Singing Valentines Melt Hearts
The Romantic Serenade is Alive and Well With Local Musical Groups
A love song sung by a quartet from the East Texas Men in Harmony was the perfect prelude to Chase English’s marriage proposal to Casey Thomas at The Potpourri House restaurant in Tyler. Quartet members, left to right, are the late Stan Borum, and Wilson Renfroe, Bob Arbuckle, and John Cavanaugh. Courtesy photo.
As she stood there, feeling a strange mix of embarrassment and adoration, a group of tuxedoed men sang an old-fashioned love song that just about brought tears to her eyes.
They were not on stage, nine rows up, under bright lights — they were standing right there on her front porch. The song wasn’t about an old faithful pick-up truck, or racial injustices, or a hook-up with a stranger. The lyrics expressed love specifically — undeniably — for her, making her feel tender and precious — even though the house was a mess, the news of global tragedy never ends, and the dog just chewed up a couch pillow.
Let me call you Sweetheart, I’m in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.
Keep the love-light glowing in your eyes so true.
Let me call you Sweetheart, I’m in love with you.
Similar scenarios are repeated numerous times over Valentine’s Day weekend. It’s the time of year in which various singing groups go beyond stage performances to share the gift of song as, well, a gift to a significant other: an unsuspecting wife, husband, fiancée, mother, boyfriend, girlfriend, man-friend, or lady-friend.
Serenaders from the East Texas Men in Harmony (based in Tyler), the Heart of the Pines Chorus (Nacogdoches), and VocalTeaz (Texarkana) are delivering “Singing Valentines” — akin to singing telegrams sung by a barbershop quartet — this year.
The Heart of the Pines group delivered one of their gifts in recent years to Allicia Whitehead of Nacogdoches. They entered Calvary Baptist Church where she worked, sat her down, gave her a rose, and sang her two love songs. “Oh my goodness, it was one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts I’ve ever received,” Whitehead said of the gift from her husband, Howard. “It was very romantic. I even requested the same gift another year because I loved it so much.”
On Valentine’s Day weekend, February 12-14, the singers-for-hire break into smaller groups, hop into SUVs and cars and make their deliveries as pre-set by those significant others. With advanced planning, singers find the recipients at certain places such as at home or work, a restaurant, or somewhere else public.
After announcing the name of the person setting up the “gift of song,” the singers treat the loved one to a harmonic a cappella musical number, heavy on loving lyrics, sentimentality, and emotional tugs at the heartstrings.
The reactions are priceless according to the singers. “Women usually cry, men sometimes squirm and are embarrassed, but it’s a nice way to let someone know you care and it’s always a lot of fun,” said Kay Awtrey, planner for the Nacogdoches chorus.
Because of the wide range of scenarios, two of the groups offer more than the traditional standards. The options include the pop songs “Sugartime,” “Happy Together,” “Hey, Good Lookin,’” and “We Go Together” from the musical Grease.
As mementoes of the special occurrence, the singers may give a greeting card bearing the thoughtful sender’s name, and maybe a rose and a photo of the moment. Prices range from $35 to $50 or so, and depending upon the group employed, a delivery can be customized with song choice and other planned actions.
Past assignments have ranged from the “set up” for a marriage proposal to delivery to a teacher in a packed elementary school cafeteria where a rare hush came over the students to hear the beautiful song.
One delivery embarrassed both the recipient and the quartet, according to Jenny Mercing, a bass from Mayflower, Arkansas, with VocalTeaz. The couple was sitting in a hot tub when they arrived to sing.
Serenading has been around for centuries. Its origin probably occurred in Italy during the Medieval era. The presentation consisted of light music sung and/or played on a guitar or lute, and directed to a lover’s lady. The typical imagery is of the woman in a window or on a balcony and the melodic Romeo somewhere in view outside.
What the East Texas music makers add is tight-knit a cappella harmony — lead, alto, tenor and bass. The resulting sound is rarely heard in our modern, digitized, and heavily-engineered songs popular today and so the requests for Sing Valentines come in year after year.
Heart of the Pine Chorus members put even another twist on the expression of love, stereotypically delivered by a male and heard by a female. An all-female group, the group typically delivers about 30 Singing Valentines every February.
Why people hire serenaders is obvious, but why do the singers give up whole days and even weekends to sing to virtual strangers? The funds help pay for song rights and other expenses for the groups. More importantly, chorus members simply love to sing to others.
“Oh, man, this is the most fun we have all year; it’s really a blast,” said Bryan Black of East Texas Men in Harmony. The group performs about 50 appearances each year.
One recipient sent word back that she was not the only one impressed: “Tell the guys that all the women here are still swooning over ya’ll.”
All three groups sing to male or female recipients. For some men, that might be challenging, but Black said that when the men sing to another man, they just keep in mind that they’re singing on behalf of the guy’s lady-friend.
The song was delivered to a couple by the Nacogdoches group once. It became a memorable delivery because the early-morning meeting resulted in the pair standing there in their pajamas, newly awakened.
The Tyler group finds that they often sing to a loved one as a prelude to a marriage proposal. It’s a great way to create that memorable moment that couples like to share in stories later.
The resulting sound is just as heartwarming as the loving gesture. Black said there’s something about live acappella vocals in close harmony that people really enjoy.
Book Your Singing Valentine
East Texas Men in Harmony
(30-mile radius around Tyler)
Offering a song, silk rose and valentine card, this all-male group expects to be active all three days of Valentine’s Day weekend. The delivery fee is on a scale, depending upon desired location and time. www.etmeninharmony.com
Heart of the Pines Chorus
(Nacogdoches County and beyond)
This female group sings one of a handful of song choices and gives a rose and a digital photo of the event to the recipient (male or female) for $35. www.heartofthepineschorus.org
(20 mile radius around Texarkana)
A female quartet made up of female choirs from Texarkana and Little Rock, AK, this group sings two songs and gives the recipient a rose and a valentine card for the price of $45. Appointments will primarily be schedule on the Friday before Valentine’s Day. Contact 903-244-0132.