Rilla Mervine, a contralto who was a prominent soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra and at musical venues in the Washington area for several decades, died June 15 at a nursing facility in Placerville, Calif. She was 91.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said her son Michael Mervine. Mrs. Mervine lived in the Washington area for more than five decades, most recently in Vienna, before moving to California in the early 1990s.
Washington Post music critic Paul Hume called Mrs. Mervine “one of Washington’s best known and appreciated singers” and said her voice had a “natural richness and a deep, velvety quality.”
She was a soloist at National Presbyterian Church and performed with the Army Band and the Air Force Symphony Orchestra, her son said. She also appeared with the National Oratorio Society and at the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art and Washington National Cathedral, he said.
Rilla Jane Rowe was born in Hamilton, N.D. She received an associate’s degree from North Dakota State University before settling in the Washington area around 1940. She received a bachelor’s degree in music from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.
In addition to her concert work, she was a voice professor at Catholic University and George Mason University for several decades. She held leadership positions with the Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity and belonged to the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Her husband of 56 years, Frank Mervine, died in 2003. Their son David Mervine died in 2011.
Survivors include four children, Meredith Stirling of Placerville, Tim Mervine of Citrus Heights, Calif., Michael Mervine of Sacramento and Jon Mervine of Centreville; 15 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.
— Emily Langer