a meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Although it was based in Indianapolis, I was farther west — in my eleventh-floor apartment on San Francisco Bay in California.
But I was “there” nonetheless. An electronic wizard named Merrill Cook had been inveigled into opening a miraculous new connection – via computer! — between the two sites.
Presbyterians, already, had been receiving confusing and virtually incomprehensible instructions. The claim: now it would be possible for any of us to exchange messages with the national gathering, from wherever we happened to be.
All we had to do was use a new gadget called a “modem” hitched to one’s computer. The very idea of a computer being part of a minister’s professional equipment was, itself, an innovation. read more →
Mike Greenly Lyricist
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