JENKINS TWP. — Has Cupid ever driven through a blizzard to deliver a message of love?
Has the winged god of love ever needed his vehicle pulled from a ditch on Valentine’s Day?
Has he ever noticed hallways full of people crying happy tears because he stopped by?
Maybe that cute little angel with the bow and arrows hasn’t experienced those particular adventures, but quartets from the Wyoming Valley Barbershop Harmony Chorus have as they travel around the region in their annual quest to deliver singing valentines on Feb. 14.
“Every stop is different,” said co-director Phil Brown, who sings baritone with a quartet called Pickup Four. “You might sing for a little girl in the hospital and stroke her arm. You might sing to a 95-year-old woman at a nursing home. It’s all very uplifting.”
That’s not to say the valentines are intended only for girls and women.
“Last year, we sang to a man at the Hazleton Industrial Park. As I recall, it was at a freezer plant. His wife or girlfriend wanted it to be a complete surprise and had tipped off the supervisor to video it for her. We sang two love songs to him, and the guy just melted like a piece of chocolate.”
Speaking of chocolate, the $50 fee for a singing valentine includes not only a mini-concert from one of three quartets but also a single red rose and a box of chocolates. In addition, the singers will hand-deliver a message from the sender, written on a card.
While some of the songs the quartets sing are barbershop standards such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart,” they also try to honor special requests.
“I can remember singing a solo to a guy at a nursing home,” Brown said. “His favorite tune was ‘Daddy’s Little Girl.’ We had everybody crying in the hall, including me … I read in the paper two weeks later that he died.”
Brown emphasizes the crying in that nursing home hallway wasn’t from sorrow, but from emotions closer to joy. “We always say, if you can make a person cry, it’s a success.”
Before a visit ends, he said, the quartets usually take requests and often lead a little singalong.
The quartets plan to set out in three different directions from the Wilkes-Barre/Kingston area next Wednesday and hope that traffic and weather will cooperate as they strive to meet all of their appointments.
“About seven years ago, oh my God, it was something else. We had four quartets on the road (in a big snowstorm). We made it all the way to Scranton but couldn’t go to every (scheduled) workplace because some of them were closed. Some of our guys were stuck and had to be pulled out of a ditch.”
But anyone who happened to miss their valentine songs on Feb. 14 that year received a visit from the harmonious troubadours after the roads were cleared.
Anyone interested in arranging a singing valentine this year should call the Singing Valentine hotline at 570-285-4810. Brown promises you will receive a prompt return call.
The three quartets are called Sounds Abound, Unaccounted Four and Pickup Four.
Members are tenor Jim Morpeth, lead Joe Husty, baritone Drew Smith and bass Tom Roberts in Sounds Abound; tenor Justin Shaffern, lead Bryan Newton, baritone Justin Davis and bass Ryder Milia in Unaccounted Four; and tenor Steve Mansour, lead Ralph Gillespie, baritone Phil Brown and bass Ted Rebennack in Pickup Four.
The Wyoming Valley Barbershop Harmony Chorus holds regular rehearsals from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays in the Irene Raeder Community Center at Wesley Village in Jenkins Township. Men of all ages are welcome to join.