In 1974, four years after women were admitted without restriction into the University of Virginia, Jim Dearing founded the University of Virginia Women’s Chorus as part of the McIntire Department of Music. Under the direction of Jim Dearing (1974-77), Doug Hargrave and his assistant, Katherine Mitchell (1977-81), Edmund Najera (1981-82), and Katherine Mitchell (1982-1989), the University of Virginia Womens Chorus thrived.
Under the leadership of Jim Dearing, the Chorus quickly became an outstanding ensemble, particularly with contemporary music by composers Stravinsky, Kodaly, and Bartok. The Chorus was chosen to sing at the ACDA convention in 1976 and toured the East Coast and Canada several times. From 1977 until 1981, Doug Hargrave directed the women’s ensemble with assistance from Katherine Mitchell. Since Doug was also the conductor of the orchestra at the University, Katherine took over many of the responsibilities. Candlelight concerts in the chapel became an annual tradition and Katherine began the tradition of a Spring Pops Concerts, featuring jazz and pops during the second half. In 1977, she founded the first female a cappella group at UVA, the Virginia Belles. The Chorus began a tradition of performing joint concerts with the W&L Men’s Glee Club and other men’s ensembles. For one year Edmund Najera directed the Women’s Chorus (1981-1982) and composed and arranged many selections for the chorus.
In 1982, Katherine Mitchell was hired by the University of Virginia as Director of the Chorus and remained in that position until 1989. During these seven years, the Women’s Chorus produced its first professional recording (vinyl!), began its long tradition of appearances at the Washington National Cathedral, toured the East Coast, and was selected after rigorous audition procedures to perform at the prestigious American Choral Directors Association Convention
In 1989, the McIntire Department of Music made the decision to no longer maintain single-sex choral organizations as part of its curriculum. Without sufficient funds and logistical support, the University of Virginia Women’s Chorus was forced to disband. In 1994, through the dedicated efforts of two fourth-year students, Elizabeth Noseworthy and Wynne Krause, and with the assistance of Katherine Mitchell, the Virginia Women’s Chorus emerged as a Contracted Independent Organization at the University.
Under the direction of Katherine Mitchell (1994 – 1995), Donna Plasket (1995 – 1999), Elizabeth C. Moore Slade (2000 – 2005), Interim Director Craig Jennings (Spring 2006) and our current director Katherine “KaeRenae” Mitchell (Fall 2006 – present) the Virginia Women’s Chorus has thrived.
Since its revival in 1994, the Women’s Chorus has prospered in the University community and beyond. Along with one full concert each semester, the Chorus also performs at numerous University events throughout the year. Such events have included joint concerts with the Virginia Glee Club, the University Singers, and the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra, as well as performances at Relay for Life and the Take Back the Night ceremony. The Chorus performed for President Sullivan’s Inaugural Luncheon and for UVa’s “Celebration of 40 years of Women at the University”. The Virginia Women’s Chorus has performed concert tours in Boston, Atlanta and Washington D.C., including service participation at the Washington National Cathedral and the National Shrine. The Chorus has also hosted visiting choirs, including the VMI Glee Club, the William and Mary Women’s Chorus and the University of Wisconsin Concert Choir.
The Chorus has also traveled to perform in places such as Boston, Atlanta, and Richmond, as well as at the National Cathedral and the National Shrine. In 2002, under the direction of Elizabeth (Libby) Moore, the Chorus embarked on its first European concert tour, performing in Portugal and Spain. France and Italy were the destinations of its second international tour in January 2005.
In 2005 the Virginia Women’s Chorus celebrated with its first anniversary concert. The Chorus celebrated its second anniversary concert April 10, 2010: A Tapestry of Sound: Weaving Past and Present. Close to fifty alumnae returned to join their sisters in song, coming from California, Maine, New York, Florida and Minnesota. It was a marvelous gathering and reunion for all, and the music was superb. Jim Dearing, Donna Plasket, Libby Moore Slade, and KaeRenae Mitchell conducted the women singing some of their favorite classics.
The Virginia Women’s Chorus continues to thrive and delight in bringing quality music to audiences of all ages and to gain prominence in the University and Charlottesville communities.
The Virginia Women’s Chorus is publicly affiliated with the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia. Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not a part of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University does not direct, supervise or control the organization and is not responsible for the organization’s contracts, acts or omissions.