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.

* * *

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?

Chorus:
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

Chorus
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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

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> Read more.

State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
> Read more.

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May 2017
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Innsbrook After Hours continues its 32nd year with Kaleo’s The Handprint Tour and special guest Albin Lee Meldau. Kaleo, a four-piece band from Iceland who now call the US home, plays a raucous blend of rock, folk and blues. Gates open at 5 p.m. Show begins at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Net proceeds from the concert series benefit the American Constitution Spirit Foundation and the Innsbrook Foundation. Rain or shine. For tickets and more information, call the IAH Hotline at 423-1779 or visit http://www.innsbrookafterhours.com. Full text

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