Imagine a sparkly, sequin-vested barbershop quartet showing up to your place of work and singing love songs to you.
“First it’s embarrassment, then they’re thinking it over, and then the tears come,” says Len Marston, assistant director of the Chilliwack Harmony Chorus.
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and the Chilliwack Harmony Chorus is now taking orders for their singing valentines in four-part harmony. The recipient will get a rose, two to three love songs, and a photo or video of the event emailed to them.
“As I tell my singers, when you’re out delivering singing valentines, the recipient doesn’t see you as the quartet, they see the one who sent it,” says musical director Gerry Borden.
Last year, they delivered 16 singing valentines and this year their goal is 20. They’ll have three or four quartets out on Valentine’s Day; one all-male quartet, plus two or three mixed quartets.
As of January of this year, Chilliwack Harmony Chorus — which used to be an all-male group — has opened up its membership to women.
“Chilliwack Harmony Chorus was one of the first chapters to become mixed voice in North America,” says Borden, adding that they currently have 12 female and 15 male members.
Many of their female singers are former Sweet Adelines International members. When the local chapter moved to Abbotsford, some of the women didn’t want to make the journey there, so they joined Chilliwack Harmony Chorus.
“That’s been one of the challenges with the mixed groups — because the barbershop music was written for men’s voices — now with the women in there, it’s generally too low for them so we’re raising the music and coming up with a compromise,” says Bob Lounsbury.
He’s one of four singers in all-male quartet Voicemale. Delivering the valentines with him will be Len Marston, Gerry Sandau, and Wilmer Tessman.
What makes a singing valentine so unique?
“It’s that personal delivery — someone has ordered it and you come to sing on their behalf,” says Borden.
All four members of Voicemale say the main reason they joined Chilliwack Harmony Chorus is because they love to sing.
“I love the male voice harmony, and it’s the camaraderie too,” says Sandau. With the new female membership “I have to sing higher as a tenor, so it’s very challenging,” he adds.
“I really love the harmonies. When we can get chords to ring, it’s very beautiful,” adds Marston.
Chilliwack Harmony Chorus doesn’t just do singing valentines, they’re out in public all year round. They did 30 sing-outs over Christmas during the month of December, and their goal is to sing every month somewhere in the community.
Seeing what the recipient gets out of it is a big part of why they do it.
“When you go into a seniors’ home and you sing songs that are familiar to them… you can see them singing along and some of them get up and dance — or cry if it’s a touching song — and they react to the music, that’s one of the reasons I do it,” says member Dennis Rackliff.
To book a $49 singing valentine for your loved one, call Lloyd at 604-795-5682 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order one right up until Valentine’s Day.
Those wanting to join the chorus can drop in at their Monday rehearsals. They’re at Christ Lutheran Church, 9460 Charles St. (beside Chilliwack middle school), at 7 p.m. every Monday.
For more info, go to chilliwackharmony.ca.