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Sun Gazette: On state song, one local legislator declines to sing along Print


Created:  Thursday, March 12, 2015 8:00AM


Six of the seven members of the Arlington legislative delegation voted in support of establishing two new Virginia state songs, but one held out.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) was among those statewide who cast votes in the 2015 session against designating "Our Great Virginia" and "Sweet Virginia Breeze" as the two state songs.

"My objection was to the process. Who knew this was coming? Did we consider all possibilities? The answer to these questions is: very few and no," Hope told the Sun Gazette.

"Our Great Virginia" had the support of House Speaker William Howell (R-Fredericksburg); Hope said that the songwriter came to his office and played it.

"It sounded pretty good to me," he acknowledged.

When the House version came to the floor, it passed 72-28, but the four Arlington delegates all voted against it.

The state Senate version of legislation had both "Our Great Virginia" and "Sweet Virginia Breeze" designated as official songs. After some wrangling, the two bodies agreed to make both songs official on votes of 86-11 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate.

With the exception of Hope, all legislators with Arlington districts supported the compromise.

"I would like to have seen a process where the public could have the opportunity to weigh in," Hope said. "After all, it's not MY state song, its OUR state song. Or in this case, state songs – plural."

The Old Dominion has been without a state song since 1997, when "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" – a version of the minstrel-show song "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" that was adopted as the official song in 1940 – was designated as the "state song emeritus" after concerns were raised about the lyrics.

In 2006, the General Assembly considered, but rejected, making "Shenandoah" the state song; as they discussed it, legislators discovered to their chagrin that the song was an homage to the Missouri River, not the Shenandoah River.

One of the new state songs – "Our Great Virginia" – is sung to the tune of "Shenandoah."