Barbershop chorus serenades southern Illinois on Valentine’s Day
Melissa Roach headed to work Tuesday morning at the Garden Grove Event Center for what she thought was an appointment with a prospective client.
She arrived promptly at 9:30 a.m to instead be greeted by four white-haired gentlemen dressed in red vests, slacks and bow-ties. After they sang a few classic barbershop tunes, one handed her a rose and card from her wife, Brittany.
“Something like a barbershop quartet showing up at my office shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did,” Melissa Roach said, noting her wife’s tendency for spontaneity. “I thought it was cute and thoughtful, which is what Valentine’s Day is all about.”
The couple was one of many to experience the services offered through Carbondale’s Little Egypt Valentine’s Day Quartet. Dressed in traditional barbershop attire, Tom Smith, Neth Hass, Dennis Burd and Pat Kelley traveled around southern Illinois singing love songs from the early 20th century.
For $40, the service includes a rose, a card and three songs: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Heart of My Hearts,” and “Hello, Mary Lou.” The quartet performed in homes, businesses and an elderly care center in Anna. The quartet covered Jackson, Williamson and Union counties in one day.
Songs were chosen by the chorus because they have the characteristics of a four-part harmony, the quartet’s members said. Burd, the lead singer and longest-serving member, said the genre is beginning to evolve to a younger generation, much like a capella.
Hass, the quartet’s bass singer, agreed.
“Barbershop isn’t a fossilized music form,” he said. “It’s a living music.”
The chorus is made up of 24 members, who split into different quartets depending on the vocal range of each singer. The Valentine’s Day quartet members began singing together three months ago to practice for two days of performance.
While the opportunity to perform is enjoyable, Burd said the greatest satisfaction comes from “the interaction with people” and “feeling like we made a difference” in their lives.
“It’s best when husband and wife are present to interact with each other — to watch the reactions and the love that they share,” he said.