Chocolates, flowers and greeting cards are the customary gifts one gives for Valentine’s Day. But about 16 barbershop harmony singers have a different way of conveying love to that special someone.
Quartets from the Modesto-based Golden Valley Chorus have been to jails, restaurants, garages, homes, hospitals and bars to deliver singing “valengrams” to residents of Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
Most of the surprise singing visits have been well-received.
Howard Barber of Merced, a member of the quartet Merced County residents are most likely to hear from, said the foursome performs about 30 valengrams on Valentine’s Day. For a slightly higher fee, the singers will visit folks in Chowchilla, Oakdale and Gustine.
“When we sing to a secretary or an office worker usually the other workers gather around and enjoy our presentation,” Barber said. “Some cry (with joy), some blush, some smile. With more than 20 years of doing this, we have seen many interesting reactions. Only once did the recipient say to the giver: ‘I’m going to get you for this.’ ”
The $40 charge goes into the Golden Valley Chorus treasury to be used for director fees and chapter activities. The group supports the Youth Harmony program, which has summer camps in Northern California for high school students.
Greg Kramp of Atwater sings with Barber, Roy Anderson and Terrell Chambers. “It’s always lots of fun,” Kramp said. “I love it.”
Two or three years ago, his group was commissioned by a spouse to sing for a prisoner in the Stanislaus County Jail. They were quickly escorted in and out by a correctional officer, Kramp recalled.
Bob Clark of Hughson has been performing valengrams for about 20 years; he usually sings in Turlock, Modesto, Ripon and Salida areas.
“Of course, it’s a great deal of fun for the quartet,” Clark said. “We love to go out and do this. It’s fun to see the reaction of the recipient. Most of the time they all are very appreciative.”
Mike Viss of Ripon said he never gets tired of the Valentine’s singing detail. He’s been doing it for about 15 years.
“We are able to participate in someone’s celebration of Valentine’s, the love thing,” Viss said.
Barber said the quartets have been singing Valentines for about 20 years. All types take advantage of the program – guys, gals, husbands, wives and relatives.
“ ... We hand the recipient a silk rose with a Valentine card with the sentiments of the sender,” Barber said. “Then we sing a romantic song – ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ or ‘Heart of My Heart.’ We then take a digital photo of the lady (or man) and it is emailed to that person.”
The 26-member Golden Valley Chorus, part of the national Barbershop Harmony Society, is open to men who sing and enjoy entertaining audiences with the barbershop-style of music. They put on shows, sing in dinner shows and for clubs and other groups. They also compete against other groups, traveling to Bakersfield, Fresno, Lodi and Reno for such contests.
For singing valengrams in the Merced area, call (209) 383-3808. In the Modesto area, call (209) 551-2314.