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History – The Virginia Choral Society 1931-2016

History – The Virginia Choral Society 1931-2016

Formed in 1931 – an outgrowth of the choir that was organized to celebrate the Sesquicentennial Celebration at Yorktown.  The late Dr. George K. Vanderslice of Hampton invited members of this choir and other interested persons to meet at St. John’s Parish House to organize and promote a choral Society.  Originally formed as The Peninsula Choral Society members came from all areas of the Peninsula: Denbigh, Hilton Village, Newport News, Seaford, Hampton, Phoebus, Fox Hill, Buckroe Beach and the “several government reservations in the surrounding territory.”

It was decided rehearsals would be held on a weekly basis, and in all fairness to the members they would alternate between Newport News and Hampton on a monthly basis. The first program was presented by the Peninsula Choral Society on May 27, 1932.

The group was inactive for a short period in 1932-1933, but was reorganized by Mrs. Lemuel C.Branch. Mrs. Branch was elected president in 1935 until her retirement, at which time she was made honorary president for life.

One of the group’s biggest triumphs was in 1938 when the then 20-year old Mr. Cary McMurran had his debut as conductor.  The singers were lead in a presentation of “The Messiah”. And saw the venue which had a seating capacity of 1,241 filled 15 minutes before curtain time – an estimated 1,500 people turned away.

In 1983 the Peninsula Choral Society changed its name to the Virginia Choral Society of Tidewater. The members continue to come from areas across Hampton Roads: Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Gloucester, Mathews, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, York County and Poquoson.

In 2006 the Virginia Senate Joint Resolution No. 69 recognized the Virginia Choral Society as it celebrated its 75th anniversary and its mission.  The Society stands on the threshold of its 86th season – still one of the oldest continuously performing community choruses.

The number of singers in the Society fluctuates; there have been as few as 40 members and as many as 150.  Membership within the Society consists of people who love to sing, not necessarily trained voices. Of course, there are those in the Society who have devoted years of study to voice and/or instrumental music, as well as those who have a lot of desire to labor with a group.  Creating a successful chorus that works hard and performs well.  The Society has occasionally worked with local orchestras and soloists (both instrumental and vocal from outside the group) but talent within the Society is recognized and, in fact, many concerts make use of all “family” talent.

The Virginia Choral Society is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote, educate, and advocate for a broad range of choral music. The Society strives to raise community awareness of all facets of the performing arts and to engage with other organizations in support of the arts.  Additionally, we support the artistic endeavors of young musicians through scholarships, guest performances, summer workshops and other opportunities.