Sweet Somethings in the Key of B (Blush); Love Notes of Musical Variety Delivered to Door

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Sweet Somethings in the Key of B (Blush); Love Notes of Musical Variety Delivered to Door


Byline: Lisa Rauschart, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Every Valentine's Day, Arlington resident Carol Monroe gets reacquainted with the full range of shades of red. There are rose reds for the candy box, an assortment of pinks on the card, and varied shades of crimson that folks tend to turn when they see Mrs. Monroe and three other women heading in their direction.

Mrs. Monroe is a member of the quartet Serenade, whose members for several years have made it their pleasure to deliver singing valentines to surprised - and sometimes embarrassed - sweethearts.

"The poor guys are usually beet red," Mrs. Monroe says of the valentines' recipients.

Serenade is just one of many quartets from the Potomac Harmony Chorus - a chapter of Sweet Adelines International, a 30,000-member organization of women devoted to barbershop-style singing - that will crisscross the Greater Washington area this Valentine's Day to warble sweet nothings to assorted true loves.

They won't be the only ones serenading those special someones in the days leading up to Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. You might find Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley bursting into your office or interrupting a romantic dinner. Male barbershop singers are available as well, and admirers of a special someone can even send singing valentines through Western Union.

* * *

Today, thanks to e-mail, the Internet and aggressive marketing, there are more ways than ever to send special messages of love. A singing valentine may cost a bit more than a box of candy or a dozen roses, but the memories will last far longer than either one.

After all, music is the real food of love, at least if you listen to Shakespeare, who seemed to know a thing or two about the subject. And you don't have to worry about counting the carbs in the chocolate box.

"The singing is wonderful, and the harmony is beautiful," says Mrs. Monroe, who has been singing the tenor line with Potomac Harmony for 20 years and is also the choir's public relations coordinator.

More than 100 calls for singing valentines come in each year, she says. Potential senders choose from a standard repertoire.

"We give them a choice of five love songs: "I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do," "It Had to Be You," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "Cuddle Up a Little Closer" and "Blueberry Hill," she says.

"Most people go for the ballads."

Once the choice is made, a red-clad foursome arrives with the two songs of choice plus a 1-pound box of candy and a card. The results? Smiles, lots of praise, and often more than a few tears.

"There are some beautiful verses in these songs," Mrs. Monroe says.

"Often the tunes don't matter as much. You'll see women - and men - with tears running down their cheeks. And sometimes they're not even the ones the valentine is intended for."

* * *

So where did we get the candy and the roses and the singing? The answer is not nearly as simple as the sentiments expressed. Valentine's Day originally was celebrated as St. Valentine's Day, but Christian tradition gives us no fewer than three saints Valentine, all of them martyrs, so it's a bit unclear which one the day is intended to honor.

One, a priest who served during the third century in Rome, refused to recognize the emperor's decision to outlaw marriage for potential soldiers and was put to death for his refusal to stop performing the marriage rite. Another, the bishop of what is now Terni in Italy, is reputed to have died in 237 during a round of persecutions. Of a third Valentine, a martyr in Africa, little is known.

One story has a St. Valentine jailed for his Christian beliefs but still sending messages to his lady love, signed, "From Your Valentine." In any case, St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of lovers.

Popular in both France and England from the Middle Ages, Valentine's Day gained favor in America in the 19th century, when the holiday's effusions seemed tailor-made for sentimental Victorians. …

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