Updated Jan. 16, 1:40 pm.
RICHMOND — As Virginia welcomed it’s 74th Governor to Capitol Square, Senators and Delegates sat in attendance to show their support, but two members of the General Assembly added something else to the ceremonies, their voice.
As part of the opening ceremony, the National Anthem was sung by Virginia State Senator John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, and Delegate Chris Head, R-Botetourt County. Cosgrove calls himself “singing senator” in his Twitter profile; Head is well-known in the Roanoke Valley for his musical talents. When Roanoke opened its new amphitheater in Elmwood Park in 2013, Head sang the national anthem at the dedication ceremony.
For the inauguration, Head contacted Dr. John Hugo, Chair of the Department of Music Theory and History at Liberty University and chorus master for the Roanoke Sympony Orchestra, who composed the arrangement that would be performed.
“When I was asked to do this with Senator Cosgrove, I hung up the phone and realized that while I have performed the national anthem as a solo many times and have heard it performed by full choirs and even quarters, I had never heard it done as a duet,” Head said. “So I reached out to Roanoke Symphony maestro David Wiley to ask if he ever had and he immediately referred me to Dr. Hugo, who very graciously offered to just write one for us.”
With Hugo’s help, Cosgrove and Head were able to give a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that Head refers to as, traditional and in keeping with the faith with the words that Francis Scott Key wrote back in 1814.
“John and I both believe when the national anthem is done it should be done with a spirit of reverence and respect for what it’s conveying,” Head said.
Key was inspired to write “The Star Spangled Banner” after he had witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.
First being recognized for official use by the US Navy in 1889, and then again by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, “The Star Spangled Banner” was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931.
“The one thing that people need to remember about the poem “The Star Spangled Banner” is how it is not just a celebration of the flag making it through the battle,” Head said. “It was about how our nation was on the brink, and how we had the faith to persevere against the British, and our young nation survived.”
Head received his bachelor’s degree in music education, with a concentration in voice, from the University of Georgia, graduating in 1985.
“I have a very musical family,” said Head. His wife, Betsy, also has a degree in music therapy with a concentration in voice and his two daughter have vocal performance degrees, one of whom is now in a doctoral program at the University of Georgia. His son-in-law also has a music degree, with a concentration in voice, and is a music teacher. Only his son did not major in music. “The funny thing is he has the best musical ear of the bunch,” Head said. “He just didn’t want to major in it. It does make for some fun family gatherings when we gather to sing happy birthday.”
Head said being asked by the governor to sing our national anthem was a huge honor and “I’m very excited to see the direction our Commonwealth will take over the next four years.”
Among the estimated 6,000 attendees, Virginians from the southwestern part of the Commonwealth were excited for the change in leadership and see Youngkin as a breath of fresh air.
“Just an extremely special day and to see all this hard work come to reality, it is a new day for Virginia and I think governor Youngkin will bring a lot to Virginia and he’s going to do great.” said Zack Thompson, the vice-chair of the Giles County GOP. “It’s a flip the page moment for Virginia and I’m glad we’re back on the right track.”
Among Youngkin’s conservative base, his stance opposing mask mandates and making sure all Virginia schools are returning to full-time instruction were some of his more popular platforms, with cutting taxes being among other issues voters considered back in November.
“We couldn’t be more excited, Governor Youngkin represents our values a whole lot more than what we have seen with this past administration. As a general rule, we’re a little more conservative down in southwest Virginia.” said Eric Phillips, the Chairman of the Henry County-Martinsville Republican Committee.
“I love hearing the Governor’s plans for education and also tax cuts, especially with fuel, cause you know there’s a lot of diesel trucks in Virginia,” Phillips said. “It’s just an exciting day for the commonwealth.”