Larry Bland (1956-2020)

Larry Bland, founder and longtime director of the Volunteer Choir, for decades the Richmond area’s most popular gospel chorus, has died.

Bland, who served as a choirmaster at various churches in Richmond’s African-American community, organized the Volunteer Choir in 1971 and led it until retiring in 2018. The ensemble, which at times numbered as many as 200 voices, was known for its vividly costumed and choreographed performances.

The choir toured widely, and sang with a variety of non-gospel forces, ranging from pop singer-songwriter Steve Bassett to the Richmond Symphony. The ensemble also performed in one of the earliest live performances of Scott Joplin’s opera “Treemonisha,” staged at Richmond’s Dogwood Dell in the late 1970s.

In mid-career, Bland moved to the Washington area, eventually joining the executive staff of Discovery Communications Inc., parent of the Discovery and Learning cable-television channels; but he continued to work with the Volunteer Choir and area churches.

Richmonder wins state piano competition

Megan Slay of Richmond is the Virginia winner of the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Piano Competition. She moves on the MTNA Southern Division competition in December. Division winners move on the national competition, whose participants will be named in January.

Slay, who studies piano with Linda Apple Monson at George Mason University in Fairfax, has performed in gala concerts and online recitals, including the Philadelphia Young Pianists’ Academy International Online Piano Festival in July. She was a scholarship student-performer at the 2018 Brevard Summer Music Institute in North Carolina.