Flowers, jewelry and candy in a heart-shaped box frequent the usual list of Valentine’s Day gifts. Carbondale’s Little Egypt Chorus, however, offers something a tad different.
The Little Egypt Chorus is part of the Carbondale chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, which has offered singing valentines for many years.
Barbershop singing is unique in that it is performed a cappella in quartets, said Norm Bauer, Carbondale chapter marketing director.
Forty dollars buys a two-song performance, a silk rose and a customizable card delivered on location anywhere in Jackson, Williamson and Union counties, Bauer said.
“Last year, we performed about 40 valentines,” Bauer said. “By restricting our travels to three counties, we can reach more sweethearts this year.”
Bauer said the Barbershop Harmony Society’s various chapters offer singing valentines nationwide.
The valentines are an important means of generating the necessary funds to sustain the chapter each year, said David Lane, chorus assistant director. The funds support the costs of uniforms, microphones, venue rentals and travel costs, he said.
The annual show on April 21 also helps provide some funding, but the chorus tries to perform at least once a month, Bauer said.
The Little Egypt Chorus consists of 35 members who perform together throughout the year, he said.
He said the chorus, which performed at the Carbondale Community High School Multicultural Festival Tuesday, also performs at churches, organization’s annual meetings and sporting events.
On Feb. 25, the chorus will perform the National Anthem at the final Saluki home basketball game against Northern Iowa.
Aside from taking opportunities to perform for clients, the chorus also visits nursing homes and veterans homes in its free time. Bauer said if the chorus is already together such as for Valentine’s Day performances, it will stop by nursing homes and veterans homes during down time.
“It’s something we enjoy doing to bring joy to someone’s day,” Bauer said. “It helps to take their minds off of any problems they might be having.”
Singing in the barbershop chorus is stress relieving and can function as mental floss, said Bob Fuller, Carbondale’s chapter president.
Unfortunately, there is a struggle to keep this art form alive, Bauer said. There generally aren’t enough newcomers to revitalize the whole society, he said.
Any art form, whether it’s painting or photography, is important to preserve, Fuller said.
Bauer said in an effort to spread the joy a barbershop chorus can bring, the Little Egypt Chorus sponsors a scholarship at Carbondale Community High School for students pursuing vocal music and is hosting an event in Champaign on March 3.
The chorus also offers to send high school chorus teachers to Harmony College in Jefferson City, Mo., which offers classes in barbershop singing and the vocal music arts, he said.
Besides being enjoyable, the singing valentines are also a great way to spark interest while advertising for the chorus, Bauer said.
Appointments for singing valentines will be taken until Feb. 13 and will be deemed pending after that, Fuller said.
“They’re a little more personal than a box of candy and a card,” Fuller said. “They’re better than a dozen roses.”