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.

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