State song is still sound of silence
Like judges on “American Idol,” a panel of legislators this week deliberated over a song – a tune that had been proposed as Virginia’s new state song.
It didn’t make the cut.
“At Home in Virginia,” a bluegrass ballad written by Richmond retiree Evi Bergin, got the boot from the House Rules Committee.
Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, had proposed that “At Home in Virginia” be designated as “the official song of the Commonwealth.” Virginia has been without a state song since 1997, when the General Assembly retired “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” because of its racially offensive lyrics.
Carr sponsored House Bill 833, which said Virginia “requires an official song that can be sung on all occasions with pride and affection” – a song that “should reference the rich tradition of the Commonwealth and invoke images of the natural and scenic beauty its citizens celebrate.”
HB 833 recommended “At Home Virginia” for that honor. But on Tuesday, the committee tabled the bill on a voice vote.
Bergin spent a decade crafting her song. She believes it is worthy to be the official state song.
“I just kept writing and rewriting it until I got this song,” Bergin said. “It wants to encourage people; that’s why it’s good.”
The song boasts of Virginia’s natural beauty – from honeysuckles and sunsets to “a cardinal that’s singing by the lacy dogwood tree.” It also highlights the commonwealth’s role in history and its nickname as “Mother of Presidents.”
Carr is glad that Bergin and her song got an audition.
“She is a very impressive individual and has been working on this song for about 10 years,” Carr said. “She certainly deserves a hearing, just like everyone else.”
Now living in a retirement community in Richmond, Bergin, 67, has spent a lot of her time trying to make “At Home in Virginia” the official state song. She talks about her song as if it were her child.
“I kept singing and changing it little by little for eight years, until I loved it,” Bergin said.
Virginia had adopted “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” as the state song in 1940. It was written in 1878 by an African American minstrel, James Bland. The lyrics are in dialect and express nostalgia for the days of slavery. The final verse says: “Carry me back to old Virginny… There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.”
African Americans and many other people considered the lyrics offensive. In 1997, legislators made “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” the state’s “official song emeritus.” Since then, they have been searching for a new state song.
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Lyrics to ‘At Home in Virginia’
From beyond the Blue Ridge mountains to the seashore or the Bay
Sunset in Virginia can take your breath away
A cardinal that’s singing by the lacy dogwood tree
Boast of Virginia’s natural beauty
Honeysuckle vine by fields of corn
Loving and learning, families are formed
Wisdom from a mentor teaches right from wrong
We’re traveling in Virginia now; won’t you come along?
We are the people of Virginia
Strong and brave, bold and free
Feel right at home in Virginia
Land of hope and liberty!
“Mother of Presidents,” “Mother of States”
First surviving English settlement, opened up the gates
For the first lawmakers, in old Jamestown
The shaping of our nation, history handed down.
We honor those who died, hope with those who live
Each one in our Commonwealth has something to give
Giving love is from above, as we stake our claim
“Virginia is for Lovers,” is more than just a name
Henrico County Recreation and Parks will present “Red, White, and Lights” at Meadow Farm Museum/Crump Park July 4.
Henrico County has hosted a Fourth of July celebration annually since 1981, but this year’s event will offer a later start time and expanded hours and be highlighted by new entertainment.
The free event will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will feature the Richmond Symphony, a laser-light show, patriotic performances, and family activities. > Read more.
The Tuckahoe Family YMCA and ReEstablish Richmond will host the third-annual Refugee Community Resource Fair Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at the YMCA, 9211 Patterson Avenue in Henrico. The event is designed to provide refugees in the region information about jobs, local businesses, housing, health care, education and more.
As part of its strategic plan, the YMCA of Greater Richmond works to identify, address and eliminate economic, geographic and cultural barriers. > Read more.
Celebrate Independence Day in Henrico! The county’s annual event is new and improved this year with a later start time, expanded hours and new entertainment, including the Richmond Symphony and a laser light show. Lewis Ginter is also offering free admission all day. On Saturday, check out the first annual Innsbrook Taste of Virginia, the family movie at Varina Library or Anthony Snape and special guest Jess Labus at The Tin Pan. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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Jun. 16, 2016Click here to read the print edition.
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CalendarThe Rotary Club of Innsbrook meets every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at The Place at Innsbrook. For details, visit http://www.innsbrookrotary.org Full text