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
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