Isn’t love all about harmony? How about four-part harmony?
Those questions will be answered all over the Lowcountry this Valentine’s Day as quartets from the Charleston Barbershop Chorus arrive in restaurants and office buildings and sing popular, old-time love songs a capella.
The group each year uses the event as a fundraiser, bringing in money for new music, distinctive red, white and black performance attire and other needs. Sometimes it also identifies a charity and donates some of the proceeds.
The Valentines, delivered in Charleston County and Summerville, cost $50 each, said Robert Priore, the group’s secretary. He expects to deliver about 40 Friday and Saturday. And sales this week have been going well.
Mike Wolford, who has been singing barbershop for five years, the past three years with the Charleston group, said one delivery from last year stands out in his mind.
His quartet, Three Sharps and a Flat, arrived at the Federal Complex in North Charleston to deliver a Valentine song to a woman. Her supervisors thought allowing the quartet to perform in the woman’s office would be disruptive. So they sent her to the lobby.
About 20 or 30 other employers followed her to the lobby to hear the song, Wolford said, and several security guards even stopped what they were doing and joined the crowd.
Priore said it’s the same in eating establishments. “The restaurant comes to a halt,” he said. “Everybody stops to listen.”
The top three songs the quartets sing for Valentine’s Day are: “I Love You Truly,” “Heart of My Heart” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” Priore said.
The Charleston group, which now has 24 members, meets once a week in West Ashley. “We sing for fun,” he said. But other Barbershop groups sing competitively.
The singing style became popular in the 1930s, he said, but its roots go back to the 1880s, when black men would sing gospel songs in barbershops.
Richard Daehler-Wilking, the group’s assistant director, said the group is accepting new members. All men really need to start is an average singing voice, he said. The group will train new members. “We are not soloists,” he said. “Our goal is to blend.”
The group is limited to men, he said, because the overtones in men’s voices match better with the voices of other men.
There is a Barbershop group for women in the Charleston-area called the Southern Harmony Chorus. It’s a member of Sweet Adelines International.
Wolford said his quartet is ready for a busy couple of days. “We’re constantly moving from one place to another,” he said. But it’s worth it. Some people who receive a singing Valentine are embarrassed by the attention, he said. “But most are really happy.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.