Founded in 1931 – The Virginia Choral Society was 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 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 is 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.
History of the VCS Endowment Fund
In 1999 the Virginia Choral Society established a performance endowment fund. The endowment fund is based on the principal being invested and inviolate for expenses. Only the earnings from this fund can be used for operating expenses. The endowment fund is managed by trustees named by the Board of Directors, who report to the Board annually on the status of the endowment. A gift to the endowment fund has the advantage of never being used up. Over time, earnings on the principal will far outweigh the value of the initial gift. Proceeds from the invested principal will initially supplement income from other sources. The Board of Directors hopes that in time the growth of the endowment will continue to grow in size and contributors support to greatly strengthen the Virginia Choral Society. To our many contributors, VCS is gratefully thankful for your support during the many years. Since 1999, the VCS Endowment has grown from a humble beginning of a few donations to a substantial endowment corpus of monies. The Society has received funds from many sources.
Special Events. In March 2004, VCS held the First Annual Gala for our Capital Endowment Fund. This was very successful and added over $5,000 to our endowment fund. The 2nd Gala was held in Spring 2005.
Direct Contributions. With the support of many individuals and memorials, the VCS Endowment has further developed the endowment fund. Many of these gifts were “one-time” gifts and several others are recurring monthly contributions to the endowment fund.
Estate Gifts. Several bequests from estates have greatly contributed to the growth of the Endowment Fund. Of particular notice are the bequests received from the estates of Ms. Peggy Hewes and Ms. Katherine Bradshaw, as a memorial was directed to the endowment fund.
Investment Income. A direct benefit of the endowment fund is the income that is produced from the investments in the endowment funds. Over time, wise investments will continue to grow the endowment.
While the endowment fund has grown to over $700,000 since being established, the Society intends to continue fundraising initiatives. Through the benefits of the Endowment fund, the Society will continue to expand to larger venues, provide robust orchestration and feature noted soloists as part of our concert.