By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
The Virginia State University Gospel Chorale will perform at the Vatican during its European tour that will run from Dec. 7 to Jan 3.
The tour will include stops in Switzerland, Hungary and Italy where the group will perform at Pope Francis’ Christmas Concert at the Vatican and the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival that is held from Dec. 28 to Feb. 1, in Orvieto, Italy. Launched in 1998, Virginia State’s European tour also included a 2019 Easter Week performance at the Umbria Jazz Festival.
“I am extremely proud and excited to embark upon this tour journey with my beloved VSUGC family,” said Perry Evans II, choir director for the VSU Gospel Chorale, in a recent statement. “I am humbled to lead such an amazing group of students whose hard work and commitment will be greatly appreciated by those who come from all over Europe to witness their awesome talents.”
Sponsored by the ARTE VIVA Associazione Culturale, the choir’s European tour will showcase the group’s vocal and choreographical talents, expose students to different cultures and a global audience.
Virginia State’s Gospel Chorale began in the 1970s as the Larry Bland Gospel Ensemble.
The choir was renamed. It was launched by then Virginia State student Larry Bland who had also directed the popular Volunteer Choir of Second Baptist Church of Richmond for more than 40 years. Bland began to direct the chorale in 2008 when Mechelle Luster ended her seven-year tenure as director, according to news reports.
The award-winning choir has always “been large in numbers” chorale historians noted in a statement. The choir has travelled abroad and throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. It has won numerous awards including the People’s Choice Award in the Washington, D.C., Regional Round of Verizon’s “How Sweet the Sound” competition.
“The VSU Gospel Chorale continues to set the standard for collegiate Gospel choirs,” said Dr. Michael Rainey, business operations director for the VSU Gospel Chorale. “We have a unique style that’s often imitated but never duplicated. While other small groups and ensembles with eight members or less have had such experiences, I would like to think that we created the blueprint for other college choirs to tour in this region since our inaugural European tour in 1998.”