To the code
Barbara Baker, W’73, Steve Cates, R’72, and Judy Mawyer, W’72, singing for Erb in 1971 and 2017.

When music professor Jim Erb took his students on their first choral tour of Europe in the summer of 1971, a parent asked how many adults would be going on the trip. Erb’s response: there would be 40 adults — the same as the number of singers in the choir.

To those who sang under his baton, that story speaks to what made Erb special. He had high expectations, and his students rose to meet them every time. Barbara Baker, W’73, recalls, “He had a great passion for the music. He insisted that it be right and respected and always paid incredible attention to detail and phrasing.”

When Erb passed away in November 2014, he left behind a staggering musical legacy. His 39 years of teaching at the University inspired generations of students who remain active as singers, teachers, and church musicians. He also founded the Richmond Symphony Chorus in 1971 and conducted the group until 2007, when he stepped down from the podium and into the tenor section. Several members of his UR choirs continue to sing in the Symphony Chorus.

Erb’s musicianship lives on through his choral arrangements, most notably an eight-voice a cappella rendition of the folk song “Shenandoah.” The arrangement was created for that European tour in 1971 and has gone on to be recorded by legendary choral groups like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, whose performance is heard on the soundtrack to the 1995 film Nixon.

The Richmond Symphony Chorus celebrated Erb with a concert in April.Several of his arrangements were featured, including “Shenandoah” and one of his favorite pieces, Brahms’ Requiem.