Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Quartets deliver singing messages to loved ones on Valentine’s Day

February 20, 2002

When four men walked into Susie's Hair Fashions last Thursday morning, Darlene Sutton paid little attention.

The men, dressed in traditional barbershop quartet garb, said they were looking for Sutton.

"I thought it was for Sue or one of them," Sutton said. "But when they said, 'Darlene?' I knew there must be some connection."

The members of the Cody Choraliers then serenaded the 90-year-old with "Heart of my Hearts" and "Let me Call You Sweetheart."

And the Valentine's Day surprise also included a red rose and candy and a photo of Sutton with the singers.

"It was a surprise," Sutton said. "I didn't think it was for me."

The instigator of the surprise was Sutton's granddaughter, Kim Kolman.

"I knew they did this every year, and I thought it would be a cool idea for Grandma the barbershop is going to the beauty shop," Kolman said. "What can you get for a 90-year-old grandmother? She loves flowers, but I thought this would be different."

For Keith Owen, one of the choraliers who sang for Sutton, Valentine's Day was a blur of activity. He sang more than 15 times throughout the day. Owen and 18 other choraliers delivered 67 Valentines on Thursday.

"We always have a good time when we get to delivery singing Valentines," said Owen, the group's director who lives in Lansing.

He was concerned that the downslide in the economy would have a devastating effect on bookings this year. But the group did only nine fewer performances this year than last.

Many of the proceeds from the singing Valentines end up promoting music in schools and communities, throughout the nation. Last month, the Leavenworth chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society provided a $500 grant to Lansing High School.

"There was a time in the history of this country that community singing was very large, and now it's virtually non-existent," Owen said.

The Cody Choraliers have handled deliveries in song for about 12 years.

"We only got into it in a big way the past three years," he said. "We stopped doing things as delivery boys for florists and started doing it ourselves. Before that, we would deliver whatever Valentine flowers or balloons that a florist asked us to and we would get $10."

Now, the group makes $35 for each delivery. But they must make their own schedules, and ensure they have enough flowers and candy.

"It takes a lot more coordination," Owen said.

But Owen clearly enjoys his Valentine's Day assignments.

"Some people, we almost have to trap to keep them from running away, they're so surprised," he said.

So what does a guy who delivers Valentine's greetings to other folks do for his wife?

"I'm a poet," he said. "I'm a very bad poet. And I've been giving her poems since before we were married. This Valentine's Day she got her 27th Valentine's Day poem from me."

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