VINTON–The Choir of the College of William and Mary will be in concert at Vinton Baptist Church (VBC) on Friday, March 18 at 7 p.m. Alyssa Melchers of Vinton and VBC is one of the 60 students who will be performing. She has sung with and accompanied the choir since her freshman year in 2012.
Her mother Wanda Melchers was a member of the same choir when she attended William and Mary. She joined as a sophomore in 1985 and continued through 1988. She is currently the organist during the traditional service and pianist during the contemporary service at VBC. She also teaches second grade at Herman L. Horn Elementary School.
The choir, under the direction of James Armstrong, will undertake its annual spring tour from March 18-23. They will travel through the state of Virginia giving concerts in Vinton and Richmond, as well as in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The Choir has toured internationally every third year since 1978. Recent tours have taken the Choir to Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Spain, Morocco, Greece, and Turkey.
According to VBC Pastor Chris Monroe, the William & Mary Choir has had the honor of performing twice for Queen Elizabeth II—most recently in 2007—and was one of four choirs invited to perform in concert with the United States Marine Band at the 1997 Presidential Inaugural on the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C.
In February 2012, they sang for the investiture of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as William and Mary’s new chancellor.
Wanda Melchers says that the choir has many traditions and quite a history.
“When I arrived at William and Mary, I’d had both band and choir experience at William Byrd as well as youth choir at Vinton Baptist, so I knew I wanted to participate in an ensemble,” said Melchers. “I knew two Vinton students (Kim Barlow Cook and Alex Martin) were in choir, so that helped me make my choice. The mixed choir was off-limits to freshmen girls, because ladies had to spend a year in Women’s Chorus before being allowed to audition for the Choir. The gentlemen got to tryout right away as freshman.”
“Another Vinton student, Sarah Blount Martin, joined the choir after I did and was part of the group that came to Vinton Baptist Church for their spring tour in 1991,” added Melchers.
Melchers describes the choir as the “official voice” of the College. They sing at traditional university functions throughout the school year such as Convocation, the Family Weekend Concert, the Homecoming Sunset Ceremony, Yule Log, Charter Day, and Graduation.
“By repeating these experiences each year, choir members have much in common with former and future choir members,” noted Melchers. “The Choir also has a tradition of ‘family’ trees with Bigs and Littles (like Greek organizations), so students come back after graduation for Homecoming to meet their ‘grandchildren’ in choir families.”
“Each spring the Choir takes a domestic tour and every three years an international tour,” said Melchers. “I was able to travel to Europe in May of 1987 with the Choir,” said Melchers. “We had concerts in France, Switzerland, West Germany, East Germany (before the Wall came down), and several stops in England.”
Melchers says that many former choir members stay in touch through Facebook groups now and Homecoming reunion concerts.
“Choir alumni love to attend concerts because their tradition is to sing “Shenandoah” and the “Alma Mater” at the end of each concert, inviting alumni to join in with the current choir,” she commented.
“It has been exciting to watch my daughter experience a lot of the same choir traditions that I enjoyed, although she has sung under a different director,” said Melchers. “Some things are different–she got to audition as a freshman, so she has had four years in the choir instead of three. Her Spring tours have been more varied in locations; she got to travel to the Baltic States and Finland in May 2014.”
However Melchers says some things have remained the same—“Homecoming Parades (and winning float entries); those terrible, green choir robes; Choir tour awards; memorizing all four verses of the College Hymn for the Graduation processional (and remembering every word 30 years later) and being a part of a lasting musical tradition.”
“I am thrilled to welcome the William and Mary Choir back to Vinton for another Spring Tour concert in my daughter’s senior year,” said Melchers.
Vinton Baptist is also delighted to welcome the community to the concert, “The Light We Cannot See” on March 18. Admission is free.